Being a deacon is an honoured position in our church. But what makes an excellent deacon? And why would someone sign up for this role?
Excellent Deacons & Their Rewards
To deacon is to serve!
The deacon’s charge is simply this: serve well. Or, if you like, serve excellently. And there are three points I’d like us to observe from this charge: the meaning of serving well, the means by which you are to serve well, and the motivation for serving well.”
“We’re not called to serve according to worldly and evil principles. We’re not called to be pragmatic merely. We are to serve according to God’s word. The Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. The truth must guide all we teach and all we do. And in the context of the deacon’s office, the truth must guide how deacons function. So I’m suggesting that when they function according to God’s word, they are serving well.”
Topics & Timestamps
1:20 – What Is The Deacon’s Charge?
2:30 – 1. The Meaning of ‘Serving Well’
12:33 – 2. The Means By Which To Serve Well
20:10 – 3. The Rewards For Serving Well
36:00 – Use, But Don’t Abuse, Your Deacons
Top Quotes: Deacons & Their Rewards
“When we function according to God’s word, we are serving well.”
“Our faith determines our capacity for service. The deeper our faith the more we serve.”
“Without faith, it is impossible to please God. But with faith God looks upon our work and he can see that we depend on him.”
“Be willing to be served. These men occupy office not for their own sake!”
Other Videos On This Topic
Text: 1 Timothy 3:13
Date preached: 27 June 2021
Location: Lusaka Baptist Church, Lusaka, Zambia
I would like this evening to draw your attention to 1 Timothy 3:13, 1 Timothy 3:13. It reads, “For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
We recognise the importance of the office and the great things deacons do for us.
We are thankful to the Lord for the ordination of our brother Patrick Kilumba to the deacon’s office. And we celebrate this important occasion because we recognise the importance of the office and the great things deacons do for us. And even for people outside of the Church.
What Is The Deacon’s Charge?
And I want to bring a further charge to our brother Patrick. He’s already been charged, and I want to bring a further charge, which I will couch in the form of sound words found here in 1 Timothy 3:13: “For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and a great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
And the charge is simply this, serve well. Or if you like, serve excellently. And there are three points I’d like us to observe from this charge: the meaning of serving well, the means by which you are to serve well, and the motivation for serving well.
Those three things. Let’s begin with the meaning of serving well. And we’ll begin with the word serving.
1. The Meaning of ‘Serving Well’
To serve, and if you were reading the Greek Bible, you would see this very clearly, it could also read ‘to deacon’. Because the word used in the Greek is diakonēsantes. So, it has that root word diakon. So, to serve is to deacon! And it means to be an attendant. It is to do something similar to what a waiter does in a restaurant. Or to what an auxiliary nurse does in a hospital or an old people’s home. They attend to these old people. Or if they are waiters, they attend to those who go for meals at the restaurant, they are at the service of those people.
To serve is to deacon!
The idea of being a deacon in recent times has come to symbolise all the mundane work that a deacon does. He assists the elders, he provides for the material concerns of the congregation – such as paying bills, keeping records, meeting the church’s budget, providing for the congregational needy, etcetera.
Now there’s serving and ‘serving’. There are those who are in the deacon office but who do not serve well. For them the office has become a status symbol and not a means of serving. Serving can become crude, and unkind, and arrogant. That is not serving well.
Serving can become crude, and unkind, and arrogant. That is not serving well.
What Is Serving ‘Well’ Exactly?
Which brings me to the word well. The apostle says, “Those that serve well”. Well. And I want you to note that adverb, ‘well’. It means literally, good. That’s what it means literally, good. To serve well means to serve good. This being the case, serving well or serving good, serving properly, will include first of all serving according to God’s word which is good as you know. The word of God, is holy, it is just, it is good!
When we serve according to God’s word, we are going to serve according to the good things it proposes that we do when we think, when we speak, when we act. And in regard to deacons’ work, it will have to do more with acting.
When deacons function according to God’s word, they are serving well.
