For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
2 Corinthians 4:5
The word translated “servant” in this passage was doulos – “bond servant.” W.E. Vines said this word sees the servant in relationship to His Master. Diakonos, on the other hand, sees the servant in relationship to his responsibility. It is particularly the relationship with Christ that keeps us going and that is the key to understanding all service for Him.
And we are not only servants of Christ, but because we are His we also serve others – namely the Christian community. In reading the history of a certain church, I found that pastors who served in the 1800’s who were asked to resign, but each of them and their families, the next Sunday, were found in the same church worshipping God right along with those who requested their resignation. They came to serve, not serve themselves but to serve God and His people. What Paul wrote above is in perfect agreement with what Jesus said, “Whoever would be greatest among you must be the servant of all” (Mark 10:43-44).
This has been and always will be the test of Christian commitment – that we love the people of God for Christ’s sake. One of my mentors during my seminary days shared about a turning point in his life: “I finally realized that when I became a Christian I gave up all rights as to who I would love.” This is a test to see if we are living in the Spirit day by day, whether we can, for Jesus’ sake, wash the feet of our brother and sister in Christ – regardless what they may think of us.
Servanthood for Christ might mean that we are willing to rebuke and warn one another, but it should always be in the spirit of love. It does not forbid us to have leadership in the church, but it should be leadership characterized by compassion for the least and for the last.
Roy Hession in his classic Calvary Road shared these challenging words below on being servants: Lord, help us to live by Your Spirit that we might be Your willing servants.
I see here five marks of the bond-servant. First of all,he must be willing to have one thing on top of another put upon him, without any consideration being given him. On top of a hard day in the field the servant in the parable had immediately to prepare his master’s meal, and on top of that he had to wait at table - and all that before he had had any food himself. He just went and did it, expecting nothing else. How unwilling we are for this! How quickly there are murmurings and bitterness in our hearts when that sort of thing is expected of us. But the moment we start murmuring, we are acting as if we had rights, and a bond-servant hasn’t any!
Secondly, in doing this he must be willing not to be thanked for it. How often we serve others, but what selfpity we have in our hearts and how bitterly we complain that they take it as a matter of course and do not thank us for it. But a bond-servant must be willing for that. Hired servants may expect something, but not bondservants.
And, thirdly, having done all this, he must not charge the other with selfishness. As I read the passage, I could not but feel that the master was rather selfish and inconsiderate. But there is no such charge from the bondservant. He exists to serve the interests of his master and the selfishness or otherwise of his master does not come into it with him. But we? We can perhaps allow ourselves to be ” put upon ” by others, and are willing perhaps not to be thanked for what we do, but how we charge the other in our minds with selfishness! But that is not the place of a bond-servant. He is to find in the selfishness of others but a further opportunity to identify himself afresh with His Lord as the servant of all.
But there is a fourth step still to which we must go. Having done all that, there is no ground for pride or self congratulation, but we must confess that we are unprofitable servants, that is, that we are of no real use to God or man in ourselves. We must confess again and again that ” in us, that is in our flesh, there dwelleth no good thing,” that, if we have acted thus, it is no thanks to us, whose hearts are naturally proud and stubborn, but only to the Lord Jesus, who dwells in us and who has made us willing.
The bottom of self is quite knocked out by the fifth and last step - the admission that doing and bearing what we have in the way of meekness and humility, we have not done one stitch more than it was our duty to do. God made man in the first place simply that he might be God’s bond-servant. Man’s sin has simply consisted in his refusal to be God’s bond-servant. His restoration can only be, then, a restoration to the position of a bondservant. A man, then, has not done anything specially meritorious when he has consented to take that position, for he was created and redeemed for that very thing.
This, then, is the Way of the Cross. It is the way that God’s lowly Bond-servant first trod for us, and should not we, the bond-servants of that Bond-servant, tread it still? Does it seem hard and forbidding, this way down? Be assured, it is the only way up. It was the way by which the Lord Jesus reached the Throne, and it is the way by too. And that will be humbling indeed. But as we crawl which we too reach the place of spiritual power, authority through the door of the broken ones we shall emerge into and fruitfulness.
Those who tread this path are radiant, happy souls, overflowing with the life of their Lord. They have found “he that humbleth himself shall be exalted ” to be true for them as for their Lord. Where before humility was an unwelcome intruder to be put up with only on occasions, she has now become the spouse of their souls, to whom they have wedded themselves for ever. If darkness and unrest enter their souls it is only because somewhere on some point they have been unwilling to walk with her in the paths of meekness and brokenness. But she is ever ready to welcome them back into her company, as they seek her face in repentance.