The Character Of A Servant
“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.” - Romans 6:15
Renewing The Forgotten Commitment
Whenever God calls someone into full-time ministry, it is a call that demands a lifetime commitment. Romans 11:29 says, “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” This means that God will not change His mind in regard to the person called or to the ministry to which that individual is destined. Following the initial call there will come a time of training, spiritual growth, the need for experience, and a heart that must maintain a singular goal of serving Christ. I remember the initial excitement surrounding my call to ministry and the desire to do whatever God asked me to do. No job was too small and visions of doing great things for God lived in my heart. But after thirty-five years of serving Christ, I have to ask myself if I still maintain that original fervor to ministry. Oftentimes we allow wrong motivations, hurtful experiences, or difficult circumstances to lower our motives and lessen our commitment. Such was not the case with the apostle Paul. Despite all of the setbacks, false brethren, rejections, and personal peril he faced, Paul never seemed to waver from his original dedication to serve Christ. One of his favorite expressions that he attached to himself was the term servant. This term literally indicates one who is a bondslave. To see if our commitment is as strong as Paul’s, let us look into the biblical definition of a bondslave.
The story of the Hebrew bondslave is found in Exodus 21:1-6. In the covenant community of Israel, a man who had fallen upon difficult financial times could indenture himself as a servant to a fellow Israelite. It did not matter about the circumstances that surrounded his financial failure. The following guidelines were placed into the Mosaic law to aid a person in this condition. An agreement between the Israelite and the fellow Hebrew who became his slave covered a time frame of six years. In the seventh year the Hebrew servant was to be freed. If he was married and had children, that individual may legally belong to the one who had been his master. He would be free to go, but they would have to stay. If the man found that his service to his master pleased him, and he had no desire to return to the life he knew before, he could make a lifetime commitment to his Hebrew master. His decision was based upon his love for the master and his love of other people (his family). This commitment included a ceremony where the ear of the new bondslave was punctured by an aul, forever designating him as a bondslave. One of the key characteristics of this servant was that his will would be forever swallowed up by the will of his master. Therefore, when Paul calls himself a servant, this is what he has in mind. He does what he does out of love of Jesus and for the love of others. His will is totally yielded to the will of God. Paul is a bondslave.
The Pride Of Life
Whenever ministers come together and talk about their work for the Lord, the conversation invariably goes to the number of people reached. In and of itself this is not wrong, but when we begin to gauge success by numbers, we can easily miss God. Just because a person has access to more individuals than another minister does not mean that he or she is more successful. Whether we minister to five people or five thousand, this should not matter most if we are in the will of God. John warned us against the pride of life in I John 2:16-17. The pride of life can be described as an inappropriate internal value that someone places on who they are, what they have, what they do, and how many people are affected. Have we begun to pursue a platform? Are we more interested in numbers than the value of a soul? Will we labor unseen and unheard to the masses in order to bring one heart and one mind around to the understanding of the truth? What price are we willing to pay to bring about the edification of others even if we ourselves are not noticed, touted, or recognized? Many ministers have fallen prey to the pride of life. It has caused their love for ministry and their love for the Lord to be cheapened by the felt need of acknowledgments and applause from men. Many a ministry may be thought of as insignificant. But if that ministry is doing the will of God, and souls are being positively impacted, a true bondslave will rejoice in the knowledge that God is pleased with him and the results. Do we consider the work that we do as small and insignificant? Do our dreams of self-aggrandizement matter more to us then the will of God? If so, then it may very well be that we have lost sight of our original commitment to the Lord.
The Example Of Christ
Recently I had a student in homiletics state a profound question. She said, “How do you think Jesus felt when men despised Him and yet worshipped the temple in Jerusalem?” Everything in that temple pointed to Him. Everything about the sacrifices pointed to Him. Everything in the law served as shadows and types that pointed to Him. And yet He humbled Himself and became a servant to all. The only one who could have ever truly boasted about being essential to the kingdom and plan of God was Jesus Christ. Instead He allowed men to revile and rebuke Him. How did He feel when they refused to admit who He really was? He also subjected Himself to the cross and paid the ultimate price for our redemption. He traveled through ministry and exhibited the attributes of the true bond slave. In Gethsemane He declared, “Thy will be done.” The only one who had a reason to be proud refused to be, and for love of His Father and for the love of others He fulfilled a ministry that was certainly “below” Him. In doing so the whole world won an opportunity for salvation. Have you lost your commitment to ministry? Have you lost your commitment to the will of God? Have you allowed the pride of life to blind you to the true purpose as to why God called you? If so, today would be a good day to renew your commitment to the one who called you, loved you, and gave Himself for you. Amen!