So, we’re not called to serve according to worldly and evil principles. We’re not called to be pragmatic merely. We are to serve according to God’s word. The Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. The truth must guide all we teach and all we do. And in the context of the deacon’s office, the truth must guide how deacons function. And I’m suggesting that when they function according to God’s word, they are serving well.
Doing Good To Others
Secondly, serving well will include serving to do good to those we serve. We serve to do them good, not to advance our own selfish ambitions. We serve to do them good, not to massage our own egos. We serve to do good to the church. We serve to alleviate the needs of the elders. And you will find that the elders do have needs that as a deacon you must attend to.
We serve to do others good, not to massage our own egos.
It means serving to provide for the material concerns of the congregation. And you will find that there are myriad of concerns in the congregation. It means serving to provide for the congregational needy. And you will find that we have lots and lots of needy people: the poor, the widows and sometimes the widowers. It is your call to do them good.
Serving well will include serving diligently. Diligence suggests that you have a goal to achieve. Namely to win souls and to build the saints. It happens to be the self-same goal that the elders have. So your marching orders are no different from the elders’. Your goal is to win souls, to promote the winning of souls, to build the saints, to edify the saints. To do them good in that sense. You just do it differently; you just achieve that goal differently from the way the elders do it.
Deacons have a goal to achieve: to win souls and to build the saints.
But to serve in that way with diligence does not just imply that you have a goal. But that you are prepared to persevere at doing it. And as you do this work, you will mean to do good. You will mean to do good. And yet you will be faced with criticism. And criticisms will come from every angle.
Criticisms will come from the very people you are intending to do good. The very people you are intending to bless. Criticisms will come. And some of them will not be constructive. They may even be destructive. Must you give up? Must you stop working as a deacon and striving to do them good? Of course not. You must carry on with diligence.
Diligence suggests that there will be challenging times. Diligence suggests that the work you are called to do is not easy. It is difficult. Sometimes it will be easy. But many times, it will be challenging and it will be difficult. How can you serve in the midst of a pandemic for example? How can you serve when the Church is not meeting in person? How can you serve? It’s difficult. But serve you must.
How can you serve successfully when resources are stretched? Sometimes even scarce. How can you serve when the needs are so much more than the means of meeting them? Must you stop? Must you give up because there’s difficulty, there are challenges before you? No! You must carry on and diligence demands that. That is what serving well looks like.
2. The Means By Which To Serve Well
But let’s come in the second place and look at the means by which you are to serve well.
Unpacking A Deacon’s Qualifications
Now I want to suggest that the means are your qualifications. Notice the little word, ‘For’, in 1 Timothy 3:13: “For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus”. That little word ‘for’ provides the logical connection between 1 Timothy 3:13, which we are considering, which is our text and the preceding section, which runs from 1 Timothy 3:8 right through to 1 Timothy 3:12.
These qualifications will equip you. They will drive you on as you endeavour to serve.
What does this section say? They say, “Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husband of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well”. And then we come to that little word ‘for’. “For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing”.
Now that word, it doesn’t just connect 1 Timothy 3:13 to the preceding section, it alerts us as to why the requirements of 1 Timothy 3:8-12 are so necessary. In other words, to be able to serve well, you must meet these qualifications. To be able to serve well, you must be characterised by these qualifications. These qualifications will equip you to serve. They will drive you on as you endeavour to serve.
Deacons’ & Elders’ Qualifications Are Similar
And when you look at them carefully, they are not any different from the qualification of elders. Apart from the requirement to teach, everything else sounds the same.
They must be qualified in their home life, they must be qualified morally, they must be qualified in their abilities. Husband of one wife, ruling over their children, being of a wholesome character, reverent, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith!
Apart from the requirement to teach, everything else sounds the same.
Their own wives must be exemplary. That’s part of what it means for him to rule over his family. He rules over his wife and over his children. He does not demand that the church be one thing only for his own wife to negate that very thing. And that’s a high standard, isn’t it?
Acts 6:3-5 also gives us some insights as to the things that enable deacons. A good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, faith. All of these things must characterise a deacon. And these are the things that will enable them to serve well.
When we were ordaining two of the new deacons, a couple of weeks ago, I spoke on knowing God as the means through which we will be strong and do exploits for the Lord. You cannot be strong, you cannot do exploits for the Lord, if you don’t have the character to be strong and to do exploits. Character comes first.
The Relationship Between Character & Performance
This is true in the Church. I want to suggest that it must be true at the state level as well, at the family level as well, character! Far too often here in Africa, here in Zambia, we put men in political office who have no character. And we are disappointed when they don’t make it, when they don’t do well, when they steal, when they lie. How can people who lack character, righteous character, do a righteous thing? There is a relationship between character and our performance. This is not held true in the realm of diaconal work.
When we are Christlike; we have character.
God blesses character. It is not so much that we have a lot of physical energy, a lot of physical strength, a lot of common sense and innovation. They have their place, but it’s not so much that we have that as that we are Christlike; we have character.
It’s not that we can sound strong and shout strong and appear courageous. No, no, it is that we are like Christ. We can serve like Christ and that is what God blesses.
3. The Motivations For Serving Well
Let me come in the third place to the motivations for serving well. The motivations for serving well. And there are two motivations stated here in 1 Timothy 3:13, “For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves”, number one, a good standing. And number two, great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Obtaining A Good Standing
Notice first of all that they obtain a good standing, a good standing. And that word which is translated as ‘standing’ here can also mean a step or a stair. When you have to go upstairs in this building, you have to mount stairs. You move from one step to the next, from the bottom one to the top one. And that is eventually what gets you to the top. The word translated ‘good standing’, means just that: a step, a stair. It can also be translated as a position, a standing, a grade of advancement, a good standing.
It’s Not A Step Ladder
Now notice, it doesn’t say a better standing. Because sometimes we thing that the diaconal office is the means to the elders office. So, you start off here and then you go there to a better standing. And that is not what Paul has in mind.
There are people who are qualified to be deacons, who are not qualified to be elders. There are people who are deacons but they also qualify to be elders. And because they qualify to be elders, they are given the elder’s office. It’s not about getting to a better office. It’s about occupying an office for which you are qualified and gifted.
It’s not about getting to a better office. It’s about occupying an office for which you are qualified and gifted.
So, the apostle is not talking about a higher grade, he is talking about a good standing. It is a standing. And I want to say first that it is an honourable standing. A noble standing. The kind of standing that enables you, that positions you, to have a good influence in the Church. So it’s not just elders who have a good influence. Deacons can have a good influence. And I dare say, people who are not in the deacon’s office but who serve the church well can also have a good influence in the church.
Good Deacons Are Honoured
And notice, the relationship between this standing is with those who serve well. Those who will have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing. Deacons who don’t serve well don’t obtain such a standing. Those who do, do obtain such a standing. An honourable place, a place of influence. They earn the respect of the church.
And notice what they are doing here is not preaching, it is deacons’ work. And in a manner similar to the way Mother Teresa who used to do diaconal work in India, serving the poor, helping the needy, for forty years, that Roman Catholic nun did that sort of thing. And she always scored highly in the polls in terms of those the world considered to have been influential.
When deacons do the same, they will have high standing.
Now why does the office of the deacon obtain such an honour? Well, precisely because in the eyes of men the office of deacon appears like a lowly office. What they do is mundane and menial and we can be tempted to think that this is a lowly office. Very easy to despise the office. But as the deacons exercise themselves after a godly fashion, doing good to the church, over time they earn the respect of the church.
Obtaining Great Boldness In The Faith
This is of course true of the elders too. But that is the first thing. The second, in terms of motivations, is that they obtain great boldness in the faith – great boldness in the faith. And the word boldness can mean confidence. Confidence. It’s got nothing to do with speaking. Like, when I stand before people, I need the confidence to speak. But it has everything to do with being confident in the faith as Paul described it. In the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Witnessing the Lord’s faithfulness in blessing his service causes the deacon to establish a character of firmness in the faith.
