There is a story of two Civil War Generals: George A. Custer and Ulysses S. Grant. Both graduated from West Point–Gen. Grant, being the oldest, graduated in the 1840’s and Gen. Custer in 1861. Grant fought in several wars and was a field General in every sense of the word. In 1865, he was the one who forced Robert E. Lee to surrender to the north.
At the surrendering ceremony, Grant wore a mud-splattered uniform of a private, with general shoulder pads sewed on. He was the picture of a man who was a worker and had just finished a job. He said he took no glory in the surrender of a fellow general. Gen. Grant was a humble man and an excellent leader.
When Gen. Custer graduated West Point, he went from 2nd Lieutenant to Brigadier General in less than two years. When he assumed command of his brigade in 1863, he wore a black velveteen uniform with gold braid from the elbows to the cuffs of his sleeves, and a golden feather in the hatband of his dress hat. He was known to have the brashest of attitudes and a personality that one newspaper columnist of the time described as “the personality of a childish upstart.”
Gen. Grant listened to his advisors and led his troops into victory, winning nearly every battle he fought. Gen. Custer led his troops into a deathly defeat at the Battle of Little Big Horn. He had been given advice to detour and go to another front, but the general “knew best” and rejected the advice of his second in command. He ordered a full attack. The only living survivor of that brigade was one horse.
Custer dressed to impress, Grant dressed for work. Custer wanted to be noticed. Grant wanted to win.
General Custer reminds us of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day who wore clothes to impress others, sat in the seats of honor, and loved to be addressed by titles. They exhibited a fake exterior of righteousness. Possessed a false idea of ministry. And demonstrated a faulty concept of greatness.
In the midst of a scathing rebuke of their self-righteousness and hypocrisy, Jesus taught the true nature of ministry, humility and servant hood.
‘But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt 23:11-12)
101 times the New Testament uses the word “servant,” “serve” or “minister.” Jesus is called a “holy servant.” In the Old Testament the Messiah is pictured as a “suffering servant.” Jesus’ attitude and life was servant minded. “He went about doing good.” He humbled himself. Washed feet. And served the disciples. Jesus is our great example of “servant-hood.”
Consider these nine bullet points from the New Testament that further expands Jesus’ point.
- We are saved to serve (2 Tim. 1:9). God wants us to serve Him. Serve our brethren. Serve our fellow-man.
- We are called to serve (1 Pet. 2:9; 2 Tim. 1:9). The calling is holy. Heavenly. And according to God’s purpose.
- We are created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph. 2:10). They are prepared by God. And He said we should “do them.”
- We are commanded by Christ to serve (Mk. 10:43-45). Service is not optional. It’s required!
- We serve based on our gifts (Rom. 12:6-7) Paul says that by God’s grace we all have gifts that are unique. Special. Personal. And that we should use them.
- Our service in the body of Christ is interdependent. We need each other (Rom. 12:3-5)
- We are to serve one another with the motive of love (Gal. 5:13).
- Our service builds up the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-12). It edifies. Encourages. Enables.
- We will be rewarded for service (1 Cor. 3:8).
Want to be great? Desire to make a difference? Yearn to receive honor? Humble your heart, dirty your hands, and seek to serve others.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman