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 (Manna 86: Go and Make Disciples of All Nations)
As a Servant
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Joshua Phoong—Ipoh, Malaysia

Editor’s note: The Lord’s Great Commission to the disciples, recorded in Matthew 28:18–19, is well known to Christians. Throughout the centuries, many have been inspired to obey this directive. Some have lived to see the results of their labor—winning converts, establishing churches and, as we can see from some celebrity evangelists, even garnering fame and fortune. But there are those who have left family and familiarity to travel to far-flung corners of the world, persevering through physical deprivation, only to meet rejection and loss of life. What would sustain us if the latter scenario—exactly what our Lord Himself suffered during His ministry—were what we encounter in our service? One important factor is to have the mind of Christ: a servant’s mind (Phil 2:5–8).In this article, the author shares with us what being a servant entails.

When the Lord Jesus Christ was en-route to Jerusalem with His disciples, He was approached by the mother of James and John with a request: “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.” The Lord replied, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink that cup that I am about to drink?” They then answered, “We are able” (Mt 20:21–22). When the other ten disciples heard of this incident, they were upset. Perhaps they too wanted to occupy these positions of power. If these brothers’ request were granted, where would the rest of the disciples sit? Jesus seized this opportunity to teach His disciples about servanthood. He emphasized that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28).

Jesus came to serve men and to give them salvation. Christians—literally, followers of Christ—must walk in His footsteps. We follow our Lord Jesus Christ in many ways but, most importantly, we must follow His example of servanthood.

Servanthood is not merely theory; it is a way of life. Our lives must testify that we are servants of the Lord God. To know how much like our Lord Jesus we are in this aspect, we must examine whether we have the following attributes:


And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ” (Lk 17:7–10)

After the servant has finished his duties and returns to the master’s house, he does not expect the master to invite him to take a rest and recline at the table. Rather, he will have to prepare and serve his master’s supper. Only when the master has eaten and drunk his fill can the servant assuage his own hunger and thirst. After every instruction is carried out, no thanks from the master is expected or given. This is the life of a servant.

When our Lord Jesus Christ was in this world, He led a very hectic life. He had to busy Himself over many things, but He accepted that He had come not to do His own will, but that of the heavenly Father (Jn 4:34). This was the work entrusted to Him. Similarly, if we want to follow our Lord Jesus Christ and be a servant, we would complete our duties faithfully with no demand for reward (Lk 17:7). We may baptize hundreds, but we do not expect our Master to go out of His way to thank us.


Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; but He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” (Lk 4:42–43)

During His ministry, our Lord Jesus Christ moved from village to village, city to city, to bring the gospel of the kingdom to the people. That was the purpose for which He had been sent to this world. He had no time to rest because He had to complete the work entrusted to Him.

The people wanted to prevent Jesus from leaving because it was good to have Jesus—Provider, Healer, Teacher—with them. However, He was not distracted from His task, knowing the urgency of preaching the kingdom of God to all. The Bible tells us that we must work while it is day. When night comes, we will not be able to work. While we have the opportunity, we must use it to do the work of the Lord. One day, when the door of salvation is closed, even if we wanted to preach the gospel, we would not be able to do so. As the Lord’s servants, we must be driven by a deep sense of urgency to complete the commission entrusted to us by the Lord Jesus Christ.


Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Lk 9:57–58).

Jesus bluntly described what it is like to follow Him. Even animals have a home to return to, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head. In other words, we must expect a busy life if we want to follow our Lord Jesus Christ—a life without rest, a life lived to accomplish the will of God, with no time for ourselves.

In the example the Lord Jesus used in Luke 17, after the servant had completed his work in the field, he returned to the master’s house to prepare the master’s supper. This servant was probably extremely weary and hungry from his work in the fields. However, because he was a servant, he was ordered to prepare supper. As servants, we too are expected to give priority to the affairs of our Master. We may have our own needs, but our Master’s needs and His call take priority.

Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”

But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”

Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”

And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”

But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:59–62)

These two individuals wanted to follow our Lord Jesus Christ. However, they were unable to give priority to His work. There were other things in their lives they considered important and wanted to do before following Him. Our Lord teaches us that people who put their own needs above the call of the Lord God are not worthy. We must always prioritize the affairs of our Master above our own needs and affairs (Mt 10:37, 39).


In Luke 17:8, the master instructs the servant to gird himself and be ready to serve him. A servant must always be ready to serve when his master calls. No good servant is caught unprepared when the master needs him.

Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.” (Lk 12:35–37)

Such is the proper attitude of a servant pleasing to the master: he is ready at all times to immediately answer the call of his master. Today, we hear repeatedly that workers are still needed to take the gospel to the rest of the world, to other nations and peoples. Are we ready to spring to our feet at any time to answer this call of our Lord Jesus?


The servant has no opinion of his own. His exhaustion or desire to rest is irrelevant. He must be ready at all times to respond and serve his master. Sometimes, in our service to God, we take time to consider whether we would like to do the work before we agree.

Acts 8 tells us the story of Philip, who preached the gospel to Samaria. Many came to believe and were baptized in Samaria, and when the apostles came to lay hands on them, they received the Holy Spirit. After a while, the apostles returned to Jerusalem. There were now new members in Samaria, who probably needed Philip to pastor them (Acts 8:4–8, 14–17). However, when an angel of the Lord told Philip to go down to the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, Philip arose and went. He never questioned this command. There was much work to do in Samaria because the believers were newly baptized. However, as a true servant, Philip obeyed the calling of the Spirit without question, converting the Ethiopian eunuch on that desert road (Acts 8:26–39).

In this age, the calling of the Lord is through the church. When the church in Antioch sent Saul and Barnabas, the Holy Spirit instructed them to set apart these two workers for the work (Acts 13:1–3). Given a choice, the church would probably have wanted Saul and Barnabas to remain because they were the first preachers to pastor there. However, when the church was moved by the Holy Spirit, they obeyed.

Therefore, whether individually or as a church, servants of the Lord have no opinion with regard to their calling. They submit absolutely to the direction of the Holy Spirit. This too is what we must be able to do. Like Philip, we may be doing fine pastoral work amidst a large and thriving community in our respective churches. But if we are suddenly plucked out and asked to evangelize to just a single person or a small group in a remote place, we must go willingly and joyfully, reminding ourselves that a true servant submits to the direction of the Lord Jesus through His Holy Spirit.


Common courtesy requires us to thank people when they have rendered us a service. But will the master thank the servant after he has completed his work? Luke 17:9 indicates that masters do not have to thank their servants. After all, the servant is only doing the work that he has been told to do; he is just doing his part. Likewise, for us today, when we have completed the work entrusted to us, we should not expect thanks or praise from others.

Only two types of people seek after praise: the self-righteous and the hypocrite. In Jesus’ parable, the Pharisee prays, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess” (Lk 18:11–12). This Pharisee seems to be worried that the Lord God does not know of his good works. Therefore, he has to tell the Lord all the good that he has done. He also wants to compare himself to the tax collector next to him. Self-righteous people love to tell others what they have done and exalt themselves above others. Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us that people who exalt themselves will be humbled (Lk 18:14). He also describes the behavior of hypocrites:

And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” (Mt 6:5)

Hypocrites love to show off their work to others. They love to receive the praises of men. When they have no audience, they may not do the work at all. Yet, when others are present, they work assiduously to earn the praise of men. We must not be like these people: we must do our work, whether in secret or in plain view. Only then are we truly faithful servants.

In fact, servants are not always aware of their own great works. In Matthew 25:31–40, Jesus describes the final judgment, when He will come to separate the sheep and the goats. The righteous sheep on His right will say: “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You or thirsty and give You drink?” (Mt 25:37). And the King will reply: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Mt 25:40).

