There have been many good and arguably even a few great leaders throughout history, leaders who have at times demonstrated above average leadership skills and qualities. However the ultimate illustration of leadership does not come from the pages of Forbes Magazine, Business Week, or even the Harvard Business review, but from the pages of the Bible. Jesus Christ is the epitome of the ultimate servant-leader as stated in Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The servant-leader is quite willing to live in obscurity, but seldom does. A leader “want to-be” like many of the leaders of our time is more likely to fall in love with his own image, and believe in his own good press. Just look around you today and all throughout history, many of those we now consider and most we have thought of in times past as great leaders seem to somehow in some way fall, failing to get out of their own way they inevitable slip, trip, falling face first all due to self.
One reason, if not the main reason servanthood is so difficult for a believer is that it begins with dying to self. Scripture emphasizes that “dying to self” is the believer’s responsibility. Luke 9:23-24, and he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
“Dying to self,” however, cannot be accomplished by one’s own power or insight. If “dying to self” depended solely on our abilities, we could not and would never become more like Christ, since our wisdom and strength are miserably inadequate to accomplish that transformation. All thanks to God, through His mercy and abundant grace, He has provided divinely powerful and completely sufficient resources in the person of Jesus Himself, the Holy Spirit, and Scripture to enable us as believers to mature spiritually. The issue is never with God’s resources, He has an inexhaustible supply of everything necessary for a believer to mature spiritually. The issue is the believer’s willingness to rely on God’s plan and power to become a fruitful servant of Christ by leaving old designs of life in order to be conformed to the image of Christ.
Have you somehow misunderstood, been confused, or simply mislead into believing you can drink from His cup without His help and service? Do you think you can endure the suffering of His baptism without Him serving you and helping you? Do you think you can become the kind of person that renounces fame and human status in this life to serve all other people without His serving you—twenty four seven all the days of your life? – You Can Not.
Do you recall what Jesus said in John 15:5?
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing. Apart from me you can do nothing. You cannot drink my cup. You cannot endure my baptism. You cannot serve each other. You cannot become the slave of all. To do any of this, you must “abide in me and I in you.” You must trust me to serve you. Abiding in the vine and being served by Jesus are one in the same.
It is important to point out that Christ-like servanthood is strength, not weakness. Servanthood is in no way being a doormat. From that position of the “strength of sacrifice,” servant disciples are not concerned with, “If I do this for them, they might take advantage of me and expect me to do it always.” Or, “If I receive from them, I owe them and will have to repay in some way.” Servanthood is purposely seeking and fervently searching for people to serve for the love of Jesus incidentally we are to do it cheerfully. We are most like God when we are serving others.
Authentic servanthood doesn’t play the game of “who served whom last.” Jesus broke through that facade by teaching His disciples that true servanthood was designed to impact a much wider audience.
John 13:12-14, When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
After Jesus washed their feet, the disciples could have easily thought that Jesus expected them to wash His feet in response. However, instead of saying, “Now wash my feet,” Jesus broke through their veneer of pride by telling them to “wash one another’s feet” whenever that opportunity arose, not waiting to serve, in return, those who served them first.
With an all-encompassing perspective of being a servant, Jesus destroyed the shallow servanthood mentality of “If I wash your feet, you wash mine” or “If I scratch your back, you scratch mine” or “You do something for me and I’ll do something for you.” Isn’t that our problem today and hasn’t it always been the problem with entering into authentic Christ-like servanthood?
In a marriage the wife cooks her husband his favorite meal and then thinks, “He didn’t even say thank he probably didn’t even notice.” While the husband makes a few home repair and thinks, “I worked hard at this project and for what, no one said one thing.” The children clean up their own mess, and even pick up after siblings and thinks, “I’m never doing that again – nobody even said thank you or congratulated me for my anything, and it wasn’t even my mess anyway.” Even in church, believers sometime think, “Doesn’t anyone ever notice me and my ministry in church? What a thankless job!”
The key point Jesus emphasized regarding authentic servanthood is – A true servant meets the needs of others, not as a return gesture or with shallow expectations, or the need for accolades. Instead, a true servant serves so the recipients of their service will respond in kind with service to others.
The Bible itself, with all its many convenient translations, not interpretations is often not difficult to understand, the problems usually manifest themselves when it comes to us applying the biblical principles to our lives, more often than not for most of us it simply becomes an all-out war. Yet, surprisingly, many of us as believers continue to request and even demand for “more of God” in just about every way possible that is with the exception of dying to self.