Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Servant's Heart

Leslie Basham: Early in her career Nancy Leigh DeMoss served a choir by playing the piano . . . or at least she was supposed to be serving.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Do you know how I know that I didn’t really have a servant’s heart? I was doing a servant’s job—accompanying those choirs, but I didn’t have a servant’s heart. Here’s how I know.

When we would have choir concerts or something like that and they would forget to recognize the accompanist—they didn’t put my name in the program, or they acknowledged the choir but they forgot to acknowledge the pianist, the accompanist—I would get my feelings hurt. I would be miffed. I would be put out. I wanted people to know who was doing this great job of accompanying this choir. That’s not a servant’s heart.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, June 4, 2015.

Nancy's continuing in the series "Serving Like the Savior." We'll begin by reviewing some words from the Greek New Testament.

Nancy: Well, we’ve been talking about what it means to be a doulos, a bondservant of the Lord and then to diakoneo, to serve others for the Lord’s sake, to use the gifts the Lord has given us in order to minister to the needs of others, to benefit and bless others, and all for the glory of God, who is our Master.

Can you think of some people in the Scripture who are good examples of servants? Does anybody come to mind? I started thinking about this . . . Rebekah—we’re going to talk about her in just a moment. She’s one of the examples I picked. Several other people came to my mind.

I thought of Joseph who served Potiphar and served Pharaoh. His master blessed him; he got advanced and honored because he served well. I think of Ruth, who served her widowed mother-in-law. I think she was kind of a crotchety lady myself, but Ruth served her just very willingly and eagerly.

I think of Abigail who said to David—and I like the way the King James puts it here—she said, “Let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my Lord” (1 Sam. 25:41 NKJV). Isn’t that interesting? You know we would all like to wash the feet of the Lord. That would be a big job. That would be something that would be a privilege to do.

But she said, “I want to be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.” It’s one thing to do a task for God Himself. It’s another thing to do a task, a menial task, for another servant. That’s a demonstration of a servant’s heart.

When I think about biblical examples of servanthood, there’s another one that comes to mind, and it’s in Genesis chapter 24. I want to take this session and then the next one as well to look at two servants in Genesis chapter 24. If you have your Bible, turn there. We’re going to follow through quite a bit of this text.

I think the story will be familiar, but maybe you’ve never thought of it in light of what it means to have a servant’s heart. This is an account of Abraham’s servant who most commentators agree was Eleazar. Now, Eleazar’s name is never in this chapter, and we’re going to see that that’s significant. But commentators seem to agree that this was most likely Eleazar, whose name means, “my God is help.” God helps us.

So it’s not a lowly calling for God to call us to help others. We’re being like Him when we are helpers, when we are servants. Now Abraham’s servant would have been Abraham’s heir in place of a son. If the promised son had never come, that’s Isaac, then Abraham’s servant Eleazar would have been that heir. Until Ishmael and Isaac were born, at which point he was displaced as the heir.

But he continued to serve Abraham faithfully and to serve Isaac, Abraham’s son, as the new heir even though he knew he no longer stood to gain any of the inheritance for himself. That’s a servant’s heart. Whether I get anything out of this or not, I’m not doing it for the money. I’m not doing it for the inheritance. I’m not doing it for the fame or fortune. I’m doing it because that’s my calling.

As we read through this passage I want you to look for qualities of a faithful servant. By application here, what are some of the qualities of a faithful servant? And the first you’ll notice . . . Before we even get into the text, I’ll just point out that nowhere in this whole chapter is this servant’s name mentioned, nowhere. Twelve times he is referred to as “the servant,” or a couple times, “Abraham’s servant.” He’s just called the servant.

You say, “Why didn’t they put in his name?” Well, God inspired the writing of the Scripture, and we don’t know why He didn’t put this servant’s name in here. But it’s clear that this man at this point is supposed to be anonymous, an anonymous servant. The point is that: His name didn’t matter. He wasn’t looking for recognition. He wasn’t looking for credit. He was just being faithful.

