Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Cost and Blessing of Servanthood

Leslie Basham: Let's be honest. Serving others is costly. Here's Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: At the end of the day, what are we going to get out of this investment? Do you ever wonder, Is it worth all the time, the effort, the energy, the tears, the trials, the disappointments? The people whose lives have been touched and transformed as we have given them the gospel, given them our lives—those people are our reward. 

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, January 13, 2015.

At True Woman '14, Nancy Leigh DeMoss addressed a group of women’s ministry leaders and encouraged them to keep up the good work of serving others.

Nancy: I want to invite you to open your Bible, if you have one or if you can click on one, to the book of 1 Thessalonians 2. I encourage you to take that challenge, looking for the characteristics God uses, and what are the characteristics of a person God uses in ministry.

Leslie: Now, you don’t have to be in official ministry to benefit from this message. We’re all called to serve. And we all need encouraged. Here she is in part two of the message, encouraging all of us to serve others like we’re serving Jesus Himself.

Nancy: Now, as you labor and toil, don't lose sight of the goal. Why are you doing what you're doing? The goal is not to run a program; the goal is not to entertain women. The goal is not to fill their notebooks, or give them a social outlet. Some of those things may happen in the process, but the goal is to proclaim the gospel of God.

That's what Paul says in verse 9, to see women reconciled to God, to see them transformed into the image of Christ, to see them become faithful fruitful followers of Christ who are living and serving in community with other faithful fruitful followers of Christ, and who themselves begin to proclaim the gospel to others. They are building spiritual reproducers, wholly devoted followers of Jesus Christ. That's the whole concept of proclaiming the gospel—it transforms lives, it makes people new people, it gives them a new vocation and a new calling, it gives them a whole heart transplant! And that's what the goal is. That's why we work; that's why we labor.

Now, Paul says in verse 10, "You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers." So we've seen the love and the labor of the servant of God and now we see more of a glimpse into the life of God's servant.

Paul says, "You are witnesses." He's already said that God is witnessing, but now, "You are witnesses." Can I just remind you that people see? They see; they're watching. They don't just hear what we say—they see how we live. They see our countenance; they see the spirit with which we respond; they see if we just do tasks or if we have a heart of love behind our actions.

They see if we're whiners and complainers and if we're grumpy. Don't be an Eeyore if you want to be in ministry. Have a happy heart. Now, I'll tell you, I am more naturally constituted to be an Eeyore. If there's something negative in a picture, I can find it. I'm the person who opens a book, and the first thing I see is the typo. That's just the way I'm wired. It's not a gift; it's not a blessing.

But, realize people are watching, and God also. He sees what others can't see. What I am in the privacy of my own heart, in the privacy of my own home, off the platform, in my free time. And Paul says, in all these times, "we were consistent examples of holiness." Our behavior matters; our attitudes matter.

If you want to be a servant of the Lord, we're called to the highest possible standard. We need a life message—not just giving people truth, but giving them truth embodied, incarnated, so they can see a living demonstration of how Jesus is in these areas.

Paul says in verse 5 and 6 of 1 Thessalonians 1, "You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord." Like begets like. If the people you're serving imitate you—not just what you do, but your heart attitudes and your spirit, how you do what you do, will they be coming more like Jesus? That's the question.

He says in verse 7 of chapter 1, "You became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia." The goal is spiritual reproduction, to develop followers of Christ for future multiple generations.

I can't say enough about the importance of a life message. Jesus said it this way in Luke 6:40, "Everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher." Notice he doesn't say he'll know what his teacher knows. It says he will be like his teacher.

Philippians 4:9, "What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." Can people see in us what they have heard from us? That's the power of a life message.

Now, let me move on quickly. Our ministry needs to be tuned and tailored to where people are. Verse 11, "For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God." So we saw a mother's heart earlier; now we see a father's heart.

We see how this father deals with his children as individuals; "Each one of you," he says. These children are all different—they have different needs, they're in different places of growth, and this father is attentive to where his children are in their growth and their development. He deals with them according to what they need. How they are responding may look different at different times.

