Unworthy Servants

October 17th, 2018

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ (Luke 17:10)

The human heart is incredibly fickle and selfish. To maintain commitment to Christ in the face of rejection and frustration is what we are called to do – and we know this – yet we are weak and find it so difficult to do. Like Peter on the night of the Lord’s arrest, the mighty in the Lord often fall due to a simple aloneness, or a criticism by a simple person, and a lack of encouragement.

We are often like people scaling mighty mountains who find that the greatest test of endurance is from the sand that has accumulated in our shoes and rubbed blisters.

We are willing to serve unselfishly so long as we can be guaranteed some personal feeling of emotional thrill. We are willing to labor unknown and unsung so long as we can see some progress in the work. We are willing to go the extra mile, take up our cross and follow Christ, and deny ourselves so long as we can be promised some “down time” to do what we want to do.

The giving of demands to God on any level, whatever it is, is precisely contrary to the spirit of servanthood. Servitude to Christ is not a negotiable matter. We are prone to say, but surely the Lord knows our hearts, he knows that we need encouragement. We can quote the scripture, “For he knows how we are framed, he remembers that we are only dust” (Psalm 103:14). And this is true, of course, but the servant must leave the timing and nature of these encouragements into the hands of God.

It is entirely reasonable that we who serve the Lord, who bring life, grace, hope, and joy to the lives of others, should expect to receive it ourselves: “He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Prov. 11:25). In fact, we can take each of these rewards that we hope to experience here – the awareness of fruit-bearing, the personal sense of joy and the favor of the Lord, even the rewards in terms of financial and material matters – and find scriptures that promise these things (John 15:16; 2 Peter 1:8; Luke 10:5-11; Matt. 19:29). Yet these are also grace gifts received through faith.

The servant has no position of negotiation with the Master. He must take the promise of the Lord and hold on to it, trusting that in the right time and in the right way the servant receives His reward. Perhaps it will be here on earth from time to time, and certainly much reward will wait until heaven, but all of these earthly rewards pale in comparison to the greatest of all rewards – the reward to simply hear the Lord say, “Well done!”

Remember others have endured much worse and still found the means to rejoice. Remember the encouragement of Paul:

At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Tim. 4:16-18)

Burnout, Spiritual Maturity

Leaving All and Following Him

October 16th, 2018

And Levi got up, left everything, and followed Him. (Luke 5:28)

Can a man truly leave all? Even if we walked out of our houses with just the shirts on our backs and started again, we would take with us much of what we owned and had personally become in our hearts. We will take our bitternesses, our pains, our habits, our enjoyments, and our attitudes and prejudices in our minds.

Following Christ creates more than a new direction in life – it creates a new reality for the disciple. The old is passed away – the old with its pains and sorrows, with its sins and recriminations, with its pride and accomplishments as well, is gone. The new in Christ is what we focus upon, what we receive, and what we become. It is a revelation of the power of Christ that He can make people new.

The key to it all is that Levi followed Christ. He put his feet into the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth and stayed close to Him. In that journey were constant turnings that surprised him, what often appeared as side trips down alleyways that turned into major highways for the Lord. And the reverse as well, where what appeared so important in earthly thought vanished as insignificant to the disciple.

Levi was another name for the disciple called Matthew, and in his own gospel he tells his story but omits the part about leaving all (Matt. 9:9). He emphasized the immediacy of his decision, that he followed immediately, but not the size of it, that he had left all. Tax collecting in that day could be a lucrative profession, but it was also one where the Jewish tax-collector himself had burned bridges with his own kinsmen. The tax-collectors were viewed as turn-coats against their own people, so they had to hang together and form their own communities because they were rejected by their own kind, but still not accepted truly by the Romans.

So Levi left not only his profession, but his money and his community to follow Christ. Yet as he tells his story he never mentions the size of his decision. He followed Christ and that was the great difference in his life. He followed not a principle, or a rule, or a discipline, or even a lifestyle. He followed a Person and that Person revealed Himself to him.

Have you done this? Have you left your old life? Have you followed Christ exclusively and devotedly? Have you said to Him, and to your own heart: I stake all that I am or become on Jesus Christ. Show Yourself to me. The words of Paul echo this same thought:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him. (Phil 3:7-9) 

Daily Devotions