The Spiritual Discipline of Service is, like the other disciplines, about transforming the heart and mind. Our practice of any of the disciplines runs the risk of turning into good works rather than a transforming practice; however, service seems to be particularly prone to that risk. Serving others is never a project – never something we do as a fulfillment of an obligation. Although service implies doing something for another, at its heart is the posture and attitude of being a servant to others – an attitude born out of gratitude for what Christ has done for us.
Preparation: Before you begin, take a couple of minutes to sit in silence, emptying your mind of “to do” lists (you may need to write things down as you “toss” them) and extraneous thoughts. If there is sin you need to confess, do so and thank God for forgiveness. Pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal God’s truth to you.
Read John 13:1-5. Notice the verbs. Jesus knew and he loved. Focus on what he knew and whom he love. As a child of God, what do you know about yourself? Whom has God given you to love?
Jesus’s head and heart were both engaged in what he did next. He got up, took on the appearance and role of a servant, and washed the disciples’ feet. With your identity in Christ and your eternal destiny in the hands of a loving God, how can you serve the people God has put into your life? What does the Spirit need to do in your head and/or your heart to bring you to the place where you are willing and able to serve?
Read John 13:6-11. Notice how Jesus’ actions have caught Peter completely by surprise and how Peter resists Jesus’ expression of love. How do you feel when God or another person unexpectedly serves you in some way? In what situations are you reluctant to let others serve you? Ask the Lord to show you why you resist.
Read John 13:12-17. What do you think the disciples were thinking and feeling while they listened to Jesus explain what he had just done? What logic does Jesus use to exhort them to do the same thing?
Mutual submission and service are to characterize the people of God’s kingdom — a beautiful rhythm of giving and receiving. List examples of how mutual service is happening in your fellowship group; your church; the body of Christ worldwide. How can Christians do a better job of cultivating servanthood? Where and with whom do you need to cultivate servanthood?
What promise does Jesus make in verse 17? Think of a time when you experienced blessing or happiness as a result of serving others.
Pray for the ability to recognize opportunities to serve others, and for a willing heart to become a servant for Christ.