Serving with Attitude

Philippians chapter 2 verses 1 to 10 

In the last two weeks I’ve been speaking about our dreams and plans, and how they fit with God’s dreams and purposes for our lives. I’ve talked of how we discover our life purpose and shared my dreams for St Albans. I sharpened the focus last week, saying we are saved to serve God, in fact we are created, saved, called and told by Jesus to serve.

I shared my dream that every St Albans member would be in a housegroup or in some accountable relationship with one or two others, and that housegroups would become service teams/ministry teams, taking on a practical ministry serving our community, using one or two of the housegroup nights each month or so. And that our new St Albans building would become a service centre (a ministry /helping /healing centre) for Hokowhitu.

Many of us feel we don’t have much discretionary time, but we all need to seek a balance in our Christian discipleship between our own personal and family dreams and God’s dreams and purposes for us. We each need to be conscious that one day we will all stand before God to give account of what we have done in our lives; and God will evaluate how well you and I have served Him, served His purposes, served other people.

For unbelievers who have lived for themselves and their own self-oriented purposes, God’s evaluation will be one of eternal consequences. For Christ-followers, it will be an evaluation for eternal/heavenly rewards.

Unbelievers will be asked what they did with Jesus? Believers will be asked what they did for Jesus.

On that day God will compare how much time and energy we spent on ourselves, and on our families, compared with what we invested in serving others. I keep mentioning our families because our children can become an excuse, an idol even, which restricts our service of God.

Raising our children in a God-honouring way is a most significant aspect of our service as Christian parents; but it can become completely consuming and out of balance. Similarly with our work. It is a significant part of our service of God but can become all-consuming and out of balance.

Christian discipleship involves a continuing reassessing of our lives, a continual conversation with God, and especially listening to God, about the balance and priorities of our lives.

When we stand before God, all our excuses will sound hollow: “I was too busy”, “I had my goals to achieve”, “I was preoccupied with my work, my sport, my studies, home and garden, planning for my retirement, enjoying my well-earned retirement….” Actually folks, do you realise there is no retirement age in the Kingdom of God? There’s no retirement from God’s service! The only release from service is when the body or mind is no longer able.

To all our excuses God will respond, “Sorry, wrong answer. I created you, saved you, called you and told you to live a life of service. What part of that did you not understand?”

 Remember these words of Jesus, “If you insist on saving your life you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live.” (Message Version)

This truth is so important that it is recorded five times in the Gospels. If we aren’t serving, we’re simply existing, because life is meant for ministry. God wants us to learn to love and serve others unselfishly.

There are two key aspects of our Christian service. One is our SHAPE and the other is our ATTITUDE.

SHAPE is one way of referring to our personal attributes/equipment.

It is an acronym for Spiritual gifts, Heart/passion, natural Abilities, Personality and Experience of life.

Others refer to our personal attributes as a combination of gifts/passion/style.

Knowing our SHAPE is very important to serve God effectively and joyfully, because we serve best when we find our best fit in the interdependent, multi-gifted community that is the Body of Christ.

But even more important than knowing our SHAPE is having a servant-heart or servant-ATTITUDE; the attitude of Jesus who came “not to be served but to serve and to give his life” …

Or as Philippians chapter 2 verse 5 says, “You should have the same attitude as Christ Jesus…”.

The world defines greatness and success in terms of having power, position and possessions. There is nothing wrong with any of these in themselves; but the key is the attitude with which we use them.

Jesus measures greatness and success in terms of service and self-sacrifice; by how many we serve, not how many serve us.

Without a servant attitude, we are more likely to misuse our personal attributes for personal gain or to excuse ourselves from service.

Just as we are never too old to serve, we never become too important, too wealthy, or too powerful to serve. 2nd Corinthians chapter 8 verse 9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, though he was rich, (powerful, important) yet for our sakes he became poor, so that we through his poverty might become rich.”

 Although our shape determines our primary ministry/area of service, we must always be ready to serve casually wherever we are needed. We cannot say that our spiritual gift is not service or helps or mercy, therefore I don’t have to serve. That would be like saying that my gift is not giving so I won’t give any money to God’s work; not teaching so I’ll never help out at Sunday School when they’re short; not healing so I’ll never pray for a sick person to be healed.

General Christian discipleship requires a servant-heart, an attitude of service. Any Christ-follower, indeed every disciple of Jesus, can be and is called to be a servant. Our SHAPE reveals our ministry, but our SERVANT-ATTITUDE reveals our maturity. You don’t need talent, gifting or experience to tidy up after church, pick up rubbish, make a meal, pick up someone for church, to be a servant; you only need character, the character of Jesus growing within you.

 

I want to finish with some characteristics of a true servant-attitude.

