Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Shortly after Jesus partook of the last supper with His disciples, He took a basin of water and washed each of their feet, as told in John 13:5-17. In verse 15 He explains, "I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you". To think that Jesus was literally telling His disciples that they should wash each other's feet would be to totally miss the very important message that He was teaching. For those who traveled in sandals in a dry, sandy country, foot washing was a necessity for comfort and health; and this work was the duty of a servant (1 Samuel 25:41). The Master of all had taken upon Himself the duty of a servant (Philippians 2:7) and this was the example that He was setting for His disciples. They were to be servants! The normal Christian is to serve. Jesus strongly emphasized this in verse 16. If He had taken the part of a servant, then they being lesser than He should do so as well. No wonder Paul began so many of his letters introducing himself as a "servant of Jesus Christ". In this lesson we shall study what it is to be a servant and look at the servant's reward.
The heart and spirit of a servant has never been captured so completely as in the phrase found in the Old Testament, "Here am I". Some of the greatest servants in the Bible responded to God at the time of their calling with this simple reply, "Here am I": Abraham when he was about to sacrifice Isaac, Moses when he turned aside to see the burning bush, Samuel when he heard God calling to him in the temple, and Isaiah when God asked for a volunteer. Paul too could be added to this list with his response to God at his salvation (in the New Testament vernacular), "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do".
In Genesis 37:12-20, we are told of another one who expressed his servant's heart with the phrase "Here am I" - Joseph. If you listen carefully, you will hear the very heartbeat of a servant in those words, "Here am I".
A servant is one who has surrendered himself to do the will of another. A servant does what his master says whether he feels like it or not. A servant has no activity that is more important than following the master's instructions. Clearly, Joseph was surrendered to do his father's will. He gave no excuses for not feeling well or being too busy with another task. He basically told his father, "whatever you want me to do, just say so". When Joseph said "Here am I" he was saying, "Father, I am surrendered to do your will".
Paul says "they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again" (2 Corinthians 5:15). As servants, we ought to surrender our will over to the Father. How many believers claim to be a servant, but when it comes time to serve they don't feel like it or they have better things to do? Christian, have you surrendered your will to the Master?
Joseph wasn't one of those who served only when things were going right. He was even, steadfast, and fixed. We read in verse 15-17 that Joseph's brethren weren't in Shechem when he got there. Did this stop him from following through with his father's orders? No, he kept going unmoved by the seeming obstacle. In those words, "Here am I" is the voice of one who was resolved to obey whatever the circumstances.
We are told in 1 Corinthians 15:58, "be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord". We ought to be like the forepart of the ship on which Paul sailed to Rome - it stuck fast in the ground remaining unmovable while the waves violently surged behind it (Acts 27:41). The normal Christian serves God when things are going right and when times are tough. "Be instant in season, out of season" Paul says to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:2). The normal Christian keeps serving God when others quit or even hinder the work. A Christian who stops serving because of others was really never serving God; they were serving Self.
How sure does the attitude of readiness ring forth in those words "Here am I". A servant ought to be ever prepared to do his master's will. Joseph didn't tell his father, "I can't go yet". No, he was prepared and ready to go. He didn't have to pay off the loan for his new camel or do some unfinished work. Everything was set in Joseph's life for him to be able to do what his father asked.
In 2 Timothy 2:21, Paul gives some instructions for being "meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work". As servants of God we ought to be ready and prepared to do whatever God asks. Spiritually we need to keep things right with Him maintaining a close walk. Physically we need to keep our body healthy and ready for His use. Financially we need to stay away from those things that might hinder us from being prepared. Mentally we ought to continue to add to our knowledge and skills that we might be equipped.
Joseph's response to his father was not an empty promise. When Joseph said "Here am I", he was ready to obey in veracity or truth. Shechem was about 50 miles away from where Joseph started and he knew that his brothers hated him. Yet he went and then made great efforts to complete the task as well. Many a servant has agreed to do something but secretly his heart was really not in it. A child may be told to clean his room, but not perform the job in truth but rather do it half-heartedly. Joseph was a true servant and had it in his heart to do all that he could to complete the assignment. He is what we would consider a "self-starter" - one who doesn't have to be asked to do a job but on own finds work to do.
Paul warns servants against not being true to their master's work in Ephesians 6:6, "Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart". How could we serve God any less than how we are to serve man? If we are doing the minimum that we think God expects so that we can go on to do the things we really want to do, are we really servants of God?
A servant ought to be available when the master calls. Joseph didn't ask his father to send someone else, he didn't say "after the next commercial", and he didn't say "wait until I'm older". Joseph said "Here am I" - "I'm available".
Jesus dealt with some who were not yet available, which prompted Him to say "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:59-62). If you are going to serve God, you must be available. Some Christians are waiting till they retire to go to the mission field, but the normal Christian makes himself available now for whatever God has for him.
Joseph definitely showed an air of nobility in his service to his father - he had character. Not once do we ever find Joseph complaining or grumbling about the work he had to do (even after he was sold to the Midianites). He never used foul language, but rather was always respectful and kind. "Here am I" seems to be almost equivalent to "Yes Sir".
Philippians 2:14 says, "Do all things without murmurings and disputings" (the reason is given in verse 15). Peter tells us to "Honour all men" (1 Peter 2:17). The normal Christian then ought to show nobility or character in their work for God. The next time you find yourself complaining about having to do this thing or that thing for God, you would do well to remember that the normal Christian serves with character.
What good is a servant which cannot be trusted? Joseph was obviously someone his father could count on. Perhaps this was why Joseph was picked for the job rather than someone else. If you listen carefully, you can hear the words "you can count on me" in that simple phrase "Here am I". Was Jesus a Trustworthy servant?
The Bible says, "Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2). If you are not one that can be counted on, what good are you as a servant? How long would we put up with a pastor who doesn't always show up to preach? If you are serving God, you ought to be faithful. Some believers complain because they are never chosen to do the work, but perhaps the reason is because you cannot count on them!
What was the result of Joseph's service? If we were short-sighted we might conclude that what he received from being such a servant was to be sold to the Midianites and taken into Egypt as a slave. However, we must look farther than this. Joseph ended up being one of the most important men in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself, and this was not all. He saved both Egypt and his family from death by famine (Genesis 50:20). None of these things would have taken place if Joseph had not been the kind of servant that he was.
When the disciples were arguing over who would be the chief, Jesus gave them the instructions for becoming the greatest, "whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant" (Matthew 20:27). This was illustrated perfectly with Christ Himself in Philippians 2:5-11, "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name". There is a direct relationship between serving and being exalted. The hope of the servant is to remember that God will reward him (Matthew 16:27). Perhaps the greatest reward though for the nNormal Christian will be to hear the Master say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant".