|Samuel tells Eli that God has spoken to him.|
The common thread between our 1 Samuel passage and our Acts passage is the theme of people being chosen to serve God. Samuel is chosen directly by God to be a prophet. Seven are chosen by God's people to be the first deacons. It's important to know the similarities and differences between these two positions, and between these two processes of choosing.
Prophets aren't chosen by people--their chosen directly by God. Often, as in Samuel's case, Old Testament prophets were called to be political as well as spiritual leaders (eg. Moses and Deborah, just to name a couple). Prophets don't tend to be humble people. Though they may be humble at the time of their calling, prophets readily develop quite a large sense of self. They need such confidence in order to perform their task, which is declaring to (often obstinate) people a word-for-word message from the Lord. Prophets can't shuffle their feet and look to the floor, saying, "I guess that maybe God has given me an impression that... (fill in the blank)." Instead, they need to be able to stand boldly and say, "Thus saith the Lord!"
Deacons aren't chosen directly by God--they're chosen by God's people. Their task is not to give verbatim messages from God to the people. Their task is to serve--to do the "dirty work" of the church. The word "deacon" literally means someone who goes "through the dust." The image is of someone who's so busy serving that they're kicking up a cloud of dust behind them. If deacons are leaders, then it's by the example of extreme servanthood that they demonstrate in their lives. While God determines whom He will call as prophets, God's people need guidelines in order to discover those who are fit for the office of deacon. Acts 6:3 (ESV) describes desirable deacons as people who are "of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom."
1 Timothy 3 (NRSV) says:
|Basin and towel: traditional symbols of deacon ministry|
Regardless of whether a person is called to be a leader or servant, one common thing unites them all: Each one must say "yes" to God. They must say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." God has placed a call on everyone's life. Has God called you as a servant? Has He called you to be a leader. There's a fine line between the two. Matthew 20 says:
25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
In John 20, Jesus brought the disciples together for his last supper with them. He wrapped a towel around Himself and washed their feet.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
I pray that God will make you a leader in His church. I pray that God will first make you a servant. I pray that you will find God's will for your life, and that you'll be faithful to follow His leading.