Revive Our Hearts Podcast

How to be Great, Day 4

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth came across a powerful quote on servanthood from Charles Hadden Spurgeon. 

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: He said, "Do not dream that the path to heaven is up the hill of honor, it winds down into the valley of humiliation.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Holiness: The Heart God Purifies, for Friday, June 2, 2017. 

Over the last three days Nancy has looked to the Gospels to define true greatness. It has been a convicting study about servanthood, about putting the needs of others ahead of your own. If you missed the series, I hope you’ll listen at  It is a topic every believer needs to consider.

Today we'll hear from some friends who have been listening to the series with us. Pastors' wives Holly Elliff and Kim Wagner are talking with Nancy about what servanthood looks like day by day. Now for three days we’ve looked at Jesus who became the servant of all. As we are serving, Kim brings up an important question. Are we serving out of pure motives?

Kim Wagner: You know it is a good thing to serve. We engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs and to be fruitful in ministry, but wow! I am constantly needing to evaluate my motives—why am I doing what I’m doing. Am I doing it so that someone will applaud me? This just came to mind, a funny illustration, but it is just the heart of it.

I do a Wednesday night Bible study with college and high school age students. I started something that I guess is just going to have to keep going on. It was one of the students birthday on that Wednesday, so I made a homemade birthday cake for them and brought it. Well, now I have to do that every time one of the students has a birthday during that week.

It was funny, the other Wednesday night I’d made a cake. There were two students actually having their birthday. The cake had their names on it and everything. Throughout the day I was asking myself, "Now, am I doing this truly out of love or is it because I know they expect it?" I was evaluating my motive.

Then we get there and pull up to the house where we have the Bible study. I’m with a friend, and she jumps out of the car to get the cake to carry it in. I said, “Jean, you better let me carry that in because I want them to know I made that cake for them.” Now, I was joking with her in how I said it, but it was because all day I had been evaluating my motives—why am I doing what I’m doing?

I think that just even as mothers we need to do that. We need to serve our families, but not serve our families so that the mother that is watching me will pat me on the back or that my husband will pat me on the back. But to reach a place of purity of heart, where it is really done unto the Lord as an act of worship for Him and love for others, love for others so that they’ll be drawn to Christ not drawn to pat me on the back.

Nancy: Well, I think the truth for most of us is that we get tired of serving. I think a lot of moms are in positions where they are doing that all the time or certain kinds of work responsibilities. I talked about in this series sometimes resenting the demands of what God has called me to do. But any position can have that because there are things about any calling in life that are not glamorous.

There are parts of us that want to say, “Look, I’m tired of serving. I want somebody to serve me.” You’re always making meals for your kids, making sure their needs are met, making sure they have clothes, making sure their school work is done. Then there is all the emotional and spiritual means of serving others. I think we all have this part of us that says, “I think I’d like to be served for awhile.” 

Then the resentment when we don’t get served, when others aren’t as sensitive to our needs as we’re expected all the time to be sensitive to their needs. Am I the only one who wrestles with this?

Holly Elliff: No! I have a good friend who is now an empty-nester which I am not, and will not be for long time and probably will never be because I still have kids at home. But I’ve also got grandchildren coming now, and so it is just an odd place, and I am a caregiver for my mom. So my chances of an empty house are pretty slim, which is something I’ve had to wrestle through with the Lord at this stage of my life.

I was chatting with this friend the other day. She loves the Word, she loves to study, she loves to teach God’s Word. But this day she had been to get her nails done, and then she went to a coffee shop and for five hours she sat and just did deep, diligent study in Scripture—for five hours. As she was telling me about this and all the glorious things she discovered, I was just sitting there trying really, really hard to have a right heart.

Nancy: To be happy for her.

Holly: To be happy for her. About the end of her narration about her five hours, she suddenly said, “Oh, this probably isn’t a real helpful conversation for you is it?”

And I said, “Well, actually no. It’s not. But I am very glad you had your five hours to study." I am just leaving that with the Lord, that I probably won’t ever have five hours to study until I’m about 100.

But our lives are in a very, very different place. I think we have to be very, very careful as women about not taking where we are in our life and holding that up next to somebody else’s life and saying, “Well, God, you’re doing this for them. I don’t want what I have, I want what they have.” Then we end up in a place of such comparison that we become discontent. It may not be that I don’t want her to have it; it may be that I just want it, too.

Nancy: That whole thing of comparison is very dangerous, and we all do it.

Holly: My life is not going to look like someone else’s life. If I demand of the Lord that it look like someone else’s life, I might find that I’m missing the things that God gave me and ending up in a place I don’t want to be.

Nancy: What are some of the areas practically where we do fall into comparison?

Holly: I think physical comparison is huge in our society. I think even as young as preteen girls really struggle with this. I was with a teenage gal yesterday who has had issues with some bulimia-type issues. A lot of that came out of her just comparing herself to other teenage girls and thinking she could not possibly look the way she was supposed to look. It just led to a downward spiral in her life, that God has now corrected. In our society there is such a focus on outward things and not heart things.

