Weekly Devotional: Cultivating a Servant Heart

 Jesus washes disciples feet - stock photo

Take a moment and reflect on the many characteristics of God. Ask yourself which few represent God the most to you. Perhaps, you said love. Or maybe faithful? If I had to guess, you likely didn’t say servant. Oftentimes, we forget that Jesus chose to serve others despite him being the Savior of the world.

Now, being made in his image, we should work to cultivate a servant heart — the very essence of Jesus. Author John Ortberg says, “When Jesus came in the form of a servant, he wasn’t disguising who God is. He was revealing who God is.”1 Not only are we called to be servants of his kingdom, but cultivating a servant heart counteracts our pride. When we train in spiritual practices that eliminate pride, we are creating space for humility to enter. So, how do you cultivate a servant heart?

In This Article:

Serving Others in Silence

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. — Matthew 6:3-4, NIV

Due to our human nature, we can get caught in the trap of serving for public recognition and the praise of others. Whether consciously or not, we often wonder, What is in it for me? How will this make me look? How can I elevate my status? When we fall into these thought patterns and serve with this heart posture, we end up only serving ourselves and hindering our spiritual growth.

Author Richard Foster says, "Nothing disciplines the inordinate desires of the flesh like service, and nothing transforms the desires of the flesh like serving in hiddenness. The flesh whines against service but scream against hidden service. It strains and pulls for honor and recognition."2

Some ideas for serving others in silence include:

  • Offer someone to cut you in line
  • Privately Venmo your friend for a coffee
  • Pick up trash at an event
  • Serve in your local community without telling anyone
  • Write an anonymous note of encouragement to someone

Although it can be difficult, I challenge you to serve others in secret. May you remember that we serve to give God the honor and glory because he first served us. Serving others in hiddenness — without anyone seeing or knowing — builds a muscle of humility in us and cultivates a servant heart.

Serving the Deepest Needs

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. — 1 Peter 4:10, NIV

Sometimes it can be easier to remember to serve our friends, family and those around us that we forget to serve those that don’t naturally cross our path. Another way we can cultivate a servant heart is by serving the deepest needs — the needs of those that are suffering.

I encourage you to reflect on a local or global cause that you are passionate about or drawn to and ask the Lord how you can begin to serve. Perhaps it is volunteering once a semester at a soup kitchen to feed the homeless or donating $10 a month to an anti-trafficking ministry. Whatever it looks like for you, however big or small, begin to prayerfully consider how you may alleviate some of society’s pain through your service.

Serving Where You Are

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. — Ephesians 2:10, NIV

Another way we can model a servant’s heart is simply by serving others where we are. Try not to strive for a servant’s heart, but rather serve where your feet are. For instance, bring a coffee to the friend who shared with you that they haven’t been sleeping well. Or, help clean up the mess made after you see someone drop their lunch. Serving where you are could translate to endless possibilities. When we keep our eyes and ears open to the needs of others, the Holy Spirit can prompt you with opportunities to serve.

Pastor Tim Keller poses the tough question, Do we meet others’ needs with the same joy, speed, energy and creativity as we do our own needs? Oftentimes, the answer is no — but imagine if we did! I can confidently say the love of Jesus would be evident in our lives, relationships and communities.

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! — Philippians 2:6-8, NIV

Servanthood is not a mere aspect of our faith, but rather a fundamental responsibility toward advancing his kingdom. Through serving others in silence, serving the deepest needs, and serving where you are, you may begin to look more like Jesus — the perfect representation of a servant’s heart. If you are interested in learning more about the spiritual practice of servanthood, consider adding a Spiritual Formation and Discipleship minor to your degree or attending Grand Canyon University’s Spiritual Formation workshops. Fill out the form on this page to learn more.  

1 Ortberg, J. (1997). The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People. Zondervan.

Foster, R. (1998). Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. HarperSanFrancisco.

Approved by the local outreach coordinator of the Office of Spiritual Life on April 9, 2024

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.