How a Real Servant ACTS

2 Tim 2 1-13 10.30 am Sun 3rd April 05

 

We have had two weeks off from our fourth purpose for being here on earth - To serve God. Last time we looked at, “What shape are you?” We each have a one off SHAPE. Here is a quick resume of what the letters S,H,A,P,E stand for, in the unique person you are.

 

S – Spiritual Gifts. We each have certain spiritual gifts, but not all of them.

H - Heart. With a heart, a love, a passion for certain activities, and subjects. Some people are passionate about football or rugby. I can’t see why! What do you enjoy? That is your heart shape.

A – Ability. With abilities, some natural talents that just need developing. If you are good at it, you should be doing it for your church! Not just for money.

P – Personality. With a unique personality. No one behaves quite like you in each and every circumstance.

E – Experience. With unique experiences as a child, in education, at work, in intimacy with God, in serving God, and enduring problems.

 

Rick Warren encourages us to prayerfully consider our gifts, abilities, likes, personality and past experiences.

 

Then consider all the variety of ministries that do happen, or could happen at this church. Is that activity, something you have always been good at, something you would like to try, something your feel God would like you to have a go at, or something you know your personality or experience suggest you could do.

 

Accept the SHAPE God has given you, and develop it for use in his service.

 

But he says, “If you see a man fall into a ditch. God expects you to get him out, not say “I don’t have the gift of mercy or service.”

 

In other words, while you may not be gifted for a particular task, you may have to do it, if no one else is around. Your primary ministry should be in accordance with your SHAPE but you may be needed in a secondary ministry. Everyone here is capable of checking all rooms at St John’s, after the service and tidying up. Including the toilets. No special talent or gift is needed. Anyone can be a servant.

 

This church has many areas where more help is needed. From people to offer an hour or two a week in addition to the paid cleaning, to people giving prayer back up to our Children’s and Youth groups. From more helpers to set up and tidy up, for Thursday’s Little Friends, and Friday and Sunday’s YPC, to people to volunteer to visit and offer prayer to every member of the congregation. We still haven’t recruited a caretaker for this building.

 

They may not be jobs that boost your pride or seem very spiritual, but they are needed for the smooth running of this church.

 

Remember what Paul says to the Corinthians –

My dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord's work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (1 Corinthians 15:58 NLT)

 

The following are signs of REAL SERVANTS

 

1       Real servants make themselves available to serve.

Have you got too much to do? Are you wondering how you will get it all done? Apart from the housebound everyone I meet say they are too busy. Being a servant is about making yourself available to serve even when it is inconvenient. Let’s face it, there are some of our own jobs that we never find a convenient.

 

Oh! And Real servants never retire. They never say, “I have done my bit, it is up to the younger ones now”. You can never retire from serving God in this life or the next.

Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters. (Galatians 6:10 NLT)

 

2       Real servants pay attention to need and look for opportunities. They anticipate need.

If you can help your neighbour now, don't say, "Come back tomorrow, and then I'll help you." (Proverbs 3:28 NLT)

 

3       Real servants do the best with their inadequate talent.

If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done. (Ecclesiastes 11:4 NLT)

 

Do you remember the parable Jesus told of three servants? Each one was given talents - In this case gold, but it could have equally been abilities.  They were asked to invest it wisely.

One kept his talent safe, but unused, and his master was not pleased with him. The other two did their best with what they were given and -

The master said, `Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let's celebrate together!' (Matthew 25:23 NLT)

 

4       Real servants do each task with equal dedication. They put their hearts into every task they do. Large or small. Important or trivial in their eyes. Easy or exhausting.

 

5       Real servants are trustworthy and faithful to their ministry.  They fulfil their commitments, keep their promises, complete the job and don’t quit if they are discouraged.

 

6       Real servants humbly serve to glorify God and his church, and they do it with a smile. Real servants never ask, “What is in it for me”. We should serve others to bring honour and glory to God and not ourselves.

This also means we must tell non Christians “WHY” we are doing something. That old lady you are visiting, or doing the shopping for, should know you are representing God and his church at St John’s.

 

Beware you don’t just serve to be thanked or feel good about yourself.

As Jesus said in Matthew 6:1-2,"Take care! Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.”

