Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Is There Anything I Can Do?

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss on how not to be a servant.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If you’re focused on your own problems, your own issues, your own challenges, your own happiness, your own comfort, your own convenience, you’re not going to be looking out for the needs of others—you’re going to be looking out for you!

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, June 26.

A good server at a restaurant doesn’t focus on his own needs. He doesn’t come to your table and complain about how hungry he is. Instead, he makes sure your needs are met.

The same is true for anyone who wants to effectively serve in any area of life. Here’s Nancy to explain in a series called, Developing a Servant’s Heart.

Nancy: Several months ago, when I knew that I wanted to do some teaching on Revive Our Hearts on the subject of servanthood—having a servant’s heart—I was just starting to explore that subject.

We put an announcement out on our website, ReviveOurHearts.com, and gave people a chance to write in and let us know whom they thought of when they thought of a servant. Whom they’ve seen serve others in a Christ-like way and how that had blessed them and what “servanthood” meant to them.

It was neat to get some of the responses back and to read some really challenging examples of servants and the power of servanthood—the power of encouragement and grace, that we minister to one another as we serve one another.

One lady wrote in and she said,

My sister has brought our entire neighborhood together. She loves to bake. She takes something homemade to someone every day. Most days it’s more than one family. My sister, Beverly, came to live with us five days after her husband passed away. [So this is a widow who is doing this.] By doing things for others, her sadness has turned into joy. [Isn’t that a great principle!]

Before Beverly came to live with us, we did not know our neighbors. Now our neighbors are doing things for other neighbors—a servant’s heart is contagious.

Isn’t that a great picture of the power of a servant’s heart—of the power of a woman—out of her own need and her own loneliness and loss, she said, “I’m not going to wallow in this. I’m going to reach out and minister to the needs of others.”

God has brought joy to that sister through serving, and also has brought joy to others. He has connected people—the power of a servant’s heart!

Well, we’re looking in this series at my new friend in the second book of Timothy—Onesiphorus. Have you tried saying that one yet or tried spelling it?

Second Timothy chapter 1, the apostle Paul says in verse 16, “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus.” Onesiphorus was a contagious servant. He brought joy to others and as a result, he was blessed.

Paul said,

For he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me—may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!—and you well know [Timothy] all the service that he [Onesiphorus] rendered at Ephesus. (vv. 16b-18)

Let’s just break that passage apart. I want us to dive in and learn more about this man, Onesiphorus, and how he ministered as a servant.

Paul says in verse 17, “When he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me.” Now, we said in the last session that Paul was in prison in Rome. This was his second imprisonment.

This time, he was on Death Row. He was awaiting execution. This was no plush hotel he was staying in. This was the worst of circumstances. He knew that he was shortly going to see the Lord.

Paul had spent over three years ministering in Ephesus, where Timothy was now the pastor. That’s probably where Paul had met Onesiphorus. Onesiphorus had ministered to Paul there. He had been a servant. He had been a blessing.

But now that Paul was in prison in Rome, hundreds of miles away—several hundred miles away—Onesiphorus had made the journey from Ephesus to Rome to be a blessing to Paul. It was several hundred miles by land and sea—it was not an easy journey.

We don’t know for sure why Onesiphorus went to Rome. It may have been for the expressed purpose of finding Paul, or maybe he had another reason to be there, business or whatever.

But we know that when he got to Rome, he made a point of looking for Paul, knowing that Paul was in prison, knowing that Paul needed encouragement. Onesiphorus took initiative.

“When he arrived in Rome,” Paul said, “he searched for me earnestly and he found me” (v. 17). This just says to me that Onesiphorus was a man who was not self-centered. He was others-centered. He was looking out for others—looking out for the interest of others.

If you want to have a servant’s heart, you can’t be self-absorbed. You can’t be self-centered.

If you’re focused on your own problems, your own issues, your own challenges, your own happiness, your own comfort, your own convenience, you’re not going to be looking out for the needs of others—you’re going to be looking out for you!

Onesiphorus wasn’t like that. He was looking out for others. The fact that Onesiphorus went to Rome and searched earnestly for Paul until he found him took considerable time and effort. He went to a lot of trouble to make this journey, first of all, and then when he got to Rome, to find Paul.

It took courage. The Roman Empire at that point wasn’t exactly friendly to Christians, and it was no small challenge, I’m sure, to find Paul.

