Thinking Like A Servant

My servant Caleb thinks differently and follows me completely.- Numbers 14:24

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself- Philippians 2:5

Service starts in your mind.  To be a servant requires a mental shift, a change in your attitudes. God is always more interested in why we do something than in what we do.  Attitudes count more than achievements.  King Amaziah lost God’s favor because “he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not with a true heart.” Real servants serve God with a mindset of different attitudes. 

Servants think more about others than about themselves. Servants focus on others, not themselves. This is true humility: not thinking less of ourselves but thinking of ourselves less. They are self-forgetful. Paul said, “Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand” Philippians 2:1-4. This is what it means to “lose your life”- forgetting yourself in service to others. When we stop focusing on our own needs, we become aware of the needs around us. 

Jesus “emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant”. When was the last time you emptied yourself for someone else’s benefit? You can’t be a servant if you’re full of yourself. It’s only when we forget ourselves that we do the things that deserve to be remembered. Unfortunately, a lot of service is self-serving. We serve to get others to like us, to be admired, or to achieve our own goals. That is manipulation, not ministry. The whole time we’re really thinking about ourselves and how noble and wonderful we are. Some people try to use service as a bargaining tool with God: “I’ll do this for you God, if you’ll do something for me”. Real servants don’t try to use God for their purposes. They let God use them for His purposes.

The quality of self-forgetfulness, like faithfulness, is extremely rare. Out of all people, Paul knew Timothy was the only example he could point to. Thinking like a servant is difficult because it challenges the basic problem of my life: I am, by nature, selfish. I think most about me. That’s why humility is a daily struggle, a lesson I must relearn over and over. The opportunity to be a servant confronts me dozens of times a day, in which I’m given the choice to decide between meeting my needs or the needs of others.

Self-denial is the core of servanthood. We can measure our servant’s heart by how we respond when others treat us like servants. How do you react when you’re taken for granted, bossed around, or treated as an inferior? The Bible says, If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life“- Luke 6:30

Servants think like stewards, not owners. Servants remember that God owns it all. In the Bible, a steward was a servant entrusted to manage an estate. Joseph was this kind of servant as a prisoner in Egypt. Potiphar entrusted Joseph with his home. Then the jailer entrusted Joseph with his jail. Eventually, Pharaoh entrusted the entire nation to him. Servanthood and stewardship go together, since God expects us to be trustworthy in both. The Bible says, The one thing required of such servants is that they be faithful to their master”- 1 Corinthians 4:2 How are you handling the resources God has entrusted to you? 

To become a real servant you are going to have to settle the issue of money in your life. Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters….You cannot serve God and money” -Matthew 6:24 It is impossible. Living for ministry and living for money are mutually exclusive goals. Which one will you choose? If you’re a servant of God, you can’t moonlight for yourself. All your time belongs to God. He insists on exclusive allegiance, not part- time faithfulness. Money has the greatest potential to replace God in your life.

More people are sidetracked from serving by materialism than by anything else. They say, “After I achieve my financial goals, I’m going to serve God.” That is a foolish decision they will regret for eternity. When Jesus is your Master, money serves you, but if money is your master, you become its slave. Wealth is certainly not a sin, but failing to use it for God’s glory is. Servants of God are always more concerned about ministry than money. The Bible is very clear: God uses money to test your faithfulness as a servant. That is why Jesus talked more about money than He did about either heaven or hell. He said, “If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”-Luke 16:11 How you manage your money affects how much God can bless your life.

There are two kinds of people: Kingdom Builders and Wealth Builders. Both are gifted at making a business grow, making deals or sales, and making a profit. Wealth builders continue to amass wealth for themselves no matter how much they make, but Kingdom Builders change the rules of the game. They still try to make as much money as they can, but they do it in order to give it away. They use wealth to fund God’s church and its mission in the world. 

Servants think about their work, not what others are doing. They don’t compare, criticize, or compete with other servants or ministries. They’re too busy doing the work God has given them. Competition between God’s servants is illogical for many reasons. We’re all on  the same team; our goal is to make God look good, not ourselves; we’ve been given different assignments; and we’re all uniquely shaped. Paul said, “We will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original”- Galatians 5:26

There’s no place for petty jealousy between servants. When you’re busy serving, you don’t have time to be critical. Any time spent criticizing others is time that could be spent ministering. When Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was not helping with the work, she lost her servant’s heart. Real servants don’t complain of unfairness, don’t have pity-parties, and don’t resent those not serving. They just trust God and keep serving. It is not our job to evaluate the Master’s other servants. The Bible says, ‘Who are you to criticize someone else’ servant? The Lord will determine whether his servant has been successful.”-Romans 14:4

It is also not our job to defend ourselves against criticism. Let your Master handle it. Follow the example of Moses, who showed true humility in the face of opposition, as did Nehemiah, whose response to critics was simply, ‘My work is too important to stop now and…visit with you.” Nehemiah 6:3 If you serve like Jesus, you can expect to be criticized. The world, and even much of the church, does not understand what God values. One of the most beautiful acts of love shown to Jesus was criticized by His disciples. Mary took the most valuable thing she owned, expensive perfume, and poured it over Jesus. Her lavish service was called a “waste” by the disciples, but Jesus called it “significant” and that’s all that mattered. Your service for Christ is never wasted regardless of what others say.

