Having The Heart Of A Servant

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”- Matthew 20:28.

It is not all that unusual to be driving along and encountering a person on the corner of the street holding a little cardboard sign. If you live in a city then you probably have seen people with cardboard signs on a regular basis. The fundamental question is what should we do when we pass by them on the street? 

The fact of the matter is that our hearts should break in compassion for those who are struggling. The Bible is also very clear about helping the poor. We are to have compassion for those who are suffering and show them grace. Proverbs 14:21 says, “It is a sin to belittle one’s neighbor; blessed are those who help the poor.”

Our calling is clear, we need to be gracious. But people with cardboard signs present us with a dilemma. How do we know that the person asking is actually in need? And how do we know if they will use our money the right way? Will they buy liquor or cigarettes?  If I give this person money will it help them for one day or will it help him or her at all? 

We sit in the car weighing the possibilities. Questions fog up our heads. We become conflicted by sometimes equal yet opposite views of the choices in what to do. We could give the person some money. But too often we often find ourselves torn and unable to make a choice. So we choose not to make a choice at all. In other words, our fear of doing the wrong thing stops us from doing anything, which precludes us from serving anyone at all.

We can serve others well when we actively decide to take on the role of a servant. When we study the life of Jesus, we find countless examples where He took on the role of the servant. From choosing to wash the feet of His disciples to the very decision of coming to earth and living as an ordinary human, Christ continually humbled himself for the sake of others and switched places with people in the lowliest of positions. If we want to be like Jesus, we need to remember that, in God’s eyes, everyone else is just as important as us.

By simply taking the position, what can I do today to serve, we’re opening ourselves up to a world of needs, not just the ones that are convenient or fit nicely into the time we’ve allotted to help. But the act of caring might not always require big, dramatic action. Caring for another person might mean going against what’s on the planned agenda or stopping to give a homeless man or woman a few dollars. The more time we spend examining what it means to serve others well, it comes down to having a servant’s heart. Serving others means seeing them as valuable and worthy to serve and be served, simply because God views them that way even if they are standing on a corner with a cardboard sign. 

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is your definition of servanthood?
  2. What hurdles do you have serving others?
  3. What must you do, beginning today, to acquire an authentic heart of a servant?

The Attributes Of God – The Grace Of God

What are God’s attributes? Each Friday we will look at an attribute of God. This week, the grace of God. Grace is the bestowal of blessing unearned or unmerited. When we speak of God’s grace, we speak of those wonderful gifts, like salvation, that no man deserves but God grants anyway.

“But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ….God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.” – Romans 5:15, 20.

While all of God’s attributes should evoke a sense of awe, humility, and wonder, grace is one of the most astounding and life-transforming aspects of God’s character. From the beginning of time, God has chosen to give us grace rather than His wrath. Time and time again, we’ve turned our backs on Him, and yet “ He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” (Ephesians 1:7)  

Both the Old and New Testaments describe God’s character as gracious, meaning that He is full of grace and kindness. This is how God described Himself to Moses: “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.” (Exodus 34:6-7). King David also wrote about God’s graciousness: “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” (Psalm 145:8-9 NIV). King Hezekiah proclaimed that “…for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate… ” (2 Chronicles 30:9 NIV). The apostle Peter called God “the God of all grace.” (1 Peter 5:10)

Each morning we wake up is a show of God’s grace. If you’re able to drive to work in a car or have money to take the bus, those are displays of God’s grace and mercy. Jesus teaches us that God doesn’t hoard good. He doesn’t hoard His grace or give it out to a limited number of special people. God demonstrates a desire for everyone to experience His grace. This includes “those people who are annoying maddening or just bad.” In Jesus’ time, the so-called “bad people” were tax collectors, sinners, Samaritans, and Gentiles. But Jesus welcomed these people and forgave them. Jesus puts God’s grace on display to humankind.

It’s God’s grace that equips you. It’s God’s grace that holds you. It’s God’s grace that grants you a relationship with Him and eternal life with Him.  

As God’s grace works in our lives, we learn how to extend it to others. Through our actions, the grace of God blesses those who come in contact with us and become a testimony to others.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Does grace erase the consequences of wrongdoing? Why or why not? 
  2. How might your life change if you were to accept God’s free gift of grace, love, forgiveness, and mercy?

The Need For Horizontal Relationships

“When I have learned to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.” – C.S. Lewis. 

Many people seem to think of Christianity solely as their own personal relationship with God. That personal relationship with God is essential in true Christianity, but it is also not the whole story. Our goal in life should be knowing Christ above everything and from there letting Jesus affect our relationships. Basically, we should work on our vertical relationship and then let the love of that relationship influence the horizontal relationships we have with those around us.

Jesus told us that the Great Commandment is that we love God. “…‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38) The vertical aspect is indispensable to our faith. We must be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. Knowing and loving Him is the primary goal. But Jesus also said “ a second is equally important”:“love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)  Here He reminds us that our faith is not only about our vertical relationship with God, but also very much about our horizontal relationships with others.

