James Merritt - Roadside Assistance
This was in the newspaper last week: "People are running out of gas in record numbers. Nearly a million motorists a year run out of gas and break down on the side of the road and that number has risen every year since 2011. Drivers are running out of gas and they're not learning their lesson. But why? According to a recent study it's due to stupidity". Seriously. "Most motorists say they just decide to ignore the warning light. All the signs are there, the car's fuel gauge falls toward the 'E', the warning light comes on, the bells and the whistles ring exactly like they're supposed to, but the drivers just keep on driving until the vehicle sputters to a stop".
Sheer stupidity. Ladies, you'll love this. The vast majority of the idiots out there are men, okay? They're the ones that let the thing run dry. The question is: Does your engine ever quit running? Do your tires ever go flat? You ever feel like that the battery of your life just died? As you're goin' down the highway of life do you ever feel like, you're just broken down by the side of the road? Some of you probably sayin' right now, "That's how I feel today". Well, we all need roadside assistance. We all need someone that can come by and come along and help us and help us to refill the tank or refill the tire and restart the engine. So, we've been talking about those things that we can do on a daily basis that can help us do just that. You can refuel and reengage and recharge every single day.
And for those of you who've missed this series, I'mma give it to you real quick. We said the first thing you can do, is read your Bible every day. Listen to God, hear from God's Word every day. The second thing you need to do is take time to spend with God, just have a time with God where... and do you read your Bible? You talk to God, you pray to God and you just listen and hear from God. Then we said last week the third thing you need to do is get into a group. Get into a small group, get into a community of people. Get into people that can help you do life together. That can help you shoulder your burdens, bear your problems, encouraging you when you need encouraging and so forth.
Now today we're gonna deal with the last thing that we need to be doing on a daily basis and I would say as much if not more than any of the things we've already talked about. Guaranteed if you'll do this on a daily basis and by the way, you'll be hard pressed to find the day you won't get to do this for somebody somewhere. The last thing that we need to do is simply serve other people. If you own a copy of God's Word, I want you to turn to a gospel called Mark. It's easy to find, it's in the New Testament. Bibles, you know, Old Testament, New Testament; it's in the New Testament and there's four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. We're in Mark chapter 9. Let me tell you what kinda what's goin' on. There's an incident that took place between Jesus and his disciples and it gave him the opportunity to teach one of the greatest lessons, the one thing that will not only get you moving again, but it really is the key to greatness in the eyes of God.
Now before I set all of this up let me kinda help us on something. We tend to measure greatness totally differently from the way that God measures greatness. When we think about people that we consider great, we usually do it because of one of two kinda measurements that we use. One is accumulation and the other is accomplishments. So, in other words, we look at people who've accumulated a lot. They live in the big house, they drive the nice car, they wear the nice clothes, they've got everything that money could buy and we think because they're financially successful we say, "You know what, that is a great person". Or we think about accomplishments. They won the award, they won the prize, they got to the top of the heap, they're at the top of the ladder, they're number one on every body's list, they have fame. Everybody knows who they are because of what they have accomplished.
So, we tend to look at people and say, "If they either have a lot or they've done a lot, they are great". There are three things I want ya to learn from this story we're gonna read in Mark 9. Number one: We should have a willful ambition for service. We should have a willful ambition for service. Now here's what's going on. Jesus and his disciples they've been out and they've been ministering to other people, they've been teaching, they've been healing the sick, they've been feeding the hungry, they've been clothing the poor, they've just been out serving other people. And they're coming back to Capernaum for a little rest, for a little bit of a break, and so, we pick up the story in verse 33: "They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, 'What were you arguing about on the road?' But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest".
Now there's a little humor here, you're gonna see in just a moment. This word for argument that's in the English, in the Greek language is the word that gives us the word "dialogue," but they weren't just having a dialogue, they weren't just having a little debate, they were having this very heated, passionate disagreement. Now the reason there's humor there is because, here's evidently what happened. They're walking along the road, Jesus is walking ahead, they think he's out of hearing distance, they don't think he knows what's going on. And so, they get into this violent argument about who is the greatest.
