"Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying,
"Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.
"And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?
"They said to Him, ‘Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.’
"But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you ask…’ ”
"But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.
"Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.
"And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
(Mark 10:35-38a; 42-45 NKJV)
We see in this scripture James and John making a request of Jesus. It's an interesting request; so much so, that the text says the other disciples were upset when they heard about it. Why were they upset? What was the big deal?
Well, James and John were asking to rule – to have authority over other people. They were asking to be second in command to Jesus Himself.
When the Lord answered them, He began by addressing their concept of "ruling" – the concept they had from watching earthly kings "rule" over their kingdoms.
The Amplified Bible helps us understand vs.42 a little better:
"…You know that those who are recognized as governing and are supposed to rule the Gentiles (the nations) lord it over them – ruling with absolute power, holding them in subjection – and their great men exercise authority and dominion over them."
Jesus went on to say, "That's not the way it works in My kingdom!" And He proceeded to teach them about a true servant's heart, and that whoever wished to be great and important in His kingdom would be the servant of all.
You see, a servant's heart is a healthy, functional heart. A true servant ministers from a standpoint of confidence in who he is in Christ. Notice that a servant is not a "controller." Neither is he a "victim."
To help us understand what a servant isn't, let's examine controller and victim. These are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and both are dynamics of dysfunction.
We often see these in action in churches, at home, even on the job; and many people mistakenly believe they are normal (or even godly.) For instance, some churches teach submission doctrines that "feed" dysfunction. Sadly, the roles of controller and victim are actually encouraged in these environments.
A Servant Is Not A Controller
First, let's look at "controller." Controller looks for importance by authority over others. He's trying to find value by his position. "Greatness" as a person and as a Christian is thought of as power over others.
He (or she) feels a need to control others in so-called ministry situations – putting what he thinks is God's approval on his actions.
To whatever degree, controller may intimidate, blame, shame and make choices for others. He attempts to dominate, doesn't listen very well, and tries to present an air of importance.
Inside he may feel: insecure, guilty, lonely, embarrassed, angry and anxious. He tries to cover these up by controlling others.
A Servant Is Not A Victim
Secondly, let's look at "victim." Victim has trouble saying "no." He follows the pressure of others rather than the personal leading of the Holy Spirit.
His (or her) concept of spirituality and significance is to be liked and to please others. So he tries to take care of everyone else's needs and fulfill everyone else's desires, agendas, etc.
He's often performance (works) oriented, and ends up taking on too much and sacrificing himself in his attempt to help others. Victim will try to comply with what he perceives others want from him, in an attempt to find value and avoid rejection.
To whatever degree, Victim may hold his real feelings inside, agreeing with others outwardly, withdraws, lets others make decisions for him, and is overly cautious not to hurt others' feelings (false humility – he thinks God expects and requires this of him.)
Inside he may feel: powerless, overwhelmed, inferior, resentful, frustrated, helpless and hurting.
A Servant has a Healthy Heart...
Now let’s look at the "servant" referred to by Jesus. This servant has discovered his personal value and significance in Jesus Christ. He (or she) can minister out of a confident, healthy heart. He has an honest relationship with the Lord and feels secure in that relationship.
He understands personal boundaries, and serves out of love for God and respect for others. He possesses true spiritual power.
His attitude is to help others and promote God's kingdom within the realm of his own personality, giftings and anointing. He's willing to let God do the exalting.
People feel safe around a servant.
A servant's heart is compassionate, honest and caring. But he also understands he can only serve others that which God has given him (doesn't do everything everyone thinks he should.) A servant is a God-pleaser, not a man-pleaser.
As long as the servant is true to his own heart and ministry, he won't be a victim. And as long as the servant respects the giftedness and individuality of others, he won't be a controller.
Inside, the healthy servant feels self-respect and fulfillment. He also feels: strong, thankful, energized, joyful and loved by God.
So in God's kingdom, we need to understand that greatness means serving.
Controllers need to make a decision to stop trying to control others to make themselves feel better. Learn to respect others. Let people be themselves. Let them have their own ideas and manifest their individual God-given ministry.
Victims need to make a decision to stop being a "yes person," trying to keep people happy with them. Learn that godliness is not sacrificing yourself. It is respecting who God has made you and what He has given you.
Accept yourself, your ideas, and your own God-given ministry as good. It is more important to please God than anyone else. Stick with your own giftedness. That is what God has given you with which to serve others.
Let me conclude by saying that when believers cultivate a true servant's heart, then the biblical principles of authority and submission operate the way God intended.
It is important to look to Jesus to fill the deep needs of our hearts. In so doing, we release the true power of the Holy Spirit. God’s anointing flows unhindered through our lives. We then learn to work together as a loving family of believers, promoting God's kingdom in the Earth.
© 1994 Mike Thompson Ministries