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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

Breaking out of Burnout

May 30th, 2018

If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. (John 15:6)

It seems simple enough. If we want to bear fruit then we should remain in Christ. To remain means to abide with Him, to stay with Him, to live life with Him, to take all that we do and think and say, all our relations and responsibilities and expectations, all of everything we have and think and do, and bring them to Christ, and to bring Christ to them.

If we do not do this, however, we burnout. Here Christ used an agricultural example of what farmers do – they burn away the useless parts of plants at harvest. A branch that does not bear fruit, the vintner cuts off. It dries out in the ditch until it must be gotten out of the way. Then it is tossed into the fire.

A couple of years ago I wrote a book “Burnout: Causes and Recovery” with the subtitle “Rediscovering the Joy of Ministry.” If you are dealing with burnout I recommend it to you. It is available on amazon. In it I identified seven main symptoms of burnout for ministers:

  1. Frustration in being unable to change our circumstances in life
  2. A false sense of self-importance, feeling that we are irreplaceable
  3. A sense of being unappreciated by others
  4. A sense of disappointment in God, that He had not done what we had expected Him to do
  5. A feeling of being overwhelmed, of having too much to do – unrelenting responsibilities
  6. A sense of being isolated and alone
  7. The death of those dreams and hope we had earlier held of being able to make a difference for God

These traits were seen in the lives of both Moses and Elijah – two great men of God. Moses exploded in anger (Numbers 20) and Elijah imploded in fear and defeat (1 Kings 19), but both were dealing with the same inner problem.

Perhaps you feel similar today. Take some time to speak with Christ about your feelings. Let Him remind you that you are not alone, that He is with you. Let Him refresh and renew your excitement for service and for knowing Him. We all need to learn the discipline of constant dependence on Christ’s strength. Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21), and because he could say that he could also say:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18)