In other words, as the deacon serves and he witnesses the faithfulness of the Lord in blessing his service, it helps him, it causes him to establish a character of firmness in the faith. He sees the Lord at work, he becomes more and more assured that what he is doing for the Lord and in the Lord’s name is true, it’s good, it’s helpful, and he is urged on in serving the Lord.
Service In Faith Brings Blessing
Our faith determines our capacity for service. The more our faith, the deeper our faith the more we serve. The less faith we have, the weaker faith we have, the more we stand on the sidelines and watch others. And the more we have faith, the more we please God, and the more we become a blessing to the Church.
Our faith determines our capacity for service. The deeper our faith the more we serve.
Without faith, it is impossible to please God. But with faith, God looks upon our work and he can see that we depend on him. And when we depend on the Lord he is glorified. And when he is glorified, he blesses us. And we find our happiness and satisfaction in him as we experience his blessing. This will be yours when you serve well.
I want to stress once again, it is those who serve well who can be inspired by this motivation. There are people who don’t serve well but they expect to be blessed. It is faithfulness that God blesses. And brother Patrick, if the Lord will bless you, be faithful to him.
I want to conclude with three points, perhaps four.
Guard Your Qualifications Well
First, maintain your qualifications. Serving well is rooted in the qualifications. Maintain your qualifications in your home. Maintain your qualifications in your moral life. Maintain your qualifications in your gifts. Seek to be spirit filled. Seek to know the Spirit by experience. And he will give you wisdom and faith. He will strengthen you in your service. Maintain your qualifications.
And secondly, serve excellently. Serve excellently. Give yourselves fully to serve well. As Christians we can sometimes have the bad attitude of thinking that because the work we do in the church is by and large voluntary – we don’t need to be serious about it. It’s our spare work, we do it in our spare time and we use our spare energies. And if I didn’t have the time and the energies, well, I’ll let this work go begging.
Give yourselves fully to serve well.
So, for example, as a church we have decided to suspend our in-person meetings. Well, does that mean you must suspend your work as a deacon, as an elder, as a church member? Is that what it means? Does it mean you stop functioning? You stop serving others? You are going to work every day and you go to school too. You even go to the shops! Well, there it’s not dangerous, but serving God in the context of the Church is somehow dangerous.
Think about that kind of thinking, it’s faulty thinking. It’s faulty thinking.
You must do excellently in a time such as this. You must think, “I have these gifts, I have this calling, I’m part of this family. Yes, things have somewhat changed, but how can I continue to serve? How can I do it differently but effectively?” That’s the way to think.
Serve excellently. Serve with your mind and serve with your heart. Serve with your hands and serve with your legs. And all the while be concerned about bringing about a good product.
The Double Reward
Thirdly, you will obtain a double reward. That sounds like Paul’s promise to the elders in 1 Timothy 5:17. The elders who rule over the church well, he says, are worthy of double honour. Well here is a double honour for the deacons. You will obtain a double reward. You will have influence. You will have confidence in the faith. Strive to labour in such a way that God himself will give you such an honour. And the Church herself will give you such an honour.
Use, But Don’t Abuse, Your Deacons
Finally, to the Church family I have said this before. I will say it again. Be willing to be served. These men occupy office not for their own sake! I’m not saying they won’t profit anything from it. But they are in the office for you, for you, for you! Be willing to be served by them. Count them as a gift and a blessing to you.
Be willing to be served. These men occupy office not for their own sake!
Don’t abuse, I didn’t say don’t use, I said don’t abuse the deacons. Don’t break the deacons down. Don’t gossip about the deacons in a destructive way. Pray for them, support them, work with them, so they can succeed at their work. And thank God for them. And thank them. Tell them how thankful you are for the work they do.
If you should criticise them, do it constructively. And ask them just as much as they ask you. They ask you, “How can we serve you? How can we help you? Please let us know, how can we help you?” Well, in a similar way, ask them, “How can we be of help to you? How can we make it easier for you?” When you do that, it will be easier for them. And they will serve so much better.
And we pray for you dear Patrick that the Lord will help you to serve him well and to serve us well for Jesus’ sake. Amen.