Jack Graham - Choosing Service Over Selfishness
Take your Bible and turn with me, please, to Proverbs 23 and verse 26. We're in a series of messages from the book of Proverbs called CHOICES. Choices are vital, not only for the direction of your life, but for your ultimate destination and destiny. And throughout the Word of God, not only in Proverbs which speaks of wise living and making wise and good and godly decisions, but also through all of the pages of Scripture we are called upon to make wise choices: to love God, to choose to love Him and follow Him and obey Him, and yes, to serve Him.
So the title of this message and our subject from Proverbs in God's Word today is "Choosing Service over Selfishness". I believe the most important choice that we make, certainly I believe the most important choice that I have made after I received Christ as my Lord and Savior and decided to follow Him, was the decision, the choice to serve Him. When Saul of Tarsus was transformed, became the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, when he was converted, he asked two questions: "Lord, who are You?", and once Christ identified Himself as the risen Redeemer, then the Apostle said, the upcoming Apostle, said, Acts 9:6, "What would You have me to do?" "Lord, who are You?" and then, "What would You have me to do"?
Proverbs 23, verse 26, just a half a sentence in this proverb. Then we're going to be looking at others and other scriptures, so keep your Bibles open. But it is a father inviting a son; it is God inviting us. "My son, give me your heart". The heart is representative of the inner you; the part of you that is made for God and God alone ultimately; the part of you that God knows and sees. It's the you of you! Proverbs 4:23, "Out of the heart flow all the issues of life," says the book of Proverbs. Ultimately we must get to the place as followers of Jesus that we realize that my life is not about "me" and "my" and "mine" and "I"! We learn to choose over self, service, knowing that we can't change everything but we can change something; knowing that we can't change the whole world and the people of the world, but we can serve somebody! We can make a difference in people's life near to us, to touch the near edge of some great need. I know this: God wants me to be His servant.
And when I was a teenager, 15 years of age, I heard the call of God to serve Him for the rest of my life. Now in my case that meant preaching the Gospel, pastoring a church. But when you hear the call of God it may not be to serve as a missionary or a minister or a pastor vocationally, but I promise you every member of God's church, of His body is a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ! Called to be a minister, I should say! All of us! All of us are called by Christ to follow Him with all of our hearts, to be His servant. Now when you read the New Testament in particular, you see a word appearing describing the servants of God. It is used continuously by the Apostle Paul. It is the word doulos in the language of the New Testament. Doulos which means a bond-slave, a slave of God. Paul said, "I am a doulos; I am a slave of Jesus Christ".
The other apostles according to the New Testament also took this title to themselves, this title of humility and brokenness before the Lord, of ownership and obedience before God who is Master and King. the Apostle Peter said, "I am a slave of Jesus Christ". John, the Apostle, who was one of the dearest friends of our Lord, who laid his head over on the chest of our Lord at the final supper with the disciples. He said, "I am a slave of Jesus Christ"! Jude said, "I am a slave of Jesus Christ". James the half brother of Jesus... Imagine growing up with Jesus! Your big brother never does anything wrong! And yet James His half brother said, "I'm a slave of Jesus". We are slaves to Jesus Christ, in light of this proverb which says, "My son, give me your heart, give me your life", it is because we belong to Him! Lock, stock and barrel!
Paul said in 1 Corinthians chapter 6:19: "What, do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit? That you are not your own! You are bought with a price! Therefore, glorify God with your body which belongs to Him"! We are purchased by Christ, therefore, we are possessed by Christ! He owns us! My eyes are not my eyes: they belong to Him! My mouth, my lips, my speech is not my own: it belongs to Him! My hands, my feet, my body, everything I have, my family, my future, all of it belongs to Him! "I'm yours, Lord"! is what the Christian says because we are His slaves. And yet, we don't hear this in a "me first" "all about me" generation.
As a matter of fact, even in some churches today we have a message of prosperity. More and more for religious consumerism! Health and wealth and human happiness, that's what it's all about! So some even in the church are not getting this message of submission and sacrifice and surrender and working for the Master till the day is done. Instead our lives too often are about how many zeroes are at the end of our paycheck, the square footage of our house, the kind of cars we drive, vacations that we take, amassing more applause and more fame and more celebrity. But God has not called us to be celebrities; He's called us to be slaves for Him! To be a Christian is to be a follower of Jesus. He said John 10:27, "My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow Me". "Wherever He leads, I'll go". Jesus will not live at the periphery of our lives. He is Lord! He is Master! He is King! He will not allow us to be worthless, lazy servants!
