A Life of Service
(pre July 1995)
"For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)
We live today in a service-oriented society. Many of the jobs available to young people, and to older ones as well, are in the area of service: fast foods, dry cleaning, and many others.
My daughter had occasion to put an ad in the daily newspaper for someone to give a helping hand in taking care of the lawn and the yard. It was surprising how many people called within a day or two inquiring about the size of the lawn, the available compensation, and the like. They were ready to serve, if conditions were just right.
Our text may be shortened, in Latin, to just four words: "non ministrari, sed ministrare," the central part of the verse above, "not to be ministered unto, but to minister." Perhaps some of our readers had occasion to study Latin in high school. I happened to study that subject for four years in high school, and took an additional year in college. Those words were the motto of the former Westminster University (now Belleview College) when it was founded. The young men and women who entered the halls of learning were being challenged to dedicate themselves to a life of service to the Lord and to mankind.
A popular question today in some quarters is: "What is in it for me?" Another is: "How much will I be paid for my services?" Still another is: "What will be my rank or title?" If you turn to the verses preceding our text you will find that two of the disciples who were in the "inner circle," James and John, had come to Jesus asking for a favor. What was that favor? They wanted to have prominent places in His kingdom, with one sitting on His right hand and the other on His left!
You can imagine how the other disciples reacted when they heard the request: they were much displeased! (v. 41) Jesus then called His disciples to Him and said, "Whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister (servant): and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all." Then came our text.
In an earlier generation the wealthy, and even some who were just moderately well off, had servants to take care of many of the household chores and duties. There were maids, and cooks, and butlers, and nannies, and grooms, and yard keepers. Today, with our labor-saving devices, we do not hear so much about such positions.
What I am concerned with, however, is the kind of service the Lord expects of you and me. Two young lads attending a boarding school were expected to do certain chores each day. One of the boys was in a big hurry. He wanted to go out and play, or read a book, and he hurried through his work as quickly as possible. His chum, it seemed, took more pains with his own chores, and then did something additional to improve what his friend had done carelessly. One of the staff members noticed what was taking place and asked for an explanation. "Why are you taking pains with your own work, and then doing something to make your friend's work more acceptable?
The lad replied, "I want to be great, so I thought I would try the Lord's way." Which of the two boys, would you say, is likely to be successful as a man?
In Luke 10 (30-35) we find the familiar story of the Good Samaritan. You no doubt well remember the account Jesus gave of the man on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho who was robbed and beaten, and left half dead. A priest and a Levite came by and noticed the wretched man, but passed by on the other side of the road. Then came the Samaritan. He gave first aid to the wounded man, and then placed him on his own donkey and took him to an inn. When he had to continue his journey, next day, he paid the innkeeper for the man's care, and said that when he returned he would pay whatever more was required.
Henry Van Dyke, author of "The Other Wise Man," says that the Good Samaritan became "a rescuer, a nurse, a helper of the wounded," when he saw the poor man beside the road, and suggested that you and I must be ready for new challenges as we seek for the guidance of the Lord. Although the Lord can and will use anyone who is willing to be used of Him, He generally uses to the highest degree those who are already busy doing something worthwhile!
What sacrifice are we willing to make to do the Lord's work, and see souls saved today? During the days of slavery in the islands of the Atlantic Ocean a certain young man had a great burden for the salvation of the slaves on one of the islands. No missionaries were allowed to serve among the slaves, however, or to preach the Gospel to them. Only other slaves were permitted to preach to the slaves of that island.
Hearing of this provision, the young man volunteered to become a slave on the island. He was prepared to work long hours each day in the blazing sun, under the lash of the overseers, so that he could bring the slaves the Good News of the Gospel, to let them know that there were salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ. The King of Denmark was the sovereign of the island, and when he heard of the dedication and consecration of the young man, the King directed that he be permitted to preach the Gospel without any restrictions, and that he not be required to become a slave. But the young man had been willing!
In Exodus we have a touching example of how a servant, after serving his required period of six years, wouod be set free in the seventh year, but, we read, "if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go free," he could choose to be a "love slave," and serve his master "for ever." (21:2-6) Is this not a fitting Old Testament type of the love we should have, you and I, for our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ? We know that being His servant, or slave, is a greater privilege, and brings truer freedom than even being king "of a vast domain."
Henry Van Dyke has suggested that we be ready for new challenges, as we daily seek the guidance of the Lord. The experience of two dentists illustrates how this may work out. One of these, some years ago, was well loved by his patients, and gave them good dental care. As time went by he began to write hymns, some of which are being used in many churches. He also engaged in evangelistic and pastoral work, and consequently had less and less time for his dental practice. Some of his old patients just would not give up his services, so he continued to care for them to the end, but he would not accept any new patients.
The other dentist recently sold his practice, his lovely home, complete with swimming pool, and his two new cars, all of which were paid for. He and his family had given much thought and prayerful consideration to what the Lord would have them do. After a short-term period of missionary service, they decided that the Lord was calling them to full-time commitment. Gladly and cheerfully they arranged to dispose of what they had, and what so many people seem to think would make them supremely happy, and then made arrangements to go overseas as full-time missionaries. No doubt he will have opportunity to provide dental care to many who desperately need it, along with his efforts to bring the Gospel to those who have never come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. Were not theirs wise decisions? Only eternity will tell the good these dentists were able to do, and the good you and I can do, if we are willing and obedient, and give heed to the "heavenly vision."
When James and John asked Jesus to sit, the one on the right hand, and the other on the left, He asked them if they could drink of the cup He would drink, and they said, "We can." Indeed they "drank of His cup," and one died a martyr and the other an exile. Some Christians even today are having to die a martyr's death for their Master, and many have been exiled from their native lands. May you and I be willing to do whatever in love He calls upon us to do for Him, and for the salvation of souls.