Nancy: You know, it’s not just teens and college students who are comparing physically, we women do this as we age. The quest for youth and retaining youthful beauty is an obsession in our culture, and so is what we’re doing with body parts, surgeries and hair, clothing, and makeup. So many of these things are not a matter of right or wrong, it’s what is behind it. Is it a goal to be the greatest? To look like that twenty-five-year-old model when we’re forty-five or fifty-five or sixty-five?

Holly: As if that was an option for us to look like a twenty-five-year-old model. But it is an issue, I think.

Nancy: I think possessions/things are another area in our culture. It is very easy to compare and to evaluate based on house, car, clothing, stuff. This is where envy, jealousy, competitive spirit enter. The department stores and the malls capitalize on this royally. They make their income off of people comparing and being discontent with what they have and wanting to have more, wanting to stand out, or not to stand out in wrong ways.

Another area of comparisons is we do it in relationships, in marriage.

Kim: In marital relationships, just the competition that takes place. It is not necessarily a comparing of one another physically, but it is a competition between each other that can take place between the husband and wife. The feminist movement itself I think partly was a competition between women wanting and envying men and what they had, wanting to switch places. The battle of the sexes is an expression of who’s the greatest.

Holly: And promoting the concept of my role being lesser than your role, and so now I’m discontent with a role that God gave me that maybe in the 50s was fulfilling enough, but suddenly in the 70s was no longer enough for women. There had to be something else, or we could not be content.

Nancy: There is something very compelling about humble, servant leadership. In the last session I talked about commander-in-chief George Washington. One of our production team said to me after that session, “I’d like to know more about George Washington after hearing you tell that story. As I listened to that, I don’t know a whole lot about him, but I thought when I heard that story that is the kind of man I would like to follow.”  There is something very compelling about humble, servant leadership. 

Of course, we have an incredible example in Christ; we have lousy example in the disciples, but a great example in Christ. When we talk about humble servant leadership, who have been some of the people who have inspired you that may or may not be well known. People who you have watched serve in that way and it makes your heart say, “Boy, I would follow that person to the ends of the earth.” Or have you found a compelling example. Does someone come to mind?

Holly: I’ll tell you who comes to my mind is an older woman in our church named Kathleen. She for the past three years has led a Wednesday night group of eleven- and twelve-year-old girls. She uses methods that were probably used in the 40s. If anybody had said to me, “Could you use a flannel board to teach eleven- and twelve-year-old girls," I would have said, “Are you crazy?”

But you know what? They have learned from Genesis to Revelation amazing scriptures. They had Parent's Night the other night and she had 131 questions that she asked those girls from Scripture—everything from creation to the final White Throne Judgment, and they knew the answers to those questions.

Miss Kathleen is a servant, and she is a servant leader. Kathleen has had cancer for over twenty years. She’s been through numerous rounds of chemo; she is never without pain, and she never feels good. She has every right to be served. Most of us in her position, physically, would expect someone to serve us. We would not take the effort to do what she has done.

Nancy: What a huge mark that is making in those girls' lives.

Holly: It is a huge example of . . .

Nancy: Not just what they are learning about the content, but what they are learning about life and about Christ.

Holly: About someone serving behind the scenes with no real return other than obedience to Christ.

Nancy: No real return here, but a huge reward ahead. I do think some of the really unsung heroes and the ones who most exemplify the heart of Christ are those who are working with children—moms, nursery workers (God bless nursery workers!) junior high school workers.

Holly: The people who keep your children on Sunday mornings so that you can sit in a worship service and many, many times don’t make it in there themselves. It is a ministry that I would not want to be called to, but I am very grateful for those folks who have chosen to serve.

Nancy: It really is an honor to serve. If the President of the United States or some person that we esteem very highly were to say, “I would like you to come work for me to be my chief of staff or gopher or whatever,” we would consider that a great honor and privilege. But the King of kings says, “I came to serve, and I call you to serve.” 

I think we forget that in the living out of that calling it is an honor, it is a privilege to do it for Him. I love that passage in 1 Samuel 25 where Abigail comes to David and she says, “Let your handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my Lord” (see v. 24). We all would love to wash Jesus’ feet and we’d be glad to do that, but she said, “I want to wash the feet of the servants.” It doesn’t get much lower than that, to do it for the least of these, for those who can’t give you anything back. They can’t repay you; they can’t make you look good; your name will never been seen in lights for doing this. That is the living out of the heart of Jesus.

Holly: And really coming to grips with where God has called you to serve. Because, Nancy, the ways in which you serve are going to be different from the ways in which I serve many times. So if you’re a mom at home with a house full of kids, and all day long you’re doing menial things that seem so unimportant at the moment, we really need to have a right perspective on why that matters.

Nancy: We need a new definition of greatness.

Holly: Right, why it pleases the heart of God. The fact that God does know what we are doing, and He sees it. It is not meaningless to Him and it will bear fruit, but it may not be this week that it bears fruit. Loving your husband enough to wash his feet when he’s had a really crummy day without telling him about your crummy day is really important.

