Volunteering vs. Servanthood

Back in the ’70s Servanthood became a theme in ministry circles. Wanting to be an obedient follower of Christ, I prayed for a servant’s heart. I already enjoyed serving others and extending hospitality. Yet I knew some selfishness tainted my new desire.  I thought my attitude probably needed a little improvement to be just right.

Soon opportunity arrived from a couple needing housing for a few weeks. We gladly welcomed them to sleep in our basement and share the whole house with us. Soon the wife made herself at home upstairs, sitting for hours in my kitchen pouring out her hurts and bitterness to me.

She never offered to help with anything! Servanthood did not emerge from me; resentment did. The Lord showed me that I wanted to serve on my terms, in my time. But that’s volunteering, not Servanthood. The Lord revealed my true heart. But seeing doesn’t guarantee change. Decades later, I must pray almost daily to overcome my servant-resistant heart.

Christ modelled Servanthood for us when He said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” He knew exactly what The One Who Sent Him had in mind at the end of three years: Calvary. Yet He counted “the joy set before Him” as worth it. The joy for Him was destroying the power of death and sin plus fellowship with believers, now and forever.

Many times I’ve begged God to show me the joy set before me when Servanthood brought suffering. Most often I’ve had to accept a plain box, sealed until God chooses to open it and show me. I’ve had to rely on faith with no sight. Only God’s promises sustained me because my feelings found no joy. But my heart knew more as grace enabled me to persevere.

Maybe grace is the joy! Grace to not let Satan win, grace to not turn mean or fall apart, grace to not bail on difficult people, grace to wait for the storm to pass, grace to receive peace with pain and serenity with suffering, and grace to be gracious.

Volunteering is easy unless it morphs into Servanthood. Then your best intentions won’t hold. You will need grace all the way. God reminds us that it’s there for the taking. In Hebrews 12:15, we’re urged, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God…” Go for it, now.

What would that look like in your life today? What would your prayer be for your specific situation?