As we read the Bible we see God reinforcing this idea that we need horizontal relationships. Face-to-face relationships are so important that God sent Jesus to be like us, among us, as Emmanuel, God with us. And in a prophetic promise of this plan and purpose, He said through the prophet Isaiah: “I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness. I will take you by the hand and guard you, and I will give you to my people, Israel, as a symbol of my covenant with them. And you will be a light to guide the nations. You will open the eyes of the blind. You will free the captives from prison, releasing those who sit in dark dungeons.” (Isaiah 42:6-7)

Christians need to focus on both the vertical and the horizontal if we are to become what God intended us to be. Statistics are staggering of the number of people who don’t have someone they feel they can confide in. In other words, they don’t believe they have people they can be authentic with.

Christianity is very much about loving God — but it is also very much about loving His people. Be a blessing to somebody this week.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is everything in my horizontal life the overflow of a vibrant vertical love relationship with Jesus?
  2. What would my life and ministry look like if I focused on my vertical relationship first and then learned to adapt that relationship to my horizontal relationships?

The Attributes Of God – The Goodness Of God

What are God’s attributes? Each Friday we will look at an attribute of God. This week, the goodness of God. The clear message of Scripture is that God is uniquely good and that He is the measure for everything we call good. Considered together with His wisdom and power, Christians can be assured that God not only desires to reveal His goodness but is able to accomplish His good plan in the best possible way.

For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.” – Ephesians 2:6-7.

God’s goodness simply can’t be fully grasped.  How can any human being ever get their head around the awesome goodness of God? It transcends our understanding, yet we know its truth through scripture. God’s love and goodness are universal. It encompasses all people. Psalm 145:8-10 says, “The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation. All of your works will thank you, Lord, and your faithful followers will praise you.“  

When we are saved and we love and serve God we experience the boundless riches of God’s grace and goodness toward us. We experience what David says in Psalm 23:6, “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Think about that for a second: the goodness of Good follows us. 

The question is how is God’s goodness showing up in our daily lives? There is any number of ways, When we leave our lives in the hands of our good God, we will see the good things God has for us. We see the goodness of God in how He sustains us each day. He is faithful to meet our physical needs and loves us through the people He’s placed around us. Even when life is hard, we can trust God to sustain us. We can trust God’s providence even if His provision doesn’t align with our desires.

Forgiveness reveals God’s goodness, daily. Daily, we come to God for forgiveness, because we all fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) In His goodness and through the sacrifice of His Son, we are able to embrace the gift of forgiveness He has given to us, and thus forgive others as He has done for us. In the greatest act of love, God sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, to earth. Fully God and fully man, Jesus came to earth to die a sacrificial death on the cross by crucifixion. He was innocent, yet died a criminal’s death, intentionally for us. The cross is a daily reminder of the goodness of God.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If circumstances in your life cause you to doubt God’s goodness, where in Scripture can you turn for reassurance and confidence? 
  2. Which of God’s other attributes can assure you that God is able to exercise His goodness? Can you think of more than one? 
  3. If somebody asked you about the goodness of God, what would you say? 

Living The Generous Life

“ But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne…Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” – Matthew 25: 21, 34-36. 

Generosity is commonly associated with tithing to a church or an organization. When we look at the generosity of the Bible, though, we see it goes deeper than just the amount of money we’re willing to donate. It starts with the generosity of God. 

Many people do not view God as generous. Somehow we got the idea that if we begged God for help and if we were good enough, He might show us a little mercy. The opposite is true, God is amazingly generous. He made the first move of generosity toward us. And the second move and the third. God was the first and is the most generous Giver of all.  

He went above and beyond anything we could have imagined.  God loved people so much that He gave. He gave His best (John 3:16). He gave His Son for you and for me. This act of generosity began in His heart first. He loved so He gave. Titus 3:4-6 says, “When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

Jesus sees the love in our giving. Jesus was in the home of some friends when a woman came in and poured very expensive perfume over His head. Her generosity was significant because of the value of her gift: it was a great sacrifice and it revealed the depth of her gratitude. Jesus pointed out that this kind of generous gratitude and worship was to be forever connected to His followers.

We are most like God when we are generous and that generosity is tangible. Instead of speaking about money in Matthew 25, Jesus mentions food, water, clothes, and love. In 1 Kings 17, a widow offers the prophet Elijah her flour and oil, even though it’s all she has. It is a tangible, sustainable gift—not a financial one. In the same way, we can volunteer our time and resources in place or in addition to our finances.

Biblical generosity is also cheerful. God doesn’t want gifts motivated by a sense of duty or obligation. He wants us to give out of joy and compassion. If anyone knows generosity, it is God—who gave His Son to us freely, even when He knew we would abuse the gift. Our generosity should be founded in love, not duty.

No one is more generous than God. He’s the greatest giver of all time. And we should acknowledge that fact every day. “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3)

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What excuses do people sometimes make for not being more generous with their resources (time, money, and energy) toward others? What excuses have you made?
  2. Can you remember a time when your resources were very limited, and God provided for you?
  3. Identify one practical way you can be more generous in the weeks ahead.