So he exhorted them. That word means "to admonish, to entreat, to encourage, to comfort, to console, to strengthen." You see, it's a broad type of ministry. What does that person need? What kind of exhortation do they need? He says, "We encouraged you." That word means "to calm and to console."

Some women need to be encouraged. Now, if they're sinning willfully, encouragement is not what they need. But if the enemy has planted seeds of doubt and is throwing darts into their hearts, they need to be encouraged, calmed, and consoled.

Sometimes they need to charged. He says. "We charged you." That word, in one translation, is "to implore." "We implored you." It means "to beseech, to exhort solemnly." Sometimes you need to just take a woman's face in your hands and charge her, implore her, beseech her. "You're in a burning house. Get out! And let me help you do it!"

So, knowing what is needed. People are at different places in their walk, in their growth, in their journey. They need different things at times. Paul says it this way in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, "Admonish the idle [that word is "the disorderly, the undisciplined, those who are out of control"], encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all." That's the hard part—"be patient with them all."

Holly Ellif, my friend, is here. I've seen in her a patient heart She has eight kids, too, and maybe that's where she's developed some of this, a patient heart. What they need, but they need it with patience.

Ask God for wisdom to discern what they need—grace, truth. They need both. Which do you need to lead with, in a given situation? "By grace and truth iniquity is purged." Lead with truth, lead with grace—you need both. Ask God for wisdom, and keep the objective—the goal—in mind, that each person we serve would (what does Paul say?), "Walk in a manner worthy of God." That's the goal.

In their thoughts, their attitudes, their words, their actions, their public life, their private life, their family life, their relationships, their finances, their spending, their use of time, their values, their choices, their habits, their morals, in every area of their lives they would walk—what they read, what they watch, what they listen to—that they would walk in every area of their lives, "in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory." I love how Paul holds up to these young believers a vision for God's ultimate purpose in their lives. This is not legalism. There's a joy to be had.

There's a reward to be had: "God's calling you to his kingdom and to his glory to share in that, to be partakers in that, so I want you to live lives that in every way are worthy of God."

It goes on and says in verse 13, "We also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers." I love that verse. Paul gave them the Word, he gave them the gospel of God, and that's what people need. They need His Word, not ours.

Our word may be able to inform their minds, to reform their behavior, but His Word is what transforms their lives and their hearts from the inside out. It's a powerful Word! It's alive! "It's at work in you believers." What is said of God's Word in that verse could never be said of my books or Susan Hunt's books or Mary Kassian's books or anybody else's books. The Word of the Lord is powerful. Get them to the Word; get the Word to them.

Give them the Word. Pray that they will receive it as the Word of God. I think so many believers today have a ho-hum attitude toward God's Word. You don't see much of what Isaiah 66:2 talks about, trembling at the word of the Lord. This is God's Word. Pray that they'll receive it that way, and understand that this to be taken seriously. This is not optional. We're to submit our lives to this! We're to say, "Yes, Lord!"—whether I understand it or not, whether I agree with it or not, whether I think it makes sense or not.

There's a crisis today in evangelicalism of trusting and submitting to the authority of the holy, inspired Word of God. When this Book speaks, God speaks. So, give them the Word.

First Thessalonians 2:14, "For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!"

There's a lot there, but let me just summarize it this way: We have an enemy and while God is working through His Word, the enemy is also at work, and he often works through people; even people who are well-intentioned, well-meaning, and who others may think are good people. The enemy often works through people, and he opposes God and God's people and he opposes unbelievers, and he seeks to hinder the gospel from going forth.

Sometimes he will do that through women in your church. You need to be aware of that, alert to it, and pray for wisdom to deal with it. But when you see it, remember who the enemy is. It's not those people. Satan's the enemy, so don't get mad at people who are being used by Satan to accomplish his purposes. Pray for their deliverance. Pray that they will see truth and remember, that in God's way and time, God's judgment will come to all unrepentant opponents of Christ and His gospel. So you don't have to be the one to mete out the judgment.

Jesus said, "Let the tares and the wheat grow up together." That's hard, sometimes. You want to start tearing out people. "Move this woman to another women's ministry!" Right? And church discipline is important—that's a biblical teaching as well—but sometimes you've got to just let them be together and let God expose what needs to be exposed, when it needs to be exposed and dealt with.

