Today we will look at the battle that rages inside every one of us that stops us from having momentum in our life. That battle is between selfishness and being selfless. I don't know about you, but there is this natural inclination inside me that wants to look out for number one.
Something inside of me makes me think about myself first and others, well, not so much. Even though I know what Jesus says about living the life of a servant, I have found it's easy to blow off how He lived and what He said.
I'm disappointed in myself.
I can see a need and look away and never even raise a finger to help because it is all about me.
I find great comfort to know that Jesus' disciples struggled with this as well. If you read through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, there is one issue that comes up repeatedly for the disciples. Which one of them is the greatest? It seems like they were always vying to be number one. They thought fulfillment and a life of meaning came from making their name great.
Mark 9:33-37 says, "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. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in His arms, He said to them, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me but the One who sent Me."
The disciples were probably trailing behind Jesus, having their typical fight over which of them was the best. When they went into the house, Jesus asked them what they were arguing about. The disciples got really quiet because they knew that their fight was out of line with the teachings and the life of Christ. After a moment of silence, Jesus took a small child; the Greek tells us that the child was probably a toddler, probably just able to walk to Jesus when He called, and Jesus placed this child in front of the disciples.
The book of Matthew gives us a little more detail about what Jesus said to the disciples.
Jesus said, "I tell you the truth unless you change and become like a little child, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3-4
Jesus looks at His disciples and says, "Guys, I want you to think about this child. A child is dependent and helpless. A child doesn't have any ambition to be great in the eyes of anyone else. Gentlemen, if you want to rise in My kingdom, you must make yourself low. The one who genuinely considers himself the least is the one who God considers the greatest."
The disciples must have thought that Jesus was joking because two chapters later, the issue over who is the greatest comes up again.
This time James and John's mom come up to Jesus, and she asks if her sons could sit at the places of honor when Jesus came into His kingdom. Every one of the disciples believed that Jesus was going to set up an earthly kingdom, and she just wanted the best seats in the house for her two boys.
Now, you can't blame Mom for this. All she wants is the very best for her kids, but when the other disciples heard her request, they got mad.
"24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers." Matthew 20:24
I can hear them now, "James and John, you guys are a bunch of momma's boys. I can't believe you put your mom up to this."
Why are these guys so mad? I think they are mad because they didn't think about doing this first.
“25 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 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-- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:25-28 (NIV)
Why is Jesus so frustrated with the disciples? What is wrong with being successful and rising to the top? There is nothing wrong with that. God has no problem with successful people. Abraham, Joseph, Job, David, Nehemiah; all of those people were successful and ambitious, but they kept their priorities straight. They didn't strut their stuff; for the most part, they kept their eyes on God and wanted to please Him in everything they said and did.
They used their position not to gain glory or notoriety for themselves, but they used their position to help others and advance the kingdom of God. Isn't this what we are supposed to be about?
Philippians 2:3-4 says that we are to "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others."
Circle that word nothing. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
When we make any aspect of our life about ourselves, we are heading for trouble. Let me tell you about pride. Pride makes us believe that we are bigger and smarter, and quicker than everyone else. It causes us to look down on others, and it makes us believe that certain things are beneath us. Of course, the antidote to selfishness and pride is humility and servanthood.
Being a humble person doesn't mean you are a doormat. It doesn't mean that you let other people walk all over you. Being humble means you have an accurate understanding of who you are and whose you are in Christ. So, who are you?
We are also children of God, and we represent Him in every word and deed. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We are supposed to not only do acts of service but also to be servants in every environment we enter. We are to be the ones who see a need and then meet that need.
Can you imagine how radically different our world would be if we decided that the highest title, the highest goal in life, was to be a servant? Can you imagine how different everything in our life would be if we chose to serve others rather than be served?
I wonder if we got serious about this, how many more needs could we as a church needs meet in our community. It is easy to come to a church like this and think, "they don't need my service. They have it all covered." You're wrong, friend. You're wrong. There is so much more that could be done.
What would it look like if we were servants in our homes?
Jesus said we would be blessed if we lived like this. Do you know what that means? It means there would be a joy inside of us that would fill us with purpose and peace in our lives.
A few months ago, I realized that my wife doesn't ever sit down at night and watch a show or read a book. She is always running around making supper, cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, getting the kids ready for bed. And here I am, lying on the couch flipping channels.
God began to convict me about this, so I made my girls do more around the house. No. I decided to serve my wife.
When you study what Jesus means when He says He wants us to be a servant, He does not just talk about serving for a few hours as a volunteer. Jesus is talking about serving others in every aspect of our life, so I learned how to use a vacuum. I clear off the table after we eat. I fold laundry.
Two things have happened.
And that's the rub, isn't it? I mean, if we could just do it once in a while, that would be ok. But they expect you to keep doing it, and let's be honest, we aren't sure if we want to do that, but when we are serving others, we find joy. It is in serving others that we find purpose, and it is in serving others where we feel the smile of God upon us. Try meeting every need you see these next 30 days. I bet you will be more blessed than you have ever been in your life.
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