What does it mean to have a servant’s heart? Does it mean to be a pushover, doormat, and weakling? Or is there a much bigger, deeper calling bound up in the idea?
Welcome to Day 23 of our 30 Days of Prayer series. I’m thrilled you’ve made it here today.
The majority of people are not naturally in love with the idea of “serving.” Thoughts of various cases of abuse often emerge, especially within those who have been under the thumb of a person who forced “submission” from another, rather than a submission of self that was given with intention.
The two are vastly different.
Again, grab your cuppa, and let’s dig in.
30 Days of Prayer: Pray to Have a Servant’s Heart (Day 23)
The concept of serving for some dredges up visions of submission from the ancient Japanese geisha. Head bowed, deflated posture, skittering to and fro to answer the whim and call of anything needed, etc.
Friends, this is not the image of the servant’s heart. This is not the image of marital submission, either, but that’s a tale for another day.
Related: Do You Embrace a Covenantal Marriage?
To have a servant’s heart means to do kind acts for the good of others from a genuine place of love and generosity. Whenever “obligation” enters the picture, the servant’s heart gets muddied up and twisted into something that it is not.
Yes, this can be a tricky thing to navigate, because there IS a benefit to doing the right thing even when you don’t feel like it.
Let’s see if we can break this apart.
In the perfect, ideal sense of the term, a person who lives with a servant’s heart will be willing to subdue their own wants and sometimes needs in order to meet someone else in the midst of theirs. A GREAT case-in-point on this is in Matthew 14: 1-14 when Jesus learned that John the Baptist had been beheaded. He was devastated. This was his cousin. The one whose infant self had leaped for joy at the presence of His Savior when they were both still in the womb! And now, he was dead.
Our ever strong, God-in-man, broke at the news and in his state of mourning set off to be alone to do so freely. Yet, the people didn’t quite get the message. They too had needs. People were sick, hurting, possessed, and worse, and just knew that if they could get to Jesus, they could be freed of their suffering. They weren’t being selfish…just people in need.
And, Jesus, even in the midst of his own despair and suffering, set aside His own need to mourn alone for His cousin to love and serve the sheep who unknowingly interrupted and had come for HIs help.
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” ~ Matt. 14: 14
This is the servant’s heart.
Though, a few things need to be noted here. To start, in today’s culture, sadly, some wolves have snuck in and planted subversive, dangerous doctrines that work diligently to bring subjugation and abusive patterns into the flock. These wolves often speak only of the submission of wives to husbands, rather than a matter of mutual submission.
These patterns often place women in a place of servitude, rather than equality, and from this place a noose around the woman’s neck in the name of a “servant’s heart.” (Sadly I’ve known more than one person in a marriage such as this, and to be sure, women can also create this kind of a pattern of abuse for men…it’s just less common).
Let us be clear. A servant’s heart is not something one can place onto the shoulders of another. It cannot arise from an external source and still be holy.
That’s called slavery, friends.
A servant’s heart arises from the innermost parts of a person, the place where the Spirit is planted deep inside. The root begins in the spiritual and emotional place of the person long before actions begin to emerge. In this way, serving is kept holy, as it is an intimate exchange between the Spirit and the person to stir up works of love throughout the process of sanctification.
The true servant’s heart emerges from the inside out, not the outside in.
Second, the people who were in need of help came for it with a stance of humility and desire, but not abusive expectation or harsh pride. No one browbeat Jesus or cajoled Him to come to take care of them. “Hey! Get over here and do your job! We need Your help!”
Could you imagine?!
And yet, sadly, this is the behavior that can stem from the doctrine of wolves. It is an abusive, power-hungry positioning of superiority, expectation, disrespect, and pride. It is the utmost display of evil. And yet, some sheep, especially those with pure and loving hearts, can be led astray and into chains by such wolves.
The sacredness of a kind act is eliminated when the kind act is done because of cajoling and ridicule.
Suddenly, there is a power struggle at play, and confusion can quickly emerge.
Battered spouse syndrome, a condition associated with this kind of behavior, is often the case of spouses in abusive homes. Sadly, these kinds of patterns do not usually just go away on their own. Typically, the battered spouse needs to hold very firm and tough boundaries (often requiring separation and divorce) if there is ever hope of restoration.
