In spiritual leadership, the way up is down, and the way to greatness is the path of service.

We already know that, and we pray for a servant’s heart. But sometimes we forget what a servant’s heart actually looks like. What, specifically, are we praying for when we ask for a servant’s heart?

Below are seven descriptors of a leader with a servant’s heart:

1. Sensitive to the Holy Spirit—Servants don’t dictate their schedules or their agendas. Like Philip in Acts 8, they are sensitive to the Holy Spirit to serve wherever, whenever, and however He prompts them.

Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?— Acts 8:29–30

2. Eager to help—Servants want to pitch in wherever help is needed—even if that help doesn’t quite fall under their job description. Timothy was this kind of servant to the Apostle Paul.

For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me. But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.— Philippians 2:18–21

3. Aware of dangers—Spiritual servants are alert to the fact that they are in a spiritual battle. They recognize their enemy, and they are realistic regarding the weakness of the flesh. They avoid temptation and do whatever is required to walk in spiritual victory.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.— Ephesians 6:10–12

4. Vision for the future—Servants don’t carry agendas of personal ambition, but they do dream big for the Master. They seek to understand His vision, and with a heart of faith and spirit of sacrifice, they pour their energy into furthering it.

Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said.— Joshua 14:12

5. Anticipates needs—Servants develop the attentiveness and discernment to anticipate the needs around them—the needs of those they lead and the needs of those they follow. Like Jonathan, they seek to be a blessing even when it is inconvenient to do so.

And Jonathan Saul’s son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.— 1 Samuel 23:16

6. Dependent on God’s power—Spiritual servants are well aware of their own inability. They place no confidence in the flesh, but they place faith in the power of God.

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:— 1 Corinthians 1:26–28

7. True to the Master—In a word, servants are faithful. Because they’ve discarded personal ambition, they are free to measure their greatness, not by apparent success, but by faithfulness. Like the Christians in Smyrna, leaders with a servant’s heart are true to the Master even to death. Their goal is simply to bring honor to Him.

Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.— Revelation 2:10

Do you serve as a spiritual leader in any capacity? If so, which of these areas do you need to grow in to further develop a servant’s heart?

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