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a Servants Heart


MATTHEW 20:20-28 07 APRIL 2024

Here is the question for the day. Who was the greatest person who ever lived?

Now, the answer you will hear depends upon who you ask this question. You would likely get a variety of answers because everyone has an opinion about almost everything and every issue.

However, no matter how many and how varied the answers, there is only one correct answer to the question: Who was the greatest person who ever lived?

No person has more greatly impacted the course of history than Jesus Christ. He didn’t do it through wars, conquest, or domination. He changed the world by serving others.

Jesus was the supreme example of servanthood.

If that is true – and it is - how can we ever be just like Jesus? He was God, we aren’t. He would always make good choices because He was God. We can’t.

He never fell into temptation. We do.

When He wasn’t talking and ministering to people, He spent His time in prayer. Often, we don’t because we think we have too many other things to deal with.

Jesus loved unconditionally. In our humanness, we tend to when the conditions are right. It seems impossible to be just like Jesus in our world today. We start with the excuses: Times are different; life is faster, more complex, and much more complicated. In fact, we reason that if Jesus were to come to earth today, even He would have a challenging time being Himself!

Of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth; Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “I have come into this world to serve, not to be served.” Imagine the creator of the Heavens and the earth came to serve.

The highest of the high, the Holiest of the Holy, and the mightiest of the mighty came as servants to teach humans how to become servants—servants who were called to be followers of Christ. If we are to be like Jesus, we are called to be servants.

In his book “The Servant Principle,” Rick Ferguson writes,

“Servanthood is not an extremely popular subject. Servanthood has a cost of personal investment that goes against everything we are taught. Servanthood totally conflicts with the self-centeredness ingrained in every person, and this request to deny all personal desires is never met with excitement. No one wants to hear the call to relinquish all personal rights and privileges. No one wants to accept the challenge to develop a slave’s mindset. Servanthood contradicts absolutely every single thing inside us. Everything. Everything, that is, except the Spirit of God.”

According to Jesus, “The way to become great is to become a servant.”

We shouldn’t feel too bad about ourselves when we know that Jesus had to teach this servant principle to His disciples.

After all, these were men He had called to help Him in His ministry. They were just people like us when Jesus called them. All twelve wanted to become great. All twelve wanted prestige and power. All twelve were jockeying for position. They even had their mothers involved in that pursuit of power!

Jesus told them, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

When Jesus talked with His disciples about the servant principle He used two different Greek words, Diakonos and Doulas.

Diakonos (Dee-Ak-O-Nos), where churches get the word “Deac. The word literally means “kicking up dust.” It was the Greek word for “Servant of a King,” and it came to be associated with a servant so anxious to serve that he kicked up dust running to obey his master.

The second word, Doulas (Du-Las), means slave or someone so devoted to another that they set aside their own interests.

Using these two words, Jesus said if you want to become great, you must have the mind of a servant and the heart of a slave.

Matthew 20:20-28: "Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

“We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the 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 your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Using Jesus' description, we can consider Paul the second-best model of a person, the mind of a servant, and the heart of a slave!

Paul started out as a powerful Pharisee. He was educated, proud, and certainly on his way up in the world. However, he was radically transformed through a very personal encounter with Christ.

Chuck Swindoll writes in his book “Improving Your Serve” that it’s possible to have the notion that the Apostle Paul “rammed his way through life like a fully loaded battleship at sea. Blasting and pounding toward objectives, he was just too busy and important to worry about the little people or those who got in his way. After all, he was Paul! But that false impression begins to fade when you read how he began each and every correspondence with the words Paul, a servant…or Paul, a bond slave.”

Because of his servant's heart, Paul found contentment, peace, and joy in all situations. He knew that the seasons of life come and go and that God was always in control. He was less concerned with his own situation and more concerned with the conditions of others. Paul’s outlook was just that—looking outward rather than inward.

God is not impressed by our good works; He calls us to be separate and different from the world. A person with a servant’s heart is uniquely different in this world, but so is a person truly at peace. They stand out, and people question their motivations and outlooks. Others who observe a person who is different and at peace think that person can’t be real. They must be putting on an act for some personal gain.

The servant knows that God is only interested in their heart, nothing else, and their peace comes from quietly giving time, resources, or a listening ear to someone who needs it without fanfare or personal gain.

Paul writes about these attributes in Philippians 2:1-4.

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.”

When restlessness, that feeling of “is this all there is?” comes over you, finding someone who needs encouragement or a helping hand and quietly being the person they need at that time can replace that feeling with peace.

Peaceful lives are the sign of a servant’s heart that knows how important it is to forgive.

While the world keeps score of each and every grievance done against them, always holding others accountable for real and imagined hurts, God forgives.

The personal cost of holding a grudge is huge. Families are ripped apart, and people become ill and depressed when grudges are allowed to linger and grow.

During Paul’s ministry, he forgave those who were persecuting him. When Jesus walked this earth, he taught numerous times on the importance of forgiveness. It was certainly a common theme in all of His teachings.

Remember when Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone before it was finally enough? That is a good, relevant question. What’s the limit we should place on forgiveness?

Peter was feeling pretty proud that day. He knew that, according to the Rabbis, three times was the acceptable number of times someone should forgive another person.

The Jews were instructed to forgive once, forgive twice….and a third time, but from then on, no more forgiveness for that person for that infraction.

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 18, verses 21 and 22, “Peter asked Jesus if seven times was sufficient. And Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes in chapter 4, verses 31 and 32, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

Contentment with one’s life is the sign of a servant's heart that has discovered the blessing of forgetting, forgetting not only the sins of others but their own as well.

God’s full forgiveness is as if the sin never occurred – it is absolute, total, a clean record.

In Micah 7:19, God says He will “hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

Someone suggested that God also put up a sign that read “NO FISHING!”

In other words, don’t go down and try to fish your old sins out once God has dealt with them. What a relief!

He forgets our sins, and we are supposed to do the same.

But what about others' sins against us?

It is unhealthy to harbor anger toward one another. Think once again about Paul and his ministry. How many people could have been on Paul’s hate list? But he didn’t keep a list.

With humility, he forgot what was behind him. He intentionally disregarded all of those wrongs against him, and there were numerous, too numerous to count.

Hear Paul’s words in Philippians, chapter 3, verses 12-14.

“I don’t mean to say I am perfect. I haven’t learned all I should even yet, but I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing – Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to Heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us.”

Also, think of the story of Joseph and his brothers in the Old Testament book of Genesis.

It is a wonderful story of adventure, joy, sadness, selfishness, persecution, forgiveness, and Joseph’s amazing ability to forget. Joseph had every right to have a hate list filled with name after name, but he chose the opposite. He refused to remember the offenses he endured. In fact, when he and his wife had their first child, he named the boy Manasseh, a Hebrew name that meant……” forget!”

In Genesis 41, verse 51, he explains why: “And Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh.” For, he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my Father’s household.” It is only through God’s help that we are able to forget.

Giving, Forgiving, Forgetting, and Serving.

“Father, please transform my life so I can become more like Jesus every day.”

Let that be our prayer every day of our lives. Let that be your goal every day of your life. Become more like Jesus.

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