Charles Stanley - A Life of Service
Several years ago, I was in the Philippines and speaking to a group who were part of the rally there, and then the rally and a number of churches and so forth. And so one night, this gentleman said to me, "I want to introduce you tonight". I said, "Well, fine". He was a very outstanding Christian in the Philippines and has become a great friend to In Touch, and so I will never forget what he said. In fact, it's the only introduction that I could ever remember. It was the shortest one I've ever heard, but it impacted me in ways that I cannot describe. In fact, when he introduced me, it's like an arrow went straight to my heart. Here's what he said. He said, "Tonight it's my pleasure to introduce to you," and he called my name, then a slight pause, and then he said, "Servant of the Most High God".
You know what, I saw people clapping but I didn't hear them. The only thing that I could hear was "Servant of the Most High God". Did you know that when you trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you became a servant of the Most High God? You say, "Oh, now, I think that's for preachers and missionaries and so forth". No, it's not. Listen to what Paul said when he was writing to the Ephesian Christians. And he wasn't writing to pastors, he was writing to people just like you and me, writing to people in the church there. And here's what he said. He said, "With good will render service, as to the Lord, not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free". So he was not talking to a particular group of people, he was talking to those who would receive the letter there.
And so I want to say to you today that nobody probably told you, when you trusted Christ as your Savior, that at that moment you became a servant of God. If they had told you that, your first response would probably have been, "Well, I don't deserve that". And surely we don't. Maybe we don't understand it, maybe no one ever told us, but the truth is, you and I are servants of the Most High God. For when you receive Christ as your Savior, He came to live on the inside of you. And we've been talking about the extraordinary life, this life in which Jesus indwells, through whom Jesus lives His life, so that people who hear us talk can tell that there's something about Christ in us. People who watch our conversations and our conduct can know there's something a little different about us. And people who are in our presence sense something about the Lord Jesus Christ.
And so this extraordinary life is not only a life of intimacy with Him, a life of faith and a life of self-discipline, as we've been talking about in the weeks past, but it is a "Life of Service". And that's what I want us to talk about in this particular message today. And I want you to turn, if you will, to the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of John. And here Jesus is coming to the end of His earthly ministry and going to meet quickly now with His disciples to tell them exactly what's about to happen. And in this particular chapter and just these few verses beginning in verse twenty-four, He says something that's so significant, but also applies to the fact that you and I are servants of God.
And here's what He says, in verse twenty-four: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If any one serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if any one serves Me, the Father will honor him". And so what He's saying here is simply this. In order for us to serve Him and to be the most fruitful in our life, here's something that must happen. We must be willing to die to our old self that wants its way, when it wants it, how it wants it, no matter what. We want to serve where we want to serve. We want to do what we want to do. It's when you and I are willing to turn away from the self that is within us, those selfish self-centered desires, give ourselves to our living Lord, then all of a sudden, something's going to happen, and what's going to happen is our life is going to begin to be fruitful.
And what is going to happen is He says, listen, wherever He carries us to serve Him, He'll be there. We have the promise of His presence, and secondly, the promise that Almighty God will honor us. Now what I want to do is this. I don't want to spend time telling you where to serve or how to serve, necessarily. I want to give you some guidelines that will help you understand when you're serving Him and when you're not. But God must be the One who chooses where you serve Him. And you see, service is not limited to a church building. When I think of mothers, for example, who raise godly children, who are faithful to their husband, who do the work that God has called them to do, serving their family, serving the Lord by serving their family, they're serving the Lord God.
When I think about people who go to their work, their vocation, their job on any given day, and they do it in the right spirit with the right motive and they give it their best, recognizing they are doing it as a servant of God, they're serving the Lord. Or you can teach in a Sunday School class, play in the orchestra, sing in the choir. We may have different occupations, different vocations, different responsibilities, but the truth is we are servants of the Living God.