Paul was in the city of Rome in the first century A.D. At this time Rome was the largest city on earth. It had a population of over one million people, and by the way, just to put that in perspective, that was the first city to reach the size of a million until 1800, when London reached that size.

So in that day, that was a huge city. I mean, a million is no small city now. Imagine—with no Internet, no mass media, no technology, no Bureau of Missing Persons, no government assistance for sure!

“Could you help me find this prisoner of the Roman Empire that Nero’s trying to kill?” Without all those types of assistance, somehow, Onesiphorus managed to find Paul. And it says in this verse that it took effort: “He earnestly searched for me and then he found me.”

You wonder how many places Onesiphorus looked. As I was meditating on this passage over the last couple of weeks, I just was trying to put myself in this scene, in this picture and in this story.

How many places did he look? How many people did he ask? Was he scared if he asked the wrong person? “Are they going to turn me in? Am I going to end up in prison myself?” How long did it take? Days? Weeks? Months? We don’t know. What we do know is that he didn’t stop until he found Paul.

So he didn’t just have good intentions. “I’d like to serve Paul. I feel bad for him.” But he followed through. He didn’t just have the thought to serve Paul. He actually went with huge effort to do it.

Can you imagine what the sight of that face must have been to the apostle in prison? Wow! Talk about “Glad to see you!” I mean, this was an old friend, someone who had served with him, and had served him in Ephesus.

They had memories together of how God had built that church and how God had overcome the false gods in that city, and of the early days when the gospel was taking root. The things they had to talk about! The shared history.

Just imagine what Paul in that prison cell must have felt when Onesiphorus looked around the corner—when Onesiphorus was brought into the room. I can just imagine that a huge smile took over Paul’s face!

“Brother, am I glad to see you!” You would be, too. Onesiphorus searched earnestly for Paul. He found him, and when he got there, he refreshed the Lord’s servant.

Now, this isn’t the first time that Onesiphorus had ministered to Paul. As we saw in the last session, years earlier, when Paul was in Ephesus, Onesiphorus had rendered service to the apostle.

He says, “You well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus” (v. 18). That says to me that being a servant was a pattern of this man’s life. It was a way of life. He was in this for the long haul.

He was loyal, and apparently he had served Paul in many different ways. The ESV that I’m reading from here says, “You well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.” If you’re using another translation, it may say, “You know very well how many ways he ministered to me,” or, “in how many things he ministered to me” (v. 18 NKJV).

Apparently, he had varied service. It was varied ministry—many different types of service he had rendered to Paul. He served in lots of different ways. There are lots of different ways to serve, and Onesiphorus had found many of those and had served the apostle Paul depending on what the need of the moment was.

If you’re using the New King James, there’s another little phrase that stands out in this verse. It says, “You know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus.” The apostle Paul says, “This man ministered to me.”

That says to me that servanthood—serving—is personal. It’s not just doing things. It’s not just doing tasks, but it’s ministering to people. Real people with real needs and we can serve them in real ways.

Well, Paul remembered how Onesiphorus had ministered to him, not only Paul knew it, but Timothy also apparently knew it. Paul says, “You remember well how he served me when I was in Ephesus.”

It’s likely that others knew. This man, he has a servant’s heart. You go into some churches or some groups of believers and people know who the servants are. They know who the encouragers are. They know who the refreshing people are. It’s the power of reputation—when you love others, the word spreads.

I thought as I read this passage of the verses in the book of Ruth, about her reputation in her town for being a servant, for being an encourager, for being a helper.

The first time Ruth met Boaz, there in Boaz’s field, she was working as a common laborer. Boaz said to her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me” (Ruth 2:11a).

The word had spread, “how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done and a full reward be given you by the Lord” (vv. 11b-12).

Then in chapter three, Boaz says to Ruth, “All the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman” (v. 11 paraphrase). Reputation spreads. Now, if we’re selfish, that spreads too. If we are hard to be around, if we’re discouraging people, that can kind of reputation spreads, too.

But I want to be the kind of person that people say, “Do you need to get some encouragement? Do you want to get some refreshing? She will be a blessing to you.” That’s the kind of person Onesiphorus was.

So what does serving look like—to be an Onesiphorus? How do we live that out? We don’t probably know an apostle in prison we can go and visit. How do we flesh that out, that servant’s heart—that heart of Onesiphorus to refresh others?