So, Jesus waits, he gets to Capernaum, he says, "By the way, what were you arguing about on the road"? And all of a sudden, they looked at each other and learned something that I wanna teach you today just, you know, just so you need to know. Jesus always hears and Jesus always sees, you can whisper, he hears it. You can turn off the lights, he sees it. He always hears and he always sees and so they're having this fierce argument. As a matter of fact, they Greek word, here's the picture, voices were raised, veins are popping out, eyes are protruding, spit is flying, I mean they are having one big argument. Who was the greatest? Peter said, "Well, I'm the greatest". John said, "No, I'm the greatest," and James said, "No, I'm the greatest," and Bartholomew said, "No, I'm the greatest" and Mathew said, "No, I'm the greatest". And Jesus says, "Timeout".
I wanna teach you about true greatness. Now, before I tell you what Jesus says I wanna just kinda clarify something. Jesus never says to the disciples and he never says to us that it's wrong to be great; never says that and I want to make this plain there is nothing wrong with seeking to be great. It is great to want to be great. Would you say that with me? It is great to want to be great. There's nothing wrong with that at all, absolutely, in fact, if you're a parent, you oughta want to be the greatest parent you can be. When God called me into the ministry, I finally realized I was gonna be a pastor, I don't mind, I said "God, I wanna be the greatest preacher that I can be".
If you play sports, you oughta wanna be the greatest athlete you can be. If you're a parent you oughta want you children to be the greatest that they can be. There's nothing wrong with having healthy ambition and let's just be honest, there's just something in all of us, me included, there's just something in all of us, we wanna be at the head of the line. We wanna be first, we wanna be first in line, first to be chosen, first to be noticed, first to be praised. Every team, trust me on this, every team at the end of the season wants to be the last one standing saying, "We're number one". Tell me about it, okay. Tell me about it, okay. We all want to be there and if you have a healthy psyche, you wanna be the best that you can be at something. You want to be great at something. There's somethin' wrong with anybody that says, "Well, I just want to be mediocre".
There's somethin' wrong with it. We all ought to want to be great at something. Now here's the good news, Jesus is goin' to teach us that everybody can be great at the one thing that is more important than anything else, but before he talks about greatness he has to correct the way the disciples were thinking about greatness. So, he sits the disciples down, he says, "Guys, let's have a little short little lesson here". Let's just do "Greatness 101". Let me just kinda take you back to the first grade of greatness because it's not what you think. And so, he says something that kinda shocks them. He says, if you're looking for the best seat, if you want to be first in line, if you wanna be great in what you accumulate or you want to be great in what you achieve, Jesus says, "Then you will never be great".
If that's the way you wanna be great, you will never be great and what he said next made every jaw hit that hard, Palestinian ground. Listen to what he says, "Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, 'Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all". Now the disciples are thinking, "Excuse me, we were having an argument, but I don't think you heard right. We weren't arguing about who we ought to be serving, we were arguing over who is the greatest". And Jesus said, "No, you don't understand". If you really have an ambition to be great then you ought to have an ambition to serve. So, it's one thing to go from bad to good, it's another thing to go from good to great and the only road that leads to greatness is the one that is paved with the asphalt of service. We ought to have a willful ambition to serve.
If what Jesus said is true, right now there oughta be a burning desire in your heart, if you really wanna be great in the eyes of God, you oughta be saying to yourself right now, "Man, I want to serve, I have an ambition to serve". Now, if what Jesus said is true that leads to a second truth. Now I don't wanna assume that we have a willful ambition to serve, actually we should have a thankful approach to service; a willful ambition for service and a thankful approach to service. Now on another occasion, Jesus told about greatness he said this, "Not so with you, instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave".
Now you talk about a shot to their central nervous system. Jesus said, "You know what guys, you're gonna approach life in one of two ways". This is about every one of us right now. When you walk out your door in the morning, wherever you work, live, play, doesn't matter. When you walk out of the house of your door in the morning, you're goin' to walk out thinking one of two things: "How can I get other people to serve me today or how can I find some other people to serve today"? You're always to fault to one attitude to the other. "How can I get people to serve me today or how can I serve other people today"? Now again, there's nothing wrong with wanting to be great if you wanna be great the right way. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be first if you understand what first place is.