So, the first I want you to notice is this. Guideline number one is we must recognize Jesus as Lord and Master and ourselves as His servants. If I'm going to be a servant of His, I have to recognize that Jesus is our Lord and our Master, and that is ourselves as His servants. Now, He says, for example, in the book of Colossians chapter one, that He created us, listen, that we're, listen, He created us for Himself. God created you, allowed you to be born for the purpose of serving Him. He created us to serve Him. And, for example, He says in First Corinthians chapter six, "You're not your own. You've been bought with a price". Therefore, what we have to remember is this. Every single one of us has been created by our Master and our Lord. Every single one of us has been created to serve Him. And every single one of us, listen, no matter who we are, we have been created by Him, and He owns us. Now, you think about yourself, for example. Man may think about himself being a preacher or a minister or a missionary or serve here and serve there. You and I, according to the scripture, are servants, bondservants.
Now, the word bondservant simply meant this: owned by the master, possessed by the master, and existing for the very purpose of the master. Let me ask you a question. Why do you exist? What kind of difference should this make in your life when you suddenly realize I exist, I exist for the very purpose of serving the Most High God, through His Son Jesus Christ? When I recognized that, when that man addressed me in that fashion, it did something to me and I have never forgotten it. "Servant of the Most High God". I could say the same to you. Because you see, that title, that title was bestowed upon you the moment you trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior. That means we don't belong to ourselves, we don't have any rights to ourselves. We belong to someone else, we exist for someone else, and we're to serve someone else. That should change the way we live. It should change the way we think. That's who the scripture says we are.
And oftentimes, people who have trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior live as if, "Well, you know, I can just do what I choose and do what I please because now that I'm saved". Saved for what reason? For the purpose of laying down my life, dying to that old selfish life, and now presenting myself to Him as a servant that would be willing to say in the scripture, "Wherever He leads I'll go; whatever He desires is what I desire".
The second guideline I want you to notice is this. And that is that we must realize that serving, listen, is not something we do for God, but something God does through us. Not something we do for God, but what He does through us. Remember when you trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior? What happened? The Holy Spirit came into your life. The Lord, when you received Jesus, the Spirit of God was given to you in order to do what? To equip you to serve Him. Whatever God calls you to do, He will enable you to do it.
Listen to this. He's the Master. The master in those days were responsible for taking care of their servants, providing for their servants, giving their servants direction, and then enabling them with whatever was needed for them to do the job they were called to do. God the Father, this awesome God of ours, this God of ours has the same attitude toward us. Whatever He calls you to do, He assumes responsibility for getting it done through you. He will provide for you, energize you, strengthen you, direct you, give you wisdom and guidance. And so therefore, when we recognize that, it's very encouraging, a tremendous encouragement, because I'm comforted, for example, to realize it's not up to me, it's up to Him. It gives me confidence to know that it's not in my abilities and talents and skills, but in His. And I think also that there's a sense of contentment in knowing that when we've done the will of God, that's all we have to do. We don't have to have the acceptance of others, we don't have to have the acclaim of others, but rather all we have to do is to be absolutely obedient to Him no matter what.
A third guideline that I want you to notice is this, and that is that we must realize that no matter whom we are serving humanly, it is Christ, it is the Lord God whom we are serving. And sometimes we forget that. And so let's look at the scripture. For example, in the third chapter of Colossians he makes this so very, very clear. We don't have to wonder if it's true or not, He makes it very, very clear in this third chapter, and here's what He says. He says, for example, "Slaves," verse twenty-two, "in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord". Watch this. "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve".
Here's what He says. We are to serve in our position, whatever it may be, as unto the Lord. That is, we're doing this as, if we were doing it for Jesus's sake, for His sake. And not only that, as if we're doing it unto Him, because as a servant, listen, who owns us? It is the Most High God, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to what he says. He says we're to do it as unto the Lord. So the question is: What would you do on your job? How would you do it? How well would you do it? Shall I say, how poorly would you do it if you're doing it for Him? Well, certainly that kind of attitude is going to affect my focus, because I've worked in a few places that sometimes I felt like I was mistreated. And I had to be reminded of the fact that whatever my boss says, I must do. But thank God I can just look at him and see the Lord Jesus Christ. I can look right through him, hear what he says, do what He says do. I may not like him, I may not like his personality, but you know what? I accepted the job, I accepted the place and the position, and therefore I am to treat him as if he were Christ.
