Today, I would like to talk about 5 characteristics that every servant of God should have, based on the Apostle Paul’s introduction to the Book of Romans. These characteristics were present in the life and ministry of Paul and are good indicators of any Christian’s spiritual health. They can be found in Romans 1:8-12.
A Thankful Servant
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” (Romans 1:8)
Verses 1-7 of Romans 1 serve as the typical formal “greeting and salutations” that open up most of Paul’s letters. They serve as an introduction of Paul, the writer; the church at Rome, the addressee; and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the book’s subject. Verse 7 concludes these lines of introduction with a benediction to the Roman believers to whom this book is addressed.
So, Verse 8 would be the actual first sentence of the body of the letter itself. After reading the entirety of Romans, we see that Paul certainly had a great deal of extremely crucial doctrines to expound on in this letter and, judging by the fact that he begins shortly hereafter to present and define the Gospel in earnest (beginning with Verse 18), he is not given to wasting a lot of time with excessive pleasantries. But what is the first thing that he does?
“First, I thank my God…”
A devoted servant of the Lord will be sure to take the time to thank God, regardless of their own sense of urgency for the task at hand. Before he asks another thing from God or presents anything else to his readers, Paul ensures that he gives thanks to the Provider of all things. The frequent giving of thanks in the life of a believer is an often repeated, highly important practice in all of Paul’s teachings (e.g., Phil. 4:6, Col. 3:15, 1 Tim. 2:1). In fact, he will tell the Church in Thessalonica that the giving of thanks to God is the will of our Lord Jesus Christ for the Christian (1 Thess. 5:18). And he will shortly tell the Church in Rome that unthankfulness is a step in the path that leads a man away from God and is a hallmark of a heart in rebellion against the Lord (Rom. 1:21).
A Prayerful Servant
“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;” (Rom. 1:9)
How many inner, spiritual struggles; how many conflicts within our own souls; how many crises of faith and moments of doubt could be resolved if we were to admit that we do not always pray as we should? We know that we ought to pray and pray often, but other matters crowd into our lives, competing for our attention — and they slowly suffocate our spiritual health. It seems so obvious, so utterly intuitive that our deepest trials, our toughest battles could be swiftly overcome; not by standing firmly on our feet, but by falling to our knees in prayer! Yet we do not. If he was anything, Paul was a man of prayer. Would that all Christians were so given to a robust prayer life that we were all described as men and women of prayer. I can think of no more urgent goal for any believer than this.
A Submitted Servant
“Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey BY THE WILL OF GOD to come unto you.” (Rom. 1:10 emphasis added)
James wrote in his epistle that everything we do is done by the gracious allowance of God Almighty. Whether we do this thing or that, even whether or not our life on Earth continues another moment, everything that we have is because of the providence of God and is according to His will (James 4:13-15). Paul wrote the letter to the Romans while he was in the city of Corinth. He wanted to visit the Church in Rome personally, but he recognized that his life was in the hands of God, to do with according to His will and desire. Paul knew that his life was directed and upheld by God’s power, not by his own will and strength. The servant of God must recognize that he has been crucified with Christ and that the life he leads now is not his own, but belongs to his Lord Who lives through Him (Gal. 2:20). It was Paul’s desire for a “prosperous journey” that would bring him to Rome, and he asked the Lord for as much. But he knew that God may very well have something else in mind for him, and it was God’s will that he wished to see come to fruition — even above his own.
A Giving Servant
“For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;” (Rom. 1:11)
A devoted servant of God will have the desire to serve His people. Without a question, we are God’s servants, not man’s, but the biggest way that we serve God is by serving others who belong to Him. God did not call any of us to shut out everyone from our lives and live in isolation. Nor did God call us to seek to be served, but rather to serve others. So many Christians go to church and call it the “Sunday service”, but whose service is it? Who is serving and who is being served? For many, the thought is that the pastor is serving the congregation, but God has called His people to serve Him and serve each other. God doesn’t want “benchwarmers” filling the pews, He wants people with the heart of a servant.
Most churches I have visited will point out to newcomers the advantages of joining their congregation by telling them about all of the things they offer to them. My first question is: Can I be used here? Is there an opportunity for me to serve in this church? If not, I want to go somewhere else! If it is not in the service of others, then how can we really serve a God Who is in need of nothing? Before He ascended back to the Father, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. “Do you love Me?“, He asked three times (John 21:15-17). When Peter said he did, what was our Lord’s response? Do this for Me, do that for Me, bring Me this, give Me that? No. “Feed My sheep.” Take care of the needs of My people. A servant of God is by definition a servant of God’s people.
A Humble Servant
“That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” (Rom. 1:12)
At the opposite end of the spectrum from the ungiving and selfish believer is the seemingly “selfless” servant who appears to do nothing but serve other believers and give to them. While having a great zeal to do the work of the Lord and serve His people is very commendable (and all too rare!) , we must be sure that we do not develop an overinflated sense of self-importance. No matter how far along we get in our walk with the Lord, there is never a time when there are not things we need from other believers. Never. God has intentionally designed it this way. We do not all have the same function in the Body of Christ and we all need each other.
It amazes me that Paul can tell the new converts in Rome that he is looking forward to them comforting him, but he does. Paul, the writer of most of the New Testament; Paul, the man to whom the Lord Jesus Personally appeared and taught the Gospel to; Paul, the founder of several of the very first churches in the world, spreading the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire. Yes, even Paul recognized that he could be comforted and blessed by even relative newcomers to the Faith; he recognized that he still benefited from the gifts which the Spirit of God gave to other Christians. Although he realized that it was necessary for him to write to and eventually visit the Church in Rome in order to firmly establish them in the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel, he was also aware that he himself was not beyond being blessed with the Spiritual gifts that God had given them.
5 Characteristics Of A Devoted Servant
There are obviously a whole lot of other characteristics that we would attribute to a profitable servant of God, but we clearly see these 5 displayed in the Apostle Paul through what he says in this passage of Romans. They are 5 characteristics that ought to mark every servant of God.