So, listen again to what Jesus said. "Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, 'You wanna be first?' You gotta be last. You wanna be the master? You've got to be the servant of all.'" He said, "Okay, guys here's how it works. How many of you disciples wanna be number one"? And they all raise their hand. He said, "Great, look for every opportunity you can to be number two". In other words, we should be greatly concerned about serving and totally unconcerned about being served. Greatly concerned about serving, totally unconcerned about being served. Now let me tell you somethin', you think about this. Our culture, our communities, our cities, our country, our churches, could be dramatically transformed tomorrow if everyone simply adopted the attitude of Jesus who said, "Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve," and how was he gonna serve? "And to give his life as a ransom for many".
Every time I read that verse it blows my mind because the only human being who ever lived in history who deserved to be served by everybody instead came to serve everybody. It's amazing. He deserved to be served by everyone, but he came to serve everyone else. When I talk to people about their work and their jobs, one of the ways to really get to know people about what they do for a living is a great question to ask, I'll always ask people, "So, tell me what you like about your job and tell me what you don't like about your job". You get some really fascinating answers and I don't mind telling you. I'm like you, my job's the same way. I love a lot of what I do as a pastor, okay. There a lot of things, I love it, I enjoy it, can't wait to do it. There are some things as a pastor I wish I didn't have to do. There are some things as a pastor I just really don't enjoy and every pastor I've ever talked to feels the same way and every pastor I've ever talked to has kinda the same frustration.
Pastors really do get weary of begging people and pleading with people to find people to serve. They, you know, they just can't, we can't find enough people to serve preschoolers and children, and students and singles and seniors and recovering addicts and the recently divorced. And we talk about it, we have a little conference, we call it "Mega Metro Conf..." we get together. We all have talked about it. "How do ya get volunteers? How do ya get people to serve? How do ya get people motivated to do something for someone else"? And it hit me as I was working on this because the reason for our approach to service is totally wrong and let me tell you why.
If what Jesus said is true, that if you don't believe in what Jesus said is true then the ballgame's over, but if what Jesus said is true and you believe it's true, and you really believe the way to be great in the eyes of God is to serve, if you really believe that then you oughta be thankful for an opportunity to serve. You oughta be looking for an opportunity to serve. You oughta be looking for ways to serve because service is not something you have to do; it is something you get to do. You know, you go back and read the four gospels, I'll tell ya you oughta do this sometime, go back and read the four gospels and you'll find that Jesus had an absolutely perfect record; absolutely perfect. "So, what do you mean"? Jesus never turned down an opportunity to serve anybody who needed to be served, never, not one time. He never said one time, "Can't do it. Too busy. Not in the mood. Not my job. Let somebody else do it. Listen, I've already healed 15 people today, go see a doctor".
Never did that. Every time somebody came to him and needed to be served, he served. That's why he's the greatest person who ever lived. The reason why Jesus is the greatest person who ever lived is because he is the greatest servant who ever lived. Yes, he had the crown of a king, but he had the heart of a servant. You oughta be teaching your kids, you know, everybody wants to be successful, let me tell you something. The secret to success is service. The secret to success is service. Jesus said, "You got it all wrong. Greatness does not start at the top, greatness starts at the bottom. Greatness is not in how many people you got serving you, greatness is in how many people you serve". I mean, it's incredible thing. You know, Jesus said, "If you really wanna be great, here's what you'll do. You'll do what I would do. Take the least desired position. Do the job nobody else wants to do. Find the worse seat in the house".
The great poet Henry Longfellow said this, he said: "Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled with great ambition". So true, "Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled with great ambition". See, the one thing that sets Christian leadership apart from worldly leadership is servant leadership. The greatest leaders who ever lived, the way, the reason, why they lead so greatly is because they serve. Leonard Bernstein was the conductor for the New York Symphony Orchestra for many years and toward the end of his career, he sat down for an interview with one of the news stations there and they ask him a question they said, "Here's a question for you". They said, "What is the most difficult position of the orchestra to play? What's that most difficult thing to do"?