You say, "You don't know this ungodly, wicked man I work for". Well, I'd say this. If God put you there, you must treat him righteously. You say, "But suppose he mistreats me"? Then remember the crucifixion. Jesus never says treat others the way they treat you. You and I, listen to this carefully, have the reputation of being ambassadors, representatives, servants of the Most High God. Therefore, I don't have a right to treat people the way they treat me. And I must acknowledge, and I must treat them as if they were the Christ, that is, in obedience. Somebody says, "Well, suppose they do something, suppose they ask you to do something that's unethical, ungodly, wicked, immoral"? Then that's a whole different story, because Jesus wouldn't ask you to do that. But when it comes to doing your job, doing the things that you ought to do, it's certainly going to affect your focus because you're going to focus on the Lord and not the other person when you recognize that you are a servant of God.
Secondly, it's certainly going to affect, and greatly affect, the quality of service. When you recognize that you are serving the Most High God, how would you serve Him? If you walked in tomorrow morning, the Lord Jesus Christ was standing there? And you knew He was going to be there, would you be late? I doubt it. Would you be dressed like you just got up? I doubt it. Would you come dragging in? I don't think so. You know what you would do? You'd look your best, do your best, and be your best all day long. Well, why not? Because you see, every single day, you and I are servants of God. We are the servants of the Most High God. And so you see, it changes my whole focus, it changes the quality of work, and I cannot run away from it, I cannot escape it. And it's going to certainly, it's going to affect my motivation.
What's my motivation going to be? Here's what it's going to be. It's going to, listen, I'm going to show my love to God. I'm going to love to others and I'm going to show my love in the work that I do in the fact that I'm going to do it my very best. You and I come to Him as servants. "Father, what would You have me to do"? That, you see, that's the right question: "Father, what would You have me to do? Master, what would You have me to do"? And so, we think about how we're to serve Him.
The fourth guideline I want you to write down is this, and that is that we must realize that we serve out of our spiritual gift, not our human talents. We serve out of our spiritual gift, not our human talents. When we operate out of our gift, that means we depend upon the Holy Spirit. We look to the Spirit of God within us to enable us and to guide us and direct us and to give us the wisdom that we need in order to carry out the work that God has called us to do. So we don't have to worry and fret and wonder, "Well, Lord, am I going to be able to do this? Am I gonna be able to do that"? We operate out of our spiritual gifts, not our talents.
And then of course, there is the fifth guideline that I want you to take note of. We must realize that we cannot serve God and ourselves at the same time. Not "may not," cannot. Now, this is an area that many people have difficulty with. So, I want you to turn back to the sixteenth chapter of Luke for a moment, and in this chapter, Jesus says many things. It's an awesome chapter. Verse thirteen: "No servant," watch this, "No servant can serve two masters; for either he or she will hate the one, and love the other". Now, hate here does not mean anger, but it means just be so totally committed to one, all right, or totally opposed to it. "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth".
Now, watch this. He's speaking in particular here about money. You can't, you can't serve on the basis of what you're going to get. But it's not just money. You can't serve God and anything else at the same time. And while it may not be so much money, as long as it's self. Sometimes we can be deceived. Watch this. You can serve in a church, you can serve on a church staff, you can serve in any area of the church; you can serve but not serve God. Can't serve Him and yourself. If you're serving, for example, for the purpose of recognition and promotion and to get ahead and to make money and whatever it might be, if that's your purpose, wrong purpose, wrong motive. You're not serving God, you're serving self.
Now, watch this. You can even do many good things and it appears that you're serving other people, but the real truth is you're doing it for some recognition because your ego is such, it just demands it. In other words, you're willing to forsake money if you can get acceptance. That's still self. We must die to self. So what you have to ask is, "Am I serving Him or am I serving myself"? Now, how can you and I know that we are serving the Lord? So maybe you may want to jot some of these things down. I think most of them will be on the screen. When can I know that you and I are serving the Lord? Well, first of all, when my primary concern is for the needs of others, the glory of God, and for the work of the Kingdom.