One cannot force another to act with a servant’s heart, and it is NEVER the job of one to coerce good behavior from another.
In our house we call this other’s control versus self-control…and we all know which is a fruit of the Spirit.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten the heavy and unhealthy twists and lies out of the way, let’s chat about the healthy.
For a healthy state of being, with people who are actively growing and walking with the Lord, working through the often painful process of sanctification and self-denial, the process works quite differently.
Let’s be honest, in the beginning of the Christian walk, most of us don’t really like the whole “dying-to-self” part. Within my flesh, I would really like to be able to do whatever it is that I want without being provoked by the Spirit to do good deeds for the glory of God. Let’s just be real here.
Sometimes doing good is inconvenient. And, we all have different personalities, and seriously some of us really, really struggle with these concepts.
But, let me free you from some bondage: it’s okay to struggle! Hear me, sister.
Your internal warring with submission to Him does not bother God. He built you that way, sweet stubborn one ::wink wink::. Because HE knows where He’s taking you and He knows the process of the road for sanctification and that this little blip in the road is part of the grand scheme of things!
Let no one put a chain around your neck for not being like them and feeling submitted quite easily or simply. That’s their road to walk with our Abba based on their design and personality. And, BOTH are equally as holy and beautiful and glorious for our Abba.
Make no mistake.
But, I digress, remember the parable of the obedient sons? In Matthew 21: 28-32, we see Jesus depict two sons who were both told by their father to go work in the fields of the vineyard. One son defiantly responded with, “No,” yet later changed his mind, recanted, and got to work.
The other, however, replied compliantly, “Yes, sir!” but never actually went out and obeyed. When Jesus questioned which had been obedient to the father, the answer was obviously the first son.
In the same way, our Abba knows that some of us will war with obedience, but still submit in the end. And others of us will have to navigate through the painful process of turning away from a mask of compliance, but a heart of laziness.
Both of these are likely in the process of sanctification. And neither is more right than the other.
The home is an excellent foreground for developing a servant’s heart. At the end of the day, we mamas are dog-tired! We just want to put our feet up, relax, and be for a while. But, then the baby starts crying, or a toddler gets a fever, or the pre-teen needs to navigate through an emotional struggle, and suddenly we are called to the table of serving in love.
And, seriously, it is not easy all the time. Some days I know I do not respond in kind the way I know my Spirit desires for me. I might growl in frustration or cry from the disturbance, but as time goes on the process gets easier.
As time goes on, this unrefined flesh bag of mine is transformed and a servant’s heart, full of compassion and empathy, begins to emerge.
Jesus may not have had to grow through sanctification, since He was perfectly full of the Spirit, but I’m not Jesus, and neither are you ::wink wink::.
For us, this is a process of transformation, so lean into the process, even the pain points, because you will love the new person the Lord is making you into oh so much!
Abba, continue to renew in me a steadfast heart of following after You. Disrupt the ugly parts of myself, the selfish, prideful, judgmental elements of my flesh, that hinder the emergence of the Spirit. Pour Your Spirit into me and fill me to the brim. Pour me out that I may be filled up MORE with You! Less of me, and more of You, always.
Thank You for Your patience with me, especially when I truly do not WANT to obey Your leading, or when I struggle with serving in love. However, I WANT to have a servant’s heart. Help me to WANT to serve in love to develop it. I love You, my Abba. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” ~ Ps. 51: 10-12
Sweet sister, it is my deepest prayer that this process of wholeness in Him is freeing you in the Truth.
Bondage does not come from God, and I know that sadly there are wolves who seek to twist and distort the sweet manna from Heaven to make it into a harmful porridge of suffering. So, if you are in need of help with abuse, please, please seek it out.
And, if your heart is simply in a state of frustration and struggling in the middle space between sanctification and original flesh, take heart. Lean in. He’s going to take this piece by piece with you. Don’t look away.
Talk to Your Abba! Tell Him what you’re struggling with and be direct. He can handle it, I promise.
Be still, sweet sister, this process is oh-so good for your soul. It is the sacred union of the holy and the common with the Spirit and man, and through this process, we bring Light into the world, one kind deed in LOVE at a time.