¡°REFLECTION ON SERVANTHOOD¡± By Pastor YAU
Text: 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 May 11, 2014.
1) In political arena: Historically many of the presidential candidates in the United States came from members of the US Congress, and the Congress has been ranked the lowest in job approval rating in many recent years. We should not be surprised to see that most of the presidents in recent decades didn't do good job, in the most part, because they came from a political institution, the US Congress that has been consistently rated so low in their job performance. How can we expect someone comes as a failure in his background to do a better job once he becomes the president? Most politicians got their job not because they have an outstanding job record, but because they have excellent speech skills: They know how to speak to make people happy. While I respect those who are elegant in speech I respect more those who are honest and successful in what they do, not just what they say.
2) In Christian arena: As the champion of Christian service, the Apostle Paul laid down some ground rules for all Christians in general, Christian servants in particular that they be regarded as attendants of Christ and stewards of the salvation message of God. Christian servants don't have to be excellent in the art of speech, but they need to be excellent in their faithfulness in serving the Lord. God can and did use people on both sides. He used Moses who was recognized as the most faithful, he also used Aaron, Moses' brother, who was given the gift of speech, to accomplish God's purpose of bring the Israelis out of the land of slavery into a Promised Land where they built their own nation. We should never discredit those who are good in speech ability, but we need to focus on faithfulness as we fulfill the will of God in our service to God.
BIBLICAL MEANING OF SERVANTHOOD: (1Corinthians 4:1-2)
1) The definition of a servant: ¡°So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ.¡± (4:1) Servant here in Greek, hupe-retas, comes from, hupo, under, and eretes, rower. So, if hupe-retas were translated as under-rower, the meaning may be easier to understand. In ancient times, large ships were powered by under-deck rowers, mostly slaves, to keep going. The under-rowers were the lowest of the low class people in any ship. There is only one reasons that they were on the ship¡ªto row so the ship could go forward. Paul used this word to call himself and his fellow workers of God for a purpose: to show their humble position in God's ministry, nothing more than under-deck rowers. This is very important for all of us who have the privilege to serve God in his church. We are nothing more than the under-deck rowers. It has been a common problem for some of God's servants, particularly those who occupy positions with titles, or serving in larger churches or organizations, to be tempted to think they are in position of prestige or authority. To recognize our humble status is the key of Christian service.
2) The definition of a steward: ¡°Let men account us as stewards.¡± (4:1b, KJV) Again this is a compound word: oikos, to handle or manage, and vemoo, the trust of treasure or a household. So steward is a good and accurate translation. There is an essential core meaning in this word, steward, and that is what we hold or have is not of ours, but of someone else who entrusted to us for good management. Whatever we have, a position, a title, a church, a committee or anything else in God's house, they all belong to God, nothing belong to us. It is a very important concept to recognize the ownership of God in all we were given to handle, to manage. Many good leaders in God's church fail to see the fact that we are just stewards, not owners, not the boss. As soon as someone thinks he is the boss, or a group of stewards is the boss, he has overstepped the line God places in the trust he gives us. God is the boss, not us.
3) The attitude of a servant: ¡°It is required.¡± (4:2) ¡°Required¡± comes from zeteitai, or root zeteo, which means to watch, in search, endeavor or require and demand. This is about the quality and attitude of servants or stewards: they are required to be watchful, doing the best of their ability, searching for the best way to manage the trust that were given. The parable of the Talents in Matt 25:14-30 may be the best illustration on the attitude of those who are faithful on the trust their master had entrusted them. Attitude is the basis of faithfulness in many areas of our everyday life, from marriage to our job, from our school to friendship. If a servant of God is faithful, it is required that he will try his best to find ways to do the most good for God and his church, like the two faithful servants in the parable of the Talents did.
