Unprofitable Servants

I read the book of Luke back in December. And I’m still clinging to one verse. I say it to myself almost every day. I think it’s going to be my verse for the year.

Jesus’ disciples have just said to him, “Increase our faith.” And He starts by telling them that faith the size of a mustard seed can uproot a mulberry tree and plant it in the sea.

Then He goes on with a little story about a servant who works all day in the fields, comes in, and still has to prepare and serve supper to his master before he can eat himself. And does the servant receive any thanks? No. He’s just doing his job, and why should he get thanked for doing what was his to do? 

Then Jesus says:

“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 17:10 NKJV

I find enormous comfort in those words.

I don’t have to do anything grand and wonderful. I don’t need a spotlight. I don’t have to be the smartest, or best, or most magnificent anything.

Every day, I just get up and do the things that I am commanded.

  • Servanthood takes the pressure off. I don’t have to call the shots or plot great strategies. I just have to listen to what part I play in the plans.
  • I’m not responsible for how things turn out. If I do what I’m told, the outcome’s not my fault. The result of my dutiful performance is His business.
  • If I do the things I’m commanded, I don’t have to worry if I’m doing enough or not doing enough–just follow the instructions. There’s a sweet accomplishment and rest when I can simply do my duty.
  • If my Master commands me to do something, He will also equip me to do it. I don’t have to worry about whether I’m “able” to do something. I have His resources at my disposal.
  • And of course I’m unprofitable. Jesus spent His own blood to redeem me. No amount of service could ever in a million billion years repay what He spent, let alone more. So I don’t have to try.

Yes, I believe God sometimes gives us “large” things as part of our duty. But what’s big for me might not even look big to you. And that’s fine. It’s not about us.

It’s about getting the King’s work done.

When I love my family and friends (or strangers), when I wash the dishes, when I write another scene for a story, when I volunteer as a “gopher” at church, when I take vitamins to keep my body in good order, when I give my best effort at choir practice, when I read my Bible, when I pray for a friend’s prayer request on Facebook, do I get thanked? Of course not. Why should I?

But even so, these little things matter.

The English Standard Version, which I’m reading this year for the first time, calls us “unworthy servants” in Luke 17:10.

Which is another beautifully accurate descriptor. How in the world could we be worthy to serve the King of Kings?

We’re not.

But He is worthy. Of our service, our praise, our adoration. Of our love.

And this Master of ours, who is worthy of all glory, became a servant Himself.

The night before Jesus was crucified, He washed His disciples’ feet. Then He said,

“You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

“For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.

-John 13:13-16 NKJV

Our Lord both lived and died on behalf of His servants. Why should not we be willing to go as far?

Is there not joy in following the footsteps of our glorious, humble Master?

And what does all this talk about unprofitable servitude have to do with faith anyway?

Well, if you’re a servant with a good master, you can trust him to take care of you, to give good orders, to provide what’s necessary for carrying out your tasks successfully.

In other words, if we’ll quit looking at ourselves and look at our Master, our faith cannot help but grow.

Because He is worthy.

-Miss Darcy

Redeeming Joseph’s Brothers

The New Testament has many glorious verses about how the grace of God through Jesus Christ can redeem anyone, no matter how far they’ve fallen. Verses like,

Therefore He [Jesus] is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

-Hebrews 7:25 NKJV (emphasis mine)

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

-Colossians 2:13-14 NKJV (emphasis mine)

Truly, the power of Christ to redeem a soul is wondrous.

No matter what sin we’ve fallen into, God can pull us out. He can change our innermost souls from utterly selfish beings to what humans were designed to be. He can give us new hearts that actually desire goodness more than self-gratification.

But His redemptive power does not only extend to our souls. It also extends to our past actions.

This is where He blows me away.

To explain what I mean, let’s look at the story of Joseph in Genesis. Or, more accurately, let’s look at the story of Joseph’s brothers.

Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, and Zebulun were ten brothers of a father who showed favoritism to their know-it-all little brother Joseph. That got old really fast. One day when the ten were out leading their father’s flocks to good pasture, the father sent Joseph to see how they were doing.

