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Subtle Servanthood

One of the great concepts of Christian living is servanthood. “The greatest among you will be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11) It sounds good and noble but it has some rough implications. Servants respond to the initiative of their masters. Servants live for the good of other people. Servants make sacrifices that benefit others. I get reminded of the reality of being a servant whenever I read about the nation of Israel. God initiated the idea of a nation in direct relationship with Himself because He wanted to show the rest of the world how He applies His grace to people’s lives, how he upholds a standard of righteousness that leads to healthy living, and how He parents His children. He blessed the nation so other nations would see the advantage of knowing their Creator and humbly seeking Him. He disciplined the nation so other nations would realize they were accountable to a just God.
A great example is found in Jeremiah 7. The nation of Israel is in a season of apathy. They are going through the motions but they lack fervor, faithfulness, and moral fortitude. “Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place.” (v. 3) The implication is that Israel can either repent, be restored and remain in the land God has set apart for them or they are going to be sent into exile.
God sent Jeremiah to be a bold messenger of God’s justice and mercy because He would rather have a kind and gentle relationship with them than discipline them as a Father. It is clear that God’s motivation is to create an example for others by the list of actions he wanted His people to take in verses 5-6:
• Deal with each other justly.
• Do not oppress the foreigner.
• [Do not oppress] the fatherless or the widow.
• Do not shed innocent blood in this place.
• Do not follow other gods to your own harm.
Three of the five directives involve influence on other people’s lives rather than meeting personal needs.
As I consider this, I cannot escape the conclusion that much of what I go through in life is not personal. I told God years ago that I wanted to be a servant of His. I didn’t know all that was involved in that commitment but I sincerely meant it. I have since learned that God takes His servants through many experiences so that later on we can relate to others who have been through similar experiences. Many of the hardships, corrections, challenges, and blessings are there as training. They are not in response to anything we have or haven’t done.
If you are like me, this is a tough principle to grasp. I easily get introspective and conclude the setbacks of my life must be based on a lack of talent, perspective or maturity. To be sure, I make my share of mistakes so sometimes I earn the right to be disciplined but it is often not the case. I intellectually accept that God is working to equip me to help others in the future so I have started praying differently. “Jesus, I am going to assume that challenges in my life are for the purpose of training and they are for the benefit of others. Give me the wisdom to recognize when the hard things in my life are truly about my behavior or attitude. Also, give me the willingness to have my life be an example to others of your justice and grace.”

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