By Peter Amsterdam
Download Audio (7.5MB)
Upon entering the world, Jesus took on the form of a servant.1 As Christians we, like Him, are called to serve. Such service is a form of letting our light shine before others, which in turn gives glory to God.2 All Christian service is a beautiful and important part of our love for God, and while different Christians may perform different types of service, all service that honors God is honorable service.
Service can serve a dual goal—helping others and also helping yourself overcome in some aspect of your life which may be limiting your spiritual growth. There are many times when we will serve solely out of our love for the Lord and others. However, those who are looking to grow spiritually, to train and strengthen themselves, can find service to be a beautiful, though sacrificial, means of doing so.
The motivation for service can be found within Scripture. We are motivated by:3
- Gratitude: Serving is the right response to God’s goodness to us. “Serve Him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you.”4
- Gladness: We serve out of gladness and not grudgingly: “Serve the LORD with gladness!”5
- Forgiveness: Like Isaiah, whose sins were forgiven and who then immediately volunteered to serve, we serve in response to the forgiveness shown to us. “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for. And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’”6
- Humility: We serve motivated by humility: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”7
- Love: We serve because we love God and others: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”8
When we are motivated to serve by gratitude, gladness, humility, and love for God and others, then we will be willing and happy to serve in whatever situation and by whatever means He leads us to—whether it is extraordinary or mundane.
When Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, He took on the work of a slave. In His day, no one but the lowest of slaves washed the feet of those who came to one’s house. That night in the upper room, Jesus—the one who had healed multitudes of the sick, cast out demons, calmed storms, and walked on water—knelt down and washed the filthy feet of those He loved and served.
When He had washed their feet and put on His outer garments and resumed His place, He said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”—John 13:12–17
Jesus made the point that no matter what your spiritual standing, workplace position, wealth, or anything else that you or others may perceive places you above others, all of this is to be laid aside in serving others. When James and John asked for positions of authority over others, Jesus told them, “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 must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.”9 Jesus is shifting the focus off position or authority, and is pointing out that greatness in God’s eyes is found in serving God and others out of love, humility, and from the position of gratitude and forgiveness.
Service done in love for God and others doesn’t seek external reward. It doesn’t require that others know about it. It doesn’t seek the applause or gratitude of others. It is content to be done in hiddenness and humility. It doesn’t distinguish between “small” or “big” service, as all service stems from the same motivation. The emphasis isn’t on the results. It also does not expect that the one being served will reciprocate. The delight is in the service itself. It is indiscriminate; it doesn’t seek to serve the high and powerful, rather it seeks to serve whoever is in need—which is often the lowly and defenseless. It is done faithfully regardless of feelings; it isn’t affected by moods or whims. Instead it disciplines the feelings and fills the need. It cares for the needs of others unpretentiously.10
It begins with an attitude of service. It’s having a desire to serve, to help whenever and wherever help is needed. It’s tangibly showing love and outgoing concern for the needy. It’s lending a helping hand when needed. It’s using both your talents and your gifts of the Spirit to help in whatever way you can when there is a need.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”11 Love is fulfilled when we bear one another’s hurts and sufferings, weeping with those who weep, especially those who are traveling through the valley of the shadow of death. We can lift the sorrows and pains of others into the strong, tender arms of Jesus.
Jesus said: “I am among you as the one who serves.”12 If we desire to become Christlike, then committing ourselves and learning how to serve others in love and humility as Jesus did, without seeking anything other than glorifying the Father, is a discipline worth practicing.
Originally published September 2014. Adapted and republished October 2018.
Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso.
1 Philippians 2:6–7.
2 Matthew 5:16.
3 Points taken from Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1991), 117–122.
4 1 Samuel 12:24. Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the ESV.
5 Psalm 100:2.
6 Isaiah 6:7–8.
7 John 13:14–15.
8 Matthew 22:37–39.
9 Mark 10:42–44.
10 Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline (New York: HarperOne, 1998), 129–30.
11 Galatians 6:2.
12 Luke 22:27.