The Fruits of Servanthood 1 — An Abundant Life
Jesus did come to give us life to the full, the abundant life (John 10:10). That is his goal as the greatest servant of all. Satan will try to convince us otherwise, but don’t be fooled. God loves us and wants us to be full of joy. If you really believe that to be his goal, you will read the Bible in a way that expects to find that truth. For example, look at this oft-quoted passage: “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it’” (Luke 9:23-24). To follow Jesus, we must practice self-denial, daily cross-bearing and loss of life. Wow – sound exciting? Without understanding the servanthood of Jesus, these challenges sound demanding and unreasonable. But if you accept that Jesus wants the absolute best for you, the passage reads quite differently.
Let’s start with self-denial. It may sound too demanding, but is it? Stop and think about what your selfish self leads to when it is in control. Just about everything bad. Selfishness is a malady that destroys happiness and relationships and a bunch more. Self-centered people are miserable and they make those around them miserable (if taken seriously). I had two grandmothers who were polar opposites. One was focused on herself, her needs and her problems. The other was always focused on others and their needs. The first was negative and often miserable. The second was positive and always happy. You will never convince me that self-denial is a bad thing. Nor is it a burdensome thing. It frees you up to become more like God and the more you are like him, the happier you will be.
What about taking up a daily cross – it that a negative? Is that a heavy burden? For starters, look at Matthew 11:28-30. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus doesn’t say that his burden isn’t a part of our lives; he just says that it is a good part, a part that brings rest to our souls. Compared to the burden of selfishness and sin, it is light indeed.
Another very relevant passage in this discussion is Galatians 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Imagine a life controlled by Christ and no longer controlled by the sinful self. He loves us and has proved it by sacrificing himself for us. The Servant of servants is now living in us and leading us. There have been a number of times in my life when I felt like I was a third party watching on, watching myself do things that were pretty amazing. On those occasions, it was so obvious that Jesus was in control, working in me and through me. The feeling I have when this application of Galatians 2:20 becomes reality is simply euphoria. What could be better than being as one with him? Nothing that I have ever found. To be used by God and sense his presence as you are being used has no equal.
The Bible is full of passages that sound demanding but are quite the opposite in their effect. “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35). “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38). “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5). The passage goes on to describe Jesus as a servant, with the end result of him being exalted to the highest place (verse 9). If servanthood is our highest calling, you can be sure that it will carry the highest reward possible. It did for Jesus, and it will for you and me.
I have been amazed at all the ways that Luke 6:38 has been true in my life. You simply cannot outgive God. I think back to a time when I didn’t go to church often as a young married man and didn’t want to go when I did. I just went to get my new wife off my back! A number of surprising statements were made in sermons by the preacher who eventually became the vessel God used to turn my life around spiritually in ways that I could never have imagined. One of them was when he was preaching about giving to the church financially, a tithe no less, and quoted Matthew 6:21. This verse says simply that where our treasure is our hearts will be also.
He made the point that most people look at this passage backwards, thinking it says that where are hearts are, our treasure will follow. Of course, there is truth to that also. But he said that if we put our treasure in spiritual things, applying it to church contributions, our hearts will follow. In other words, giving our money will change our hearts. I thought this was ridiculous, to be candid, but I decided to start doing what he recommended to just test out one of the many spiritual things he was stating as absolute truths. Even with a questionable attitude, we started tithing and have never stopped. He was right. Rather, the Bible was right. Luke 6 is also right. I have never in those nearly sixty years since been able to outgive God, and I have more real-life examples to illustrate that fact than I have time to describe. Amazing! Simply amazing!