Greatness in Serving

Matthew 20:20-28

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.  And He said to her, “What do you wish?”  She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”  But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”  They said to Him, “We are able.”  So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”  And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Greatness Defined

  • Greatness is not being someone in a high position such as Chairman of the Board, President, Ambassador, the boss, etc.
  • Greatness is not one who has money, property, jewelry, education, position, or possessions of any kind.
  • Greatness is not being born to the position of greatness.  You do not inherit greatness. 
  • Greatness is not bestowed upon you by anyone or any act of your own doing except obedience to God’s Word, a Godly heart, and a humble and contrite spirit, and a yielded God-given peaceful attitude and disposition. 

Luke 9:23-25 – Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?”

Luke 14:26-27 – If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

Galatians 5:24 – And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Philippians 3:8 – Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

  • Greatness is of God.  There is no greatness other than that of God.

John 12:26 – If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.

I Corinthians 6:20 – For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

I Corinthians 7:22 – For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave.

  • Greatness conceived by men is superficial; it fades away.  Remember the old proverb or poem that someone wrote:  “Only one life, it will soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”  This little poem on a wooden plaque had been my mother’s. I passed it along to Will, my son and her grandson.  It was the only thing that survived in the kitchen of his home when it burned.  Is that a coincidence or accident, or was God trying to say something?
  • Greatness is not dominion over people.  Note:  the disciples in this passage still thought the Messiah’s kingdom would be restored and it would be as an earthly nation and power.  The ten other disciples were indignant because they desired the highest positions themselves. They would have been worried, not angered, by such evil and selfish behavior if they had not had the same feelings.  Sound like anybody you know?  Maybe you at some point in your life…you were the one who deserved the promotion, etc.
  • The external view of the way we look at things:  our measuring stick is usually about power, fame, recognition, influence, authority, dominion, and/or position.
  • The internal view of the way we look at things is measured by wealth, buildings, vehicles, machines, and the ability to work and achieve goals.  The world seeks after these things.

I John 2: 15 – Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.

Matthew 6:33 – Seek ye first the kingdom of God.

Colossians 3:1 – Seek those things which are above. 

  • Greatness is serving others.  The great are those who minister to others. 

Matthew 10:42 – And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.

Matthew 20:27 – And whoever desires to be great among you, let him be your servant. 

Hebrews 12:28 – Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.

Prov. 22:4 – By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.

Ephesians 6:7 – with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men,

What price – greatness?

Jesus pulls no punches.  If we desire greatness, there is a price to pay.  A tremendous price.  If we wish to have the crown He gives, there is a bitter cup to be drunk and a baptism in which to be immersed. 

The cup of suffering refers more to what a person takes into himself and bears within himself.  It is more internal suffering and agony.  The cup means drinking the bitterness and agony of trials, pain, hurt, sorrow, heartbreak, suffering, disappointment, and tears.  Christ did this in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Matthew 26:36-46 -Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”  He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”  Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.  So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”

The baptism refers more to what is put upon a person from the outside.  It is more external sufferings.  The baptism of suffering means being immersed in the rapids of affliction, rejection, abuse, ridicule, opposition, persecution, and martyrdom.  Jesus did this in the judgement hall, at the whipping post, in the denial of his disciples and the angry mob, and especially on the cross.

That is the reason Christ and the apostles met with so much opposition so often.  They gave all they were and had and lived so differently.  They lived for God instead of living for self and the world.  The world could not understand them.  Some ignored them.  Others ridiculed them, abused them, persecuted them, and even killed them. 

Micah 6:8 – He has showed you O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Servant Hood/Stewards of the Mysteries

1 Corinthians 4:1-2

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.

  • Servant hood

How many women, when they plan a meal and company is coming, ignore everything about that dinner engagement until the very last minute….They start at the beginning….They start where they are…They tear apart the food pantry or the cupboard where they have stored their food and use what they have….then they do all they can.

How many men plan  project, let us say building on to their house….they plan ahead….they start where they are….they use what they have….and they do all they can.

No one begins in the middle of a meal or in the middle of a project.  You start at the beginning.  God did the very same thing.

Genesis1:1 – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

We all know the creation story and we know one of the first things God did was to make the heavens and the earth.  What would have happened if He had created man first?  No place to live, eat, sleep.  God is a God of order.

Our spiritual life must be ordered by Him and in Him.  Otherwise, we will have chaos in our life. 

  • Do you want your life to bring glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ?

Today is the very first day of the rest of your life.  You probably cannot do anything about most of the things that already have taken place in your life, but you can do something about Now.