If I know that I'm really and truly want to meet needs, I want God to be glorified, I want the work to be done, then I know that I am doing it in the right fashion, and that I'm doing it because I love Him and because it's a right way. Secondly, when I'm willing, listen, when I'm willing, and you may see this on the board, to make necessary adjustments in my personal life. In other words, when you and I are willing to make necessary adjustments in our personal life in order to do what God has called us to do, we're serving Him. He may root you up from where you are and send you somewhere else. And you're willing to say, "God, if that's what You want, that's what I want". He may give you a difficult task. You say, "Lord, if that's what You want, I don't even think I'm capable of it, but if that's where You put me, I'm willing to do that".
A third thing that you can jot down is this, and that is when we're motivated by loving concern for other people and to please God, then we know that we're serving Him. We're motivated, listen, by a deep desire to help somebody else, whatever it might be, and to please Him. Then we know that we the right attitude. Then of course, we know that when we are operating in the spirit of humility, we know that we are going to be serving the Lord. Now, I've said this over and over again because it is so very, very important. Humility doesn't mean that you're weak and meek and all the rest. It means, listen, that you're strong enough to yield, wise enough to yield to the awesome hand of God and the will of God. To humble ourselves means, listen, we don't think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. We don't think of being in this position or that position; we see ourselves as the servants of this awesome God we have. We're servants, we're not masters. We're not to manipulate circumstances. We're not to step out ahead of God and take what is not ours. And people can reason and they can look at the Scripture and they can say, "Well, now, here's what God says," and so forth.
You know what the truth is? I'm either serving Him or I'm serving myself. Now, how do I know when I'm serving myself? We said those things are pretty evident, whether we're serving Him or not, a sense of humility and right spirit, motive. What about how do we know when we are serving ourselves? Well, I've just indicated some of them, but let me just mention a couple more. Number one, when we are more concerned about other people's opinions and what they think of us than we are about what God thinks of us, we're not serving God. We're more concerned about what other people think, their acceptance, their acclaims, their applause, their benefits, whatever it might be; when that's what governs us and guides us and dictates our conduct, that's not serving God, that's serving self. When, listen, I am continually seeking compliments, continually seeking compliments.
Now, think about this for a moment. Servants don't manipulate compliments out of, listen, out of those they serve. Remember who you're serving. If you're serving the Lord God, you don't have to manipulate anything, why? Because he's going to give you, He's going to provide for you exactly what you need, and probably more of your desires than you'd ever dream of. Now, watch this carefully. This is one thing I believe God hates because it is so deceptive. When you and I indicate that we're serving someone else, and at the same time, we've got our hand under the table wanting something in return, God hates that. That is pure deception. No servant of God should on the surface try to be helpful and at the same time under the surface and around the table over here, trying to get something from the person they're supposed to be giving their life away to. God hates that. You know what? If that's a practice in your life, you're not serving God, you're serving yourself. And I can tell you something else: what you get, you won't like. God has this awesome power to turn things into pure ashes.
Servants have to be careful that our motive is right, our attitude is right, our desires are right, and what we do is truly indication of a servant. So what you have to ask is this: Do I have the spirit of a servant? You say, "Well, how do I get that servant, how do I get that attitude"? Here's what you do. You say to Him, and maybe you need to say this to Him, "Well, Lord, I thought about being a Christian. I know I am, and I know I'm a child of Yours. And I know I represent You, I'm an ambassador and so forth. But Lord, I never thought about being servant of the Most High God, treating other people not just the way I want to be treated, but treating them as if they were the Christ. The folks I work for, the folks I work with, serving the people I work around. Not getting ahead of them, not trying to beat them down, but just giving myself away to those around me".
Listen carefully. The reason that always works, giving yourself away, is one single scripture. Listen to this: "Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together," overflowing from the top. What does that mean? Simply this. When you and I live our lives out as servants, the Master, not circumstances, the Master shakes the blessing down. Gets it tight, gets it full, it begins to overflow. Because when we're serving Him as a servant, a true servant, the heart of God is happy. He is delighted. He delights in His servants, and you know what He does? He will reward you in ways I cannot tell you. And I can tell you personally, God knows how to reward us in ways that overwhelm us. All we have to do is die to ourselves, give ourselves to whatever He's called us, and watch Him work. And you know what? I assure you, you will never be able to out-give Him. Your life will be full of awesome surprises. And you'll be praising Him daily: "Thank You, thank You, thank You that You made me a servant of the Most High God".