 

1. Real servants make themselves available to serve

Real servants are “at your service, Lord.” They don’t fill their lives with so much personal and self-centred stuff, whether work, family, leisure or whatever, that they are not available to serve. Serving only when it’s convenient, is not true service.

How available are you to God?

Can God mess up your plans, bring someone across your path, interrupt you, without you becoming resentful? True servants don’t get to pick and choose when or where they serve. A servant-attitude means giving up the right to control our schedule and being available in God’s service.

It is helpful to remind ourselves at the start of each new day that we are God’s servants and that our agenda will be whatever God brings into our lives; that interruptions may be divine appointments for ministry.

Often discernment is needed however, to decide whether it is really an interruption from God, or a person abusing our kindness and willingness to serve, or whether we really need time out for recreation.

 

2. Real Servants pay attention to needs

Real servants are observant, looking out for needs, ways to help, and then seize the moment. I like David Watson’s daily prayer, “Lord give me eyes to see, and the grace to seize every opportunity for you”.

Opportunities to serve often pass quickly. We may only have one chance to serve that person.

Real Servants are sensitive and spontaneous. Paul told the Galatians, “Whenever we have the opportunity, we have to do what is good for everyone, especially for the family of believers.” (chapter 6v10) God calls us to make the needs of fellow disciples a high priority.

Real servants don’t look for great opportunities to serve but to do small tasks as if they were great opportunities. That incredible servant of God, Methodist preacher John Wesley, had a great motto, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

 

3. Real Servants do their best with what they have

Real servants don’t procrastinate, make excuses, wait for better circumstances or until they are better equipped. As Nike commands us, real servants ‘Just Do It!’

 God expects us to do what we can, with what we have, wherever we are. Less-than-perfect service is always better than well-intentioned-statements.

Some people are reluctant to serve or never serve because they feel, they fear, that they are not good enough. These people believe the myth, and some churches foster that myth, that serving God is only for the professionals, the gifted, the experienced; and so people of ordinary, everyday ability don’t offer to serve.

We have all kinds of proverbs in our Western culture, “If it can’t be done with excellence don’t do it!” “If a thing’s worth doing, its worth doing well.” Actually Jesus never said either of these!

Counsellor David Riddell recognises the impact this philosophy has had on many people’s self-esteem. He says, “If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly until you get better at it!” He also says; “Sometimes good enough is good enough.”

 Rick Warren, of Saddleback Church, initiated a principle in their church called ‘the good enough’ principle. Your service doesn’t have to be perfect for God to use and bless it. Every biblical hero was less than perfect; every member of God’s family today is less than perfect. So if you’re feeling less than perfect today, join the club. And if you do happen to be feeling perfect, you’d better leave, as you’ll soon be feeling uncomfortable! St Albans is a hospital for sinners not a hotel for saints.

God would rather involve thousands of ordinary Kiwis in ministry than have a perfect (empty!) church led by a few gifted professionals.

 

4. Real Servants are faithful in their ministry.

They stick at it; finish their tasks, keep their promises, fulfil their responsibilities. They don’t quit when they get discouraged. They are dependable. Many people today make commitments casually and then break them for the slightest reason, without hesitation or regret.

Can others rely on you? Are there promises or commitments that you need to honour?

Life is a test. God is testing our faithfulness, our reliability, our stickability in small things, before entrusting us with greater things. God has promised to reward our faithfulness in eternity.

How good will it be to hear those famous words of Jesus, “Well done my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in managing small amounts, so I will put you in charge of large amounts. Come on in and share my happiness.” 

5. Real Servants are humble not proud

Self-promotion and servanthood don’t mix. If a real servant is recognised for their service, they humbly accept it but don’t allow recognition to distract them from their work.

Jesus exposed the piety of the Pharisees as an empty show, a kind of godly behaviour that appears to be spiritual but is done to get attention. It is “eye-service” to catch the eye of another, to impress; rather than humble service that doesn’t seek the approval or applause of others. Real Servants serve an audience of one! (Colossians chapter 3 verse 23)

Sometimes you may feel unnoticed or unappreciated in your area of service, but God knows and God values what you do. Stick at it faithfully until God moves you on.

The Message version has a fresh translation of Colossians chapter 3 verse 4, “When Christ shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up too - the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.”

 In the USA, there are more than 750 ‘Halls of Fame’ and more than 450 ‘Who’s Who?’ publications, but you won’t find many real servants in these places. Real Servants know the difference between prominence and significance. The most significant service in God’s Kingdom is often unseen and on Judgement Day, God will visibly acknowledge and reward his many obscure and unknown servants.

Friends, don’t stay discouraged when your service for the Lord goes unnoticed or unappreciated. Stick at it. As Paul said to the Corinthians “Keep abounding, stay enthusiastic, in the Lord’s work, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.” 1st Corinthians chapter 15 verse 58.

 

These then are some marks of the servant-attitude.

Which of these marks challenges your life the most?