Start where you are – use what you have – do all you can.

Mark 9:33-37 – Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?”  But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest.  And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”  Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”

This passage deals with the subject “Who is the greatest?”  To be great, we must first be a servant – to all.

  • Stewards of the Mysteries – Administrators of the Gospel Truth of God

Colossians 2:2-3 – I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else. And we’ve been shown the mystery! I’m telling you this because I don’t want anyone leading you off on some wild-goose chase, after other so-called mysteries, or “the Secret.”  (The Message)

Servant Hood/Stewards of the Mysteries – what does it all mean?  How do we understand this?  First we must know Jesus Christ personally, not just a name in a book, not just a name you hear occasionally as a swear word, not just a good man, not just the leader of one of the world’s religious beliefs.

1 Corinthians 2:14 – But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

To know Him, to have an ongoing minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, seven days a week, 365 days a year….know Him as your Lord and Savior, your strength, your helper, your comforter, your healer, your provider.

To know Him, eat, work, sleep, dream, breath, be totally absorbed with Him in your life so ultimately nothing else matters.  To be so full of Him that we do not care about anything else but serving Him and doing what He wants.  To be that kind of follower of Jesus is to truly be His disciple.

Philippians 3:10 – that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.

To live this verse we have to totally surrender to Him 100%.  We cannot know Him like this verse says “in the power of His resurrection” unless we first have died to sin, have laid it all down.

When you say, “I can’t do this or I can’t do that,” referring to a habit or a character management issue like temper, patience, lack of control, whatever it might be, you make God and His Word a liar. 

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Start where you are – use what you have – do all you can.

You may fall flat on your face the first time you try to determine that you are going to be what God really wants you to be rather than being a false advertisement of what God says you can be.  Get your mind off “I can’t” and on “I can.”  Hold up your hands in front of you and do a ten-finger prayer.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  When temptation comes and you feel like you cannot…hold up your hands in front of you and say, “With God’s help, I can.”

As you have that close relationship with Him, be the servant of all you come in contact with.  You cannot be thinking about yourself if you are trying to help someone else.  To have this kind of relationship and be a servant – wow!  Live your life and wake up in the morning so full of His love and knowledge of His Word that you pray, “OK God, here I am.”

  • What is your will for me today? 
  • What do you want me to do? 
  • Where do you want me to go? 
  • What do you want me to speak?
  • Who do you want to put in my path?
  • How can I make a difference?
  • How can I stand between eternal punishment for sin and the sinner and point them to You?

All this cannot be done in a moment’ time.  There are the three rules to get to that point.

Start where you are – use what you have – do all you can.

Look again at our text – this time from The Amplified Bible

1 Corinthians 4:1-2 – So then, let us [apostles] be looked upon as ministering servants of Christ and stewards (trustees) of the mysteries (the secret purposes) of God.  Moreover, it is [essentially] required of stewards that a man should be found faithful [proving himself worthy of trust].

  • Faithfulness – this is where we should start. 

It is required in stewards to be faithful, not it is required of stewards to be faithful.  “Of stewards” would indicate something we do.  “In stewards” indicates something internal, inward, an ongoing developing influence of the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.

  • Faithfulness comes by way of a relationship with Christ
  • Faithfulness is not an attribute or character that is learned
  • Faithfulness is not something we put on in the morning like a garment
  • Faithfulness is a life style of one whose heart, mind, soul and body is fixed securely on Jesus Christ.

Start where you are – use what you have – do all you can.

A servant does what his master requires.  Is Christ your Master?  If Christ is truly your Master, your Lord, He has the power of life and death over you.  If He is truly your Master, you will do, go, say and be what He wants you to do, go say and be.

1 Corinthians 6:20 – For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Romans 6:16 – Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?

We must do what God requires.  We are no longer a free entity.  We belong to Christ.  We are members of His body.  The parts of His body work like the parts of one’s natural body.  He is the head; we are the parts.  He controls our actions.  That is, if we truly are part of His body.

At the same time that we are servants and slaves of Him that redeemed us, we are “free from sin,” “free from the penalty of sin,” free from the final destiny that sin brings upon mankind.  We are free in Christ to live godly or ungodly – our choice.  But as we yield our bodies, lives, hearts, minds, our entire being to Him, we become His.  We become His servants, His slaves out of love, not compulsion.  Love.

When we become truly His servants, we will obey Him, be faithful to Him and serve Him.

James 4:7 – Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

1 Corinthians 13:11 – When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God

Hebrews 5:13-14; 6:1 – For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Start where you are – use what you have – do all you can.

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.