Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Make Me a Servant

Episode Resources

Watch Nancy share this message.

Dannah Gresh: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth reflects on Jesus, who took on the form of a servant.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: It takes your breath away if you stop and think about who this is talking about, who it is who did this. The Son of Glory, the Son of God, the Son of the Most High, who stoops to earth to become the servant, the slave, of the creatures.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh, for Friday, October 25, 2019.

Dannah: All week, Nancy has been telling us about things she prays for herself in the series, “My Personal Petitions.”  Maybe you've already started seeing the benefit of praying these things for themself. She’s about to tell us about the next petition in the series.

Nancy: Some of you may be familiar with the name Josef Tson. He was a pastor in Romania for many years under the Ceaușescu regime. He experienced a great deal of suffering and affliction for his faith. He was finally exiled and came to the United States.

He has continued having ministry into Romania. He and his wife Elizabeth are dear friends of mine and this ministry. I remember years ago when Josef first came to speak to our staff here at Revive Our Hearts and Life Action Ministries. He was asked by our Director how he would like to be introduced.

He said something that I don't think anyone else has ever said before or since. He said, "I would like to be introduced as a bondslave of Jesus Christ." Here's a man who had suffered a lot for his faith, was a well-known pastor. At the time he was heading up a significant ministry in Eastern Europe and had a lot of credentials to his name.

He was a brilliant Bible scholar and preacher and at the time headed up a Christian school over there and Bible college seminary (was training pastors), but the way he wanted to be introduced, the way he wanted to be known, was as a bondslave of Jesus Christ.

I thought about that as I prepared for today's session. For those of you who have not been with us over the last several days, we're in a series on "Personal Petitions." These are ten prayer requests that I have made to the Lord more often, probably, than any others over the years.

We're looking at those, one day on each of them. I'm encouraging you to make these your requests. We want to start by saying, "How do we want to pray for ourselves? What should we be asking God to do in our own hearts?"

As you pray these for yourself, you'll also find that they're petitions you can lift up for your mate, for your children, for your pastor, for your church. They are prayer requests we know God will hear and answer because these are in accordance with His will.

We've looked at the first four of these petitions: Guard my heart, fill me with Your love, fill me with Your Spirit, and may I be clothed in humility (that was the last one we looked at). These next two requests flow out of that last one. When we pray to be clothed in humility, then these next two petitions are going to be very much on our heart as well.

So, number 5 personal petition (I've asked the Lord this many times in different ways): make me a servant. That was the heart of Josef Tson—he wanted to be known just as a servant, a bondslave, a slave of Jesus Christ. Now the fact is, we're all servants. So we're all servants, but the thought of this petition is, "Lord, I want to be Your servant! I want to be a bondslave, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ." We'll talk today about what that looks like, what that means.

Let me just address, right off the bat, kind of "the elephant in the room." Nobody wants to be a servant! This is not a politically correct concept. We have a negative view of slavery, of servanthood. Certainly in certain aspects of that we should have a negative view of it. But what we're talking about today—being slaves of Jesus Christ, being His bond-servant—there is no higher, holier calling.

There is no calling with greater rewards and that brings greater joy to our lives. We see this same heart that Josef Tson had (I want to be a servant, I want to be a bondslave of Jesus Christ) in the apostle Paul all throughout the Epistles. He says in 1 Corinthians 4:1 (He's answering that question we asked Josef: "How do you want to be introduced, how do you want to be known?" Paul says this is how we want to be known):

"This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." That word "servants" in verse 1, I think is only used one time in the Bible. (If I'm wrong on that, someone will write and correct me, I'm sure. But I think I'm right.) "Servants of Christ"—the Greek word there is a word that literally means "under-rowers." You say, "What in the world are under-rowers?"

Have you ever watched the movie Ben Hur and you see these slaves of the Roman Empire down in the belly of those Roman warships? They're the galley slaves, they're the rowers, they're the ones who make the ship go. This is the lowest, most menial position that you could possibly imagine. And Paul says, "We are under-rowers of Christ. And that's what we want to be! That's how we want to be known—as under-rowers."

We talk about this verse in our ministry, and I often thank our team for being my fellow under-rowers. When we say that, this is what we're talking about. This is how we want to be known. We want to be servants of Christ. We want to be at His beck and call, and if necessary, doing the most lowly, menial work—considering it a privilege because we do it for Christ.