Verse 17, "Since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us." In verse 6 of chapter 3, Paul says, "We long to see you." In chapter 3:10, he said, "We pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith."

Let me just summarize those verses by reminding us that ministry is relational, up-close, personal. You may need to spend time, as I do, in your study, in your office, but ministry is ultimately about being with people. Remember at the Last Supper Jesus said, "I have eagerly desired to eat this supper with you."

When He chose His disciples, Scripture says He chose them to be "with him." You can't always be "with" those you love and serve, in person. Sometimes they're in their homes, sometimes they're traveling. You can't be with all the people all the time, but ministry has a heart that wants to be with the people we serve. Face to face is ideal. It's not always easy, but it's ideal.

But when you can't be face to face with people, when you can't love them in person, you can still have a heart for them. They're still in your heart, and you can still find ways to minister, to bless, to encourage and to exhort, as Paul did through this letter from Corinth.

"I can't be with you. I want to be with you. I can't be. I've been hindered. Satan has kept me from being able to come back." Satan was working through those opponents who were instrumental in getting Paul thrown out. So he sends Timothy to see how they're doing, and when Timothy comes back, Paul sends this letter.

Use every means you can to be with people, and that's a great use for Facebook, for email, for Twitter. When you can't be with them, look for ways to minister to them, to bless them, to encourage them, to lift them up.

So, we do ministry in these ways, and then there's this question. What kind of reward can we expect when it's all said and done? At the end of the day, what are we going to get out of this investment? Do you ever wonder that? Did you ever wonder if it's worth all the time, the investment, the energy, the tears, the trials, the disappointments? Am I the only one who wonders that? You wonder that!

Well, look at what Paul says in verses 19 and 20, "For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy." A couple observations I'd make about those verses: First of all, the joys and rewards of ministry will not be fully experienced until Christ returns. You're not going to have all the joys and the benefits and the blessings this side of heaven. There are some, but they won't be fully experienced until Jesus comes back at the second coming—which, by the way, is a major theme in the book of 1 Thessalonians. You see it in all five chapters—the coming of Christ.

Keep your eyes fixed on that, keep your hope fixed on that. That will keep you from distraction, from discouragement, from throwing in the towel, from wrong, temporal priorities—if you keep your heart and your eyes fixed on the return of Christ, that great hope that is true for every believer.

And then, this observation: The people whose lives have been touched and transformed as we have given them the gospel, given them our lives, those people are our reward. They are what bring us joy. While I was working on this message a couple of weeks ago, I got a call from a good friend.

Without going into details, I will say that this younger woman has recently found herself in an extremely difficult, messy ministry situation. A lot of circumstances that have radically changed her life, but circumstances over which she had no control.

And so, for the last several weeks she's taken a time-out, and she's been seeking the Lord for direction for what's next. Well, in the midst of that time she's had an opportunity to transfer to another ministry where she could serve, and it would be a much more comfortable environment than the one she's just left.

She would be wanted; she would be loved; she would be appreciated and valued. She's got family; she's got relationships, and that other ministry would love to have her. She called to share with me that the Lord has made it clear to her that she is to go back to the original situation and serve a group of women that most of us would not have a heart to serve.

She's returning, shortly now, to an environment that is difficult at best and hostile at worst. Let me tell you a little bit of what she said to me on that call, as she explained how the Lord was leading her. She said, "Nancy, it would be a lot easier to stay where I am now. It's a great environment, sense of family, but I know that the Lord called me. He's given me a purpose, and I have to go back to what He's called me to."

She said, "I know it's not going to be easy, it's not going to be comfortable, it's not going to safe. I know it's going to be a battle, it's going to be messy, but God has not called me to 'easy,' to 'safe,' or to 'non-messy.' God has always been faithful in the hard places to bring me through and to reveal something about Himself in the midst of it. Right now that calling looks very, very messy, but I believe this is my 'for such a time as this' moment, and the question is, am I willing to go back into the trenches and follow Him?"

Now, I can't tell you—knowing this woman as I do—how thrilled I was to hear what she expressed. Because you see, for some years, this woman has been something of a spiritual daughter to me. I'm one of many who have invested in her life and in her discipleship. We've walked together with her through some very deep waters.

