Summary: Seeing that real greatness comes through servanthood.
Oxymorons are phrases that sound self-contradicting. Through the years, people have made lists of them. Maybe you’ve heard some…
1. Act naturally
2. Airline Food
3. Almost exactly
4. Alone together
5. Clearly misunderstood
6. Found missing
7. Government organization
8. New York culture
9. Plastic glasses
10. Pretty ugly
11. Sanitary landfill
12. Small crowd
13. Temporary tax increase
14. Tight slacks
15. Jumbo shrimp
The idea we’re going to look at this morning is regarded by many people to be an oxymoron: the idea of becoming great by being a servant. Greatness by servanthood?
Let’s face it, as a general rule, our world just don’t applaud servants. Not many kids grow up with aspirations of becoming great servants. CEOs with lots of money, sports figures with lots of recognition, or politicians with lots of power maybe, but not servants.
We suffer from a serving deficit in our world. Sure, the “service industry” has grown like crazy, but the point of it is to make money, not just to serve.
Ill - In the movie The Poseidon Adventure, the ocean liner S.S. Poseidon is on the open sea when it hits a huge storm. Lights go out, smoke pours into rooms and, amid all the confusion, the ship capsizes.
Because of the air trapped inside it floats upside down. But in the confusion, the passengers can't figure out what's going on. They scramble, mostly following the steps to the top deck. The problem is, the top deck is now 100 feet under water. In trying to get to the top of the ship, they drown.
The only survivors are the few who do what doesn't make sense. They do the opposite of what everyone else is doing and climb up into the dark belly of the ship until they reach the hull. Rescuers hear them and cut them free.
Servanthood is like that. It doesn’t make sense that the way to the top is through the bottom.
So the average person crashes on ahead.
Until, come mid-life crisis time, some 45 year old man realizes his climb up the ladder has been on a ladder that’s leaning against the wrong wall.
Just like other trends, this servant deficit affects the Church as well. We’re afraid of outright, unreciprocated service just for the sake of serving. It’s reflected by the number of people who hold back from serving in the church. It’s also reflected by our tendency as a congregation to serve within the church but to not direct that service to people outside. It’s easy to serve someone you’ve known for years and who has helped you at the times when you needed it. But what about the guy you don’t know, the family who probably won’t return a favor, the total stranger who needs a hand with something? How close are we to the bulls-eye on this one?
Good news! The fine art of achieving greatness through serving has been mastered before.
It’s easy for me to get up this morning and say, “We all need to do better at this.” It’s another thing to actually show how it’s done. But that’s exactly what God has done.
If I could put together a drama to show us how to do this, I’d present it in 3 scenes that would all teach the same things. Each scene would highlight a different person’s life from Scripture. The first scene would feature John the Baptist…
I. John the Baptist
John had the ears of people. Crowds were coming to hear him speak and to be baptized by him. They were beginning to wonder if he might even be he Messiah. He could have run with that ball. He could have been great. Instead he chose the more authentic path to greatness.
The scene would open with the hairy, unconventional man in the desert. Some of his loyal followers have just brought him a concern. “John! The One you’ve been telling about – the One you baptized – He’s started a following. People are going to Him now instead of to you!” But John would clearly say that to be great you must...
1. Make it your goal to serve *Jn 3:27-30
-John the Baptist had understood the purpose of his life. It wasn’t to gain a following for himself. It wasn’t to become a household name in the first century. It was to just be a servant – to prepare the way for Jesus’ work.
So, when people come to him with the question of where to place their loyalty, John’s pretty clear in his answer:
Luke 3:16 "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.