Throughout the Scriptures we find that the people of God are repeatedly called the servants of the Lord. This is a great truth. Many examples of outstanding servants of the Lord in Scripture can be cited. Moses the man of God is often called the servant of the Lord. He was himself a beautiful picture of what it means to be the servant of the Lord. Godly king David often refers to himself by the designation servant of the Lord, especially in his prayers to the Lord. We find that the faithful prophets of God in the Old Testament are constantly referred to as servants of the Lord. In the New Testament we find the apostles often beginning their letters with reference to the fact that they are the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only do we find that the special leaders of the people of God are called the servants of the Lord but we find that all of God’s people are called by that name. In the beautiful prayer of Hannah in which she prayed so earnestly for a son from the Lord she makes, the confession concerning herself: “the handmaid of the Lord.” Even the child Samuel, when the Lord called him during the night, was to answer, “Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.” Nehemiah, when praying to God for Israel, says, “Now these are Thy servants and Thy people, whom Thou hast redeemed by Thy great power, and by Thy strong hand” (Nehemiah 1:10). When the virgin mother Mary was told the wonderful news that she would become the mother of the Lord Jesus she answered the angel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word.” After the aged Simeon had seen the Lord’s Christ he said with joy in his heart, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word.” We find in many of the parables of the Lord that He refers to His people as servants in His kingdom. On the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon the church, Peter declares that this Spirit was poured out according to the promise of God upon the servants and handmaids of the Lord.
Our Lord Jesus Himself is the supreme example of the servant of the Lord. He gave Himself completely for the service of the Lord. He came not to do His own will but the will of His heavenly Father. He so humbled Himself that He took upon Himself the form of a servant. He sacrificed Himself on the cross. He was perfectly obedient to His heavenly Father. He sought not His own glory but the glory of the righteousness and holiness of God. He came not to be ministered unto but to minister unto His people that He might bring them all to salvation.
It is really a tremendous thing to be a servant of the Lord. There is nothing more blessed and glorious for man. Are we profoundly conscious of our calling as the redeemed people of God to be the servants of the Lord? This is a practical reality for our lives. Those who call God their sovereign Lord and God must confess that they are His servants and they must live and act like the servants of the Lord. Otherwise, of course, all of our confession of the sovereignty of God means nothing and we are but hypocrites.
To be the servants of the Lord means that we know and acknowledge God as our sovereign Lord and Master. It means that we see as our whole obligation and responsibility only to obey and serve God. It means that we understand that God has given us work to do and that we faithfully perform that work. We understand that God has saved us by His grace. He has freely given us all things. He gave us even the wonderful gift of His Son Jesus Christ. He gave us all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. All that God has in love given to us cannot possibly be measured. Christianity however is not just knowing and receiving from God, as wonderful as this is. It also involves serving God, our Lord and our Savior. We must serve Him because He made us and because He redeemed us. There is no other reason why He leaves us in the midst of His world than that we must serve Him. Any man who does not serve God is a rebel against Him and he will be justly condemned to eternal destruction. If we do not serve the Lord we do not love Him and we are not truly thankful for His wonderful salvation.
To understand what it means to be the servants of the Lord we must begin by putting away all vain notions about this that are so current among many who call themselves Christians. We must always proceed from the great truth of the absolute sovereignty of God. In all things we must proceed from this most central of all truths. God is sovereign over us because He made us. He sovereignly gave us our life, our breath, and all things. We have nothing of ourselves. Daily the Lord sustains our life. In Him we live and move and have our being. Without Him we are nothing, and we can do nothing. The Lord is sovereign over us because He redeemed us through the death of His Son Jesus Christ. We were once guilty damn-worthy sinners, totally depraved, unable to serve God with any good, dead in trespasses and sins: The Lord, by a sovereign and almighty operation of His grace and Spirit, made us alive. He made us new creatures, creating us after the image of His Son in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. He transformed us from being the servants of the devil to being the servants of the true and living God of heaven and earth. God sovereignly made us His servants. We must not imagine that God needed us to be His servants, that He would have been hopelessly at a loss without us. Some men vainly think that God cannot get along without them and that His great cause and kingdom will never prosper without them. The Lord of heaven and earth does not dwell in temples made with hands, nor is He worshiped by men’s hands as though He needs anything. We must not imagine that when we serve the Lord we give to God something of ourselves. In all of our service to the Lord we can never give Him anything that He has not first given to us. All that we have, including our very life, all our talents, all of our possessions we have only because the Sovereign God has given them to us. We must not imagine that when we serve the Lord we begin somehow to repay Him for all that He has given to us. That is forever entirely impossible for us to do. The very fact that we have been made to be the servants of the Lord is a wonderful gift of His grace. It is an honor and glory that God has bestowed upon us, though we were by nature wholly undeserving of it. When the Lord did not need us at all and when we could not at all serve Him of ourselves nor give anything to Him, He of His own good pleasure made us His servants. He is pleased to work in us and through us for the glory of His own name.