That’s a quality of servanthood—being faithful even if your name never gets mentioned. So as we think about servanthood, I ask myself the question, Would I be content to do what God has called me to do, whatever that is at every season of life, if no one ever knew who I was or what I had done? Would you be content?

When I was in high school, I was the accompanist. I was a pianist, and I accompanied a lot of singers and choirs and that sort of thing. I loved doing that. That was the gift God had given me, and I used it to serve others. But I didn’t have a servant’s heart.

Do you know how I know that I didn’t really have a servant’s heart? I was doing a servant’s job—accompanying those choirs, but I didn’t have a servant’s heart. And here’s how I know.

When we would have choir concerts or something like that and they would forget to recognize the accompanist—they didn’t put my name in the program, or they acknowledged the choir but they forgot to acknowledge the pianist, the accompanist—I would get my feelings hurt. I wanted people to know who was doing this great job of accompanying this choir. That’s not a servant’s heart.

God’s had to do a lot of work in my life over the years to bring me to a place—and it still gets tested at times—to say, “Would you be as faithful, would you be as diligent at serving, would you be as content to serve if no one knew who you were, if no one knew what you had done, if you didn’t get any credit, if you didn’t get any recognition?”

Well, let’s look at Genesis chapter 24 at this faithful servant who we think was Eleazar. Verse 1,

Now Abraham was old, well-advanced in years. And the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household who had charge of all that he had . . .

By the way, that’s why we believe it to be Eleazar because in other places in Genesis that’s the name of the man who had that description: “the oldest servant; the one who had charge of his household.”

Now let’s just stop there for a moment. This man, this servant, was a loyal servant. He had served Abraham for at least fifty years at this point, if you put the chronology together with other passages in Genesis. That’s a long time to serve in one position. That’s a long time to be faithful. This man had been given charge over all that Abraham had. He was the chief steward. He was the chief of staff. It was a great responsibility.

Abraham was a wealthy man. He had many household servants. Eleazar was responsible for managing it all. But he realized that all this stuff, these possessions, these people, these servants, they didn’t belong to him. Who’d they belong to? Abraham. They belonged to his master.

Eleazar was a manager, but he didn’t own the possessions. He was just a steward of his master’s wealth, his master’s belongings. In fact, Eleazar always refers to Abraham as “my master.” Nineteen times in chapter 24 this servant refers to “my master, my master, my master.” There’s a recognition that this stuff isn’t mine.

You wonder, how did he get to be responsible for so much? I’ll tell you how. It’s the same way stewards and servants always get more responsibility—by being faithful with a little bit of responsibility.

Luke 16:10, Jesus said, “One who is faithful in a very little will also be faithful in much.” And conversely, one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. So if you’re faithful when you have a little bit of responsibility, if you’re faithful in the little things—making your bed . . . If you’re not faithful in a little responsibility, in a simple job, in elementary tasks, in menial tasks, then what makes you think you’ll be faithful when God gives you a husband and children and grandchildren and a home to take care of and ministry in the church?

Being faithful in a little thing makes you faithful in more. It makes it so that you can be entrusted with more. This servant had proven himself trustworthy. So Abraham had been able to entrust him with more and more and more responsibility because he was trustworthy. Now, when Abraham had a really important mission, he knew who he could count on. He knew who to ask for this difficult mission.

So Abraham says to his servant who’s in charge of his household, verse 2, “Put your hand under my thigh.” Now that’s not a phrase we would typically use, but in this culture this was a customary way of making and affirming a binding oath, "Give your word. Make a promise to me." That’s what he’s saying.

Verse 3,

That I may make you swear by the Lord the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not take a wife for my son [Who was Abraham’s son? Isaac] from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but that you will go to my country and to my kindred, and to take a wife for my son Isaac.

So Abraham is saying, “God has given me a covenant. It’s going to be continued down to my son, this miraculous son, Isaac, that God gave to me in my old age.” But if the covenant is going to go beyond him—and we know this is very important because the family line of Christ ultimately came out of this family—it was crucial that Isaac have the right wife.

Abraham said, “I don’t want him to marry one of these Canaanite women. They’re not the ones God has chosen for him. Go back to the country I came from and go to my relatives and find the right wife for my son.”

