Be a Servant

When we love the Lord, our service to Him is not a struggle because it is our desire to please Him.
From a sermon by Joe Bishop on July 14, 1999

This study is from the Book of Romans. The book, called an Epistle, is a letter written by Paul the Apostle to the church that was at Rome. The chapter and verse divisions in the Bible were not in the original manuscript, but were added later as a means of reference. The Book of Romans was written as a letter. Out of the sixteen chapters, the first eleven have to do with doctrine. Paul expounded specifically about the great problem of sin and the great remedy there is in Jesus Christ. Then chapters twelve through sixteen present the practical application through examples and instructions of the principles of the Gospel.

Our main text will be the 12th chapter of Romans. However we are going to look first at the salutation. Romans 1:1 says, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.” He was indeed an Apostle. He had evidence in his life of God’s blessing and power, and certainly had the authority to preach and to teach. However, he viewed himself as a servant.

This way of referring to himself is not an isolated example. In Philippians 1:1, we see him using a similar salutation. He says, “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ.” The Book of Titus begins, “Paul, a servant…” Other Apostles did the same. The Book of James begins with, “James, a servant…” In 2 Peter 1:1, Peter calls himself a servant. Jude 1:1says, “the servant.” Even as we go to the Book of Revelation and see John the Revelator receiving the Revelation of Jesus Christ from God Himself, he says, “to the servants…by his servant.” These powerful men of God all saw themselves as servants. They had no problem with humility. First and foremost they considered themselves servants of Jesus Christ.

Romans 12:1 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” First, let our attention be on the word “present.” A synonym would be “to give.” Paul is saying here, “Give your bodies as a living sacrifice,  … which is your reasonable service.” Giving is a fundamental concept of the Gospel, but it is so different from man’s nature. When we try to explain to a toddler that it is better to give than to receive, they do not understand that. It is not in man’s nature. As we mature, we discover that it is proper to give. But when we have God’s love in our hearts, giving becomes natural.

Jesus said in Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” This idea of getting and pleasing self is so prevalent in the world, that I believe it can affect even the Christian’s thinking, and attitude. Perhaps it even occurs when we come to church. Now, I have no quarrel with the idea that we come to church to receive something from the Lord. But may I suggest another approach? I do not believe that God is pleased with begging or bargaining so we can receive. I believe God is pleased with giving.

Think about giving as compared to buying. Most of the time, if we are buying something, we want the most value for the least cost, right? Are you a bargain hunter? We have some bargain hunters in our family. They like to get the most they can for the least amount of money. God is not interested in bargaining. Sometimes when we come before God, we have an attitude that we really need something. That may be very true. Sometimes we just need and need and need. We need all that God has for us; that is absolutely true. But sometimes we come to God with the attitude of needing something so much that we start bargaining with God. We may say, “God, if You will do this or that for me, then I will do this or that for you.”

I can remember a time when one of our daughters was very sick and I did not know what to do. I remember praying and telling God what I would do for Him if He would heal my daughter. Then God said to me, “What will you do if I do not heal her? It changed my attitude. God has been good to our family, and I appreciate what God has done. I don’t want to try to drive any bargains with God. I am going to serve Him, God helping me, regardless of what comes or goes in my life.

I believe that God is pleased with giving and not pleased with begging or bargaining. You cannot buy salvation. There is nothing that you can do that would pay the price for God’s only Son. God’s gift to us is His Son. Probably the most famous Scripture in all the world is “God so loved the world, that He gave…” God first loved us. God first gave to us His Son. God gave to us before we could even consider giving to Him.

I would like to suggest to you that when you come to God, you begin to give to God. The blessing comes with giving. Consecrating is giving to God. You do not have to beg God for the blessing. The blessing will be there as you present yourself to God without any strings attached. You cannot out-give God. God will turn around and give you just what you need in your life. You begin to give Him your life. You begin to give Him praise. Talk to people who have received blessings from the Lord and ask them what they were doing when they received the blessing. Were they begging? I suspect you will find that not one was begging. I believe you will find that every one of them was praising God. They were in the midst of giving praise to God when God just turned it around and blessed them over and over again. Give God your life! Give God your praise! Give God your service!