Well, there are a lot of different contexts where we can do that, starting with home—within the four walls of our home. We need people who have an “Onesiphorus heart,” who are a source of refreshing and encouragement.

As your family thinks about you in the four walls of your home, would they say, “She’s an encourager; she’s refreshing; she serves; she’s a blessing”?

That’s a starting place for serving, serving our families. Then, in the church, in the context of our local church, we need to use our spiritual gifts to serve the body of Christ. We need Onesiphorus’s in our churches. We need them in our communities. We need them in our workplaces—people who have a servant’s heart. There are so many ways that we can serve others.

Paul said, “You know all the ways he ministered to me at Ephesus” (2 Tim. 1:18). To find those ways takes time, effort, creativity, and love, but there are so many ways that we can serve one another in these different settings: home, church, workplace, in the community.

One is hospitality. That’s almost unheard of today. Having somebody into your home for a meal, for fellowship, bringing people into your home. It was so neat to see in the wake of some of the hurricanes—Katrina and the other hurricanes—how many Christians, how many churches—opened their churches, opened their homes. Others did as well, but what an opportunity that was for people to express the love of Christ!

It was interesting. I asked our staff. I sent an email out while I was working on this series, and I said, “Who can you think of who’s been a servant who’s blessed you? How have they blessed you?”

Two of the people who sent back emails talked about someone who gave them, when they were in a particular difficult position physically, came in and gave them a foot rub. I mean, that really ministered. That was the number one thing they thought of when they thought of a servant.

One girl said, “I had just come out of surgery and someone came to visit me, and she was new to our ministry, but she walked into my apartment, and next thing you know, she’s down giving me a foot rub.”

That’s what this gal remembered that had refreshed her and blessed her, something that was practical. Remember in Acts chapter nine when Dorcas died? Peter raised her from the dead by the power of Christ (see vv. 40-41).

But the people she had served were there at the wake, mourning her death. The Bible says that she had made clothes for the widows, and the widows were standing there to show the apostle Peter the clothes this woman, Dorcas, had made for them (see v. 39). She had served them. She had reached out to widows.

Caring for the needs of your family—I’ve mentioned that, but let me just highlight it here. Don’t underestimate the importance and the power of serving those in the four walls of your own home.

In fact, if I could just give a little caution here. In the next session, I want to give some more cautions about servanthood, some potential pitfalls of servanthood. But let me give you the first one here.

There is a danger that you can be a woman who would serve everybody else in the world but neglect your own family. I can remember from the time, when I was a kid, that it is easier to go do dishes at somebody else’s house than do them at your own house.

Some of you parents wonder, “Why do my kids, when they go to their girlfriend’s house, they’re happy to mow the lawn or wash the windows? They come to my house, and I can’t get them out of bed! I can’t get them to do anything!”

Well, it’s not just kids. It’s big people, too, and it’s so easy to be running around, tending to the needs of everyone else around us, and then begrudgingly ministering to the needs of those within our own homes.

One of the reasons is we’re more likely to be thanked, more likely to be appreciated, more likely to be applauded or noticed if we do something for our neighbor than if we do something for our kids.

But that’s where we find out if we have a true servant’s heart. If we serve where we don’t get any applause, any appreciation, any reward, necessarily—you’re kids are probably not going to reward you immediately for the service that you rendered to them—but that’s one of the most important places! That is a starting place for having the heart of Onesiphorus, a servant.

There are ways we can minister to practical needs of people, needs for food or clothing or a place to stay. You may know a mom with a newborn or a mom with a lot of little kids. There are practical ways you can refresh and encourage.

Sometimes it’s with financial support or help. Somebody has a particular need, and you become aware of that need. That’s a chance to be an Onesiphorus, to be an encourager, to refresh.

We can refresh others by praying for them. I can’t tell you what it means to me to get letters, as we often do, from listeners who say, “You don’t know me, but I pray for you. I pray for your staff. I pray for Revive Our Hearts.”

Oh! A cup of cold water! A breath of fresh air! That is so encouraging! I had this happen just a week or so ago while talking with somebody on the phone, and we were discussing some issues that needed to be handled, some tasks that needed to be done.

Before the call was over that person said, “Can I just pray for you?” In fact, I say that happened last week, but hardly a week goes by that that doesn’t happen, sometimes many times in a week, somebody saying, “Can I just pray for you?”

