Page 311 was the first day of the “fall back” time change so the clock on the wall and my body clock aren’t quite in sync at the moment. It seems like I slept well last night but even with the extra hour due to the time change, I still found it difficult to wake up this morning. But wake up I did, as I headed up to Dowagiac, Michigan to preach this morning. Other than the occasional scheduling conflict that brings about a change, I typically preach at the North Wayne Mennonite Church on the first Sunday of each month. I always pray that I am an encouragement to them every time I share God’s Word with them and I thank God for the encouragement they are to me.
I’ve been working on a sermon series on “Living as the Lord’s Servant” with a focus on Biblical character studies of individuals who are described as a servant of God. Today’s message was “Living as a HUMBLE Servant” as we considered the life of Moses, of whom it is written that he was the most humble man that ever lived. While there are a lot of stories about Moses in the Bible that we could have looked at, the primary text this morning was from Exodus 18 where Moses is paid a visit by his father-in-law. From that text and a couple passages from the end of Deuteronomy, we looked at six characteristics of a humble servant. If it is our desire to live as a humble servant of the Lord, we would do well to learn from one who understood humility.
The first quality that I noticed in the life of Moses was that a humble servant Hears. It was Moses who would sit each day, hearing the disputes and concerns of all the people as he sought godly solutions for them. But not only did Moses hear the voices of the people under his leadership, he also took the time to hear the advice of his father-in-law. But in all of his work in hearing the people and his patience in hearing advice, he sought most of all to hear God. To live as a humble servant, we must take the time to actually hear the people around us and seek to hear God above all other voices.
But hearing isn’t enough. Living as a humble servant also requires that we Understand what we hear. Moses was effective as a leader not simply because he would hear what the people around him were saying, but because he sought God for the understanding necessary to do the right things about what he would hear. We hear things everyday but do we listen to what we hear with the desire to understand, or simply with a desire to get to our turn to talk? Moses not only heard the advice of his father-in-law but he sought to understand the right response to that advice.
Not only does a humble servant need to hear and understand, there also needs to be a time to Meditate, or think on the things that need heard and understood. This is a time when we consider how God’s Word should impact our hearing and understanding. It is so easy to apply our own wisdom and understanding to the situations we face and completely miss the way that is best. Sometimes that time of meditation, or thinking, may be accomplished in a moment and other times it may need to cover hours, days, weeks, or even more. Moses heard and understood the advice being given to him, and I believe he spent some amount of time with God meditating on the course of action he needed to take in response to the advice given.
The first three characteristics of a HUMBLE servant can be mostly internal and passive as we Hear, Understand, and Meditate. The fourth characteristic, however, is where we are compelled to action as the humble servant Believes. There are those who would argue that belief also is just an internal response, yet I contend that belief not acted upon is not real belief at all. James puts it this way, “Faith without works is dead.” There comes a point in time as we live as a humble servant of God that we must put our hearing, understanding, and meditation into action as our deeds reflect what we actually believe. As a humble servant, Moses not only heard, understood, and meditated on the advice given to him by his father-in-law, he believed the advice was godly and solid — belief shown by his putting the advice into practice.
It is when we put our beliefs into action that the humble person truly learns to Live. Moses lived as a leader but his life also shows that, in spite of many experts saying otherwise, it is possible to live as a humble leader. As Moses neared the end of his life, he challenged the people of Israel to consider the choice that was before them — a choice of life or death. Moses was able to look back over all that God had done in the 120 years of his life and conclude that he had chosen life. The humble servant of God lives life to the full, keeping in mind that it is only in Christ that life can be lived completely to the full. Being a humble servant does not always mean that we remain in the background. It simply means that we view our life accurately in light of who God has created us to be. We go out and live life in obedience to Christ in such a way that the people around us would know that there is a choice before them of life and death and they would be encouraged by us to choose life.
And that brings us to the final point of this morning’s message on living as a humble servant — the humble servant Encourages! Not only does Moses seek to encourage the people of Israel to choose life, he spends considerable time encouraging the leadership that will follow him. If people know anything about the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua, it is probably the rather forceful and repeated encouragement from Moses to Joshua to be strong and courageous. In the midst of this encouragement from both Moses and God to Joshua, it is easy to overlook the greatest encouragement of all — it was the encouragement that could only come from a humble servant of the Lord. Moses understood that he had never been the leader of Israel, he was simply a servant of the One leading. As he passes along instructions to Joshua, Moses makes it clear that he will not be the one crossing the Jordan ahead of the people. In fact, he encourages Joshua with the fact that it will not even be Joshua who will be the first to cross the river ahead of the people. He says that God Himself will go ahead of you across the Jordan and will defeat your enemies for you. The humble servant of God encourages the next generation by letting them know that God was always leading in the past and will always be leading them as long as they choose Him.
With the sermon and church service complete, we stopped for lunch on the way home and then the pace of the weekend caught up with me as I slept the afternoon away. Eventually I woke up and headed out for a walk along the river in an attempt to get my blood circulating and to clear some of the fog from my mind. As I shot a few photos, I was once again reminded of how it is the calmest waters that cause the most detailed and accurate reflections. Living as a humble servant has the ability to bring peace and calm to our inner turmoil which allows us to reflect Christ with the greatest level of detail and accuracy.
I pray that you and I would desire to live as, and be known as, a servant of the Lord. I pray that we would learn and apply the lessons learned from the life of Moses as we seek to live as a humble servant. I pray that our humility would lead us to a life that reflects Christ with a great amount of detail and complete accuracty.