Testimony 191.Serving as a Matter of Course – Elder Guan Fai


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Scripture Luke 17:7-10


The Dutch Puritan theologian Blake wrote a book called The Christian’s Reasonable Service, the full title of which is “Christian Serving.” This name immediately reminds us of Romans 12:1: “Therefore, brethren, I exhort you, in the mercy of God, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, and it is natural that you serve so.” It was based on this verse that Blake formulated the title of the book. In his preface, he points out that before the fall of the first fathers, God called people to pleasing missions; After the Fall, this mission became difficult, but God’s will was still for everyone to faithfully do what God had called him to do. The key to whether the calling is spiritual or not is the state of mind and how we complete the calling. Man should willingly fulfill his responsibilities in this world to serve God and glorify God. The theme of this passage we’re going to share today is natural service. Next, I will share from three aspects. First, we are servants of Christ; Second, how servants should serve; The third point is what kind of mentality should be in service. Before sharing, we pray together.

We are servants of Christ

This parable is not so easy to understand. The whole story is short and the context is not contextualized. At first glance, it sounds a little harsh, a little harsh, as if it is not close to people. Our culture today is very different from that of the time, which makes it even more difficult to understand. Let’s start by looking at the context of this story. Luke 17:1-10 is Jesus’ teaching to His disciples on his way up to Jerusalem. These 10 verses contain four themes, tripping, forgiveness, faith, and service. All four themes relate to discipleship, with the first two involving relationships with brothers and sisters and the last two dealing with relationships with God. Today we want to share the fourth theme, service. As servants of God, it is natural for us to serve God.

“Doulas” means slave, slave in the original Greek. Slaves or servants were part of everyday life in ancient societies. In the Roman Empire in the first century AD, about twenty to thirty percent of the population were slaves. Slavery was not based on race in ancient societies. People become slaves for different reasons. Some were captured in war and became slaves, some were punished as slaves for crimes, some were sold into slavery because they could not pay their debts, some were born into slavery because their parents were slaves, and some even chose to become slaves as apprentices. The social or economic status of slaves also varied widely, and some slaves were the slaughters of kings or ministers, who were not only very powerful but also quite wealthy. However, no matter what reason they became slaves, and regardless of their social and economic status, they were completely belonging to their masters, and they had no autonomy. They must serve, be loyal to, and honor their master. This is their duty as servants. Today, we live in an age of egalitarian and rights-oriented times, and it is difficult to understand and accept the status of servants. However, for the disciples at that time, it should not be difficult to understand what Jesus was trying to say.

The Bible speaks of Christian identity from different perspectives. We are God’s children, God’s friends, God’s stewards, God’s messengers, God’s servants, and so on. Among them, servant or slave is one of our basic identities. The relationship between the disciples and Jesus is also known as the relationship between the servant and the master. Our Lord Jesus took the image of a slave Himself (Philippians 2:7), and He was an example of a servant in both word and deed. He became a suffering servant of God and came into the world to serve and even lay down His life (Mark 10:45). He humbly served and even washed the feet of His disciples (John 13:4-5). When the disciples fought over who would be greater, Jesus said to them, “Whoever among you desires to be great, he will be your man; Whoever wishes to be the head will be your servant. (Matthew 20:26-27) By following Christ, the disciples became servants of Christ and, like Him, became servants of all. Paul repeatedly refers to himself as a “servant of Christ Jesus” (Romans 1:1, Philippians 1:1, Titus 1:1), indicating that he belongs completely to the Lord, is fully loyal to the Lord, and is supposed to obey the Lord, willingly serve the Lord, and please the Lord. Paul knew that Christ was Lord and had absolute sovereignty over Him because He was bought by Christ at a high price. After articulating the saving grace of Jesus Christ before Romans 12, he begins chapter 12 by exhorting his brothers and sisters to sacrifice the whole person as a living sacrifice, because such service is a matter of course. If we are saved by grace and still live for ourselves or still pleasing others, we are not servants of Christ (Galatians 1:10). In addition to Paul, Peter (2 Peter 1:1), James (James 1:1), John (Rev. 1:1), and Judas (Judah 1), the brother of the Lord, all called themselves servants of Jesus Christ. When the early church priest Ignatius referred to the representative bishops, elders, and deacons of the church in his letters, the word used to refer to deacons as “fellow slaves.” This designation is meant to indicate that service to God is the common bond that connects all Christians. Luke’s record of Zechariah’s prophecy makes God’s purpose for saving us even clearer: “So that since we are saved from the enemy, we may serve him in the holy and righteous manner for life without fear.” (Luke 1:74-75)

As disciples of Christ, do we realize that our relationship with Christ is one between servant and master? Do we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ and are willing to obey His sending and arrangement? Do we know deep down that He brought us back with His blood to save us from his dark power so that we could serve Him? In fact, we are either serving the true God or serving the false God. May we all be like Joshua and decide to say, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Book 24:15)

2. How servants should serve?

Once we know that we are servants of Christ, the next question is, how do we serve Him? The four verses we share are made up of two questions and answers. The first question is, “Who of you has a servant who plows the land or herds sheep and returns from the field and says to him, ‘Come and sit down and eat?'” Verse 8 gives a clear answer with a rhetorical question: “Don’t you say to him, ‘Prepare me dinner, tie up a belt and serve me, and when I have finished eating, you may eat and drink’?” “Today’s people will read it and think that the master is excessive, and the servant is too aggrieved. However, the parable focuses on how the servant should serve the master, not how the master should treat the servant. The servants of ancient Palestine had many responsibilities, and the master needed him to take care of them inside and out. He not only had to plow the land and herd sheep outside, but also cooked for and served the master when he returned to his master’s house. Whatever the master asks him to do, he needs to obey. He cannot choose. He must put the needs of his master first, and can’t he say, I have just returned from plowing the land or herding sheep, shouldn’t I take a break first? I can’t say, I worked for a day, my stomach is hungry, I have to eat first, what is there to say when I am full! This is not the mentality and practice of servants. As a servant, he must first take care of his master. Whether it is plowing the land or herding sheep, it is quite hard work. However, even if he was tired from plowing the land or herding sheep outside, the servant had to tie his belt, raise his spirits, and prepare a meal for the master, so that the master could eat well before he could eat or rest. Whatever the master tells him to do, he must do it. All this he does is the duty of a servant.

We are disciples of Christ and slaves of Christ. Just as servants of ancient times served their masters, so should we serve Christ. From the servant’s service in this story, we can learn the following lessons about serving

First, work tirelessly. We are servants, not volunteers. Volunteers can choose to serve at a time that is convenient for them, and servants have no choice. The volunteer can choose what he likes to do, and the servant cannot pick and choose. Whether it is plowing the land, herding sheep, cooking and washing dishes, or washing feet, as long as the master lets it dry, the servants have to do it. Plowing the land and herding sheep is very hard. Plowing the land is to loosen the soil in the field with a plow, and it is necessary to control the oxen and grasp the direction of the plow. Sheep herding is also not as romantic as people in the city think. David herded sheep in his youth, facing the danger of the sheep getting lost or being devoured by wild beasts. He must be vigilant and try to protect the sheep, and if the sheep are lost, he will find them. After the servants are doing all this hard work, according to our common sense today, we should rest when we go home, How can we still let us cook and serve the master? However, the servant, who understood his identity and duty, did not complain and worked tirelessly to serve his master. No service does not require hard work. Pastor Xiaofeng mentioned in his sharing on Wednesday that he prepares sermons, sometimes sitting for hours. Then, it has to be revised over and over again. Despite his gift of preaching, the process of preparation was arduous. Many brothers and sisters work during the day and attend church services in the evenings or on weekends, which is also very hard. There are still many of us who go to school for a day and come home to cook, take care of the children, and help the children with their homework. We must not complain about hardships, let us not abdicate our duties because of fatigue. As servants of Christ, as long as the Lord tells us to do something, whatever we do, do it from the heart, as if it is done for the Lord, not for others so that we are serving the Lord.

