Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat?’ Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink?’ Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ Luke 17:7-10
I’m always amazed when I read the Gospels. Every time I read these familiar accounts of Jesus’ life, I’m blown away by something new. Oftentimes the message is comforting, exciting or helpful, but lately my reading has been convicting.
It’s always been a struggle of mine to stay out of the spotlight. For most people the thought of speaking to a crowd is terrifying; in fact, it is the number one fear of humans, but I love it. I enjoy being upfront. I like being noticed and I desire recognition. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. My family will often share stories about my childhood self putting on a play, improvising a scene, or singing songs; all for the sheer pleasure of having an audience applaud. Unfortunately, this desire for recognition has often come in conflict with my faith.
In this passage, Jesus is having a private conversation with His disciples. He is lovingly teaching them how to combat pride and what our attitude should be towards service. I can see myself sitting with the disciples mouth open in disbelief as Jesus teaches what our response to service should be, or rather what it must be. To do this, He uses a simple analogy of a servant and a master. He reminds us how silly it would be for a servant to come in from a hard day’s work and expect his master to tell him to put up his feet, relax and have a bite to eat. In reality, the master will provide his servant with another job, and the servant’s response should be, ‘Of course, let it be so, this is my job.’
This is to be our response too. Jesus is our master, we are His servants and this is a great honour and privilege, but often times we come before God ready to serve, volunteer and expect to be patted on our backs. We expect God to say, ‘Wow, you are amazing, way to go! I’m so glad you read your Bible, or handed out a card, thanks for visiting the poor.’ We treat serving God and others as something extra, as a bonus, when actually it is our duty and responsibility.
When the servant comes home from plowing the fields, he prepares a meal for his master. As Christians, our work is never done. There is always more we can do to serve those around us, to serve our God, to bless the community, and to honour the church. There is always work for us to do and it is our privilege and our duty. Our desire for recognition and accolades can get in the way of doing our duty. When we crave praise and admiration, we get frustrated and forget why we’re serving in the first place. The master we serve is incredible beyond words! Jesus is amazing and what He did for us is greater than anything I could ever do for Him.
We serve out of gratitude for what He has done for us. We serve because compared to what He did for us, it’s minuscule and unworthy of praise. We serve out of a heart of gratefulness and duty, because our Saviour is the greatest Master and it is our privilege to be serving Him.
One day Jesus will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” (Matthew 25:21). He sees us and the work that we do, and it does not go unnoticed by Him. However, until that day when we are face-to-face with Him, we need to remind ourselves that serving others and serving God is our great honour and duty.
Let us respond to that privilege by:
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12
I have been thinking about time a lot lately. As working parents of a young toddler, time is scarce, and it forces you to plan each week wisely. A few months back, my wife and I were reading through some parenting books and we learnt that from your child’s moment of birth until he or she graduates from college, you have about 936 weeks. This fact really challenged me to be intentional with my time with my daughter and to make purposeful use of the weekends and the 1–2 hours I have with her each day during the week (sad, I know). A powerful illustration is if you fill up a jar with 936 marbles at her birth, and after each week, take one out and ask yourself, “Did I make this one count?” It's a sobering thought.
In this lifetime, God has already determined how many weeks we have (Psalm 139:16), and only He knows how many is left. It is so easy for us to take tomorrow or next week for granted because we are still here breathing alive and well, and tomorrow feels like a given. Oftentimes we are only aware of how fleeting our time is when we experience loss or severe illness. “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.” Psalm 39:4
My prayer is that life does not have to turn sour for us to realise our days are numbered. I pray for God to teach us about the great urgency to live for the things that are truly important. Let us be reminded that every day we have is given to us by His grace, and it is our great responsibility to steward and use it well. Time is NOT on our side – it can cease at any given moment. So let us be wise in how we live for God.
Let us look at our calendar with purpose and reverence to God when we plan our next week.
Father God, direct my choices, however great or small, this week, so that I can take each marble out with confidence that I have made this one count not for myself, but for You!
Practice time not on our side by:
For now we see only a reflection in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12
As beautiful as the full moon is on the Mid-Autumn Festival, it is still only a reflection of something bigger and brighter. Even at its brightest, the full light of the moon pales in comparison to the midday sun. We see much more clearly in the daytime.
