WE NEED NOT LOSE HEART IF…
“But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Mark 10: 43-45
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Philippians 2: 5-8
CALLED TO BE SERVANTS OF GOD
Christians lose heart in their Christian living and ministry because we forget that we are called to be servants of God, effectively bond-servants or slaves. We are exhorted to have the same attitude which was in Christ Jesus our Lord who emptied Himself taking the form of a bond-servant although He existed in the form of God. The Son of man came not to be served but to serve and His followers are expected to do the same, for in God’s scale of values, the way to greatness is servanthood and the leader must first learn to be a slave of all.
The apostle Paul knew what this meant and he often addressed himself as a bondservant of Jesus Christ in many of his epistles.
Listen to the words of the Lord Jesus:
“Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.”
Luke 17: 7-10
Notice that in the days of the New Testament, a slave is one without any rights. He is expected to serve and to obey and he does not expect to be thanked. He does not complain when his rights are put aside in favour of that of his master and after doing all things he is asked to do, he realizes that he has done only that which he ought to have done. He does not claim any credit or entitlement after doing his chores.
The problem is that Christians today do not mind being called servants or ministers of God; in fact, they consider it an honour but when it comes to being treated as servants, we feel slighted, hurt and we demand our rights to be respected, appreciated and given some form of acknowledgement for our service. So we keep away from certain brethren or certain ministry because we feel we are taken for granted. When it comes to our relationship with God, who is rightfully our Master, we have a mentality and attitude of entitlement.
“I have been serving God faithfully all these years, why does God not bless me; why is it that God would not even grant me my simple prayer request?”
“Surely, I am entitled to some form of recognition; after all, I sacrificed so much for the ministry and for the people of God. It is so unfair!’’
These comments may sound familiar to most of us. It is no wonder that we lose heart in Christian service and ministry. We are not truly prepared to be servants of God and we are not really willing to serve God and people with the attitude of a bondservant.
CHARACTERISTICS OF TRUE SERVANTHOOD
The true test of genuine Christian servanthood is when we seek not the approval of others but only the approval of one – God Himself. And in that process, we are prepared to be anonymous in our service and we no longer care for the significance of the task we are asked to fulfill as long as God is pleased. Faithfulness and obedience to God become our top priority; our sense of importance and our self-worth become secondary issues as long as God is honoured and glorified. The true servant rejoices when he hears the master proclaim, “Well done you good and faithful servant”, and he dares not claim any of the glory that rightly belongs to his Master.
Indeed the true servant of God is not concerned with the status and size of the role assigned to him. He does not measure his faithfulness by the number of people he leads or influences, and his sense of self-worth is not determined by the approval of those who are powerful and influential in society or in the Christian circle. His main preoccupation is to listen to the Master and to obey His instructions in the way of the servant. With such a stance and such an attitude, the servant of God need not lose heart even though he is sidelined and misunderstood by many, and he is prepared to endure much and to sacrifice much for the sake of the Master. In the current Christian scene, much emphasis and attention is given to the size of the congregation or group one is leading; the list of endorsements and publicity one receives in ministry and the influence one exercises over various issues in society and Christian circles, though there is a place for such considerations. Are we departing from the true values and characteristics of Christian servanthood and are we indeed walking in the ways of the one true servant, our Master and Lord Jesus Christ? Indeed, are we truly servants of God or just plain Christian celebrities?
KEEPING WATCH OVER OUR HEARTS
Another major reason why Christians lose heart in the midst of trying circumstances is the failure to keep watch over our heart.
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”
Proverbs 4: 23
Notice that we are to watch over our heart with all diligence. It is so very important that we cannot take it lightly; it requires all diligence, not letting up or letting go because the springs of life flow from the heart. If we are careless with our heart and we let it go astray, our lives would be adversely affected.
“…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6: 21
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Matthew 6: 24
From the “sermon on the mount”, the Lord Jesus taught us very important principles about ensuring that our heart is right before God and we are to keep it in the right direction with the right focus and in a good state.
If our heart’s treasure is shifted from God’s glory to selfglory or self interests, then we can get easily discouraged in our Christian service when we are not acknowledged, recognised or honoured for all our efforts and sacrifice in ministry. We lose heart and do not wish to be involved any longer because our self and ego have been badly bruised. If our heart becomes increasingly one with God’s heart, then God’s values become increasingly our values; God’s desires become our desires. If God hates sin, we cannot rationalize away sin in our lives, using spiritual excuses, and claim that our heart is still one with His. The treasure of our heart has changed – the heart has gone astray. It is no longer what God desires but rather what we secretly desire, although we still use spiritual cliché and even scriptural verses to explain away why we do what we do. But God is not fooled; He sees clearly our heart.
“In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, you will keep on hearing but will not perceive, for the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear. And they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and return, and I will heal them.”
Matthew 13: 14-15
Notice that when the heart becomes dull, the eyes no longer see and the ears can scarcely hear even though what God declares is so lucid and clear; the heart has failed to understand.
We see how important it is to watch over our heart with all diligence; it is so easy for the heart to go astray and become dull and hardened. The treasure of the heart has changed, sometimes so slowly and so imperceptibly that we do not even notice a change and we still think that our heart is still in the same direction as God’s. It explains how even so-called Christian leaders can continue to live in sin and yet maintain a large ministry, unaffected and unrepentant. It helps us understand why believers can compromise God’s moral standards and yet excuse themselves and brand others as oldfashioned and critical when in fact, they are the ones storing up the wrath of God in their behaviour and lives. When our heart is one with God’s, we begin to see with God’s eyes and appreciate things from God’s point of view.
We evaluate situations, relationships and circumstances with God’s scale of values; we no longer lose heart in discouragement and despair because we see beyond the visible, by faith, the spiritual realm and the eternal. We no longer walk by sight, but we walk by faith and like Paul, we can say, “Therefore from now on we recognise no one according to the flesh, even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.” 2 Corinthians 5: 16
It is possible to serve God according to the flesh, in our own ways, with our own strength and with our own wisdom; but God’s work has to be done in God’s way and with God’s power and according to God’s Spirit. The heart that is kept focused on Him, in oneness with Him, is the heart that is pleasing to Him and it is a heart that would not be easily discouraged in its service to God because if God is pleased, then all is well.