Rolled Up Sleeves - Living A Life of Service

Dave Jones March 29, 2008 1 Corinthians 4:1-21


1 Corinthians 4:1-21

1Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court.[a] In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. 6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. 7 For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? 8 You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you! 9 For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! 11 To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. 12 And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; 13 being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now. 14 I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. 18 Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. 20 For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. 21 What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?

While we want to primarily look at the first six verses, I think there is merit in looking at the entire passage. I have included John MacArthur’s commentary on this chapter to help you discuss the context. It is that context that we ask the following questions.

What does a servant looks like? How would you describe that person? What are their qualities and characteristics? Let’s divide into small groups and consider the following questons:

  1. If you were allowed to create the perfect church member, what qualities would you build into this servant of God and why?
  2. What are the most obvious clues that a person is conceited? That a person is humble?
  3. What are the most common subjects of boasting or bragging in the church today?
  4. List the names of the folks who have had the greatest spiritual impact on you. List one or two outstanding qualities about each.

Today we are focusing on living a life of service. I believe each and every one of us is called to be a servant. We are to serve God and others. I would like to look at what the Bible says about being a servant and then look at two biblical examples.

  1. Biblical Principles For Being a Servant
  2. Servants Desire to Bring Glory to God

A true servant is one who desires to bring glory to his master. As a Christian we are called to glorify Him by serving without credit or self promotion. We are to serve in humility. This is what the Corinthians were struggling with. They were caught up in pride and glory for themselves.

In John 3:30 John the Baptist said. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” He knew his role was to introduce Jesus – to draw attention to Him. That is what we are to do as servants today. We should draw attention to Christ.

Who gets the credit when you serve? When other comment on your service, what do you say? What do you think? I hope we think and say something like, “To God be the glory!” It is only because of Christ that we are to do anything.

Remember what Christ said about our works in Matthew 5:16

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

He didn’t say glorify ourselves.

  1. Servants Discover That the Way Up is the Way Down

What does this mean? Let’s look at Matthew 20:26-28

26Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

Jesus pointed out that He did come to be served, but to serve. If we are going to be like Christ, if we are going to have a servant’s heart, we cannot be focused on fighting our way to the top. We are instead to look to the needs of others and serve them.

It is easy to say we are servants, but how do we respond when we are actually treated like one. That is the true test of our servanthood. Do we respond like Jesus? Or do we demand respect? In Philippians we are reminded that Jesus voluntarily assumed the position of servant. (Phil 2:5-8)

I would encourage each man to attend the deacon training class. And everyone should look at the study regarding the words used for deacon. It is humbling to think that the position is all about serving others.

Servants Develop Strength Through Weakness

2 Corinthians 12:10

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Servants understand that our strength does not come from within ourselves. When we are our weakest, we realize the strength of God.

Think about the times you tried to take control of your life. You left God out of the equation. That is the time when we are truly the weakest.

There have been times in my life, especially at work, that I have tried to rely on my own to get ahead, to get the job done, for my glory and advancement. It has been at those times that God has chosen to humble me. A job change that came out of nowhere. The company completely eliminated my department. Like the commercial says, “I didn’t see that one coming.” But God did. Thankfully, I have been quick to get back where he wants me to be, to lean on Him, and to give Him the credit and glory.

When we are focused on being a servant, for His glory, we also realize that we cannot accomplish these acts on our own. We need His strength. When we don’t care about getting credit, it amazing what can be accomplished.

Which leads us to our next point…

  1. Servants Derive Their Joy From the Development of Others

Servants live to lift others up, to help them succeed. Do you rejoice when someone is able to take something you have initiated to another level? Or do you feel jealous, or maybe even bitter that you didn’t get the recognition?

Can you think of a time when you observed someone that modeled this behavior? What did it look like? What does it look like when the opposite is true? How do people behave when they want all the credit?

Going back to our last point for a moment, we need to understand that because of the cursed of sin, we naturally fall into the second category. We can only derive joy from developing others, by letting Christ reign.

Now let’s look at some examples…

  1. Biblical Portraits of Servants
  2. Onesiphorus

Who is this guy? I’ll admit, when I first read his name, I thought David Jeremiah was going to talk about the slave from the book of Philemon. But that is Onesimus. Onesiphorus is only mentioned twice: 2 Timothy 1:16 and 4:19.

Read 2 Timothy 1:16-18

16The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; 17but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. 18The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day—and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus.

Let’s note a few things about Onesiphorus:

He wasn’t ashamed that Paul was prisoner.

He sought Paul out.

He ministered to Paul, refreshed him.

INPUT: What are some ways we can be like Onesiphorus today?

  • Look for ways to serve.
  • Not look down on those in need.
  • Minister in real ways, by taking action.
  • Truly think about the other person. Sometimes we serve out of our convenience instead of the need.

When opportunities to serve arise, are we going to be like Onesiphorus, or will we miss it?

Now let’s look at the example of…

  1. Timothy

Timothy was Paul’s son in the faith. He was mentored and taught by Paul. Look at Philippians 2:19-22 for the characteristics Timothy possessed in being a servant:

19But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. 21For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.

  1. His Compassion for Others

In verse 20 Paul says that Timothy would sincerely care for your state. He wouldn’t go just because Paul asked him to. Timothy was like minded as Paul in his care and concern for people.

  1. His Consecration to the Lord

Verse 21 points out the contract between Timothy and others. Timothy sought out the things of Christ – not his own desires. It is evident that Timothy did serve for his own recognition. He served to glorify Christ.

  1. His commitment to the Gospel

Timothy was committed to the message of the Gospel – V.22. He knew the best way to serve others was to share the Good News of the Gospel. He also had demonstrated this quality in the past – his proven character.

  1. His Concern for Paul

Near the end of his life, in a Roman prison, Paul wrote his last letter to Timothy. (2 Timothy)

9Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. 11Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. 12And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments. 14Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. 15You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words. 16At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. 17But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen! 19Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20Erastus stayed in Corinth, but Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick. 21Do your utmost to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, as well as Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brethren.

Paul asked Timothy to come to him because of the way he ministered to him in the past. There would be no hesitation by Timothy. Paul knew that.

Paul is also reflecting on those that did not do so well. He remembers those that were faithful and those who fell away.

Which list do you want to be on?

Close lesson by asking the following questions:

Who were the last five winners of the Heisman Trophy?

Who are the five richest people in world?

Who won the last five Oscars for best actor? Actress?

Now ask, who was on your list for question four earlier?

The point: Many strive to be famous, rich or successful in the world’s eyes. But true success is making a difference in someone’s life for Christ. Truly being a servant to the glory of God!

Dave Jones


Deacon, Teacher - Faith Church

Board Member - Faith Christian School


Dave works for human resources at Purdue University. Dave and his wife, Becky, joined Faith in 1986. He co-teaches the Ambassadors ABF as well as several FCI classes.