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Sharing the love of Jesus with others doesn’t always bring to mind performing acts of service. But Jesus was the ultimate example of serving. In Luke 22:27, Jesus said, “Who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”
Keep that in mind as we explore what it means to serve our community.
But before we get into the teaching, join me in praying: Dear Father, let this word be understood with clarity and simplicity. Let it be transformative and glorified in us. In Christ’s name, Amen.
The Church is a community, and a community is a place of belonging. It is a place where you not only spend time with one another but also connect and do life together. Jesus had a lot to say about what it means to serve people in the community.
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right and left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark 35:35-44 (NIV)
I love how the Bible gives us the good, the bad and the ugly. Here we see James and John in a private conversation with Jesus. They waited for the other disciples to be gone before they asked Him, “Do what we ask.” It would be as if your kids came up to you and said, “I want you to say yes to my next question.” We aren’t going to say yes to them because we don’t know the other end of the promise. James and John blurted out their request, “When you come into your glory, grant that one of us will sit on your right and the other will sit on your left.” What a question. This question tells us that something is not right in the heart. I wanted to share this story because you can be close to Jesus but still have things that need to be fixed inside. It is not an indictment that you don’t love him or that you’re not willing to serve him, but it shows that we are all on a journey of becoming more Christ-like. What I learned from this text is…
Serving Starts in the Heart.
The heart is the wellspring of life. The soul drives what we think, say and do. It tells us what we value. Sometimes we see what we want to do, but don’t feel clear about what is happening inside. The Book of Matthew says that James and John’s mother asked Jesus for her sons to be sitting on His left and right. In Mark, it says that James and John are the ones that asked the question. This doesn’t mean that there is a contradiction; it means that all three may have popped the question.
We recognize that the request shows something was going on inside that was wrong in terms of their focus. They focused on power, prestige and position. Jesus wanted them to focus on God’s purpose, priorities and plans. He wanted them to be serving instead of being served. Jesus used Himself as an object lesson. He said, “The Son of Man came to serve, not to be served.” He did not think of Himself as too good, too Holy or too anointed to serve.
A ransom is a price, a payment for an enslaved person. What does this mean? Jesus was saying that He came as a ransom, so that He could serve and give His life for the many. Jesus demonstrates for us that one of the most incredible things you can do is serve.
“Godly leadership is not about attaining recognition or glory; it’s about serving others.”
— John Perkins (Author and Christian Minister)
One of the beautiful things, when you think about serving, is that it also reveals God’s grace and how He uniquely gifted you. Do you know that you are one of God’s masterpieces when you do what you have been shaped to do? SHAPE is an acronym for Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality and Experiences. When you use your SHAPE, people are amazed at who God is. When you use your gifts, it points to the character and nature of God.
God has given each of you a gift from His great variety of Spiritual Gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
1 Peter 4:10 (NLT)
Are you using your gifts?
When you use your gifts, it points to the magnificence of God. Our community needs you and your talents. James and John were blinded. They thought success meant others would serve them. Jesus flipped the idea to let them know that success means you serve others. May I suggest to you that in serving your community, you must make this observation: Serving starts in the heart.
Serving transforms the heart.
Something happens inside of you when you serve. It takes you through this metamorphosis and change. Worldly values and perspectives are shaken off.
Jesus called them to Him and said, “You know that those who are made leaders over the nations show their power to the people. Important leaders use their power over the people. It must not be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great among you, let him care for you.”
Mark 10:42-43 (NIV)
Jesus performed heart surgery on James and John to help them with their flawed perspective. Remember that the heart is the wellspring of life. Everything flows out of the heart. Your thoughts, actions, values and views all come from the heart. Jesus had to help them understand that they had a heart problem.
If you are not serving, do you need heart surgery?
You can be cured just like James and John. Jesus helped heal them by performing surgery on their hearts. He let them know that the world sees power as a sign that you’ve arrived, but the Kingdom of God does not. When you arrive in the world, you bark out orders, dominate others and speak down to them. Jesus taught the opposite of this. When you get healed of your heart issue, you treat people with courtesy and respect.
The world sees serving as a starting point on the ladder of success, but Jesus sees it as the starting, middle and ending. Jesus needs to perform heart surgery on you so that you may exhibit the traits of a Christ follower.
Serving Enlarges the Heart.
Serving makes us more significant people. There is nothing wrong with ambition. James and John were very ambitious. Jesus did not condemn the fact that James and John had ambition. He just wanted them to have the attitude and actions that could put that ambition in check.
Anyone who wants to be the most important person among you must work hard for you all.
Mark 10:44 (NIV)
He never said it was wrong to want fame and success. Jesus is saying that amidst your goals, anchor your ambition in how you care for people. Do you want to be a stronger disciple of Jesus? Do you want to enlarge your heart? Serve others. When you do this, it will increase your capacity to love others and God. When you serve, you begin to feel more connected with others. Serving allows you to use your gifts the way God has shaped you. When you serve, it puts you on God’s mind.
For the God, the Faithful One, is not unfair. How can He forget the beautiful work you have done for Him? He remembers the love you demonstrated as you continually serve His beloved ones for the glory of His name.
Hebrew 6:10 (NIV)
Serving Displays the Heart.
For even the Son of Man did not come for people to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.
Mark 10:45 (NIV)
Show me your heart by how you serve. Jesus wants us to follow His example. He says if you catch me, you’ll catch me serving. He says when you follow me, do what I do. Noted author Philip Yancey said that towards the end of Albert Einstein’s life, Einstein started to ask hard questions, such as, “What really matters: success versus service?”
Einstein had two portraits on his wall of amazing scientists, Isaac Newton and James Clerk Maxwell. After Einstein went through this inward journey of what’s important, success or service, a deep conviction overshadowed him. He took down those two portraits and replaced them with Albert Schweitzer and Mahatma Gandhi. What Einstein concluded was that success is not as important as service. What became important to him was to replace those portraits. Let me ask you a question: Whose picture will you replace to motivate you to serve the way Jesus calls you to serve?
I don’t know about you, but I want to grow in my ability and willingness to serve others. A life of success is not successful if there’s not a great outpouring of you serving others. Serving starts in the heart, transforming the heart, enlarging the heart and serving displays the heart.
Let’s Pray: Dear Father, help us to desire to serve others and you. Let us not be consumed with the world’s view of success, but let us desire to be successful in your eyes. In Christ’s name, Amen.