The Bible clearly outlines what is required of the servants of the Lord. First of all they must do the will of the Lord and perform the work which He has ordained for them. Absolute obedience is the first requirement of the servant of the Lord. We must not seek our own will nor imagine that we can advise God on what we should do. The servant of the Lord is one who submits absolutely to the will of the Lord. He does not question or challenge the Word of the Lord because He knows that the Word of the Lord is the word of the absolutely wise and just and good sovereign God of heaven and earth. The only calling of the servant of the Lord is to know and do the will of the Lord. Never may he do his own will. There are absolutely no substitutes for the servant of the Lord to surrendering his own will completely to the will of the Lord. No matter what happens to the servant of the Lord, this and this alone must he do. The only thing that can enable a man who is by nature a rebellious sinner against God to do this is the almighty and irresistible power of the Spirit of God in Him.
The servant of the Lord must be humble. The proud man cannot be the servant of the Lord. In humility the servant of the Lord acknowledges the absolute Lordship of God over His life. The servant of the Lord knows his own smallness before his infinitely great and mighty Lord. He knows his own worthlessness and depravity before his perfectly righteous and holy Lord. The servant of the Lord knows his complete dependence upon his Lord. It is only by His grace and strength that the servant of the Lord can do anything at all. The very fact that the Lord should continue to have him as His servant is the reason for humble gratitude and praise on the part of the true servant of the Lord. Never does the servant of the Lord boast in his own works. He glories in the Lord alone who enables him to do all that he does. In humble gratitude to God he offers to the Lord what God has first given to him.
The servant of the Lord must be meek. He must never seek his own advantage and glory. Often in the world the servant of the Lord is mocked, ridiculed, and persecuted for the Lord’s sake. But he does not insist upon his own honor and glory among men. He is willing to be put to shame before men as long as the name of his Lord and master is glorified and as long as he does His will. The servant of the Lord remembers how his Lord was crucified because He was hated and rejected by men. The servant of the Lord remembers the words of his master that the servant is not greater than his Lord. In meekness the servant of the Lord is willing to suffer for well-doing that the Lord’s name might be praised. The servant of the Lord does not seek vengeance against his evil persecutors because he knows that vengeance belongs alone unto his Lord and Master.
The servant of the Lord must be willing to sacrifice his all for his Lord. He knows that all that he has really belongs to the Lord. Therefore he will withhold nothing in the service of the Lord. He gives freely and liberally his money unto the service of the Lord. He is willing if necessary to sell all that he has and give all to the Lord. To do anything less than that would be to keep back rebelliously from the Lord the very things He has given to us. The servant of the Lord gives of his time, his talents, his energies for the service of the Lord. Above all he gives himself and his own heart unto the Lord. A person who is self-centered therefore cannot be a servant of the Lord. A person who keeps most of what he has received of the Lord while imagining that the Lord will be satisfied with a few meager offerings which represent only his leftovers cannot be the servant of the Lord. This matter of sacrificing unto the Lord is extremely difficult. Very few even among those who call themselves Christians are willing to do that. All these are disqualified for the service of the Lord. A person who is consumed with the lusts of the flesh and the pride of this life cannot be a servant of the Lord. One who loves money and seeks only to aggrandize himself and increase in this world’s goods cannot be the servant of the Lord. The true servant of the Lord does not even count his own life dear to him when he is called upon to sacrifice it for the Lord’s sake. He is willing to suffer extreme poverty and terrible hardship for the Lord’s sake. The true servant of the Lord would count it a great blessing and honor to suffer and even to die for his Lord.
The servant of the Lord must be zealously devoted unto the Lord. Service of the Lord is a deeply spiritual matter which requires the offering of one’s heart unto the Lord. The Lord is not pleased with mere outward ceremony and ritual. No matter how great a man’s works may appear to men, in God’s sight they are worth nothing unless they are offered in faith and devotion to Him. The servant of the Lord must constantly burn with fervent love and devotion unto his Lord. The Lord hates lukewarmness in His servants. He requires sincere and wholehearted devotion unto Him.
The servant of the Lord must be holy in all of his life. God will not be served by evil and corrupt men. If there is any unconfessed sin that is not repented of in our life it will hinder us in the service of the Lord. If we defile ourselves with the corrupt philosophy and practice of the world we will not be able to serve the Lord. In the service of the Lord we must show forth holiness, righteousness, and truth in all our life. The life of the servant of the Lord must manifest the mercy and love of God. Those who have hearts full of bitterness and wrath and cruelty cannot be the servants of the Lord.
The servant of the Lord must be steadfastly committed unto the Lord. The Lord has no part-time servants. Nothing in life must deter the servant of the Lord from his calling and obligation. The servant of the Lord cannot be satisfied with serving the Lord in only certain areas of his life while keeping other areas for himself and the world. The servant of the Lord must constantly be on his guard against every temptation that might draw him away from the Lord. He must constantly cleave unto the Lord his God and find all his strength from Him so that he does not become discouraged nor fail in his service.
The above-named characteristics of the Lord’s servants are very simple and basic. We have all learned of them before. We can see them all portrayed in the servants of the Lord mentioned in Scripture and especially in the great Servant of the Lord Who is the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet it is necessary for us to consider them over and over again. We need constantly to examine our own lives whether we are truly living as servants of the Lord. Where we have failed we must repent in true sorrow of heart before the Lord. Each day we must seek again to be more faithful in our service for the Lord.
In the next several articles in this department we shall consider some of the practical implications of being the servants of the Lord in the various areas of our life.