As a pastor, I would periodically ask the congregation, “What did you bring today to give to God?” The Bible talks about the fruit of our lips and the sacrifice of praise, and it says this is well pleasing unto the Lord. In the Old Testament we see the example of sacrifices. What were they doing? They were giving to God.

Looking again at Romans 12:1, the second word that we see in this verse is “service.” It says, “…which is your reasonable service.” Who does service? Many times our concept of service is that of a technician or a specialist who takes care of technical repairs or upgrades. One of the first things I found out about service technicians is that they give a strong impression that they are not your servant, and that it is going to cost you plenty of money. This verse is talking about giving ourselves to God, which is an act of serving.

In the Scriptures, this word servant could literally be translated as “slave.” The word slave has a very negative connotation. It suggests action being required against a person’s will. Service is forced, demanding, and demeaning. Those are all connotations that our society attaches to the word slave.

In our house there is a family joke related to the “while you are up” routine. We may all be sitting around the house in the evening, when someone gets up to do something. Very quickly you will hear, “While you are up, could you bring me a soda?” Or, “Would you hand me this? Or, “Bring me that magazine.” Sometimes there has been a joking response: “Who was your servant last year?” I want you to know that is a joke: there is no forced slavery in our house. My wife and I have been married for thirty-four years, and I love her more today than I ever have. I love to do things that will help her or please her. Sometimes she has to remind me to take out the garbage, but this is not slavery. I don’t feel forced that I have to do things for her. I want to do the things that would be pleasing to her, and that is because I love her.

If you love God, you are not going to find serving Him demeaning or demanding or against your will. God will not violate your free choice. If you are going to be a servant of the Lord, it will be because you choose to be a servant of the Lord. You have to want to do this. The Bible tells us that we must be willing servants. If you are struggling in your service to the Lord, you should check your relationship. If we love the Lord, we will find that our service to the Lord is not a struggle, against our will, demeaning, or demanding. It may not always be fun, but it will please the Lord, and we will be the benefactors in the end.

As we continue in this chapter and read the next verse, verse 2 says, “And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” How do we become servants of Jesus Christ? We don’t just sign up, or take a pledge. We are transformed by the Blood of Jesus! It is through His Blood that we begin this great relationship with the Lord of being His servant. Look at the Apostles and the great men of God who we read about in the Bible. Look at their salutations. Serving God was the foremost thing in their minds. They were servants of Jesus Christ because He had transformed them. He had changed them; He had done something in their lives that made a difference.

Jesus was the perfect example of one who has a servant’s heart. In Philippians 2:5, it says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” He was God, part of the Trinity, part of the Almighty Godhead. We read on, “But [He] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Our perfect example made Himself a servant. Jesus Christ came in the form of a servant. Is it going to be hard to be a servant like Jesus? I think that should be our highest ambition—to be called servants of Jesus Christ. I do not know of any title in all the world that is any nobler or grander than that of being a servant of Jesus Christ.

As we look here at the continuing verses in Romans 12, some might question, “How do we do this? How do we serve God?” There is a relationship here of course, which is the relationship of Master to servant. In Mark 10:42, it says, “But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” We see the spirit of giving that is attached here to being a servant. Jesus came to minister and to give His life a ransom for many. Jesus Christ came as a servant.

Matthew 25:40 gives us a little more light on the importance of serving in the account of the separation of the sheep and the goats. “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” What does it mean to serve the Lord, or to be His servant? First of all, I believe it has to do with our attitude. We are going to acknowledge His Lordship, aren’t we? We are going to acknowledge that He is Master and that we are the servants.

