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.