Serve to Be Great

by Dennis Stackhouse

Notice the statement made by Paul in I Corinthians 4:1: "Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." Be especially careful to recognize that Paul identifies himself and his fellow workers as "servants of Christ." Does that seem a bit strange? Is it right to think of one of God's apostles as being a servant? Shouldn't we expect Paul and his fellow preachers to be served by others? As a matter of fact, developing the heart of a servant is a completely Scriptural concept; there is no doubt that Christian people are encouraged to take on the role of a servant.

It all begins with our Lord and Savior. In Mark 10:45 Jesus said: "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Jesus Christ, the Son of God left the glory and splendor of heaven, the adoration of the heavenly hosts to become a servant. Seems rather counterintuitive, doesn't it? The very One who, above all others, should have been served came to this world to provide the ultimate example of what it means to be a servant. Our Lord spoke about the typical ways of mankind in Mark 10:42, indicating that rulers and great men exercise authority over those living under them. But a further insight was given to the apostles in Mark 10:43-44 that likely astounded them: "But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all."

This is certainly consistent with what we learn from other Scriptures in regard to how a Christian should view servanthood. The apostle Paul pointed to the contrast between living in the world and living as a Christian in Romans 6:18: "And having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." Do Christians often think of themselves as "slaves of righteousness"? We should. Speaking about the different gifts or abilities Christians have and the fact that we should be exercising them, Paul went on to say in Romans 12:7: "If service, in his serving." Some people have a greater capacity to serve than do others and they should be using that ability to the utmost. Paul obviously recognized his obligation to function as a servant from his words recorded in Romans 15:25: "But now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints."

In Galatians 5:13 we read: "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." Christians are to be united "For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12). Paul stated it plainly in Colossians 3:24: "It is the Lord Christ whom you serve." And in I Peter 4:10 we're told: "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." Christians serve one another and by so doing they also serve God and Christ, furthering the Lord's cause and expanding the borders of the kingdom. If we truly have the desire to be great, our Lord gave us the one sure path by which greatness can be attained: develop the heart of a servant.