Friday, February 11, 2011

Six characteristics of a servant

Taken from Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life, day 33.

People always measure greatness by the ability to lead, to be served by others. But Jesus taught us that what God really values is the heart of servant, and he measures our greatness by how much we serve. This is so contrary to the world's idea of greatness that we have a hard time understanding it, much less practicing it. The disciples argued about who deserved the most prominent position, and 2000 years later Christian leaders still jockey for position and prominence in churches, denominations, and parachurch ministries.

God often tests our hearts by asking us to serve in ways we're not shaped. If you see a man fall into a ditch, God expects you to help him out, not say, "I don't have the gift of mercy or service." While you may not be gifted for a particular task, you may be called to do it if no one gifted at it is around.

How can you know if you have the heart of a servant? Jesus said, "You can tell what they are by what they do."

1. Real servants make themselves available to serve.
When God calls upon us for an act of service, do we grumble? Do we reject it, saying that our schedule is already filled to the brim? Real servants don't fill up their time with other pursuits that could limit their availability. Just like a soldier, a servant should be ready for duty anytime. Are we available to God anytime? Can he mess up our plans without we becoming resentful?
Let's remind ourselves at the start of each day that we are God's servant, so that interruptions won't frustrate us as much, because our agenda will be whatever God wants to bring into our life.

2. Real servants pay attention to needs.
Servants are always on the lookout for ways to help others. John Wesley, an incredible servant of God, once said, "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the places you can, at all times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can." That is greatness.
We can begin by looking for small tasks that no one else wants to do.

3. Real servants do their best with what they have.
Servants don't make excuses, procrastinate, or wait for better circumstances. God expects you to do what you can, with what you have, wherever you are. Less-than perfect service is always better than the best intention.
One reason many people never serve is that they fear they are not good enough to serve. Well, the truth is, almost everything we do is done poorly when we first start doing it - that's how we learn.

4. Real servants do every task with equal dedication.
As servants, whatever we do, do it with all our hearts.. The size of the task is irrelevant. The only issue is, does it need to be done?
You will never arrive at the state in life where you're too important to help with menial tasks. Jesus specialized in menial tasks that everyone else tried to avoid: washing feet, helping children, fixing breakfast, and serving lepers. Nothing was beneath him, because he came to serve. It wasn't in spite of his greatness that he did these things, but because of it. And he expects us to follow his examples.

5. Real servants are faithful to their ministry.
Servants finish their tasks, fulfill their responsibilities, keep their promises, and complete their commitments. They don't leave a job half undone, and they don't quit when they get discouraged. They are trustworthy and dependable.
Faithfulness has always been a rare quality. Most people don't know the meaning of commitment. They make commitments casually, then break them for the slightest reason without any hesitation, remorse, or regret. Every week, churches and other organizations must improvise because volunteers didn't prepare, didn't show up, or didn't even call to say they weren't coming.
Can we be counted by others? Are there promises we need to keep, vows we need to fulfill, or commitments we need to honor? God is testing our faithfulness. Imagine what it will feel like one day to have God say to you, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let's celebrate together!"
Faithful servants never retire. They serve faithfully as long as they're alive. You can retire from your career, but you will never retire from serving God.

6. Real servants maintain a low profile.
Servants don't promote or call attention to themselves. Instead of acting to impress and dressing for success, they "put on the apron of humility, to serve one another." If recognized for their service, they humbly accept it but don't allow notoriety to distract them from their work.
Serving in order to impress people with how spiritual we are, is the sin of the Pharisees. They turned helping others, giving, and even prayer into a performance for others. Jesus hated this attitude and warned, "When you do good deeds, don't try to show off. If you do, you won't get a reward from your Father in heaven."
In our bodies, we have several prominent parts that we could live without. Most people could go on living without an arm, a leg, or even an eye, but nobody could live without a brain, or a heart. It is the hidden parts inside our bodies that are significant.
Knowing this, let's not be discouraged when our service is unnoticed or taken for granted. Keep on serving God! Even the smallest service is noticed by God and will be rewarded. Remember the words of Jesus: "If, as my representatives, you give even a cup of cold water to a little child, you will be surely be rewarded."

Which of the six characteristics of real servants offers the greatest challenge to us?


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  2. This post is truly inspiring. God bless you