Now one of the things you see in the book of Proverbs is the command to work hard. For example, you're in Proverbs chapter 23; go back to Proverbs chapter 3, verses 27 and 28, and look at that: "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, 'Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it' - when you have it with you". In other words, if there is a need and you see a need, meet that need! Jesus told a parable about this. A man who was broken and wounded along the roadside of life, and as these thieves took away his possessions and beat him, blooded him to an inch of his life, left him for dead. And then along came religion. Religious professors and priests and scribes and Pharisees walking by on the other side of the road, Jesus said, and paid no attention. And though they had the capability and the call of God to help hurting people, they walked by on the other side, lest they soil their hands, or dirtied their fingers!
Along came a Samaritan, hated in that world, the world of Jesus; a Samaritan! The Bible says he saw him and he had compassion upon him, and he reached out and he took oil and wine, medicinal properties, and he soothed his wounds and he took him to a local inn and paid for the bill. And Jesus then looked at a very surly, gnarly religious crowd and said, "Who was this man's neighbor"? And the whole point of that parable is that anyone who has a need is my neighbor! I may not know him or her, may not live on my street, may live on the other side of town, on the other side of the track, may live on the other side of the world, but if I see a need, God has called me to see that need, to have a heart to feel that need with a heart of compassion, and then to act on that need as a servant of God! And so rather than just seeing how much more I can accumulate, I become a generous giver rather than a greedy getter.
There's only one thing to do with self! That's not to improve "self, to do better with self, but to die to self! To pick up" the cross daily and follow after Christ. You want to improve yourself? You want to be happy in life? Maybe we really ought to define happiness. Because happiness according to the Bible is a lot different than what the world calls happiness. Happiness in the Scriptures is to be blessed. It is to be content, satisfied, fulfilled, loved, and grateful. Does that describe your life? Fulfilled, blessed, satisfied, content, at peace with God and with man? That's real happiness. I tell you what makes me happy. You want to know what makes your pastor happy? My family and my friends, my church, helping others find Christ. I tell you what makes me happy is coming to work everyday and enjoying making a difference.
It's not always easy. I mean, I don't bound out of bed singing hymns every morning! Sometimes I do. But I know when I'm on my way to work, that I'm here to make a difference, not just to make a living. And the fact is, you don't have to be a preacher to know all of that. Whatever you do, God has called you to do it, if you're doing His will. Wherever you're going, if you follow Him as His slave and do His bidding, you're going to make a difference. And I promise you, that's what makes us happy!
I'm reading the biography of Deitrich Bonhoeffer right now, the German Lutheran pastor martyr who resisted the Nazism of of Germany in the world, Second World War. he was hung on the gallows for his faith and what he believed, and it was Bonhoeffer who wrote in The Cost of Discipleship; "When God calls us to discipleship He bids us come and die"! Frankly, when I read the stories of these great martyrs and missionaries I am ashamed of myself, and I wonder if I would do what they have done. And others even today, slaughtered for their faith in Christ. Would I be a slave for Jesus wherever He took me? In life or in death? How did we make life so complicated?
When did we stop falling on our faces at the Master's feet and simply saying, "Lord, I thank You for what I have, not what I don't have. I thank You for calling me and commanding me to serve You instead of just living for more toys and more gadgets and more stuff and expanding my portfolio, Lord, that I could live for You, and oh yes, what You give me, if You choose to bless me beyond measure as You have, then I can give it as I give myself"! Paul said to the Corinthians, giving their offering, "First, give yourself and then your offering"! Be a servant. Jesus is the perfect example, of course.
In fact, turn to the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of John. It's Passover time. This is the last supper our Lord would share with His disciples. The Master with these followers, slaves at His feet, and yet, something absolutely bazaar happens. Jesus, knowing that it was His time, that it was His moment, the reason that He was born, on His way to the cross, verse 3 says: "Jesus, knowing that the Father has given all things into His hands". Stop right there. Everything is His, Jesus knew the world, the universe, the stars, the planets, everything! "all things are in His hands". So what did Jesus do? Did He take up His throne? No. He took up a towel. He stripped down his outer cloak and took the posture of a slave. It was the job of a slave typically to wash the feet of the guests of the house. And since none of the disciples, obviously, were getting it yet, Jesus showed them what life is about, and He got on His knees, and one by one, He washed their feet!