Now, you talk about Internet dating and all different ways of finding a mate today. This is probably one you haven’t considered for your children or for yourself, but this was the way . . . It was not unusual for it to be done in this way for someone to arrange a marriage. But aren’t you glad that Eleazar and Abraham could trust God to really do the arranging? And we’ll see how that happened.

And so the servant said to Abraham, "Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?" (v. 4)

What’s the servant saying here? “I’m going to go where you’re telling me to go and I’m going to find this woman, but what if she doesn’t want to come back and live where you live? This is a long ways from her home. Should I take Isaac back to live there?”

The servant wanted to make sure he understood the directions. He wanted to make sure he got it right. He wasn’t back-talking. He wasn’t resisting the direction. He was just saying, “I want to make sure and make it clear. I want to know exactly if this happens what do I do? If this happens what do I do?” Why? Because the servant’s goal is to fulfill his master’s wishes.

When God gives us directions we say, “Okay Lord, I’m going. I’m going to do it. Now, I just want to make sure I know exactly what You want me to do.” Asking for clear directions.

And Abraham said to him, see to it that you do not take my son back there. [I’m glad you asked. Don’t take him back there.] The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house out of the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, "To your offspring I will give this land," [that God] He will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there (vv. 6–8).

Why did Abraham not want Eleazar to take Isaac back to the land from which he had come? Because God had said, “Leave that land. I’m going to give you a new land, the Promised Land.” So Abraham, who was a servant of God said, “I have to follow my Master’s directions.” Now he tells his servant, “These are the directions you need to follow.”

So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master and swore to him concerning this matter (v. 9).

That’s just a way of saying he made a solemn pledge. I will do what you have told me to do.

You see in Eleazar this servant, there’s no pushing back. There’s no whining. There’s no complaining about how hard this assignment was at his age. How often when we’re asked to do something or given an opportunity to serve do we push back? We give three reasons why it won’t work, six reasons why we don’t want to do it that way, objections. We’ve got a better idea. We’ve got our own opinion.

You see in this servant that a servant’s heart is you just do it. You just do it. You serve in the way that you’re asked to.

Verse 10,

The servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia to the city of Nahor.

Now Mesopotamia was 450 miles away! This was no small expedition. This wasn’t like just a weekend trip. With ten camels this is a slow, lumbering party trip going to make this trek to Mesopotamia. This is a big job. This is a big commitment.

Finally, he gets to the city of Nahor where Abraham had sent him. Verse 11,

He made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women go out to draw water.

There is a method to his madness. He has a plan, and he’s had plenty of time to come up with a plan. He’s had plenty of time to think about what he’s going to do when he gets to this city. So he’s come up with a plan to help him fulfill the mission on which he’s been sent. And the plan includes the timing.

He’s been thinking it through. How am I going to do this job? Am I just going to appear in town and just say, “You come with me; you’re going to marry my master’s son”? He’s been thinking about how to do this.

However, in spite of the fact that this servant has a plan to fulfill his responsibility, he also realizes he can’t do it on his own. He realizes he needs God’s help to be the servant he needs to be and to fulfill the responsibility that he’s been given. He realizes that he’s dependent on God to bless his mission. He doesn’t rely on himself or his own understanding or his own plans.

So what does he do? He prays. He asks God for success. He asks God to direct him to the right woman. He realizes this is a really important job, and he needs God’s help.

So verse 12, he says,

Oh Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. [He’s telling the Lord this.]

Let the young woman to whom I shall say, "Please let down your jar that I make drink," and who shall say, "Drink, and I will water your camels" (vv. 12–14).

I’m going to say to a young woman, one of these young women coming up here, “Would you give me some water to drink?”

And the one who says to me, "Here’s a drink, and I’ll also water your camels," let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know you have shown steadfast love to my master (v. 14).

Now let me just be quick to say that the Scripture is not necessarily promoting this as the way to find a mate. But it was the way that God used in this instance. I think the key thing here is that Eleazar is dependent on the Lord to lead him.