Some years ago, it was brought to my attention, as I brought my daily requests before the Lord, that I was in a pattern of giving Him my list for the day. “Now Lord, this is what I would like for You to do for me today. I need this and this, I would like You to do that, and while You are at it, would You mind doing this one too?” No, I did not pray exactly like that, but that was the idea. Do we sometimes just bring our lists to the Lord? That is not altogether wrong because the Bible tells us to let our requests be made known unto the Lord. But there is something about the attitude in which we come before the Lord. If we bring the Lord our list of what we want Him to do for us today, and do not ask the question, “Lord what would You have me to do today?” where is the servant/Master relationship? Who is giving the orders? I do not ever want to feel like I am trying to order the Lord around. I do not think that is what we should do when we pray. It makes a difference if we come before the Lord with an attitude that He is the Master and He is in control. I tell the Lord, “You are the Master and I am the servant. That is the way I like it. That is the way I want it.” I want my attitude to be one of submission and obedience to God. I believe that the Lord will be pleased with this and we will find a difference in our own lives.

How do we serve the Lord? Usually, we find that we do so by serving others. In the 25th chapter of Matthew, we read the story of those who were hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and in prison. The Lord’s response to all of this was, “As you have done it to one of the least of these you have done it unto me.” So serving the Lord, as the Scripture shows us in many cases, has to do with serving each other with a servant’s attitude.

Going on in the 12th chapter, we notice again the attitude of a servant. Verse 3 says, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” We are not to have an elevated opinion of ourselves, but to realize we are servants of the most high God. When Paul says we are not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think; but to think “soberly,” the word soberly does not mean that we go around with long faces. It does not mean that we are sad all the time. It just means that we have serious minds. We are serious about serving the Lord. We are in earnest about this.

In verse 10 it says, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.”  Does “preferring one another” sound like the world? I think not. The world says: “Get what you can before somebody else gets it.” The Bible says, “Prefer one another.” In verse 16 we read, “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.” Maintaining a servant’s attitude not only toward God, but also toward our fellowman, becomes the difficult part many times. We may readily acknowledge God as our Master, but how hard is it sometimes for us to honor each other! This is practical application. The Word of God is practical in that it gets right down to what we do with our daily lives. Many people go out into the world every day to make a living to support their families, and they find in the world there are people with a different attitude. You will hear people use the expression, “It is a dog-eat-dog world.” The attitude is, you had better do it now, you better get it now, and you better take advantage now before somebody takes advantage of you. It can be challenging to maintain a servant’s heart in that environment, but God will help us.

What does verse 10 mean? It says, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” Consider the example of Christian brothers working with each other. One is the boss and the other is the employee, or maybe they are in business together. What should be the very best of relationships suddenly deteriorates into the worst of relationships. What should be a blessing to work with our brother or sister turns into a competition. It can turn into something else because of what we expect of our brother because we neglect the admonition to prefer one another.

Perhaps I am the employee, and a negative attitude creeps over me. I do not believe this is a conscious decision that happens all of a sudden. Initially, I may think it is so wonderful to work for my brother, but then an attitude develops that I do not have to do what the rest of the employees do because this is my brother. He will not require that of me. Maybe he will not demand it, but what about your attitude? Are you being fair to your brother? Are you giving him eight hours of work for eight hours of pay, or are you saying, “He is my brother so I only have to give him seven,” or, “I should get a little more vacation than the other guys?”

“In honor preferring one another,” goes against the world, and it is not the attitude you will typically see. But if we serve one another, and have the attitude of, “God bless you brother, I want to see you get ahead, and I want to do my part,” you will find it working on both sides. It will work the way it ought to work. But I believe so much of it has to do with our attitudes. Do we have the attitude of a  servant of Jesus Christ as we serve each other? Let us pray one for another. Let us honor one another. Let us serve one another as we serve the Lord.

When Jesus was with His disciples at His last supper with them before His crucifixion, He began to wash their feet. He told them that, “The servant is not greater than his lord.” He also said, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

I believe that principle applies through all of our relationships one with another. If the Lord has given us the example and told us what we ought to do, should we not follow through? If we do, God is going to bless us.

The areas of ministry are laid out in verse 5, “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.”

