By Steve Pearman :
3 John 1-14I want to pick out three Servants in the bible to use as examples for our attitude to servanthood. I read last week a quote from someone who said, "God did not save you to be a sensation; He saved you to be a servant." I don't know who said it, but I wish a man called Diotrephes had heard it. You can carry out ministry in two ways:
In John's third letter, Diotrephes is not commended! Why? Because he refused to give hospitality and told others not to be hospitable. If they did - he would turf them out of the church! What's going on here? In the early stages of the church, an apostle would start a church in an area, teach them for a while, set them up and then move on. They did not have full-time teachers, so itinerant preachers would go from one church to another. These would require hospitality during their stay.
Why, then is Diotrephes refusing to give hospitality to visiting teachers? Verse 9, gives us the answer. John speaks of Diotrephes "who loves to be first.....and will have nothing to do with us." The visiting speakers were viewed by Diotrephes as a threat to his leadership. Maybe they didn't teach the things he wanted, perhaps they were better speakers than him, it could have been that he felt that they stole the limelight. But that's not what ministry is all about.
Ministry in Christ's church is about servanthood. Some people think that a good leader in a church is one who takes the helm and says to the rest, "we're going this way - and you are coming with me." Some people think that a good church leader is one who throws himself or herself into everything - taking all the meetings, planning every activity, being a one-man/woman ministry. But that's not being a biblically-based leader. A good leader will encourage others to get involved. He will train up others to lead. A good leader will quite often appear to be putting himself out of a job, because he is serving Christ and His people.
What does John say he will do to Diotrephes? He will expose him for what he is if he comes. It only takes one person to stop a church from doing the Lord's bidding. One man. One woman. The work, witness, and worship of a church can be bound up because of a Diotrephes in the congregation. If we discover such a person in our church, we need to expose them for the sake of our heavenly Father. We are called to be servants not masters. Christ is the head, our Master.
In contrast, we note that John is writing to a man named Gaius. This man is an outstanding servant. He IS showing hospitality to travelling teachers (verse 5). He is welcoming strangers; and John describes him as walking in the truth. Gaius was a humble, gentle man who just wanted to serve Christ and His cause.
Jesus spoke often about putting yourself last. When you serve - don't make some big song and dance over it. Don't boast about what you've done because, in truth, it's not you that have done it - it's Christ who has worked through you. God knows what you do. You don't have to wave your arms to attract His attention. He will see your acts and will reward you.
Col 4:14. Paul talks about Demas as a fellow worker with him and with Dr. Luke. But later on in Paul's life, Demas did something that must have broke the heart of Paul. In 2 Timothy 4:10 we read Paul's words: "for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica." He worked with Paul - the great church planter, the apostle to the Gentiles. He could have done marvellous things for the sake of God's kingdom; but he abandoned it all. Why? Because he fell in love with the world.
Read 1 John 2:15-17: Loving the world means going after material pleasures, aiming for human goals, liking earthly things more than spiritual things. To follow Christ and serve Him and for Him, you have to give up loving the world. It's a different way of living. How do you know whether you are loving the world more than Christ? I think if you stop for a moment and analyse your decision-making, you will get a good idea where your priorities lie.
Here's some questions that might come your way:
If you are scoring more times on the worldly side than on the spiritual side, come before the Lord and seek His help in getting your perspective right. Because it doesn't take much to become a Demas.
Acts 9:36: Tabitha (Dorcas). If ever you wanted a true example of servanthood, you should turn to Tabitha. Here is what Luke says about her in Acts 9: She was always doing good and helping the poor. She continually poured out goodness to others. Reading between the lines, we can imagine a lady who gave up her life in order to serve people. We know she was a follower of Jesus Christ. She wanted to love and serve others as Christ had loved and served her.
She is giving great service to people and (verse 37) right in the middle of this, she dies. Her body was washed and placed in an upper room. Peter happened to be in a neighbouring town, so they went to him and urged him to come at once. Tabitha was so loved by the people there, they could not imagine life without her. They went to Peter and he said he would come.
They took him to the upper room where a group of widows stood weeping and holding the clothes that Tabitha used to make for them. They were honouring her. These widows were saying, "This lady loved us and served us. She gave of her time and energy for us. We didn't even own any clothes before she came, but Tabitha made some for us." Peter was so moved by this that he prayed and called Tabitha to rise. She sat up, and the widows were called in. It was as if God was saying, "You need a servant like this around you; so I'm giving her back to you." Tabitha made garments for needy widows. She loved and she served in small acts of kindness. She used her gifts to make them count for the sake of Christ.
What kind of servant are you - in your home, at work, with friends, in your street, around the church?
Father, I'm ready to serve You; I bring my life to Your throne. And all I have, Lord I give You, take me and all that I own.
I know I've not been committed to serve You all of my days; but now Lord I just want to give You my best endeavour and praise.
- SJP (1996)
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