Developing a Servant Heart – Obedience

This past week has been our Mission Orientation programme at Tilsley College. It is always an encouraging and exciting week – though can be quite tiring for the students. One of the topics I will be talking about is the need to develop a servant heart in any form of Christian ministry; this is the third post where I share one or two thoughts from this.

The next point is that Jesus was obedient: obedient to his Father and obedient to his calling. This is probably not a popular idea, but developing a servant heart means obedience. This is sometimes to other people but always to God and always to our calling.

It is again probably no coincidence that Jesus’ great statement in Mark 10:45 that the reason for his coming to earth was to ‘serve and give his life as a ransom for many’ comes in the context of the question from James and John about whether they could sit at Jesus left and right hand in glory. The Christian life is not about position, prestige etc. it is about being a servant, like Jesus.

Obedience can lead to all sorts of things but, if Jesus’ life and Paul’s life are anything to go by, it will, as likely as not, lead to suffering; to being misunderstood. For Jesus it meant going to Golgotha – to a demeaning, criminal’s death. Yet he remained obedient and we are called to the same.

Three areas that Paul tells us are needed if we are to really be true servants of our God and his people but all come together really in the reality that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. Our roles, whatever they may be, are part of God’s great plan for his creation. Because we know this, we see beyond the small, individual things to the great story we are part of.

This may be apocryphal, but the story is told of John Kennedy, the US President, visiting NASA as the Apollo project was getting underway. During his visit, he stopped to speak to a cleaner in one of the corridors, and asked him what he was doing. The man replied, ‘I’m putting a man on the moon.’ That cleaner had understood that even the most menial task is part of the whole project.

We are part of something bigger than even that. And the hymn that Paul quotes here goes on to give us some idea of the big picture; of why it was that Jesus was willing to be obedient, to humble himself, to not seek to hold onto the rights that were his. Because after the cross, after the pain, and the humiliation, and the death came the exaltation.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11

All we do, every small seemingly insignificant act we make as faithful servants of God, is part of the story that leads to the moment when our saviour will be acknowledged as Lord of all.

As Paul writes elsewhere:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

We will know the riches of glory because of the obedience of Jesus. That is our future. So even moving chairs and hoovering floors become meaningful, important tasks when we see them in the light of eternity.

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