What does it mean to have a servant’s heart?
I believe this is a question that most Christians think they have the answer to. The simplest way to define it would be you love to serve – whether it’s serving in the church or outside of the church. But there is a lot more to this concept than I think a lot of us want to think or talk about. It’s easy to have the appearance of having a servant’s heart, but it’s a whole different reality to actually have a servant’s heart that truly pleases God. We can serve every day until we are dead tired and passing out on our couch the minute we get home, and completely miss it. We can say yes to every person who asks us for advice or help, and still miss it. We can buy a meal for a homeless man on the street corner, and still miss it. What I would like to define as a servant’s heart in this blog is a heart that loves people practically out of the abundant flow of an obedient and consistent love for God. I formed this definition through what Jesus called the Great Commandment:
36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40 NLT
Our service must come from the outflow of loving God with all of our hearts, all of our souls, and all of our minds FIRST in order for us to have a true servant’s heart.
And I honestly very rarely meet a Christian who doesn’t desire that for their life. But the reality is, things get in the way of us loving God so, in turn, our servant hearts become muddy and hardened. Over time, I have found that there are 3 common things that stop the heart from being a true servant’s heart.
We’ve all said it before: “I can’t, I’m too busy.” While life’s demands can be all-encompassing, there are definitely things that require priority when it comes to our time. We can’t truly love people if we don’t make time to love people. We see this in Luke 8 when Jesus is on his way to heal Jairus’s daughter. He gets pulled aside in a divine encounter with a woman who had a bleeding issue for 12 years. He is so moved by her faith, that he takes time to talk to her and heal her. But in the meantime, Jairus’s daughter passes away. I’m sure Jairus and his family were not happy that Jesus didn’t prioritize their daughter before the woman. But Jesus, being God and knowing that there was a bigger plan in motion, still continued on to Jairus’s home and raised his daughter from the dead, performing an even bigger miracle than what was already hoped for.
So how do you combat busyness when seeking a servant’s heart? Ask God, “what do I need to make a priority for today? This week? This month?” and trust that when you prioritize the RIGHT things, God will help you handle the rest.
Pride is one of the most dangerous temptations because it stops a lot more in your life than just a servant’s heart. But to focus on a servant’s heart specifically, pride can sound like “I’m too important to serve those people in that way. They should find someone else to do that.” It can also sound like “Don’t they know what I’m capable of? Why would they bother to ask me to do such an unimportant thing?” The world teaches us that in order to get ahead in life or get what we want, we must have pride and find our value in our title or work. But this is NOT a servant’s heart. A servant’s heart loves people and sees people and God’s mission as the most important thing. They value people and God’s mission way more than themselves or their own gain.
26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant… Matthew 20:26 NLT
So how do you combat pride when seeking a servant’s heart? Get “low” and serve someone else, even if you don’t get anything back in return.
The last thing I’ve found that stops a servant’s heart is task. You might think, “Hold on, Kelsey… you’ve been telling me how I should be doing tasks this entire article!?” Yes in a way I have… but when we get into the habit of prioritizing and taking time to serve others, it is very easy to get into what some call “running the play”. You know the motions, you do the task to make others feel loved and know God, but you forgot YOUR first love. You forgot why you did the task in the first place. When we “run the play” and love people out of routine or our flesh, we will be burnt out, frustrated, and tired very quickly. People will run you over, hurt you, and disappoint you. But God doesn’t say to stop serving and loving them. A genuine love for people can not be sustained in the flesh. It must always come from the fruit of the fact that we know we are loved by God.
2 “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. 3 You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. 4 “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Revelation 2:2 NLT
So how do you combat tasks when seeking a servant’s heart? Remember your first love and keep your own personal relationship with God alive and active through prayer, reading the Bible, worship, and surrounding yourself with Godly community.
God has called us all to have a true servant’s heart. To do this, we must first love and seek God ourselves. Then we can truly love and serve others.
When we get this order wrong, we lose our servant’s heart and instead we get a heart that is “kind and helpful” but has no Godly fruit and doesn’t last. Busyness, pride, and tasks will steal this fruit from your life. But knowing how to combat will help your servant’s heart stay strong and you will get to see God use you in the mightest ways to love, serve, and bring salvation to His people.
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