This verse tells us that we perceive everything in this life through our imperfect senses, or as the King James version puts it, “For now we see through a glass, darkly.” And one day we will see as clearly and sharply as ‘high definition’, and know things fully and perfectly the way God intended them to be.
I read this verse in a new light recently. The Holy Spirit pointed it out in relation to people in our lives. There are some who are easy to love. They return our affection, they’re easy to be around, they express thanks, and they show signs of growth, progress or maturity. Then there are the ones who are harder to love. Maybe you have people like this in your life. People who sometimes elbow their way into your life. People who are always happy to talk about themselves more but never ask about you. People who take more than they ever give and never show signs of change.
What if I saw those people as Christ sees them? What if I remembered that I only see them dimly and only know them in part right now?
One way to do that is to take any and all of your favourite comfort and encouragement verses – especially the ones about transformation and sanctification – and pray them for that other person. Change the pronoun to the third person and see if it has an effect on how you feel or think about them.
For example, Jeremiah 29:11 would read this way: For I know the plans I have for [insert name here], plans to prosper him and not to harm him, plans to give him a hope and a future.
Or Philippians 1:6: He who began a good work in her will be faithful to complete it in her until the day of Christ Jesus.
Here’s one more verse that feels different, more powerful somehow, applied in the context of that hard-to-love person: Love always bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7).
Pray one of these verses for someone in your life who you have a hard time liking or loving, and thank God for him or her.
We only see a reflection of who another person is today. Imagine who they could be one day in the full light of the Son.
I have had a lot of conversations lately where people who love God have expressed a phenomenon that I’ve often seen in my own faith journey. For whatever reason, they, and I, experience seasons where the God we have experienced as both personal and knowable, seems so distant and unknowable. We weren’t able to articulate what brings this about but we were able to talk through a simple practice to help get us back on track.
What helped give us handles in these moments is an elementary truth that we can see in these verses:
That elementary truth that I referred to is the fact that Jesus was fully God, and represented God to humanity.
In practical terms, this means we can look at the stories of Jesus in the Gospels and know that when we observe Jesus speaking or acting, we are witnessing what God chose to do in a situation. We are getting insight into who He is.
The idea of God may be so vague in our minds sometimes, can now be seen exhibiting actions, making choices, and sharing His heart.
Jesus has “made Him known”!
Reading through the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) with this practice has been really beneficial and challenged me to think about who God is. Let me give you an example…
John 11 is the famous story where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. What amazes me in this story (besides the obvious death to life feat!) is that we read that Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit” and that He “wept” when He saw the family and friends mourning.
So why is this amazing, and how does it help us know what God is like? Because Jesus knew that Lazarus would be raised from the dead minutes later, and yet, He chose to be present and empathise with people who were hurting. This is what God is like!
Honestly, I sometimes struggle to empathise with my two kids when I know they will be fine later for what they’re crying about then. And yet here, we see that the God of the universe, comes down to our level by choice. Jesus revealed to me in that story that God has deep concern for all of His people.
He has made Him known. And it turns out that what we can know about God is really, really good.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Ephesians 4:14
Like many of you, this past year has been filled with a fair amount of change for me and my family. Included in those changes were providing foster care for a child for the first time, coming on board as an elder of this church, switching roles at work, and moving out to Tung Chung. In making each of those decisions, I spent time in prayer and felt the Lord’s leading to go in those directions. Nevertheless, some of those adjustments brought with them unexpected challenges and difficulties.
In the midst of those struggles, I started to doubt whether I made the right choices. Did I hear God correctly? Was God closing one door and telling me to head another direction? The convictions I had began to wane and I grew frustrated with my circumstances.
One day, it finally clicked. I am a bit ashamed to admit this as the solution is a basic and fundamental part of Christian living, but I realised I just needed to spend more time with the Lord. While most of my mornings begin in prayer and in the Word, I decided I needed to carve out some additional time in the morning to spend with God. And that is what I have been doing for the past month – a steady dose of reading the Bible, taking notes, and praying.
My surroundings did not suddenly completely change. I still encounter challenges and difficulties on a daily basis. The additional time with the Lord has reminded me to not be as focused on circumstances but rather on the unchanging God (Hebrews 13:8). And as simple as it sounds, that has made a tremendous difference in my mindset and my ability to persevere in moving forward.
Do you find yourself frustrated or in doubt about certain decisions that are currently impacting your life? If so, I encourage you to: