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Serving the God Who Served Us First

Five Truths to Preach to Yourself When You’re Tired of Serving

by Jen Oshman

“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.” — Mark 10:45

What’s your warning light? What is the emotion that, when it surfaces, you know it’s alerting you that maintenance is required? It’s the blinking light on the dashboard of your soul that tells you there’s a problem under the hood. It’s the feeling that says, “Danger is ahead if you don’t stop soon.”

My warning light is comparison followed by bitterness. Through years of serving my church and my family I have come to know I’m in trouble when my thoughts start to sound like, “I am working so hard here, what are they even doing?” Or, “Does anyone else even care? Does anyone else serve in this church? Does anyone else ever straighten up this home?” 

When I begin to compare myself to others I always come out on top. The comparison leads to bitterness and the bright red light starts blinking. Each time I believe the lie that I am doing more and no one else cares, I know I’m in trouble and had better pull over and figure it out very soon.

Jesus’s words offer a firm and undeniable rebuke to my warning light, “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” (Mark 10:45). Selfishness is bound to surface in all of us, but we don’t have to stay there. Here are five truths we can preach to ourselves when we tire of serving others: 

If the Son of Man came to serve, so can we. In the gospels, others called Jesus the Son of God, but he usually referred to himself as the Son of Man. These two titles matter because Jesus is both truly God and truly human. Our Savior must be human, to be an acceptable substitute for us, and he must also be God, to be an acceptable and perfect 
sacrifice for us. The Son of Man title comes from Daniel 7, which says Jesus will come again “with the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13) and the Father will give him “authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language [will worship] him. His dominion [will be] an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom [will be] one that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14). When Jesus calls himself “the Son of Man,” he’s saying that even though he deserves and will receive all glory, dominion, and worship as God, he came as a man to serve the people he created. If our all-powerful, all-good, and all-deserving Lord and Savior can condescend to serve us, we can certainly serve others. 

We are not our own; we have been ransomed. Even though it’s uncomfortable, we cannot overstate our helpless situation prior to being rescued by Jesus. We were condemned to darkness, damned to hell, and dead in our sins (John 3:16–18, Ephesians 2:1–3, Romans 6:23). By God’s grace alone, we have been rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13–14). Because of his great kindness, mercy, and love, Jesus pursued you and me. He paid our ransom on the cross. We are not our own, we were bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). Our Creator and Savior who came to serve has every right to require us to serve too.

Because Jesus served first, we can serve now. Christ—not those who receive our acts of service—is the reason we serve. We serve not because others deserve it, but because Jesus does. Our Savior who is perfect, sinless, and without any blemish endeavored to serve and save you and me—who are undeserving—before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). Jesus saved us, not because we earned it in any way, but because of his immeasurable mercy. And he tells us to go and do likewise (Luke 10:37). We don’t serve our spouses, or kids, or church families because they ask nicely, behave rightly, or do anything to earn it. We serve them because Jesus asked us to, and he is worthy of our obedience and sacrifice.

We are empowered to serve others by Jesus who lives in us. Anyone who has tried knows serving others out of sheer grit and will power inevitably fails. As Christians, we have the privilege of serving others out of the supernatural power of Christ in us. As new creatures saved by Jesus, Paul says for all of us, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Every time we serve we can call on Jesus and ask him to serve through us. He will answer that prayer. 

Serving is counterintuitively for our joy. It goes against our flesh and our culture to sacrifice our time and efforts for others. But the good life is actually found when we lay our own lives down. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34–35). When we lose 
our lives in service—when we walk in the footsteps of the God who made us and died to save us—we actually find them. 

When my warning light goes off—comparison that leads to bitterness—I know I can nurse those emotions and let them fester. I can keep score, come out on top, and turn against my family and my church. And at times, I confess, I do. 

Our memory verse this month implores me to fix my eyes on Jesus and to follow after him. “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” (Mark 10:45). May you and I remember Jesus is the Son of Man who is worthy of all power, dominion, worship, and glory and yet he came to serve us. May we remember that we are not our own and that because Jesus lives in us we can serve others, even when it’s hard. And finally, may we remember that serving others is actually for our joy. 

Serving others does not come naturally to any of us. In and of ourselves, we drift toward convenience, security, and comfort. But as followers of Jesus, we are not given the option to maintain the status quo of our flesh and our culture. Christ calls us to serve, as he served. And because of him, we can. 

Jen Oshman

Jen Oshman has been in women’s ministry for over two decades on three continents. She’s the author of Enough about Me and Cultural Counterfeits, she hosts a weekly podcast about cultural events and trends called All Things, and she is the mother of four daughters. Jen's family currently resides in Colorado, where they planted Redemption Parker.

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