Second, never stop. Service is not only arduous but can be long. The servant finished the work of plowing the land or herding the sheep during the day, and new services awaited him in the evening. The same is true of our service, where one service is completed and a new one comes. Sometimes we say to the Lord, Lord, can you stop and let us rest? When we are really tired and powerless, of course the Lord will give us time to rest, recover, and renew. But we can’t just because we’ve served for a while before that we can’t think we can stop serving. People who serve longer tend to develop a mindset that they feel tired and don’t want to serve anymore. We need rest and renewal when we are tired and sleepy, but rest and renewal are meant to regain our strength and continue to serve the Lord better. At the end of one service, we seek the Lord to understand what His next service to us is. Christ is our master, and He wants us to serve Him holy and righteousness before Him all our lives. We retire from certain positions of service for various reasons such as health and age, but as long as we live, we can never stop serving. In this sense, Hou Shiting once said that Christians never retire. Spurgeon even said, “By the grace of the Lord, I will not ‘retire’ until the four carry me on my shoulders to the grave.” As long as we breathe, we can still say a word for Christ, and we will never give up our service. ”

Third, the main purpose is first. After the servants returned from ploughing the land or herding sheep, they first prepared dinner for the master, served the master to eat and drink, and then began to eat and rest themselves. In service, we are to consider the Lord’s will, not our own. To consider the Lord’s mind is to prioritize what the Lord sees as important. We are often faced with the choice of thinking about the kingdom of God first or our own first. Sometimes we worry that if we take care of God’s business, we seem to sacrifice our own. But Jesus gives us a wonderful promise: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and these things will be given to you.” (Matthew 6:33) There are times when we know what the Lord’s will is, but because we are considerate of the flesh and unwilling to be considerate of the Holy Spirit, we put our own satisfaction ahead of God’s will.

Fourth, complete the entrustment. Plowing the land or herding sheep, preparing dinner, serving the master to eat and drink, whatever the master told him to do, the servants did. Verse 10 says that the servant “has done everything he has commanded.” For every service entrusted to us by the Lord, we need to be spirited, earnest, and hard-working. Patience is especially needed in service. Our physical body is really weak, and when we encounter stress and difficulties, we want to escape, we want to give up. Who doesn’t love a more comfortable life? Sometimes, I also want to let go of everything I have done and leave Beijing to live in a small place and live a peaceful and comfortable life. But I can only think that I am a servant of God, not my own, and cannot make my claims. As servants of the Lord, it is our duty to do the work the Lord commands, otherwise, we are unfaithful.

3. What kind of mentality should be in service?

The second question is: “If the servant does as he is told, does the master thank him?” “The answer is: No!” In this way, when you have done all that you command, you should simply say, ‘We are useless servants, and what we are supposed to do is our share.’ “If the servant has done what the master has commanded, should the master thank him and reward him?” Did the servant have merit, and the master owed him a debt for it? No! All this was originally the duty of the servant, and it was his responsibility. A person who does what he does should not expect the master to thank or reward him in his mind.

Generals or ministers in ancient China made great achievements, and they all expected the king to add officials to them. This is the normal thinking of the world. So James and John would initially ask the Lord that when the Lord would gain the kingdom, one of them would sit on His left and the other on His right. When we faithfully accomplish all the work that the Lord has commanded, we sometimes think to ourselves, should I not be rewarded and praised for accomplishing so much hard work, making so great sacrifices, accomplishing such great works, and blessing so many people? However, this is not the mentality of a servant. The servant should simply say, “We are useless servants, and what we do is what we should share.” The term “useless servant” in verse 10 is translated in most English translations as “unworthy servants” or “unprofitable servants.” This does not mean that servants are useless, but that servants do not deserve to be rewarded or rewarded, that masters owe them nothing, and that what they do is their duty. The servant should have in his heart an unworthy and humble attitude.