Kim: It takes, like Nancy mentioned a few minutes ago, going back to that big picture perspective over and over as you’re doing it, to just remind yourself this is unto the Lord, and He has called me. He has called me to bring every person into completion in Christ. He has called me to bless those, to love those that I am around, to invest in them. As you keep bringing yourself back throughout the day to that big picture perspective, you’ll be able to do those menial tasks with a heart of gratitude that you were called to do that and a heart of love.

Nancy: I think what really struck me in this passage, in these three parallel passages that we’ve look at over the last few days (and I’ve mentioned this) is that they all fell under the shadow of the cross. Both the disciples bickering, arguing, disputing, it was all in the context of Jesus saying I’m going to die, that is why I came. And in that context for them to be disputing and comparing and one-upmanship and striving, self-promoting, those things are insidious any time. But to do it in the context of the Savior giving His life for us is just so horrible.   

We live our lives in the shadow of the cross. When we are striving and manipulating and one-upmanship and comparing, we are doing it in the shadow of what Christ has done for us. The example of Christ is such a huge contrast to that. But He says in spite of your foolishness, your pride, your arrogance, your insensitivity, your selfishness, I came not to be served but to serve and to give my life a ransom for many.

So He illustrates for us at the cross that there is no greater place that has ever been illustrated. What it is for God Himself to take off His crown and to endure the ridicule and being despised and being rejected and being mistreated and persecuted and His body being broken, His blood being shed, that is the gospel. God became a man and went to the cross. 

So we live out the gospel as we follow in the steps of Christ and take up that basin of water and towel and say, “I want to be a servant to the servants of my Lord.” 

Kim: I am so glad that God was gracious enough to include all of that example of the disciples being so prideful, being so argumentative and striving for position because we can relate to that so easily. But also, isn’t it such a picture of the transforming power of the resurrection? Because shortly after this, I mean, James is one of the ones arguing to be at the side, the position to the right of Christ, and he was the first one martyred. He was martyred within probably the next couple of years. He was laying down his life. He had realized what true greatness is, you die. You die for the cause of Christ.

So to see these men as typical men, striving for power, prideful, arrogant, argumentative, and then within a matter of time . . . What an apologetic for the resurrection, the power of the Holy Spirit, the truth of the gospel and what hope for us that we can be transformed and changed.

Holly: They were in process, and we are, too. I mean, we don’t know when our moment will be when the Lord takes us to heaven, but we are in process until then, becoming the women He wants us to be whether we’re married or single or old or young. If we’re still breathing, we are in process, and God is still desiring to make us the servants that He wants us to be.

Nancy: I want to just wrap up by sharing a quote by Charles Spurgeon that I came across as I was studying these passages. It really does summarize what we’ve been talking about over these days. He said,

Do not dream that the path to heaven is up the hill of honor, it winds down into the valley of humiliation. Imagine not that you can grow great eternally by being great here. You must become less and less and less, even though you should be despised and rejected of men, for this is the path to everlasting glory.  

That is God’s way. That is what Jesus was trying to explain to these disciples. He wasn’t trying to put them or us down. He is saying “I want to lift you up; I want you to be truly great. I want you to be successful, but here is the way: Humility plus servanthood equals true greatness.

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. She was joined today by her friends Holly Elliff and Kim Wagner. They were talking about a topic that relates to all of us. How do we reject the world's definition of greatness and become a servant like Jesus?

That discussion is part of a series called “How to Be Great.” To hear more of the teaching programs in the series, visit You can make sure to catch every program by signing up for the Daily Connection. You’ll get an email in your box with key highlights for that day’s program. Just sign up for the Daily Connection at

We heard from one woman who heard about a Revive Our Hearts program over email. She wrote,

I was a little discouraged about being single tonight, and came across a link to your site while I was cleaning up my email inbox. Praise God, I was ministered to. I liked an idea you presented, that we can offer the Lord our desire for marriage.

Nancy, you know we can’t predict or orchestrate when people hear the exact program they need right when they need it.

Nancy: I love the way that as we scatter the seed and the Lord makes it take root and produce fruit. He can use a little “seed”—like an email with a link to a program. He can bring that seed to light just when it’s needed, then speak through His Word to needy hearts. Our job is to faithfully broadcast the seed of the word. You’re a big part of helping to make that happen. Revive Our Hearts couldn’t speak the truth that sets women free—on the radio or online—without the support of our listeners.

Leslie: Yes, and so many responded in May when we let you know about serious needs the ministry has. Thank you so much? We’re still tallying the results and waiting for all the mail to come in. But we’ll let you know how God provided in the days ahead.

If you intended to give and missed the May 31 deadline, we still need your support. June has arrived with it’s own needs, and you can support the ministry by visiting, or call 1–800–569–5959. I hope you worship and serve and share joy at church this weekend. Then be back with us Monday for more Revive Our Hearts.

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

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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