These righteous servants were unaware of the good work they had done because they did not do it to be seen by men. They did not do it for a reward. Doing this good work, even to the least of their brethren, was only natural to them. However, the Lord has seen and will reward them for their good work. We must strive to be these true servants: to do what is required of us without thinking of the reward.


So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ” (Lk 17:10)

Does the Lord profit from our work? The Lord does not need us, as we are mere mortals and sinners. His work can and will definitely be accomplished, without us.

Esther 4 reminds us of this. At that time, the Persian king had passed a decree to annihilate the Jews. Mordecai sent a message to Esther, who was the queen, telling her to petition the king for her people. However, Esther explained her predicament: anyone who goes to the inner court without the king’s summons could be put to death, and the king had not called her for thirty days. She thought it was impossible for her to go before the king to plead for her people.

Mordecai replied to Esther:

Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Est 4:13–14)

Mordecai’s point was clear: God had allowed Esther to rise to become queen for this very moment—to plead to the king for the life of the Jews. If she did not do this work, she and her family would perish. But for the rest of the Jews, deliverance and relief would still come, if not through the hands of Esther, then through another way.

When we are able to do the work of the Lord God, it is not because of our outstanding capabilities, but because He shows us favor. It is not because we are indispensable to the work of the Lord, but because His grace is with us. We have been given opportunity and great privilege to be the Lord’s servant and participate in the work of the Lord.

In 1 Corinthians 15:9, Paul claims to be the least of the apostles because he had been a persecutor of the church of God. He confesses:

For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Cor 15: 9–10)

Even though Paul had labored more than others, he attributed this to the grace of God. If not for God’s grace, Paul would not have been able to do the work of the Lord.

We once visited a believer who was bedridden with cancer. He told us that if the Lord God healed him, he would surely do the work of God. He was a member of the church, but had not been fervent. When he fell ill, he wanted to do more for the Lord God. Sadly, he passed away soon after that. This is an example of one who did not take the opportunity to work for God when he had time. Today, we have received opportunities to pastor, to evangelize, to serve. We must be thankful for this grace of God and make good use of every opportunity, to be a faithful servant of the Lord until the very end.


At the beginning of our Christian lives, it is easy to serve humbly. But as we progress along our journey of faith, it becomes more challenging to remain an obedient servant of the Lord.

Saul began his kingship as a humble man (1 Sam 10:16, 27) and good servant (1 Sam 11:6, 13). As time passed, his position went to his head. In 1 Samuel 15, the Lord instructed Saul to destroy the Amalekites. Saul fought with the Amalekites and was victorious because God was with him. However, Saul did not destroy all of them. He spared the life of Agag and the best of the cattle. Samuel rebuked him.

When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the LORD anoint you king over Israel? Now the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the LORD?” (1 Sam 15:17–18)

Despite this, Saul still insisted he was in the right. He claimed that it was the people who had brought back the best of the cattle to sacrifice to the Lord. But Samuel became even more severe.

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,

As in obeying the voice of the LORD?

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,

And to heed than the fat of rams.

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,

And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.

Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,

He also has rejected you from being king.” (1 Sam 15:22–23)

When we start off as nobodies, we can be obedient servants. However, as we grow, we start to feel that we are very important in the work of God. We think that the work will not be done without us. With that mindset, we cannot be obedient servants. We start to have—and stubbornly cling to—our own opinions and thinking; we begin to prioritize these in our lives and service. This is not a servant’s heart.

No matter how great the offerings and labors we render to God, if we cannot obey in the smallest matters, then we cannot please our Master. Do we deem our time and energy as too valuable to spend on the lowliest tasks? Are we able to humbly co-operate with our fellow servants to follow God’s will?

Let us examine our service and consider what we have learnt from the servanthood of Jesus—to have His mind, and to become and remain true servants of God. Amen.

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Author: Joshua Phoong
Publisher: True Jesus Church
Date: 09/28/2018