I have the chance to do that for other people. Maybe in the aisle after church, and I become aware of a need. Instead of just saying, “I’ll pray for you,” what about just stopping right there, put your hand on their shoulder, take their hand, whatever, and say, “Can we pray right now?”

Take them to the throne of grace. That’s refreshing; that’s encouraging. Some of you are involved in teaching the Word to others. You lead a small group, or you teach a Sunday school class, or you’re involved in one-on-one discipleship.

That’s a ministry of serving. As you have to prepare, as you study the Word to feed it to others, that is a ministry that can bring refreshment and encouragement to others.

Some days God’s call to me to be an Onesiphorus looks very different than it does other days. That is why I need to be tuned and sensitive to what God is doing in my life, with how He’s leading me, how He has gifted me, but also to the opportunities that are out there. Every day when we wake up, we don’t know what opportunities there will be. But if we’re alert to them, we will be able to serve and to bless and to encourage others.

I received some neat emails from people as I was working on this series about servants.

One woman wrote about the nursery director at her church. Oh, that’s a tough place to get workers in most churches, but those who have a heart for ministering to those little ones may just be closest to the heart of God.

That takes a servant. This lady said about the nursery director at her church,

The position in itself is one that lends itself to being selfless, but Shelly takes the job many steps further. She actively seeks out ways to help those around her. She involves her children in the activities she does for others.

By the way, that’s a good little tip there. You can teach your children to serve, not only by modeling it to them, but by getting them involved with you in serving in practical ways to minister to the needs of others.

[This nursery director] Shelly, does those things that no one ever finds out about. Caring for an elderly man in our congregation that has no family, no means of his own, and unable to do for himself. Taking the children of her low income neighborhood into her home each day just to give them a taste of family. This woman can say, “I live in a low income neighborhood. I need someone to come serve me.”

Instead, she reaches out to the children in that neighborhood, brings them into her home and says, “Here’s what a family is like.” She refreshes.

She makes herself available to wash dishes, clean up, or any behind-the-scenes task that needs doing for any church function. Never once have I heard this friend of mine complain or desire recognition for her work. She simply loves her God and loves to serve.

That is the motive of true servanthood: a love for God, and a love for others.

There is a widow on staff at our ministry. She’s about my age, but she was married as a young woman and then six weeks after she was married, her husband was shot and killed. She’s been serving in our ministry for the last several years. She said,

I find that when I am down or lonely, [which as a widow, you might imagine could be often] the best thing to do is just observe those around me and look for ways to minister to them.

I try to listen for their likes or dislikes when they’re talking together, and I build up an idea list of gifts or ways to surprise or serve them, and then I use that list when an opportunity arises. I realize I can’t meet every need out there, but sometimes, what I can do is find out what gifts or abilities the Lord has blessed those around me with, and I can match a need with someone who’s gifted to meet that need. If I can’t meet the need, maybe I can find someone who can.

 Again, we have an illustration of an Onesiphorus. “He often refreshed me.” (v. 16) Paul said, “You know in how many ways he ministered to me [he served me] there at Ephesus” (v. 18 paraphrase).

So let me just challenge you. Look around. Be alert to the needs of those around you. Be available to do whatever is needed, in your home, in your church. If we could just get our eyes off ourselves, and could say, “Who has a need? What can I do?”

Here’s an important question you might try and ask more often: Is there anything I can do for you?

Is there anything I can do for you? Sometimes there’s something you can do without even asking. Just be observant. In some cases, people won’t tell you what you can do for them.

So sometimes, you just need to do it if you see a need. But just to be asking one another within the body of Christ, “Is there anything I can do for you?” Is there anything I can do for you?—that’s the heart of an Onesiphorus.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to pray that we’ll develop an Onesiphorus kind of heart. Maybe Onesiphorus was never one of the biblical characters you learned about in Sunday school.

Aren’t you glad you’re hearing about him this week? He’s the subject of Nancy’s current series called, Developing a Servant’s Heart.

To learn more about this service-oriented character from the Bible, order the series on CD. You can order them at ReviveOurHearts.com.

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How do you know if someone is a true servant? They don’t care about getting credit for what they do. You can serve like that, too. Listen tomorrow, and Nancy will help you. Now, she is back to pray.

Nancy: Lord, I pray that You will help us to serve as this great man did, Onesiphorus.

Help us as we strive to serve the way he did—not just doing the minimum required, but going above and beyond, taking initiative, and looking for ways to be a blessing to those You put in our path. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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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