And he said, "Oh," without even hesitation, "Well, I'll tell ya that". He said, "The toughest instrument to play is second fiddle". And they said, "You mean, is that harder than the bassoon"? He said, "Yep". "Is that harder than the piccolo"? "Yeah". "Is that harder than the trumpet"? He said, "Yeah". And they said, "Why"? "Well," he said, "It's not tougher physically, it's tougher emotionally". And they said, "But why"? He said, "Because nobody wants to be second fiddle. Everybody wants to be first fiddle". Nobody wants the second chair, everybody wants the first chair and Jesus comes along and says, "You know what? Greatness doesn't come from what you accumulate and how much you have. Greatness doesn't come in what you accomplish from any awards you win. It's not found in the power that you hold. It's not found in the possessions that you own. It's not found in the place that you live. It's not found in the position that you have. It is found in the people you serve". That's the great people in the eyes of God. So, if that's true, we oughta have a thankful approach to service.
Well, if we have a willful ambition for service and we take a thankful approach to service, then we will have a joyful attitude in service. Now I wanna put two statements side by side, now I know you're probably sick of hearing them, but I wanna really drive it home. I wanna take two statements and put them side by side; listen to them one more time. "Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, 'Anyone who wants to be first must be last, and the servant of all.' Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, whoever wants to be the first must be your slave". Now one thing we can't disagree on today: Jesus could not have made this any simpler. He could not have made it any plainer. He said, "You wanna go to the front of the line, right"? "Yes, I do". He said, "Great, get to the back of the line".
He said, now let me make sure you understand the world says the way to become, the way to greatness is to become a star. Jesus said," No, the way to greatness is to become a servant". And let me tell ya, he took our sin, he accepted our punishment, he died our death, he took our condemnation so that he could come to us in a servant's apron. And on a silver platter serve us forgiveness, serve us grace, serve us love, and serve us eternal life. That's why I love him so, that's why he is, nobody else even deserves to be called great except Jesus, yeah. Nobody else even deserves to be called great except Jesus and listen, knowing, I get chill bumps thinkin' about this right now, I really do, knowing how Jesus has served us, how can we not serve him with a willful ambition? How can we not serve him with a thankful approach? How can we not have a joyful attitude when we return that service to him?
So, close with this. A mom came up to me and she said, "Hey pastor, I just want you to know," she said, "Christmas Eve our little ten-year-old daughter is gonna baptized". I said, "Oh, really"? She said, "Yeah". I said, "What's her name"? She said, "Her name is Carson". And I said, "You know what"? I said, "Is Carson around"? "Well, yeah, she's right over here". I said, "Well, bring Carson over here. I wanna see her". And so, I said, "I wanna have my picture made with her". Okay? So, this is a picture of me with Carson, right? That's Carson, little ten-year-old, beautiful little girl right there, okay? Now the reason why the mother wanted me to meet Carson is not because she was gettin' baptized, that's not why. The reason she wanted me to meet Carson is because of the note that Carson had written her about bein' baptized and when she showed me the note I said, "Can I get a picture of that"?
And I just wanna share with you this is the note that Carson wrote before she got baptized: "I know Jesus died for my sins and he lives in my heart and he is my Lord and Savior, I want to tell others about Jesus and always help others". Now let me tell you something, that little girl's goin' somewhere. That little girl's destined for greatness. I told her this, I said, "Carson, God has some unbelievable plans for you. You can't even imagine what God has in store for you". I said, "You're going to be not just successful Carson if you keep that up, you're going to be eternally successful". Well, you imagine her eyes got that big and she said, "Wow"! She said, "How do ya know"? I said, "Because Jesus said when you wanna serve other people, you're great". When you wanna help other people, you're great. When you wanna point people to Jesus, you are great. And what she was saying was, "You know what I wanna do when I grow up"?
When I see somebody with a flat tire and they're balling their eyes out and they've got their hands praying to God and all they can hear is Triple A, I wanna give some roadside assistance. When I drive by and yeah, some dumb man has let his car run outta gas, I wanna be the one to go down to the service station, get the gallon of gas, come back and put in his tank so he can go again. And I'm leaving you with this, you gotta decided whether or not Jesus told the truth or not. That's up to you, but if he did, then when you answer the call to service. When you say, "Lord, here am I". When you say, "Give me a need, I'll meet it. Give me a person, I'll serve them". When you do that, here's what you'll find: your tank will be full, your battery will be charged, and you will enjoy your trip down the highway of life like you never have before.