So Paul says we want to be known as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. That word steward speaks of a manager—someone who's entrusted with the management or the care of their master's household. Paul says we've been given a calling, a task. We've been entrusted with the gospel of Christ (that's the mystery of God), and we want to be good stewards of that mystery . . . of this ministry that God has entrusted to us. Servants and stewards. This is a high and holy calling.

You see this concept in the Old Testament, where God chose the nation of Israel, and formed Israel, to be His servant. This was not a lowly calling, this was a high calling. You see it all the way through the book of Isaiah, and let me just read a couple of verses that share this thought.

But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, "You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off" (Isa. 41:8–9).

Does that sound like something undesirable? That sounds like a holy privilege to me. "You are my servant!" God says. "I've chosen you, I've called you, I've not cast you off. You are my servant, appointed, chosen by Me." This is a high calling, this is a holy privilege.

Israel was called, as God's servants, to be a light to the nations. You see this in the next chapter, Isaiah 42, verses 6 and 7:

I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will give you . . . as a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.

God is saying, "This is your calling. You are My hands and feet on earth. You are to be a light to the nations." But Israel failed to fulfill her calling as the servant of Jehovah. Israel proved to be as blind and deaf as the nations she was supposed to be reaching. So Isaiah 42:18 says,

Who is blind but my servant, or deaf as my messenger whom I send? Who is blind as my dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the Lord?

They were supposed to be in the world opening eyes that are blind, and God says, "You're blind yourselves." They failed to fulfill their calling to be a light to the nations, to bring justice to the world, to open blind eyes, to set people free who were in spiritual prisons.

And so, God, who is ever redeeming this fallen world, who will fulfill His purposes through someone else if not through us, will not be stymied. His plan is not going to be thwarted. God promised to raise up a faithful Servant, capital S—one who would perfectly, fully perform all His will.

That Servant of the Lord (capital S) is introduced in Isaiah 42, verse 1. As you read those last chapters of Isaiah, beginning in chapter 40, you see the Servant of the Lord many times. Sometimes it's talking about Israel, and sometimes it's talking about Messiah. You have to look at the context to see which it is.

In 42:1 of Isaiah, it's clearly talking about Messiah:

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 

What Israel failed to do, God sent His Son Jesus to do—taking the place that Israel should have had as the Servant of the Lord.

In the New Covenant era, as New Testament believers, God has chosen us—believers in Christ—to be His servants, to join Him in serving others. And as we do, we follow in the example of Christ, the humble Servant of the Lord. We see this heart of Jesus all through the New Testament.

Think about that passage in Mark 10 when the disciples were clamoring to be promoted to exalted positions. No one was saying, "I want to be a servant." Everyone was saying, "I want to be in charge. I want to be the leader. I want to be the one who has servants." Right?

And Jesus says to them (Mark 10:42):

You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you [Do you want to go up? Go down!] must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man [Jesus' favorite name for Himself] came not to be served [though He certainly could have claimed that] but [He came] to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

It's this Son of Man, this Servant of the Lord, who stooped to wash the feet of the disciples. It is He of whom it's said in Philippians 2:5,

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus who, though he was in the form of God [this is such a familiar verse, but I think we need to read it like every day of our lives], did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped [He didn't cling to His rights as God, one translation says] but emptied himself, by taking the form of [what?] a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Listen, it takes your breath away if you stop and think about who this is talking about, who it is who did this. The Son of Glory, the Son of God, the Son of the Most High, who stoops to earth to become the servant, the slave, of the creatures.

This says to me that you and I are never more like Jesus than when we are serving. We're serving Him and others. And let me just say that it doesn't escape the notice of those around us, when we lay down our rights, our positions, our robes of respectability to become humble servants. Do you want to be a leader? Be the servant of all. That's my calling in this ministry, is to serve the Lord, to serve you, to serve our staff.

You and I are never more like Jesus than when we are serving.

Yes, I'm the Director of this thing, but it's not about me. It's about me stooping (and I don't have to stoop, because I am less than the least of those we're serving), but Jesus stooped to give us the example of what it means in His Name to be the servant of all.

We've talked about praying for a humble heart. This flows out of that, to have a servant's heart.

And let me say, this is not something to be dreaded. It's an honor. It's a privilege. If a respected, beloved leader asked you to come work for him, you probably would not care what the position was or what the job description was. You'd consider it a privilege to be chosen by that leader for that task.