 

There are many ways you can serve God at St Johns, which many people, will never know about.  In fact many days each week are already spent by some members of the church in preparation for various activities, cleaning and tidying up, and clerical tasks.

 

7       Real servants live by the truth. They rely on God’s Holy Spirit and endure hardship for the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of God’s chose ones. As it says in to-days reading.

Real Servants are even ready to die for the sake of the gospel and their faith. Don’t worry if you don’t feel ready to die – you probably aren’t being asked, at the moment.

 

Let us look at some of God’s servants mentioned in the Bible, and see how they match up to my list.

 

Joseph

There are many examples in the life of Joseph of how a real servant of God should act. But let us consider how he reacts to his circumstances, when at age 17 he becomes a slave. You can read the story of Joseph from chapter 37 of Genesis onwards.

 

Teenagers have a general reputation of being sullen, uncooperative, and only doing exactly what they are asked, if they obey at all. They only want to do what they want to do.

 

Joseph having been abused by his brothers and sold into slavery, could have turned his grievance about his treatment, towards God.

But he continues to love God and works conscientiously and politely for his human master. May be he inspired Paul later to write -

Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. (Colossians 3:23 NLT)

 

Joseph must even offer, to do more than originally asked, as his master realises his capabilities.

But then an even worse suffering strikes, he is thrown into jail for no fault of his own.

Even in jail, I imagine he usually had a smile on his face as he becomes his jailor’s favourite. No wonder, as Joseph is happy to do much of the jailor’s work for him.

Later when still in jail, Joseph notices on the faces of two other inmates, an usually “dejected” look. I mean, don’t people usually look dejected when in prison? But Joseph spots the difference and offers help.

Looking at Joseph we can see he fulfils my list of a real servant, in the following ways.  He makes himself available, even in prison, and works with dedication, humbly with a smile. He sees the need in the dejected prisoners and offers help. Etcetera!

Gaius

One man in the NT names Gaius received the 3rd letter from John the Apostle (3 John). John is writing to thank him for  taking care of “travelling teachers”. People who Gaius doesn’t know. These teachers have told John that Gaius welcomed them with friendship and loving deeds. He is they say faithful to God and living in the truth.

It may be the same Gaius, Paul says he is staying with, in Romans 16.23 A church meets in this man’s home. Is it the same Gaius mentioned in Acts 19, who this time is travelling with Paul?

Unfortunately when an angry, confused crowd want Paul punished, for upsetting their customers, they grab Gaius instead and drag him into the amphitheatre. I bet he feared for his life. Gaius has been described, as humble, gentle man who just wanted to serve Christ and His cause.

 

Looking at my list, Gaius did make himself available and must have paid attention to detail – as he is so praised. Can you imagine being dragged into an amphitheatre for the sake of the truth?

 

Tabitha (Dorcas)

Tabitha is mentioned in Acts 9 as being a woman who “was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor.” She made coats and other garments for widows; clothes they otherwise wouldn’t have had. She was so loved by everyone, that when she died, people couldn’t imagine life without her, and sent for Peter to pray. After praying he said, “Get up Tabitha”, and she did. It was as if God was saying, "You need a servant like this around you; so I'm giving her back to you."

 

Looking at the list Tabitha obviously looked for opportunities to serve. There is no mention of Tabitha’s husband in the passage, so I presume she too, was a widow. She probably did the best she could with barley adequate material and finance. She obviously never retired.

Can you imagine how she felt emotionally, knowing the prayers and actions, taken by those who loved her, contributed to her rising from the death?

 

Jesus of course should be our main model of how to live as a servant of God. But today I just want to concentrate on ordinary people.

 

So what about present day servants of God. I’m sure most of us can name a few people we consider Real Servants of God, and their actions.

 

A couple of weeks ago when first thinking about this talk, I asked God for help. I wanted a modern day example of “A real servant of God”.

 

I also thought someone might be thinking, “Why should I serve?” And as the crowd said to Jesus in John 6:30  "You must show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What will you do for us {JESUS}? I prayed about these two issues.

 

When I picked up my regular weekly email from the Bible Societies “News watch”; I read the heading “Hostage offers captor hope and redemption”, but I didn’t realise both my prayers has been answered.

