“There was a man sent from God whose name was John. The same came for a witness to bear witness of the Light that all through him might believe” (John 1:6). In John we might consider some principles as to the marks of a true servant.
First, he (John) came from God. In order to do this, we might first be with God. Alas! This is the weak point with so many. The excitement of service has an attraction for the natural tastes which the holy calm of the sanctuary does not produce. In one way service makes nothing of us, for in the presence of God we find that in ourselves we are nothing*. Men are needed who are really with God. There is no real freshness if we are not with our Father*. Our hearts lose their divine sensibilities, we drop down to the level of things around us, and service becomes more or less formal and mechanistic.
The most glorious and soul-stirring realities are soon held as mere doctrines, and of course are preached as they are held. Then very soon the servant begins to feel a complacent self-satisfaction as to his service, which is not disturbed even by the lack of any manifest blessing. On the other hand, if we are with our Father, we are in spiritual reality as to our own experience. We do not deceive ourselves as to the measure of our progress, gift or faith. We think “soberly” (Rom 12:3) as we ought to think. Then it is with God that we learn His love, His unmeasured grace, His glorious purposes, His great thoughts concerning the Lord Jesus, the reality of the Spirit’s power, and many other things which are accepted in theory by many but known as realities by all too few.
Then, having been with our Father in the secret of His presence, we can come from Him in the reality of what we have learned within the veil, to serve in a world like this. We do not then measure the Enemy’s power against our weakness, but against God. We do not put on the armor which others have worn*, or follow in the beaten track where other servants have trod*. We do not confer with flesh and blood as to the scope and character of our service.
There is an originality about every servant who comes from the Father. He does not fashion two servants in the same mold—that is man’s work—and just in proportion as we are formed in the sanctuary, each will have his own peculiar fitness for his own service, and such stamp will be upon it that faith will recognize that it comes from God.
The second mark of a true servant of God is that he is consciously nothing in himself. John could speak of himself as only a “voice,” and a greater than John was consciously “less than the least of all saints” (Eph 3:8). The moment we think ourselves to be anything (Gal 6:3), we are out of the servant’s true position and spirit (John 13:16). The more worthy we are of the Lord’s commendation (2 Cor 10:18), the less we think of ourselves.
The third mark of a true servant of the Lord is that he is a “witness.” He speaks of that which he has seen (1 John 1:3) and known for himself. It was said to Paul that he was to be “a witness of these things which thou hast seen” (Acts 26:16). We may minister things which we have never entered into ourselves, but we cannot be witnesses of them. Hence the deep importance of cultivating communion with the Father, and increased intimacy with the Lord Jesus. Whether it be the terror of the Lord, the love of the Father, the value of the Lord Jesus’ work, or the blessings which faith enjoys, we must ourselves have already came into that which we share with others, or we become lecturers rather than witnesses.
- CA Coates
* “we are nothing”—concerning being contributors—but we are rather recipients and witnesses for manifesting God’s glory, i.e. “bear” fruit, not produce it, as only the Vine can do (John 15:8).
* “with our Father”—not with Him just in union, but also in His manner of desired fellowship.
* “armor which others have worn”—we “put on” our own “armor of God” (Eph 6:12).
* “track where other servants have trod”—different track or lane, but on the same road.