Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ” was more than just an opening to one of his letters, for he never got over the wonder of what he had been made in Christ. As he recalled the awfulness of his life as the “persecutor,” he revelled in the transforming power of God’s grace that had not only saved him but had made him a servant of Christ. He stated, “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1Co 15:10).[1] But does God really need us as servants? After all, He is the omniscient “Architect” and the omnipotent “Builder” who is never marked by frustration or failure. The Lord Jesus said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mat 16:18). That’s not exactly our résumé! Man has failed miserably, and we have made a mess of all that God entrusted to us. Amazingly, our God has not abandoned His eternal purposes to both “save” man and “employ” man in the unfinished work of His kingdom. His focus centred on the servanthood of His creatures, whether in the garden to tend it at the beginning of our history or in the eternal ages to come, for “his servants shall serve him” (Rev 22:3). And in so doing, grace has given us the wonderful blessing of being a small but significant part of His great work.

The Template

We have not been left without a model to follow, for our Lord Himself came as a humble servant. Mark’s singular statement regarding the Lord’s mission is crystal clear: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mar 10:45 ESV). Who can fathom what it involved when He humbled Himself and took upon Him the form of a servant? But He did – and what marked Him is now to mark us. The OT writers were thrilled with the characteristics of Jehovah’s Servant. He was marked by an “open ear” – an ear tuned to the will of His God and in which He found infinite delight (Psa 40:6-8). He exemplified a “submissive spirit” – that despite the tremendous suffering He endured, He was not rebellious or turned backward (Isa 50:5-6). He graciously manifested care and tenderness in dealing with broken sinners – the “bruised reeds” and the “faintly burning wicks” (Isa 42:3 ESV). Like the Hebrew servant of Exodus 21, He revealed at Calvary His sacrificial love for His “master, wife and children” in allowing His body to be pierced and becoming a servant forever. It’s no wonder that the heavens could be opened with the call, “Behold my servant!”

The Scope

Being a servant of Christ is a big work, but it’s not confined to a select few. Too often we look at what we call “full-time servants” as the only ones involved in the Lord’s work, but this is both short-sighted and inaccurate, for every believer has been made a servant. Every Christian has been given abilities and a function to carry out in advancing the Lord’s great purposes. So are you involved in this great work, and are you reflecting the same characteristics of servanthood as our Lord Himself? As already noted, He was marked by humility and tender compassion. When none of the disciples would stoop to wash His feet, He graciously laid aside His garments and knelt to wash theirs. It was the work of a slave – of Gentiles – but the mighty Creator Himself stooped to wash the feet of His own. Are we willing to stoop, to refresh those around us, to show spiritual care and love for struggling believers or for those who have no hope? It’s noteworthy that when the prodigal son finally stopped to assess his sad condition, it was “the servants” in his father’s house that suddenly became attractive to him. But there’s also a very practical side to our servanthood for we are now “the hands and feet” of our risen but absent Lord. We are His agents, His representatives, His workmen in meeting the needs of the work. As Colossians 3 teaches, whatever we do in relation to those around us, we are to do it heartily for, ultimately, we are “serving the Lord Christ” (v24). That includes our labors in the home, at our secular jobs, in the local church or in our interactions with individuals. Outstanding spiritual men were commissioned to wait on tables (Act 6); a diligent sister, Phoebe, was commended as a “servant of the church” (Rom 16:1); a rough fisherman, Peter, was asked to lend the Lord his boat (Luk 5:1-3); a caring hostess, Martha, invited a crowd into her home (Joh 12:2); failing but faithful disciples were given the Great Commission (Mar 16:15). All of us “no-namers” have been given a part in His service to be done as “unto Himself.”

The Challenges

Servant challenges are many. There’s the all-important issue of our life’s purpose. Whom will I honour and obey – the Lord first or myself? “No one can serve two masters” (Mat 6:24 ESV). Time and age are also a challenge. We can’t retrieve lost time for service, but Peter exhorts us to use “the rest of our time” for the will of God (1Pe 4:2). Again, the exhortation is clear: “Son, go work [serve] today in my vineyard” (Mat 21:28). Discouragement is always a pressing factor in service. Service can be exhausting, especially when no one bothers to help and few ever say “Thank you.” Martha in the kitchen can attest to that! Failure can be a crushing experience and a tremendous challenge to overcome. Mark must have lamented leaving the frontlines of service when the going was tough but, wonderfully, he was restored and became a helpful servant in the work.

The Reward

Amid great challenges, there is the assurance of wonderful rewards. The Lord’s own statement is so encouraging: “If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor” (Joh 12:26 NKJV). There is immediate reward and joy in just doing something “for the Lord.” Mary’s words to the servants at the Cana wedding feast are pivotal: “Whatever He says to you, do it!” (Joh 2:5 NKJV). And the result was joy and blessing for all. Millions of believers live with little fanfare or recognition but know that “God is not unjust so as to overlook [their] work and the love that [they] have shown for his name in serving the saints” (Heb 6:10 ESV). Wouldn’t it be wonderful to ultimately stand before our Lord (as we all will do) and hear His words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”? I think at that point we may well think, “I wish I had given Him more.”

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.