It is well to aspire in our Christian walk day by day to be Christ-like. “O to be like Thee, just to be like Thee,” we sing as a hymn from time to time. So, the question that ought to haunt our hearts is, “Am I like Christ?” Here is a simple yet profound test: read Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many.” In other words, Jesus said that His mission was to serve. What is your mission now, as a follower of His? Jesus said in that same passage: “And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.” That’s the divine perspective on servanthood. Is it ours?
One pastor aptly said, “Instead of being great servants of God, try to be a servant of a great God.” (Pastor D. Burgraff) D.L. Moody: “We may easily be too big for God to use, but never too small.” (Quoted by J. Sidlow Baxter in Awake My Heart, p.57)
In 1 Cor.4:1, 2 Paul uses the term “steward” to refer to “ministers of Christ.” The meaning of the word steward in these verses is of course “servant.” A study of that word reveals that it is used of first-century slaves—not just any slaves, in fact, but the lowest order of slaves. They were sometimes called “under rowers” because, in boats of the day, powered by oars in the hands of men, the lowest level of men with hands on the shortest oars were called just that. Theirs was the hardest and hottest job of all, lasting for hours each day. As was the case with most slaves in that Roman Empire, they were owned by masters who considered them nothing more than dispensable property. The master’s will was their will, and it was a matter of life and death, survival, to please him. Unquestioned obedience was expected. The servant’s only question was, “Master, what wilt thou have me to do?” The servant had no time of his own; no personal days, no holidays, no days off. That is the concept behind first-century servanthood. Jesus said He came to be a servant and that His followers should expect to become a “servant of all.” Pretty challenging statement to read and realize in this 21st century, is it not?
But J.L. Massee reminds us that “service can never become slavery to one who loves.” God loves us, saved us, called us to serve, and gave us one requirement: that we serve faithfully. We never are too old (or too young) to serve faithfully. This past week, I rejoiced to hear that my dear friend of many years, evangelist Joe Mark, was graduated to glory at the age of 80. Joe was one of my favorite evangelists. An avid reader with a dry sense of humor, his lifelong labors of 53 years in local-church evangelism endeared him to pastors and people alike. His obituary concluded that the thing that characterized Joe most fully was not the number of years he traveled in ministry, nor the number of churches and pastors he encouraged, nor even the number of lives transformed through His masterful preaching of God’s Word. The one word that sums up what evangelist Joe Mark will be remembered for is faithfulness. Month after month, year after year, he did what the Lord called him to do, and he did it faithfully for his Master. He was never disqualified. He lived a life of integrity. He never watered down his message to get a meeting. Our church was blessed by having Joe for several revival meetings through the years, and I was never disappointed in any of them. He was consistently faithful and faithfully consistent.
A.E. Whitham pictures an imaginary preacher as he gives a report of a visit to the New Jerusalem: “In my wandering, I came upon the museum in the city of our dreams. I went in, and an attendant conducted me around. There was some old armor there, much bruised with battle. Many things were conspicuous by their absence. I saw nothing of Alexander’s or Napoleon’s. There was neither a pope’s ring, nor even the ink bottle that Luther is said to have thrown at the devil. I saw a widow’s mite and the feather of a little bird. I saw some swaddling clothes, a hammer and three nails and a few thorns. I saw a sponge that had once been dipped in vinegar, and a small piece of silver. Whilst I was turning over a simple drinking cup which had a very honorable place, I whispered to the attendant: ‘Have you got a towel and basin among your collection?’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘not here. You see, they are still in constant use.’”
Are you, as His servant, using the tools He has gifted you with? Is it your first and foremost desire, each day, to please your master, with the hope of having Him say at His Bema seat that you were a faithful servant?
A very young but extremely talented concert pianist, performing for the first time in his professional career, kept the audience in rapt attention. When he finished, almost every person in the audience—all but one old man—expressed their approval with a lengthy standing ovation. Yet, when the brilliant artist got off the stage, he was seen with his head in his hands, displaying disappointment with what he had done. His manager approached him with unreserved adulation, but the artist said that he had failed. Asked why he would think such thing—given the affirmation that all but one man in the crowd had given him—the young artist said, “That one old man is my teacher.” So it is with stewards: our one Person to please is our Master, and His approval is what we desire. The applause of the world, if ever given, will wane. His approval is eternal, and it is the only one that we seek.
A young man had been installed as pastor in a rather large church. After his first sermon, a member pulled him aside and, realizing the new pastor was very young and the audience was very old and seasoned, the well-meaning member said, “Pastor, I wonder how you will ever please 700 people.” To which the pastor, without a moment’s hesitation, replied, “Sir, I am not here to please 700 people; I am here to please one Person, my Lord and Savior. If I please Him that will be my reward.” This would be a wise perspective on all our ministries as stewards of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be: if any man serve me, him will My Father honor.” (John 12:26)