 

The story was the cover story of the Times on 16th March 2005. You can read it yourself on the web at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,1-7-1526576,00.html

Ask me if you want me to print you a copy. For now I will tell you Ashley Smith’s story in my own words.

 

In the early hours of Saturday 12th March, Ashley Smith a 26 year old Christian, poorly educated, mother and widow was held hostage at gunpoint, by a violent, escaped prisoner who burst into her flat. Her own husband, had bled to death in her arms, as a result of a knife fight four years ago.

Ashley was bound by the man, Brain Nichols, with an electrical cord, a towel put over her head, and kept a prisoner. Having been convicted of rape, he had seized a gun in the court room, and shot dead four people. He had then disappeared.

 

I guess even the most nominal Christian would pray for themselves under such circumstances. But Ashley must have prayed for the man’s salvation.

 

Brian Nichols then on the run for the capital charge of murder, in Alabama, USA was understandably very stressed and volatile. But what difference would one more rape and murder make.

 

Ashley stayed calm and empathised with him; telling him of the experience of holding her dying husband in her arms, and gradually, in time asked him to consider the distress he was causing.

 

Eventually, Brian Nichols allowed her to read to him from Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose-Driven Life”. Surprising, I thought. Why not the Bible!

 

May be Ashley, who had only become a Christian since her husband’s murder, remembered the words, “Imagine the joy of greeting people in Heaven whom you helped to get there” words from, the book, Purpose Driven Life.

 

But then the article says, she read to him the passage beginning “We serve God by serving others,” and Brian Nichols asked her to read it again. That chapter is chapter 33, our theme for today.

 

Just what are the odds of that chapter, in that book helping someone to give up on murderous intensions? What are the odds of me reading about the incident, a week after it happened, when preparing for a sermon on that chapter from that book? If I’d bought a lottery ticket, I think I would have had a better chance of winning a million. Wouldn’t you say that was a God incidence, a sign of God’s love?

 

Brian Nichols told Ashley, his life was effectively over, and worthless. Atlanta’s prison sentences are more severer than ours.

 

Ashley replied “Accept your punishment. But when you go to prison, minister to other inmates. That’s your “service to God”. Spread the message of hope, even in the midst of hopelessness.”

 

As Sunday dawned, Nichols decided he needed to move a stolen truck. He left the flat. Ashley followed in a car. The Times says, “Even then, she kept what seems to be a saintly composure. She didn’t desert Nichols, or call the police on her mobile phone. She feared another violent shoot-out, she said later.”

 

Instead, after she had driven him back to her flat, she cooked him eggs and pancakes. She showed this man, a murdering rapist, who had nothing to loose, what God’s love was like. She accepted him as a person. God’s Holy Spirit must have been with her, guiding her but she still had to endure, listen to God, and serve.

 

Then he agreed, and allowed her to leave the flat. She telephoned the police; he gave himself up; waving a white shirt.

 

From my list, Ashley certainly used the opportunity she had, with no psychology training, drew trust from her assailant, served him humbly, and endured.

 

Please remember both Ashley Smith and Brian Nichols in your prayers. May they both grow closer to God and bring many more lost people into a relationship with Jesus.

 

Do you think you aren’t worthy enough to serve God or you have already blown it? Well consider some of the servants in the Bible...

 

ABRAHAM was too old...

JACOB used to be a liar...

JOSEPH was abused as a child and adult...

MOSES had a stuttering problem...

GIDEON was afraid...

RAHAB was an ex prostitute!

JEREMIAH and TIMOTHY were too young...

DAVID had an affair and was a murderer...

ELIJAH was suicidal...

PETER denied Christ...

The Disciples fell asleep while praying...

MARTHA worried about everything...

PAUL was too religious, a Pharisee...

TABITHA was dead!…

GAIUS was in a divided church…

 

And what about Ashley Smith. This ordinary young woman, had drifted in and out of jobs  for four years since the death of her husband, when her baby was just one year old. Then she become a born again Christian.

 

What did Ashley and all the famous servants of God in the Bible have? Love for God.

 

This love translated into serving God and others in whatever way was necessary. And God was there with them, in every ACT they undertook.

 

They would say with Paul from today’s passage –

 

I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.

 

No more excuses, folks. Let's serve the Lord to the best of our ability, and with his help.