First, recognize your unworthiness. We are unworthy servants and must not feel that we deserve the reward of the Lord. Everything we have, our bodies, our souls, everything we have, is a gift from God that we can never pay back. God not only created us but also redeemed us, buying us with the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Everything we do is originally done by God’s grace and help. Our ability to do all this is also given by the Lord. God is sovereign and honorable, and everything we do does not gain Him. However, we often forget our status as servants, thinking that we should be praised and rewarded for accomplishing some of the master’s work. You may have heard the following story. A missionary couple returned to the United States after many years of service in Africa. They and Theodore. President Roosevelt was in the same boat. Roosevelt was returning from a hunting trip to Africa. When he landed in New York Harbor, bands were playing his favorite songs for Roosevelt, and dignitaries were there to greet him. When the missionary couple disembarked, they were cold and clear, and no one greeted them. The contrast was so strong that the husband felt devastated. He said to his wife, “That’s so unfair! It’s so unfair! 

We gave everything to God, but what did He do for us? His wife replied, “My dear, I know it’s not fair… Why don’t you go into your bedroom and tell God all this and see what He will say to you? So he went into the bedroom and knelt down alone in prayer. After the prayer came out, his face lit up and he said to his wife, “Do you know what the Lord said to me? He said, ‘But you haven’t come home yet.’ When we return home, the Lord will personally greet us. Many times, we serve with the expectation of being affirmed, acknowledged, and even thanked and commemorated. If we don’t get affirmation or reward, we become discouraged and even angry. We don’t take service for granted. In fact, God does not need us to serve. He is God Almighty. He said that if there is, there is a fate. It is not that he cannot do his work without us. Yet He chooses us and is willing to let us work with Him so that our lives can be shaped and changed by serving Him. Being able to serve Him is the grace and glory He has given us.

Second, tie your waist with humility. Augustine once said that the way to Christ begins with humility, then humility, and again humility. If humility does not precede, accompany, and follow every good deed we do, pride will take away from us any good deeds we do. No matter how obedient we are in our service and how effective our ministry is, as long as our pride is together, everything is tarnished. Over the past few months, I have spoken to the two drawing teachers downstairs many times. They encounter confusion or problems in their lives and are willing to talk to me. After several conversations, they couldn’t help but praise me, saying that I was knowledgeable, wise, and humble. Words of praise temper people’s hearts. Sometimes, hearing other people’s compliments, we can’t help but have an irrepressible smile on our lips. But when I share with them, I am evangelizing them, trying to lead them to Christ.

How can I receive glory from people and not give glory to God? I said to them, You feel in me so much wisdom and life, and you are so admired, how amazed and praised you would be if you knew the Jesus Christ in whom I believed, and saw the glory in him! Indeed, our wisdom is nothing more than a drop in the ocean compared to God’s. What’s more, all this wisdom comes from Him, and all the good things in our lives are shaped by Him. What do we have to boast about? As Paul says, “Who is it that makes you different?” What are you not taking? If so, why boast as if it were not received? (1 Corinthians 4:7) Livingston preached in Africa and served the Lord for thirty-three years. When he returned home, people praised him and treated him as a “servant” like a superstar. Livingston himself said, “As far as I am concerned, I rejoice in the office that the Lord has assigned me so much. People say that I have spent so much of my life in Africa and made great sacrifices. I owe a great debt to the Lord that I will never be able to pay. This is just a small repayment, how can it be called a sacrifice?  It should be said that it is my pleasure. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, combined with the renunciation of the convenience and kindness of this world, occasionally causes us to stop, causing our hearts to shake and our souls to sink; Hopefully, this is only temporary. None of this compares to the glory that the Lord will reveal to us in the future. I have never made a sacrifice. When we think of the great sacrifice of the Lord who left the Father’s highest throne and gave Himself to us, how can we mention His sacrifice again? Yes, as long as we keep our eyes fixed on the Lord, what reason is there to be proud?


Finally, I would like to say to you, if you are still struggling and have difficulty making up your mind to serve the Lord, please truly face the obstacles in your life, earnestly ask God to remove these obstacles, and sacrifice yourself to serve the Lord, only in this way can you experience the meaning of life, and only in this way will you find that you are no longer a slave, but a son. If you have been serving for some time, let’s give thanks to the Lord for allowing us to serve Him, and also ask the Lord to have mercy on us so that we can serve Him to the end and not fall into slack and pride.