King, Prophet, Lawgiver, Messiah, Redeemer, Son of God – all of these terms and many more all accurately describe Jesus and the purpose with which He came to earth. But none of them describe Jesus more accurately than one He attributed to Himself – Servant. On one occasion, to motivate His disciples toward greater service, Jesus told them “the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). I’ve always been amazed by the thought that of all the roles Jesus could have assumed He chose the role of a servant. He was the consummate minister, and for those of us trying to effectively minister in the lives of others there are a few things we can learn from Him.
First, we can learn from His humility. Ministry implies a willingness to condescend to the needs of others. It assumes that we don’t think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Romans 12:3). Of all people who have ever lived Jesus had an inherent right to think highly of Himself. I mean, He is God after all. However, even in the midst of His divine nature Jesus humbled Himself. While He deserved to be served He served in the lives of others. He healed the sick, raised the dead, purified lepers, gave sight to the blind, made the lame to walk, and fed those who were hungry. But above this we learn even more from the degree of His humility, because the greatest display of His humility was in that He humbled Himself to the extent that He became obedient unto death, the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8). Jesus’ effectiveness in ministry was directly linked to His humility. Our effectiveness in ministry will largely be dependent on the same. To minister like Jesus ministered we need to learn from His humility.
Second, we can learn from His energy. Even though He was God He was also man and so His energy level wasn’t infinite. He knew when He needed to step back, take a break, and renew Himself (Luke 5:16). However, the rest of the time Jesus worked hard in His mission of seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10). He was constantly traveling, engaging people in conversation, battling with His enemies, showing love to those who most needed it, preaching to multitudes, teaching in synagogues, and training His apostles for their mission once He was gone. Ministry was His way of life. Everything else He did revolved around ministry in some way. He was tireless in His efforts and the energy He brought to His work was contagious among His disciples and the multitudes who came to hear Him. There is a similar level of energy we need to bring to our ministry as Christians. Energy flows out of excitement. And so our level of energy in ministering, I believe, is an indication of our excitement (or lack thereof) for Christianity. No, our energy levels aren’t endless and at times we need to step back, take a break, and renew ourselves. But our effectiveness in ministry will be dependent on how much energy we bring to our work. To minister like Jesus ministered we need to learn from His energy.
Third, we can learn from His motivation. Jesus’ service was selfless. That’s not to say He didn’t ultimately want people to respond to His ministry by changing their lives and living for God. But it was selfless in that He did not do what He did acclaim or applause. He did it to serve needs. Serving for acclaim and applause was what the hypocrites did and Jesus condemned it harshly (Matthew 6:1ff). Instead Jesus taught His disciples to serve for the sake of accomplishing good in people’s lives and being satisfied in that. In other words, ministry requires a selfless approach to the hurt and the needs that people are experiencing. If we serve hoping for something in return we are no better than the hypocrites. Our motivation to serve should flow from a sincere empathy we feel for the hurt of our fellow man. At least that was Jesus’ motivation to serve (Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34). So to minister like Jesus ministered we need to learn from His motivation.
As Christians we have been called to the greatest work on earth, the work of ministry. But for ministry to be effective it’s got to be done right. Jesus did ministry right so let’s learn how to be ministers like Jesus so we can be effective ministers for Jesus.