“Which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do’” (Luke 17:7-10).
We know the master is Jesus and the servant here represents every believer. The servant works hard all day and when he is finished, he needs nourishment. He expects to hear his master commend him for his hard labor and offer him food to refresh him. But instead, the master commands, “Put on your apron and serve me first. Then you can eat.”
At first glance this command seems harsh and demanding, yet nothing could be further from the truth. What is actually being said is, “Put God’s kingdom first and then everything will be given to you.” He had already told his disciples, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15). And now he is saying, “You’re my servants, but I call you friends. And there’s a need in me that only your friendship can meet. Yes, I know you’ve been out in the fields all day working, but I want you to sit at my table — there’s so much on my heart I want to tell you.” This should change how you view communion and revolutionize your prayer life.
Clearly, this parable is about feeding Christ and, evidently, our Lord views this act as our highest calling. You may object, “I thought our highest calling was to go into the harvest fields to labor.” That is certainly a high calling, but Jesus says it is not the highest. “The high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” as Paul refers to it in Philippians 3:14, is to have communion and intimacy with Christ.
Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). It should deeply humble us that Jesus would want to be near us and speak with us.
Take a look at the current condition of our nation and the world. What do you see? Christ’s prophecy is being fulfilled before our very eyes: “On the earth distress of nations, with perplexity … men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26).
Paul also speaks of this time: “When they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them” (1 Thessalonians 5:3). Paul is describing a people who live smugly and securely, boasting, “We’ve achieved success and peace. Everything is going along just fine.” Yet, at the very moment people feel most secure, destruction comes. Suddenly, the security they cherished vanishes and society is overwhelmed by fear.
Yet we are not to fear. Paul told the Thessalonians they were being preserved in spirit, soul and body (see 5:23). God’s purpose behind it all is to “fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11). Paul was saying, “You’re being called to fulfill a work of faith — not a silent faith but one that demonstrates the power of Christ.”
This is not a time for timid faith! Our Captain is calling us to stand up in the midst of a fearful society and engage in “power faith.” We are to make the declaration: “God sent me before you to … save your lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:7).
Our Lord is not surprised by anything happening today. When the world is reeling from disasters, with sorrows mounting on all sides, God will be calling forth faithful soldiers who have been trained for battle. These devoted men and women have endured trials and emerged with a sure faith. The power of God rests on them. Such power may not be seen on a grand scale; it may be seen only in simple ways: a quiet spirit, a smile in a sea of frowns; a rest of soul, mind and body as others tremble.
All ministry comes from communion with the Father, so diligently seek him in prayer. Truly, you are called forth as a member of his company for such a time as this.
“Godliness with contentment is great gain … And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:6, 8).
When a believer chooses to go deeper with God and live a fully surrendered life, he most likely will encounter hardship. He might even experience being knocked off his high horse, which literally happened to the apostle Paul (also called Saul). He was going on his self-assured way, riding toward Damascus, when a blinding light came from heaven. Knocked to the ground, he heard a voice from heaven saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4).
These words took Paul back to an event months before when he had stood by as Stephen was stoned. Since then, he had endured long nights of turmoil, plagued with unrest and confusion, because he had seen something that shook him to the core — Stephen’s face while facing death. His countenance was heavenly, filled with a holy presence, and his words held great power as he proclaimed, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God! … Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:56, 59). This humble man clearly had no fear of death.
Paul, this most devoted of Pharisees, realized Stephen possessed something he didn’t — something that was missing in his own life. Now, knocked to the ground, he cried out, “Who are You, Lord” and Jesus said to him, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (9:5). At that moment, Paul had a supernatural revelation and thus began his miraculous transformation into becoming a devoted follower of Jesus and “a chosen vessel” (9:15).
Take note of this scene. Here is the pattern for the surrendered life. When you decide to go deeper with Christ, God will put a Stephen in your path. He'll confront you with someone whose countenance shines with Jesus. This person isn't interested in the things of the world. He doesn't care about the applause of men. He cares only about pleasing the Lord. And his life will expose your complacency and compromise, deeply convicting you.
May your heart be like Paul’s as you seek surrender and give back to Jesus the life he has granted you.
You may have had a dream related to your calling but somewhere along the way an obstacle arose and you lost momentum. Soon you were off track altogether and you realized how easily it is to have your dreams derailed. You started out energized but things changed as hard reality set in.
Early in Jesus’ ministry, his reputation for healings and wonders attracted huge crowds. “Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples … Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him …” (John 6:3, 5, ESV).
Bible scholars estimate this crowd was between 10,000 and 15,000. Yet, as the throng gathered, the disciples recognized a dilemma: “Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?’” (6:5). After the disciples’ initial elation at the sight of the people, reality set in quite quickly!
Think back to the excitement of your first job. You were eager to get to work but within a few days, you saw that your boss was not who he appeared to be, your nearest colleague resented you, and the demands on your time were far greater than you had been told. You realized, “I had no idea it would be this difficult.” Philip must have felt that way as he answered Jesus, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little” (6:7). That was a huge amount of money in that day.
Jesus had called Philip to a great victory, but Philip just couldn’t see it. The same may be true for us: God has called us to expect great things in our walk with him but it requires faith. Will we be derailed by our limitations or will we believe God for a miracle?
Jesus’ challenge to Philip had a purpose: “He said this to test [Philip], for he himself knew what he would do” (6:6). Christ’s confidence was based on his sense of God’s reality behind every situation as he instructed the disciples, “Have the people sit down, because the Father is about to meet this need” (see 6:10).
God asks you to trust his version of reality beyond what you can see. Your situation doesn’t depend on your resources, it depends on God’s. “He will meet all your needs according to his riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19, NIV).
Holy, separated living isn’t preached about much anymore because we fear it might offend and not be visitor-friendly. But when the Spirit starts his work, we will always have a new desire for holiness and a quest for Christlikeness. “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter 14-16).
The world holy speaks of separation and purity. It must be important to God, for he tells us that “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Holiness is not a list of do’s and don’ts; rather, it is Christlikeness. As the Spirit works, we will have an increased desire to be holy like Christ. What else would the Holy Spirit do but impart his own nature into our lives?
Once we trust Christ for salvation, God will begin to mold and shape us. Many experience a radical change when they first come to know Christ, but over time a battle between the flesh and the Spirit takes place. The apostle Paul wrote, “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want” (Galatians 5:17). Paul was writing to the saints in Galatia, but he acknowledged that they, like him, had to overcome a carnal undertow from inside that pulled against the Spirit’s purposes.
Paul was not the only one who cautioned about sinful practices in the lives of believers. John reminded us of this truth: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1). John’s intention was plain — to inspire God’s people not to practice unrighteousness but to practice Christlike living. The Holy Spirit brings new sensitivity and conviction to us if we are really living under his control. Behavior, words, and attitudes that are unholy cause a reaction from the Spirit, who is holy.
When you surrender your life to Christ, the Holy Spirit will lovingly send out cautions, warnings, and red alerts to keep you following his example.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.