Verse 15: "For I have given you an example that you should do just as I have done to you". Not necessarily the physical washing of feet, but again, the meeting of the need that is right in front of you, ministering and serving others! Acting like a slave instead a selfish brat! And notice what happened: "Truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than His master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. And if you know these things, blessed are you if you do them"! Happy are you if you do these things! You want to be happy? Serve somebody! Try giving your life away instead of making it all about you! You know, I've seen people make it all about themselves and they just shrivel up and die. I've seen some who through the years have served God, and maybe you're thinking about giving up, maybe you're tired and you're just, you know, I want to tell you that the quickest way to depression and defeat in your life is to get all turned in on yourself, and start feeling sorry for yourself.
And then the lethargy comes in and the laziness comes in and you don't want to get out of bed. Why? Because it's all about you. I understand the issues of emotional depression and so on, but the fact is that anytime we are down and defeated and can't go, it's typically because we have turned inside rather than outside. And this will rob you of joy and passion for life. You develop a I-don't-care, who-cares-about-anything attitude, and that's not the way of Christ. Make the choice, even when you don't feel like it, even though it seems impossible to get yourself up and get yourself going! First Corinthians 15:58, "Therefore, my beloved brothers, do be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for you know your labor is not in vain in the Lord".
We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works! So here's the message! You want the message in a sentence? Here it is; write it down; carry it with you this week! Put it over where you brush your teeth! That'd be a good place for it! Die to self! Live to serve! Die to self! Live to serve! Start with your own family. Husband, serve your wife. Wife, serve your husband. Moms and dads, serve your children. Children, serve your parents. You know how? One of the big ten! Obey your parents. Honoring, that's serving your parents. Serve your church. It may not be a front row position; it may not be a platform position. Some people are waiting to serve so they can get at the head of the line, do the job they want to do. Why don't you just do the job right in front of you? Find your sweet spot.
You know, when I played baseball, sometimes I would try to hit a homerun. Every time I tried to hit a homerun, I'd end up cracking the bat, hitting it on the handle, missing the pitch, over-swing, hurting my back and so on. But there were other times I was just concentrating on hitting the pitch out in front of me, making a good swing, and when you do that, sometimes you would just really catch the sweet spot. And when you catch the sweet spot on a bat, you don't even feel the ball. There's no reverberation, there's no shock, there's not even that big a crack, it just sails! It is empowered when you hit the sweet spot! And when you are in your sweet spot, serving God as to what God has called you to do, and gifted you to do, you'll not get tired.
Oh, sometimes you get tired in the work, but you'll never get tired of the work that God has called you to do, if you're doing and obeying His word. Get in the church! Try this. Don't just let the so-called professionals do it! God has called you to be a servant! Find out what God has called you to do and do it for His glory! Why? You're His slave! His bond-slave. Serve the culture, talking about the world, people who don't know Jesus. Friendship evangelism and ministry evangelism and caring for their needs. That's what Jesus did. He preached to them, but He also ministered to them. Healed their hurts and blessed their children. We're to reach our communities in this culture like Christ did. You got to serve somebody.
I know you may be tired, you may be unmotivated, but there's nothing that will motivate you and give you a whole new momentum in life like serving God; getting up in the morning with something meaningful to do that lasts forever. I promise you. "Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many". I choose service over selfishness. Don't waste you life.
John Piper wrote a book by that title and he spoke of a Readers Digest article several years ago of a couple up in the northeast, wife, age 51, husband, age 59, who decided to take early retirement because they could, and they got them a place down in Florida, tied down to Florida in the sun and here's what they did. They had a 30 foot trawler, they rode around in that boat. Then they played softball and they collected seashells. Piper said, "When I read that I thought it was spoof on the American dream. But then I realized, no, for many this is the American dream". Find a place where you can afford to quit and then quit. And here's a couple, when they stand before God at the judgment seat of Christ and God says, "Show me your life". And they say, "Here are our seashells, God"! More than seashells and ball games, and pleasure and fun, God put... what He did for us in saving us is give us our life back! What we're to do for Him is to give it right back to Him. "My son, give Me your heart".