You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, And called from its farthest regions, And said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away: (Isaiah 41:9)
Servanthood is never an easy road. If ever a characteristic of the Christian life sums up the ‘strait and narrow road, it’s this. The world – often starting with family and friends – simply doesn’t understand the concept, and the pressure to turn aside is often intense, especially when the going is tough or things just don’t seem to validate our faith and obedience. It’s very easy to get despondent, and many Christians turn away or simply cease to serve, often believing that they have nothing of value to offer or have made one mistake too many. Because of how the world relates to humility and our call to servanthood, it’s easy to mistakenly apply the same measurement of success or failure to our Christian endeavours.
When God issues the call to servanthood, it’s never retracted. God Himself is faithful to the call He places on each one of us.
The first thing we need to grab hold of is that every single person who receives salvation also receives a call to servanthood. The very premise on which salvation is based is that of a sovereign God with the unlimited power to forgive all sin. Salvation is also His process of restoring us to original purpose – to bring Him glory. In simple terms, we were created to live to the glory of God.
Mention ‘servanthood,’ and many will leap to the erroneous understanding that this is ministry. This is very far from the truth. Ministry is a type of servanthood but not the whole of it. To be a servant simply means to live to please our master, so every single believer automatically becomes a servant of God when born again. If we’re a citizen of heaven, we’re a servant of God. The nature of our servanthood may vary depending on the unique talents and spiritual gifts God has given us to use in His service. Some will be preachers, prophets, teachers, or evangelists. Some will be used in healing and deliverance. Others may be called to serve as deacons or in other ‘ministry of helps’ functions. Not everyone is called to serve full time, to be a missionary, or to pastor a church, but this fact does not diminish their obligation and responsibility to serve.
Often, disappoints come into our lives because we wrongly perceive our role or service. The incorrect assumption that servanthood equals ministry sends many believers in pursuit of ministries that are not part of their real call to servanthood. As a result, things fall apart or simply never move forward and grow, and disappointment and despondency creep in. The perception then is often that we have somehow ‘failed God’ and put ourselves out of the picture – that is, after all, how the ‘real world’ treats people who have failed in their responsibilities. They’re sidelined and subjected to a kind of ‘had your chance’ attitude. Unlike the world, when God issues the call to servanthood, He never, ever recalls the commission.
This is the crux of today’s verse. While it may sound ‘spiritual’ and hence only relevant to those who have ‘important’ callings, it is actually the echo of the call to servanthood given to each believer. It’s very important to remember the principles on which servanthood works in the kingdom of God. In His eyes, no believer is any more important than another, despite their calling or how significant it might seem. Moses is as important to His kingdom as the simple, unassuming person whose acts of kindness or generosity are never noticed, or the one who quietly washes the teacups after morning service. The importance of our call is identical. It is only the nature or outworking of it that may vary.
The Bible reminds us that God so loved the world. He has no favourites and no special criteria we have to somehow meet in order to qualify for servanthood. He has called each and every one of us into His kingdom and His family. We were sinners all, and we’re all subject to the same temptations, weaknesses, and mistakes. We are called from different places, different walks of life, different sins, and different circumstances, but our call is identical. First, we are called to salvation. Second, we have a clear and unequivocal – and identical – call to servanthood.
We don’t have to ‘do’ anything to fulfill it except be obedient. A humble and obedient heart will always be honoured by God. If we have willingly surrendered to Him and make an active choice to serve Him – to live always for His glory in all we say, think or do – then He will direct us according to His will and purposes. A friendly greeting on the bus or a genuine compliment may restore a heavy and downcast soul. This is servanthood – sharing God’s love. It may well be the thing that turns someone from a tragic course or encourages them to continue in their faith.
The real truth is that the ‘success’ of our servanthood may never be seen in this life. We don’t always see what God accomplishes through us. Our role may simply be sowing the seed, and only in heaven will we see those who came to Christ as a result. The quiet and seemingly fruitless obedience is as important as the dynamic and vibrant evangelism that brings hundreds or even thousands to Christ. Despondency in service is natural because we still operate according to worldly expectations. We want to see results, to see value and relevance, but that’s not the way God works a lot of the time. I thank Him for that, because we could all too easily become puffed up with pride. The important thing is to always see our call to servanthood as God sees it – important enough for Jesus to die so that it could be accomplished.
God knows that we’re going to mess up, make mistakes, and fail along the way. In fact, we can be encouraged by the truth that He knows even before we do it. By His grace, we’re not measured by that. We’re only measured by our love for Him, our worship, and our willing and obedient hearts. God Himself is faithful to His call to servanthood. This means that, when we fluff it, we’re not disqualified. We’re simply a servant who fluffed it. If our hearts are right, He will work in us to use it to our good. It also means that He is faithful to empower and enable us. Whatever the outworking of our call to servanthood may be, we can be absolutely certain that He will provide everything we need to fulfill it.
Times of disappointment and despondency are natural. We’re all human, and God knows that too. Today’s verse is one for those moments. It’s our encouragement to haul ourselves up from the muck of failure and turn to Him. It’s our promise to hold onto as we renew our commitment to the call to servanthood that defines how we live. It’s our hope and faith that, as we walk in His will, He will make the way clear before us, He will restore us, and He will perfect that which He has begun. God will never cast His servants aside, no matter how many times we fall and fail.
Thank You, Lord, for Your grace. Draw us close to You, and renew in us Your call to servanthood. Guide us each step of the way, reveal Your will, and empower us to live our lives to bring glory to You.