A servant heart - Hope 103.2

A servant heart

Morning Devotions is for those curious about the Christian faith and who want to explore Christian issues that relate to their daily life.

By Chris WittsTuesday 14 May 2013Morning Devotions with Chris WittsFaithReading Time: 0 minutes


Have you ever noticed how television commercials teach an underlying philosophy of life? Due to the Western mind-set and an overemphasis on individualism,here are some of the subtle messages we repeatedly hear in the Western world.

“Have it your way.”
“You deserve a break today.”
“Do yourself a favour.”
“You owe it to yourself.”

The messages communicate a common theme: “Look out for number one,numero uno.”

Jesus contrasted selfish preoccupation with servanthood: “The Son of Man did not come to be served,but to serve,and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45).

Meditate for a moment on this statement: “The great leader is seen as servant first” (Robert Greenleaf,Servant Leadership,7).

What enters your mind when you hear the phrase “servant leader”? Does it sound like an oxymoron to you? The combined words initially seem contradictory. One may argue that it is either/or,but the apostle Paul describes it as both/and. Paul states,”Who,being in very nature God,did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,but made himself nothing,taking the very nature of a servant,being made in human likeness … and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Phil 2:6-8,emphasis added). Jesus modelled the lifestyle of a servant leader.

Look at the model of Stephen in the Early Church. In Acts 6 the apostles addressed a potential church-split situation regarding the care of Grecian windows.

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There are fundamental principles by which we may follow the example and “attitude” of our Lord Jesus (Phil. 2:5).

I. God’s work is carried on by spiritual power and character,not by personal charm.
A Christian must understand that leadership on behalf of Christ does not exist due to one’s title or position but rather due to one’s disposition. Observe how the apostles handled the selection of leaders to resolve the conflict: “Brothers,choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word”. (Acts 6;3-4)

References to Stephen emphasise the true source of his ability to be a servant leader.  Stephen certainly was a man of integrity because of his good reputation,full of wisdom and full of the Spirit. He was also willing to “wait on tables” (v.2,NRSV) or to serve. Humility is not degrading oneself but forgetting oneself. In other words,I put myself in the background so that someone else might be serviced by me.

Leighton Ford remarks: “In Jesus we see authority and humility wonderfully coupled together… Humility is not denying that one possesses a gift; it is recognising the source of that gift … that our gift comes through us and not from us” (Transforming Leadership,InterVarsity,233).

Stated another way: Christian leadership is not “a leadership of power and control but a leadership of powerlessness and humility in which the suffering servant of God,Jesus Christ,is made manifest … leadership in which power is constantly abandoned in favor of love. It is a true spiritual leadership” Ralph Martin,The Worship of God: Some Theological,Pastoral,and Practical Reflections,Eerdmans,1982,108).

II. God’s work is carried on by intimacy with Christ’s presence and credibility,not by personal control.
Like Stephen,a servant leader will discipline himself to dwell in the presence of God. Jesus keeps us accountable by asking us the same questions He asked the apostle Peter: “Do you truly love me …? … Do you truly love me? … Do you love me?” (John 21:15-17). You must never lose the romance and sense of intimacy. It is too easy to fall in love with the applause and praise of people or to substitute your labor of love on behalf of the Kingdom for love of God himself. Too often fickleness or criticism will make us bitter,defensive,and resentful.

Luke records that Stephen “looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God,and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55,emphasis added). As the first Christian martyr,Stephen experienced the intimacy of our Lord’s support prior to his stoning. The Lord normally “sits” at the right hand of the Father to make intercession for us and to represent His completed act of atonement in providing salvation.

Stephen attracted people to Jesus. He desired to magnify Jesus in his mortal body. He focused on relationship with the Father. Such vulnerability allows you to glimpse at people and to gaze at Jesus. Jesus and Stephen displayed what Henri Nouwen calls “downward mobility”.