And let me say, we have a lot of young, single women here today. If you don’t do anything else when you’re looking for the mate of God’s choice for you, make sure that you’re looking for the mate of God’s choice for you, that you are praying. It’s not too early to start and to say, “Lord, I have my plans. I have my ideas. I have some thoughts about how this might happen, but mostly I want You to pick the one that You know will be Your choice, Your appointment for my life.”

What’s the number one qualification that this servant was looking for? It wasn’t that she be beautiful, although we find out later that she was. The number one qualification wasn’t that she have an advanced degree or that she be brilliant or that she’d have a great job or that she be talented. What’s the number one qualification that he was looking for? That she have a servant’s heart.

There’s probably not any quality in marriage that’s more important if you’re going to have a successful marriage than that both partners have a servant’s heart. Let me say, by the way, we have some moms here. As you pray for your sons who have yet to be married, that’s an important thing to pray. Ask the Lord to give them a wife who has a servant’s heart. It will be the key to a successful marriage.

Young women, as you’re preparing for marriage, developing a servant’s heart now is a huge key to having a long, happy, successful marriage.

Well, tomorrow we’ll find out how this prayer was answered, how God directed Eleazar to the right gal, the one who had a servant’s heart. Let’s close this time in prayer.

Father, I thank You for Your providence and how You direct us when we seek You. I thank You for the example of this servant, nameless in this chapter, not looking for a reputation, not looking for a position, but just seeking to serve. Thank You for the example of faithful servanthood that we see in Eleazar.

I pray that we would serve You in that way and that we would live under Your providence, dependent upon You, relying upon You, seeking You and faithfully fulfilling that which You have entrusted us to do. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie Basham: If you’re doing what seems to be menial tasks today, Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been saying something important. Keep going. Don’t give up. You’re working for the glory of God.

Our friend, Kim Wagner, has been listening to Nancy’s teaching along with us and has some thoughts on how to apply it in real life.

Kim Wagner: Nancy, you were talking on servanthood about how so many times we don’t see immediate reward, or there’s not that fruit for labors. I had such a blessing to watch one of my friends receive the fruit of their service, the reward of that. This week when she and I were sitting at our sons’ basketball game, a young man, twenty-one years old, came over to us and said, “Miss Darlene, do you remember me?”

And he said, “I haven’t seen you since I was seven years old, but you and your husband, Brother Blaine, you used to teach our children’s church. One Sunday when you were speaking and sharing and explaining to us the gospel, you encouraged us to pray and ask Jesus into our hearts, and I did that that day.”

He said, “I just wanted to come over and thank you for that because now I’m at a Bible college, and I’m preparing for ministry. I work in the children’s church at my church.”

She just began to weep. It was such a blessed experience. So many times we don’t know the children that we’re ministering to, those that we’re serving . . . We may not see the fruit; we may never see the fruit.

Nancy: This side of eternity.

Kim: This side of eternity. But I love the fact that the Lord let me be in on that that day to watch the reward and the fruit right there—that young man coming over to thank his children’s teacher.

Nancy: And such a great thing that he did that. I think it’s so important that we encourage one another by going back to those people who have blessed us, who have served us and say, “Thank you.”

I mean, you go to a restaurant and get good service, you give a tip. It’s a way of saying thank you. I think sometimes we are negligent to encourage one another by saying, “I see Jesus in you in the way that you have served,” or “Your service touched my life, and I’m so grateful.”

We shouldn’t assume that people just know that or that they don’t need to know it. But we really can bless by expressing gratitude and appreciation for those who have served, even though the true servants were serving without expectation.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss talking with Kim Wagner about being an authentic servant. They’ve been discussing how to live out that servanthood in day-to-day life.

That conversation and the teaching we heard earlier is part of a series called “Serving Like the Savior.” If you missed any of the series, you can catch it at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Today’s program is going out via broadcasting, podcasting, transcripts on the web, through the Revive Our Hearts app. All these are possible thanks to the support of listeners like you.

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Great service is the subject of many business books, but it’s also an important topic in the Bible. We’ve started to look at that today, and we’ll dig deeper tomorrow. Here more on the next Revive Our Hearts.

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

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

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