Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
For many people, Bob Dylan is more than an American singer and songwriter. He’s also a hero. His name is so well-known around the world.
Born in 1941, he was the voice of a generation in the 1960s with his songs linked with the Civil Rights Movement. He was a folk singer, sang rock ‘n’ roll, country and even gospel. He could do it all.
Dylan had a religious experience in 1978 when he gave his heart to Jesus Christ in an Arizona hotel room. It shocked many around the world. They called him Born-again Bob. And for four years he composed songs based on his new faith. It’s quite a fascinating story.
In 1979 Bob Dylan recorded the song “Gotta Serve Somebody”. John Lennon said it was an “embarrassing” song. It went like this:
You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
His non-religious friends were not impressed with the song, but it certainly got people thinking. The song won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Male in 1979.
A sermon in a song
It was like Bob Dylan was giving a sermon—and I think he was. We do serve somebody. As parents, we serve our children. As a husband or wife, we serve our spouse. We help our families, our friends, bosses.
Serving others is not a popular idea today. Somehow we get the idea that being a servant is beneath us, a menial and lowly job. I know people who won’t talk to a street cleaner or garbage collector, for example. They think it’s below their dignity. I find that very disappointing. We are each made in the image of God—no-one is better than anyone else.
The Bible says in the New Testament, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6 – NLT).
When you woke up this morning, I wonder if you asked yourself the question, ‘Who or what am I going to serve today?’
We can be proud and arrogant, wanting to please ourselves, not willing to serve anyone else. We become self-sufficient, not wanting God, because He may want us to do something unusual, like love our neighbour. If you decide to serve God, He will lift you up, and turn your life around. You will be a new person with God’s Holy Spirit living inside.
When you woke up this morning, I wonder if you asked yourself the question “who or what am I going to serve today?” You may not say it out loud, but it’s there in the background of your mind, and your motivation for that day. It doesn’t matter who you are, or how gifted you might be. Will you serve yourself today, or God?
Serving Jesus comes at a cost
Somehow we think life is about power and prestige, finding our happiness and self-fulfilment. But Jesus said something so different it takes your breath away:
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38
Many people who followed Jesus were offended by His words and stopped following Him. It was too much of a challenge – they thought they were doing Him a favour. And they want a lot in return. But it doesn’t work like that.
When Martin Luther King Jr. went to Memphis on 3rd April 1968, he knew his life was in danger. He was aware that the safe thing to do was step out of the limelight for a while – let others carry the cross for a while. But that night he said these words;
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. … Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I am not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land.”
The next day, at the age of 39, he was shot to death.
He took up his cross and followed Jesus, and it cost him his life. He knew who he had to serve.