As we continue our series on The Disciplines of Life, I would suggest to you that servanthood is one of those character traits that require “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.” As humans driven to serve self, serving others is not something that we do naturally.
In April of 2005 I gave a Toastmasters speech which I entitled “Do You Think Like a Servant?” In that speech, I said, “Mr. Toastmaster, fellow members and honored guests, in a previous speech, I challenged you to consider whether you have the HEART of a champion. Today I want to challenge you to consider whether you have the MIND of a servant. My question for you today is, ‘Do you think like a servant?’” The following is material that I presented in that speech.
The great Master Teacher said, “Whoever wants to be great must become a servant” (Mk. 10:43 from The Message bible). Author Rick Warren suggests, “The world defines greatness in terms of power, possessions, prestige, and position…. God determines your greatness by how many people you serve, not how many people serve you…. Thousands of books have been written on leadership, but few on servanthood…. Anyone can be a servant. All it requires is character.” (The Purpose Driven-Life, pp 257-258)
But Consider that …
Servants think more about others than about themselves. When we stop focusing on our own needs, we become aware of the needs around us. This can be very challenging in a culture that encourages us to insist on our RIGHTS. Also, if we are not careful, our service can become self-serving-to get others to like us, to be admired, or to achieve our own goals. I am by nature selfish so thinking like a servant requires me to understand that self-denial is the core of servanthood. There are daily opportunities for each of us to be servants. These opportunities require us to make the choice between meeting my needs or the needs of others. Servants keep a low profile – not promoting or calling attention to themselves. “There are more than 750 ‘Halls of Fame’ in America and more than 450 ‘Who’s Who’ publications, but you won’t find many real servants in these places.” (Warren, p 263)
A perfect example of this attitude is described by Peggy Noonan, in her biography of Ronald Reagan, which she titled, When Character Was King. (I love that title.) She describes a scene in the President’s hospital room after an assassin’s attempt on his life. John Hinckley’s attempt had not been fatal, but the bullet wound was serious enough to hospitalize Mr. Reagan. The still weakened President had spilled some water and was on his hands and knees cleaning up after himself so that a nurse wouldn’t have to. He did not want to bother the nurse with the problem he caused. Here was the most powerful, influential man in the free world down on his hands and knees cleaning up. He thought more about others than about himself. (When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan by Peggy Noonan)
Secondly, Servants think like stewards, not owners. A steward is a servant entrusted to manage an estate. A young man in the small nation of Israel in is an example. His name was Joseph and he was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. This condition of slavery led him to Egypt where he first served as an overseer in Potiphar’s house (Gen. 39:1-20). In this role, Potiphar gave him “complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn’t have a worry in the world, except to decide what he wanted to eat.” (New Living Translation of 39:6.) As a steward who was faithful to Potiphar and to God, he resisted the advances of Potiphar’s wife. When he spurns her advances, she spitefully accuses him and causes him imprisonment.
In Pharaoh’s Prison Joseph again demonstrated the thinking of a steward (Gen 39:21-41:36) and is placed in charge of the other prisoners and eventually finds himself in the role of interpreter of the dreams of Pharaoh. Throughout, Joseph maintained his integrity and his servant’s mindset.
And finally, as a prince in Egypt Joseph continues to think as a steward (Gen 41:38-50). He is wise in his service to Pharaoh, as his wisdom is manifested in his administration showing foresight in years of plenty and shrewdness in years of famine. He is merciful in his treatment of his brothers who he forgave for selling him into slavery. He continued to believe in the providence of God: that God could make good things come out of evil intentions and that God would keep his promises made to His people. Joseph was indeed a servant, a man of Character!
Finally, Servants think about THEIR work, not what others are doing. They don’t compare, criticize, or compete with other servants/ministries. There is no place for petty jealousies between servants. My two boys, Ryan and Tyler have not yet learned how to think like servants. They are very much in competition – comparing their own achievement against that of their brother. We excuse this in children but adults also can be guilty. When Martha complained about Mary not helping with the work, she lost her servant’s heart.
Sprint gives us abundant opportunities to serve and to develop our ability to think like a servant. Last week was National Volunteer Week when nominations were solicited for those who “Inspire by Example” reflecting the power volunteers have to inspire the people they help, as well as, to inspire others to serve.” We have Community Relations Teams. Sprint also encourages its employees to serve on a non-profit board of directors and towards that end is offering two University of Excellence Courses, “101-Board Training” and “102-Strategic Board Leadership.”
I like what Chuck Swindoll says in his book, Improving Your Serve. He says, “What I’ve learned: To keep my eyes open for opportunities, my wallet open for giving, my time open for flexibility, my heart open for availability, and my ears open for listening — even the unspoken needs.”
Are you usually more concerned about being served or finding ways to serve others? If you would have the MIND of a servant, you will think more about others than about yourself, you will think like a steward rather than an owner and you will think about YOUR work not about what others are doing.
Thanks for reading.