Servants base their identity in Christ. Because they remember they are loved and accepted by grace, servants don’t have to prove their worthy. They willingly accept jobs that insecure people would consider “beneath” them. One of the most profound examples of serving from a secure self-image is Jesus’ washing the feet of His disciples. Washing feet was the equivalent of being a shoeshine boy, a job devoid of status. But Jesus knew who He was, so the task didn’t threaten His self-image. The Bible says, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that he had come from God…so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist”. -John 13:3-5

If you’re going to be a servant, you must settle your identity in Christ. Only secure people can serve. Insecure people are always worrying about how they appear to others.  They fear exposure of their weaknesses and hide beneath layers of protective pride and pretensions. The more insecure you are, the more you will want people to serve you, and the more you will need their approval. When you base your worth and identity on your relationship to Christ, you are freed from the expectations of others, and that allows you to really serve them best. 

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Seeing Life From God’s View

The way you see your life shapes your life. How you define life determines your destiny. Your perspective will influence how you invest your time, spend your money, use your talents, and value your relationships. One of the best ways to understand other people is to ask them, “How do you see your life”? You will discover that there are as many different answers to that question as there are people. I’ve been told life is a circus, a minefield, a roller coaster, a puzzle, a symphony, a journey, and a dance. 

People have said, “Life is a carousel: Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down, and sometimes you just go round and round” or “life is a ten-speed bicycle with gears we never use” or life is a game of cards: “You have to play the hand you are dealt”. If I asked how you picture life, what image would come to your mind? That image is your life metaphor. It’s the view of life that you hold, consciously or unconsciously, in your mind. It’s your description of how life works and what you expect from it. 

People often express their life metaphors through clothes, jewelry, cars, hairstyles, bumper stickers, even tattoos. Your unspoken life metaphor influences your life more than you realize. It determines your expectations, your values, your relationships, your goals, and your priorities. For instance, if you think life is a party, your primary value in life will be having fun. If you see life as a race, you will value speed and will probably be in a hurry much of the time. If you view life as a marathon, you will value endurance. If you see life as a battle or a game, winning will be very important to you.

What is your view of life? You may be basing your life on a  faulty life metaphor. To fulfill the purposes God made you for, you will have to challenge conventional wisdom and replace it with biblical metaphors of life. The Bible says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”-Romans 12:2

God’s view of life: Life is a test, life is a trust, and life is a temporary assignment. This is the foundation of purpose driven living. God tested Abraham by asking him to offer his son Isaac. God tested Jacob when he had to work extra years to earn Rachel as his wife. Adam and Eve failed their test in the Garden of Eden, and David failed his tests from God on several occasions. But the Bible also gives us many examples of people who passed a great test, Such as Joseph, Ruth, Esther, and Daniel. Character is both developed and revealed by tests, and all of life is a test. You are always being tested. God constantly watches your response to people, problems, success, conflict, illness, disappointment, and even the weather! He even watches the simplest actions such as when you open a door for others, when you pick up a piece of a trash, or when you’re polite toward a clerk or waitress or others.

We don’t know all the tests God will give us, but we can predict some of them, based on the Bible. You will be tested by major changes, delayed promises, impossible problems, unanswered prayers, undeserved criticism, and even senseless tragedies. In my own life I have noticed that God tests my faith through problems, tests my hope by how I handle possessions, and tests my love through people.  A very important test is how you act when you can’t feel God’s presence in your life. Sometimes God intentionally draws back, and we don’t sense His closeness.

When you understand that life is a test, you realize that nothing is insignificant in your life. Even the smallest incident has significance for your character development. Every day is an important day, and every second is a growth opportunity to deepen your character, to demonstrate love, or to depend on God. Some tests are overwhelming, while others you don’t even notice. But all of them have eternal implications. The good news is that God wants you to pass the tests of life, so He never allows the tests you face to be greater than the grace He gives you to handle them. 

Every time you pass a test, God notices and make plans to reward you in eternity. James says, “Blessed are those who endure when they are tested. When they pass the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him”– James 1:12. At the end of your life on earth you will be evaluated and rewarded according to how well you handled what God entrusted to you. That means everything you do, even simple daily chores, has eternal implications.

Most people fail to realize that money is both a test and a trust from God. God uses finances to teach us to trust Him, and for many people, money is the greatest test of all. God watches how we use money to test how trustworthy we are. The Bible says, “If you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven”?-Luke 16:11-12 This is a very important truth. God says there is a direct relationship between how I use my money and the quality of my spiritual life. How I manage my money (“worldly wealth“) determines how much God can trust me with spiritual blessings (“true riches”). 

Let me ask you: Is the way you manage your money preventing God from doing more in your life? Can you be trusted with spiritual riches? Jesus said, “‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” Luke 12:48 Life is a test and a trust, and the more God gives you, the more responsible He expects you to be. 

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