There have been frequent texts, late-night calls, a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of sacrifice invested in this woman's life, and there have been times when she has struggled with her obedience. There have been moments when I've wondered, Is she going to make it? Sometimes you invest in people, and they don't make it, right?

Sometimes they get sidelined, they call it quits, they throw in the towel, they disappoint you. But this call from this woman brought incredible joy to my heart. Besides being happy for her, for being obedient to the Lord, there was just this huge sense of joy because of the fruit of years of giving and serving and caring and loving and exhorting and being engaged in this young woman's life.

And now, she's not a baby Christian anymore. She's a mature, valuable, dearly-loved friend and partner in the ministry of the gospel. And what I experienced on that call is just a little glimpse of what we'll experience in a big way on that day "For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy."

Let me pray a blessing on you, if I could. Lord, I thank you for these women, and I would just pray that You give all the grace they need to be faithful, faithful right where they are—some of them in really hard places, and some of them who are getting ready to face really hard places they don't even know about yet.

Give them joy in the serving, gladness, wholeheartedness. May we serve as those who live under the spotlight of Your assessment of how we're doing. You search our hearts. May we not do it for stuff, for time, but for eternity. And thank you for the women that these women are touching through their lives, their ministries, their labors. Bless them, Lord!

Encourage them, strengthen them! Satisfy them deeply with Your love; keep them faithful in the battle, and may we together one day experience the joy, the full reward in that day, of seeing those lives—the ones who were challenges, the ones who were difficult, the ones who were high maintenance women, the ones we struggled to love, we struggled to like, the ones who were knocking on our door, texting us, calling all hours of the day and night—may we some day have the joy of seeing them as mature followers of Jesus Christ. Lord Jesus, it's all for You. It's all about You. So I ask your blessing on these women as they serve You, in Jesus' name, amen.

Leslie: That's Nancy Leigh DeMoss, praying for women who lead ministries. By application, though, it really can be extended to all of us, since in some way or other, we're all serving others and helping to meet needs.   

Nancy delivered that message at True Woman '14, to a group of women’s ministry leaders. To hear audio and see video from messages from True Woman '14, visit ReviveOurHearts.com and follow the link to the True Woman page.

There’s no topic more valuable to think about than Jesus. Nancy’s here to invite you to ponder the life of Jesus in a special way.

Nancy: Did you ever stop to think about the fact that Jesus had a childhood and teenage years just like you. Jesus was tempted just like you. Jesus was human, with human needs—yet He was also fully God. 

When you start to ponder and dig in to details of Jesus life, you will be amazed by who He is and you're likely to fall in love with Him in a new way. That’s what happened to me as I was reading a book by Oswald Sanders called The Incomparable Christ.

It caused me to be amazed by Jesus as I read the thirty-six short chapters in this book—each of which was a topic related to the life and ministry of Jesus. In time, those chapters became an outline for a teaching series here on Revive Our Hearts. We're going to begin that series on February 18. During the several weeks between then and Easter, we'll be taking a deep, long look at the life of Jesus.

I want to encourage you to prepare for this special series by getting a copy of that book that so moved me, and it became the outline for this series. It’s called The Incomparable Christ.When you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we'd like to send you a special edition of that book that we've put together in partnership with Moody Publishers. Along with the book, you will also receive a journal our team put together with some "Making It Personal" questions about each chapter so you can dig even more deeply into what Jesus’ life means to you.

I hope you’ll get copy of the book and the journal. It will make this study on the life of Christ so much more meaningful to you. Then starting February 18, be sure to listen to Revive Our Hearts. Each day you can read one of the short chapters in this book and respond to the questions in the journal.

I'm convinced that focusing on Jesus in a special way during this season will help prepare your hearts for Resurrection Sunday and will help you come to know and love our Savior in a whole new way.

Ask for The Incomparable Christ and the journal when you donate any amount to support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Thanks Nancy. Tomorrow, we'll hear from one ministry leader who came to a True Woman conference and realized that she had a lot of wrong ideas about the roles of men and women in the church. I hope you can join us, for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture was taken from the ESV.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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