What does it mean to be a faithful servant of God?
I grew up in church with a very specific, narrowly defined idea of what it looked like to serve God and his people.
I looked around me and saw others serving in the kitchen, serving in Sunday school, serving in the choir and thought to myself, “Oh, I see. Serving means doing.”
But I had a problem. Because of a physical disability, I wasn’t able to serve in most of these ways. There really wasn’t a lot that I could do physically, which left me feeling like a useless instrument, a sure disappointment to God, and this deep wound would take years to correct and heal.
I had misunderstood what “serving the Lord” really meant by defining it too narrowly and attaching it to my spiritual identity. Serving the Lord can look like this, and it often does, but it isn’t only this. Being a servant of God is not about the work of our hands.
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What Does it Mean to Be a Servant of God
What is a faithful servant?
In the New Testament, the word for “servant” that is most commonly used is the Greek word “doulos,” which means “to bind.” It also came to mean “one who gives himself up to the will of another,” and became the most common word for “servant” in general without any idea of bondage attached to it; basically, a “willing slave.” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary)
The Apostle Paul calls himself a “bondslave of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:1), indicating that having been bought by Christ, he had now become a willing slave, binding himself to his new Master, Jesus.
What are The Qualities of a Faithful Servant of God
So, what exactly are the characteristics of a faithful servant? While each of these faithful servants is different in their own ways, they all share certain qualities or characteristics that set them apart from everyone else.
You might consider these the 7 ways God will evaluate your faith and faithfulness!
A Faithful Servant is Obedient
A servant of the Lord is someone who obeys the Lord. This means serving where he directs. It also means not serving as he directs. There are many times when we feel we should take on a certain ministry because others expect it of us, (or we expect it of ourselves!), but just because an opportunity is good, doesn’t mean it’s ours.
A faithful Servant is Humble
A servant of God has a humble attitude. True humility is not thinking less of ourselves than others, it’s simply not considering ourselves at all. It means not chasing after accolades, approval or even appreciation. Our focus is on what we can give to others, not what we’re trying to get for ourselves.
A Faithful Servant is Sacrificial
A servant of God is willing to submit their own plans, desires and rights to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Going where He leads often comes at a cost, but a servant of God pays it willingly.
A Faithful Servant Keeps Their Focus on God
A servant of God keeps their eyes fixed on the character of God, trusting in His goodness no matter the circumstances. Many times in life, the authenticity of our servant heart will be evidenced simply by our heart’s posture as we walk through trials.
A Faithful Servant is Motivated by Love
1 Corinthians 13 is clear that no matter what our giftings or areas of service, if not motivated by genuine love, we are but a clanging noise.
“If I speak in tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-8)
Serving God in whatever form must be motivated by love. It’s interesting that the first two descriptors of love in this chapter is that love “is patient” and love “is kind.” The rest of the chapter describes what love looks like in action, but only these two words are used to define what love is. However we are serving God, may our heart’s true intention always be patient and kind.
A Faithful Servants Serves Where Needed
Are we willing to serve where help is needed, and just only where we prefer or feel comfortable? Are we willing to serve in the quiet, unnoticeable, and often unappreciated or unacknowledged ways?
Maybe it looks like arriving early to start the coffee. Maybe it looks like making sure the garbage gets taken out, or the songbooks get put away. Or maybe it looks like sitting still and just being present, offering a listening ear and compassionate shoulder to someone who needs encouragement when you would rather be headed out for lunch.
Whatever it is, when the Holy Spirit prompts you to offer yourself in a way that’s inconvenient or counter-nature, a servant of God will do it anyway, with patience and kindness.
A Faithful Servant Expects to Suffer
When Jesus said to take up our cross and follow him, he was asking us to count the cost because he knew there would be one. Loving without condition is risky. Following Jesus leads to rejection and persecution from the world. Grace will be taken for granted. It doesn’t just cost us our own agendas, it costs our comfort, our pride, and in some cases, our very lives.
Matt Smethurst said on Twitter:
“When we say we want to be the hands and feet of Jesus, we must remember what happened to the hands and feet of Jesus.”
But Paul said it first in Romans 8:17
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
If we truly want to be servants of God, then we must understand and expect that it will come at a cost.
Examples of Servants in the Bible
Hebrews chapter 11 is often referred to as the Faithful Servant Hall Of Fame because it lists men throughout history who God commended for their faithfulness. But there are many poignant examples of faithful servants throughout scripture who beautifully illustrate these qualities.
Here is a wonderful list of faithful servants in the Bible.
Abraham obeyed God, even when it didn’t make sense. Even when it came at great cost. Abraham was willing to sacrifice what was most precious to him, his home, even his beloved son, to follow God and trust in His plans. (Genesis 12-22)
Job kept his eyes fixed on God, trusting in His goodness and sovereignty despite the depth of his suffering. When everyone around him let him down, (even his own wife!), he never wavered in his faithfulness to God, and his hope in Him. (Job 1-42)
Samuel was quick to answer God’s call, presenting himself as a willing servant at the mention of his name. He was willing to serve God in whatever way he was asked, and did it with a humble and grateful heart. (1 Samuel 3)
When Mary was visited by an angel, telling her that she would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and give birth to God’s son, her response was “Behold the slave of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38). When Mary said this, she knew she would pay a great price. At best, her reputation would be destroyed, at worst, she was risking her very life since the law would sanction her stoning. But she trusted God’s purposes for her, no matter the cost. (Luke 1:26-38)
Paul served God faithfully by preaching the gospel wherever and whenever the Lord directed him. He kept his eyes fixed on Christ and his mission of truth in love even through great trial and persecution, ultimately giving his life for the gospel. It was Paul who most clearly defined for us in scripture what it means to be a servant of Christ, and demonstrated it relentlessly in his own life. (Romans 1:1)
Saving the best for last, Jesus was undeniable, the clearest and most beautiful example of true servanthood we have to emulate.
“Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” (John 5:19)
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death- even death on a cross!” (Phillipians 2:6-8)
Jesus, though he was God himself incarnate, submitted himself completely to the will of his Father, becoming a servant, a willing slave, the very incarnation of love itself. Patient, kind, long-suffering, forgiving, he gave himself for us. Even unto death. Even death on a cross. And he did it by choice.
How Can We Be Faithful Servants of God
What I now understand is that being a servant of God is not defined by what I do, but by who I am. It is not about the productivity of hands, but a posture of heart. Yes, many times serving God will involve actual work, but if the work is not prompted by the Spirit and carried out in true love and humility, it is merely an empty task of vainglory.
Being a faithful servant of God is less about what we are doing, and more about why we are doing it, how are we doing it, and who we are doing it for? If our honest answers to these questions reflect the definition of love we find in 1 Corinthians 13, then we are truly servants of God.
Related: 8 Encouraging Verses of Scripture About Helping Others