God gives all of us a gift and a calling. How about this one in verse 8: “he that giveth”? Did you ever think about giving being a gift or a ministry from God? Absolutely! If you go to verse 13, you will see a further expansion of this thought. It says, “Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.” Giving to each other, to the saints. What a blessing it is to have a heart of giving.

I would like to relate to you a personal example. I am the youngest of nine children. My oldest sibling was 26 years older than me. His name was Lem. Lem was handicapped from the time of his birth. He was never officially diagnosed, but probably had cerebral palsy. His walk and his speech were affected. He could not talk plainly. But when he was a teenager the Lord saved him and put a love in his heart that just beamed from within. Nobody had a question about whether Lem had the victory or not. He sat in church and had the loudest “Amen.” It might not have been very plain, but it came from his heart! He was touched by the Lord when he was a small child. My mother brought him on the platform and had him prayed for. The doctor said that he would never ever walk and would be severely handicapped all of his life. After he was prayed for, he began to learn how to walk, and even though he did not walk perfectly, he could get around.

As Lem grew up and became a teenager, and then a man, he began to look for ways that he could support himself. He began mowing lawns. He had a three-wheel bike with a great big basket on the front where he put lawn mowers. He went around Medford and mowed people’s lawns and took care of their yards. The Lord blessed him in that and prospered him. Pretty soon he got a Cushman motor scooter. He had a good business around Medford doing yard work, and he always honored the Lord.

Years later he moved to Denver, but did not do the lawn mowing business anymore because of his health and circumstances. He worked in the mission and did the things that he could do. Later in life he came to live near us in Woodlake, California. When he came to live with us, I began to

understand a little bit more about my brother that I had not known before because he was so much

older than me. When I was his pastor as well as his brother, I began to learn some of the details of his life, and I started to understand why Lem had so much joy. Lem never had much of this world’s goods. He received a small Social Security check and a little disability income from SSI. It was very little, but when I was his pastor, I began to find out what he was doing with his money.

My brother had a heart for the Gospel. Here was a man who had limited income, yet he was not just paying his tithes—he was paying double tithes! How did he manage to get along on what was left? Then he said to me, “Have you sent the check to Korea yet? Have you sent my offering for Africa?” He loved the African work with all of his heart.

When the Brooklyn Apostolic Faith Youth Conference started, he wanted to be there every time he could. He would ask, “Have you sent my contributions for the Brooklyn Youth Conference yet?” How did he do that? I do not know. Many of us have a hard time managing on our abundance. But I want to tell you, Lem had a spirit of giving. Along with that spirit of giving, there is a by-product that many people do not understand, and that by-product is joy.

In our little church, some of the children were learning to play instruments. They wanted to serve the Lord by playing an instrument in the orchestra, but in some cases the family could not really afford music lessons. Lem came to me and said, “Do you think if I paid for it, they could have some lessons?” He said, “I do not want them to know who is giving the money.” So we made sure that they got music lessons. When that young person got up in Sunday school and played “Jesus Loves Me” on his or her instrument, Lem was sitting in the back with the biggest smile you ever saw. He could never play an instrument, but he could help somebody else to do so. He had a heart of giving. That is what I am trying to illustrate; an attitude of giving to the Lord, a servant’s attitude.

If you read the rest of this chapter you will see the attributes of a servant described. You will also see instructions on how to treat one another and about the attitude that we should have toward the world. Paul alludes to our enemy being hungry, and our responsibility to feed him. He said, “Be not overcome of evil but overcome evil with good.” He also said, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.”

These are good instructions. We should take them to heart, and the place where it will start is with an attitude of being a servant of God—an attitude of giving rather than getting. An attitude that says I want to prefer my brother rather than being selfish. This will make a world of difference in our lives. It will be pleasing to the Lord as we bring our service, and as we give of ourselves to the Lord. It will please the Lord and we will find God’s blessing upon our lives. Today, when you pray, tell the Lord that you want to serve Him and give to Him. Do not bargain with Him or beg Him. Say, “I want to serve You. I want to please You with my life.” If you do this, you will be abundantly blessed!