Being called is a very interesting phenomenon. Many of us wonder if we were ever really called. Being called is when you understand what is needed, and you do everything you can to meet that need. The word "servant" in the Bible is typically rendered "diakonos," which implies meeting needs. We are called by God in many different ways. Joseph was called by being sold into slavery. Nehemiah was called by a deep compassion in his heart. Daniel was called by being righteous.
God has called us to be servants. What if we translated "diakonos" as servant all the time That's all we are supposed to be. There was nothing glorious in it. He was the guy who washed your feet. He was the guy who served the food when you sat down at your friend's house. Didn't even know his name. God has called each one of us to meet needs where we are. He's called us to a spiritual service. He's called us to serve.
1. Called to bring glory to God
35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. "This is a remote place," they said, "and it's already very late.
36 Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat."
37 But he answered, "You give them something to eat." They said to him, "That would take eight months of a man's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?"
38 "How many loaves do you have?" he asked. "Go and see." When they found out, they said, "Five--and two fish."
39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass.
40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties.
41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.
42 They all ate and were satisfied,
43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish.
44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
Look at all the tasks performed by the disciples here. Look at all the numbers. Five loaves and two fish, exactly. There was so little. They sat down in organized groups. Why did Jesus want them in groups of 50 and 100? To know how many were fed by the miracle. Why did they have 12 baskets? May be one basket per apostle. Twelve apostles, twelve baskets. By knowing the facts, the miracle could be measured. Truth led to right decisions.
We can tell the pulse of a ministry by their giving, their baptisms and their growth. These numbers tell us how people are feeling in their faith as disciples. Without knowing how much we have and how much we have left over, we don't know what happened. In this story, the apostles helped to show the facts, and those facts testified to a miracle of Jesus. Those facts bring more glory to God.
2. Called to meet the needs
1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.
2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.
3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them
4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."
Here we see the apostles are free to do the ministry of the word of God when certain jobs are taken care of effectively. What a great privilege, Steven went on to become the first martyr. Philip went on to become an evangelist. These were spiritual men who did great things, and so are we. We're not simply called to worry about mundane matters. The Seven weren't complaining. It was pretty awesome to be one of the Seven. It's even mentioned in Acts 21. Maybe we're in a small church, a small situation, and we wonder "Who am I?". In ten years, the whole scene will be different. Using our talents for God is the most fulfilling thing we can do.
25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.
26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill.
27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.
28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety.
29 Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him,
30 because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.
The only reason Epaphroditus had been sent at all was to meet Paul's needs. He carried the money. That's all he did, but Paul calls him a "fellow soldier". Look how close Paul got to a brother who was sent to bring him the money. He even calls us to honor other men like him, brothers who carry the contribution, who does ushering and so on in our churches.
3. Called to serve others
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask."
36 "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked.
37 They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory."
38 "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?"
39 "We can," they answered. Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with,
40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared."
Ambition is something we all have. God's not against ambition, not against a person who wants to do great things. God's made us in his image, and God loves to do great things. Where we mess up, though, is that our ambition is too often for ourselves rather than God.
41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.
42 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.
43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Here again we find our favorite word "diakonos." Jesus came to serve everyone. We can't find a single thing in Jesus' life that wasn't intended to serve someone else. Even his very presence on the earth was to serve us. He wasn't here for himself.
The way to achieve greatness is to serve. That's where the reward is found. Too often we get bent out of shape because we're too worried about what people think. Who cares about a servant? What difference does it make how people feel about him? You can't be more than a servant. It's the greatest calling anywhere.
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
A human being is by nature a servant. We can't really do anything about that. Jesus said we can serve God or money, but we have to serve someone or something. We can't change the fact that we're a servant. We can only choose our master.
7 "Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'?
8 Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'?
9 Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?
10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.' "
This is the beauty. We've all been called to serve our ministries. We've also been called by God to serve, and Jesus is our model, our standard. Are we looking for the thanks and praise of men?
We need a conviction that God has called us, and that needs to motivate us. We need to serve when we have cash and when we don't. When things are smooth and when they're rough. Even when others are going through their own spiritual struggles, we need to serve with a pure heart. We were slaves to sin, and God bought us. It's now our choice. We choose to serve.