4) The qualification of a servant: ¡°It is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.¡± (4:2) Faithful, pistos, or root peitho, means to listen and obey as told. A faithful servant is one who will do exactly what he was told to do, so the master may have full trust in him. Here we need to see two important aspects: a) This is a requirement of serving the Lord: listen to him and do what he had said. It has little of nothing about if we like what he said, we are to do it as we are told. This is most difficult part in serving God. Too often, we believe we know better or more than God in doing things for him and we are not faithfully following his commands. b) We need to do our utmost to prove to the Lord that we are faithful. The Lord has given his command, it is our responsibility to prove to Him in our deeds that we are faithful. God didn't require us to have exceptional ability, talents, innovation or superior energy to do his work, although all those things are not bad. But one thing he required of us: to listen to obey and do exactly what he wants us to do faithfully. God has all the ability and wisdom, he needs us be faithful.
FAITHFUL IN GOD'S ASSIGNMENTS: The Bible has so much to say about being faithful in all areas or field of God's assignments. In his wisdom, God may assign us to various fields to serve him faithfully. Here we see a few:
1) Faithful in different sizes: ¡°God blessed them and said to them: Be fruitful and multiply in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.¡± (Genesis 1:28) Then God planted a garden in the east, in Eden, and God assigned man a new job, ¡°The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to take care of it.¡± (Gen 2:15) God has assigned two different jobs for Adam: to take care of the garden, a small job, and to subdue the earth, a huge job. In God's assignment, there is no regard of the size of a job, big or small, they are all God's assignments. Just as the master in the parable of the Talents, who didn't give exactly the same amount of trust to all servants, but each according to his will, God will do the same way to us, according to His will. Big job or small job, we are to be faithful.
2) Faithful in different locations: ¡°A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent outstanding and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.¡± (1 Timothy 3:12-13) This is about God's assignments of service at one's home and the church, the house of God. A deacon is a servant of God and man in the church. Both in his own home or in the house of God, he needs to do his best, faithfully following God's commands, to be humble and diligent in his service. There is a close relationship between managing one's own home and the church of God. We are to be faithful in both locations, home and church. Both institutions are created by God and we need to be faithful to take care of the needs at our own home and our church. Allowing one side to neglect the other is not faithful to God's trust.
3) Faithful in different matters: ¡°Well done, my good and servant! His master replied. Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.¡± Luke 19:17) Taking charge of ten cities is vastly different from taking charge of minas. A mina is a very small amount of money trusted to each of the servants. The one who is faithful in using the trust for ten fold return, (19:16) was rewarded with the glorious position of taking charge of ten cities. Our Lord is well aware of the way we handle his trust: If we are faithful. And if we are in small things, he will entrust to us much great things. The king had faith in this servant that since he was faithful in something small, he will be as faithful in much bigger trust. In his infinite wisdom, God knows whom he could trust more for better results. If we are faithful in small things, God will entrust us with much bigger things down the road.
4) Faithful in different results: ¡°Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about 3,000 were added to their number that day.¡± (Acts 2:41) Then in Acts 10:48, ¡°So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.¡± Here we see the first group of new believes in thousands were the Jews who came to Jerusalem for the Passover. They heard the message Peter presented and accept the Lord and were baptized. In Acts 10, the same Peter but preached to different people, the Romans, and in a much smaller number, in a household of Cornelius and his fellow Roman soldiers. But Peter was faithful in both cases with both Jews and Gentiles, or thousand in attendance or in dozens in a household. Some people are more fervent and faithful in their work if it is in a large group or with their own kind of people. Others may be as faithful in much small in number and among different people. In any case, we learn that we need to be faithful no matter the number or the kind of people we serve.
1) Recognizing our position: Many chaotic situations happened in areas of life from government to business, from family to churches, is because some people don't understand the importance of position or don't fulfill the require-ments of their position. God ordained all things both in physical world and in human society with order, position and responsibility. If we follow God's way of position, and discharge our defined duties faithfully, things will run well and life will be smooth and orderly. Many of us didn't know or didn't want to follow God's order in our lives, that will cause many troubles for us and people around us. Seek to know your position and what is required of you.
2) Recognizing the potential: God is full of abundant grace and mercy. He is gracious to bestow on those who are faithful and diligent in serving him with their utmost dedication. God will reward and increase his trust on us if we are faithful of his trust in small things. His only requirement on us is we be faithful to his trust in things he assigned us to serve him. Whether it is big or small, near or far away, humble or prestigious, we are to be faithful in doing our best for His glory.