I have a sister who worked in the White House when Ronald Reagan was President. She didn't have one of the top jobs in the Administration but she considered it an incredible honor and a privilege to work long, hard days—with little pay—in her position to support the President and to help advance those causes for which he worked so hard and in which she shared. She believed in the same causes. She considered it an honor!

So the questions weren't, "How much will you pay me? What will I get out of this? Will my name be on the program?" She never got her name on the program. The press wasn't interested in talking to her. She was a servant. She considered it an honor. That's how we need to think about being servants of Jesus Christ. What an incredible privilege.

Again I go back to the apostle Paul. He saw this as such a privilege. And you see it coming out in some of his greetings, for example, Philippians 1:1: "Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi." Now don't let that verse skip you by. How did Paul see himself? As a servant. How did he see the people to whom he was writing? As saints.

Now, was Paul a saint? Yes, in a biblical definition: a holy one, one who's been redeemed by Christ. We're all saints in that sense. So why didn't Paul say, "We are saints of Jesus Christ?" He was. That wasn't what he chose to highlight. He saw himself as a servant. He saw the others . . . Did that church have issues, did they have some problems? Yes. Think about those two women who couldn't get along. There was a church split going on right there. But he called them, what? "Saints!"

I've asked myself, "What would it look like if we thought of ourselves as servants and all other believers around us—whatever their issues—as saints?" How would it affect our reactions, our words, our attitudes, our priorities?

How would it affect the climate in your home if you saw yourself as a servant and your husband, your children, as saints? You say, "Well, they don't act like saints in my house." Maybe not, but if they're children of God, they are saints. What if you started treating them as saints? And what if you really lived out and emphasized the calling (yes, you're a saint, too) to be a servant, to have a servant's heart? How would that impact the climate in your home, in your church, in your workplace?

So what does it mean to be a servant of the Lord? There is lots we could say about this, but let me highlight several things. First of all, it means we recognize that He is the Lord and the Master and we are not. We were created to serve Him, not vice versa. He does not exist to serve us.

So often in our prayer life and in our desires, that's really what it boils down to, us wanting. "God, would You do this for me, and would You do this for me, and would You make sure this happens, and don't forget to take care of this, and help." We want God to serve us.

Now, it's great to take our petitions to the Lord, but let's not forget who's the Master and who's the servant? To be a servant of the Lord is a permanent, lifelong, volitional relationship that's rooted in love and trust. You say, "Where do you get that?"

Well, there's a beautiful passage. I wish we could take a whole session on this, and I think we probably have in some past program where it talks in Exodus 21 about the concept of bond-servant or a bondslave. It's a concept we don't read in history ever actually being fulfilled. But God made a provision for this, and I believe it was an Old Testament picture pointing to a New Testament reality.

Exodus 21:2: "When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing." This is at the end of six years. And, by the way, there are a lot of helpful resources out there about what slavery did and did not mean in Israel, so don't get hung up on that. God never allowed for servants or slaves to be mistreated. They were not property to be owned; this was a whole different concept. But at the end of six years, when the slave was to be released, if the slave said, "I love my master; I do not want to go out free."

He's making a volitional choice: "I don't want to leave. I love my Master. There's a relationship here. My Master takes care of me, meets my needs, and I love serving Him. I want to stay here and serve him the rest of my life."

Exodus 21:5, "But if the slave plainly says, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,' then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever." Beautiful Old Testament picture of what it means to be bondservants of Jesus Christ!

I've prayed over the years, "Lord, make me a woman with a hole in my ear!" I want the world to see and to know that I am the loving lifelong servant of Jesus Christ, because I love my Master! It's not something I'm forced to do; this is something I want to do, and it's a lifelong relationship that's rooted in love and trust.

To be His servant means we look to Him for direction. What's on His agenda for my day? What would please Him? Many of you have heard me say that my life verse is what Mary said in Luke 1:38: "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; may it be to me as you have said."

"Lord, what do you want me to do today? What are Your directions for my life? Not what's on my agenda, not what's on my to-do list, but what's on Your list for my day?"

To be His servant means we live for His approval rather than the approval of men. Paul said this in Galatians 1:10: "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." To be a servant of Christ means you're living for His "well done."

My love language is words of appreciation. This has been a gift, but it's also been a battle in my life, because I crave in my flesh hearing that human "well done." It's called "love of the praise of man," and it's a wicked root that will lead you into troubled places. The fear of man, the love of the praise of man brings a snare.

The fear of man and the love of praise brings a snare.

As God has rooted that love of the praise of man out of my life, what He's done has been to replace it with a love of the praise of God. I want to praise Him, and I want to live for His ultimate "well done." So in the long, late-night hours, the long weekends preparing for sessions and sometimes starting to feel, "Is this really worth it?" Here's what helps me. 

And this is what will help you as a mom in that season of life when those toddlers don't know how to say thank you. They need to learn, but they're not rising up and calling you blessed yet, right? (laughter) In those seasons when you just do it for the love of Christ, for the love of those He's called you to serve, what will keep you going, what keeps me going, is knowing that you serve Christ, that He is the One who will reward faithfulness. The rewards we receive for faithfulness will be crowns that we just give back to Him, because He was the One serving and loving and worshiping.

To be His servant means that we're accountable to Him. We need to live as those who will give an account for our service. He's going to ask us, "Did you do what I gave you to do, or were you spending your life running around, trying to do all kinds of things other people wanted you to do? Did you do what I called you to do?" We're going to be accountable.

To be His servant means our goal is not to make ourselves look good, but to make Him look good and to faithfully complete what He has given us to do.

To be a servant of Christ means to be a servant of His people. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:5: "What we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake."

There's an obscure verse in 1 Samuel 25:41. This is talking about Abigail. (I won't go into that whole story.) I love this verse. I don't always love living it out, but it's what it means to be a servant. Abigail said,  "And she rose and bowed with her face to the ground and said [to David], 'Behold, your handmaid is a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.'"

Abigail said, "I'm your servant." David was the king. Anybody would want to do his menial work. But she said, "I'm a servant, not only to wash your feet, but to wash the feet of your servants." Now that's pretty low on the totem pole, but she considered it a privilege. And it's our privilege to say, "Lord, I'm Your handmaid, and I'm willing. I consider it a joyful opportunity to wash the feet of the servants of my Lord."

That's the true test of servanthood. It's not my willingness to do something directly for Jesus. Who of us wouldn't do that? But to be willing to do something for that two-year-old, that twelve-year-old, that adult who's acting like a twelve-year-old or a two-year-old.

And those other servants of the Lord are not always kind and godly and sweet and responsive and grateful. But the servant of the Lord says, "It's still a privilege, because I'm serving Christ." When we serve others we are serving Him.

There's an amazing passage in Luke 12 where Jesus tells his disciples to be always in readiness for their master to return—always to be alert, always to be awake. He's going to come and they need to be prepared for His return. He says in verse 37,

Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service [this is the master] and have them recline at table [have his servants come and sit at his table], and he will come and serve them.

How amazing is that? That Christ, the Servant of the Lord, whose servants we are, and for whose return we wait, one day will say, "Come up to My table, sit with Me. No, you sit there and let Me serve you!" That will take your breath away! That's the model, that's the example that we have. Then Revelation tells us for all eternity it will be our privilege and our joy to serve Him and His to serve us. Listen to Revelation 7:14:

He said to me, "These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple."

What we are going to do for all eternity. What a joy! Verses 15–17: 

And he who sits on the throne [will serve them] will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Pray with me if you would. Oh Lord, we're in the presence of amazing majesty and humility as we worship Christ, the Servant of the Lord, the faithful Servant of the Lord. Help us to serve You with gladness, to render each act of service as unto Christ, to joyously accept even menial or unfulfilling responsibilities, to count them an honor, for it is the Lord Christ whom we serve, and in whose Name we pray, amen.

Dannah: “Make me a Servant.” That’s the fifth prayer Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has explored with us this week.

If you’ve missed any of thedr programs in the series, you definitely want to go back so you can catch up at ReviveOurHearts.com. You can also watch all these teaching on video. The series is called “My Personal Petitions” and again, you can catch it at ReviveOurHearts.com.

We’re able to bring you Nancy’s teaching on audio and video because listeners like you see God at work in the ministry support it financially. When you give a gift of any amount during this series, we’ll send you a thank-you gift—the 2020 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. It’s based on this current series “My Personal Petitions.” So you can be reminded to pray these prayers all year long.

You can support the ministry at ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for the calendar when you call 1–800–569–5959.

One final thought: Expectations and comparison will kill gratitude. Nancy will explain why expectations and comparison are so dangerous and show you how to develop a beautiful, grateful spirit. That’s Monday.

I'm Dannah Gresh, please be back for Revive Our Hearts. 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to serve you as you serve other. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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