And the ten older brothers decided to get even. They captured Joseph, and several of them advocated killing him outright. (You wanna talk about dysfunctional…) But the oldest brother Reuben said that was a bad idea, and he convinced them to toss Joseph into a pit, planning to secretly rescue his younger brother and send him home to their father. (I still wonder whether Reuben was motivated by compassion, or whether he was trying to gain his father’s favor since he was seriously out of favor for an earlier sin he committed. Anyway…)

So they gathered near the pit to eat lunch, but someone had to go check on the flocks, and apparently the oldest got elected. While Reuben was gone, along came a band of Ishmaelite traders. And Judah said, “Wait a minute. There’s no profit in killing this kid. Let’s sell him.” So they sold their brother as a slave for twenty silver shekels. Divvies up nicely between ten brothers.

Reuben was horrified when he found out, but there was no going back. So the ten brothers tore Joseph’s beautiful, colorful coat and dipped it in goat’s blood. This evidence they gave to their father as proof that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast.

For the sake of time, I can’t get into all Joseph’s adventures and misadventures in Egypt. (Genesis 39-41) Suffice it to say that God was with Joseph. At the end of it all, Joseph became second-highest ruler in the land, in charge of collecting grain to store up for a coming famine, of which God had warned Pharaoh in two dreams.

When the famine came, it didn’t only strike Egypt. Hunger raged through all the surrounding lands — including Joseph’s homeland. Joseph’s father heard how Egypt had somehow managed to store up tons of extra grain, so he sent his sons to buy them food.

In Egypt, Joseph recognized his brothers. But it had been at least twelve years, quite possibly more, and the ten brothers didn’t recognize their brother in this grand Egyptian lord who had the right to grant or deny them food.

Joseph now had the power to punish his brothers, kill them if he liked. Instead, he put them through an elaborate scheme of pretty rough tests, to see if they had repented of the way they treated him. (Genesis 42-44)

Turns out they had. All those years of watching their father’s grief had finally softened their hearts.

So Joseph revealed his identity and brought his whole family to Egypt, where he settled them in good land and provided for them during the rest of the famine.

Now you probably know that story forward and backward if you were raised in church.

There is so much depth and symbolism and instruction in Joseph’s life, not to mention it’s just plain a good story.

But here’s one thing I didn’t notice until I was a lot older:

  • Joseph was able to help his brothers because he ruled Egypt
  • Joseph was able to become ruler because he was in Egypt when Pharaoh needed him
  • Joseph was in Egypt because he had come as a slave
  • Joseph was a slave because his brothers had sold him

So Joseph was able to help his brothers because his brothers had sold him as a slave.

Think about that. Was it good that Judah and the others sold their seventeen-year-old brother? No, of course not. It was a horrible thing to do. They sinned.

But God was involved. He had a plan for Joseph’s life, and He worked so that even the degrading status of “slave” led to being second-highest ruler in Egypt.

Could God have gotten Joseph to Egypt by another, better way? Of course. Was He pleased with Joseph’s brothers’ sin? Certainly not.

But get this: God is so big that even our sinful actions themselves can be redeemed for good.

Joseph himself put it this way to his brothers:

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

-Genesis 50:20 NKJV

To save many people. Including the ones that sold their savior.

Just because He’s God and He can, the Lord used the brothers’ sin as one step in the journey to their own salvation.

That blows my mind, friends. Truly, nothing is beyond redemption for our God.

No matter what we’ve done, we can repent and God can use us. He might even take our sin and somehow make something good out of it. He doesn’t always. But sometimes, in His mercy, He does.

I can hardly believe that. But Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, and Zebulun testify that it is so.

-Miss Darcy

The Moabite Curse

It’s funny that as many times as I’ve read the book of Ruth over the years, it was only recently that I realized it held the answer to another question I had about the Scripture.

An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD forever,

because they did not meet you with bread and water on the road when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.

Nevertheless the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam, but the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loves you.

You shall not seek their peace nor their prosperity all your days forever.

-Deuteronomy 23:3-6 NKJV (emphasis mine)

So, at first glance, that seems pretty harsh. Just because the Moabites at one time opposed the people of the Lord, now none of their descendants can come to God?

But then you have the exception of Ruth. She was a Moabitess who married an Israelite refugee named Mahlon. But Mahlon died, and Ruth chose to return with her mother-in-law to Israel. There she met and married an Israelite named Boaz, and became the great-grandmother of King David.

That makes David one-eighth a son of Moab, and David went into the assembly of the Lord (along with his father and grandfather, I daresay). We have an exception to that no-Moabites-allowed rule.

But God doesn’t just make random exceptions, does He? I mean, what made Ruth such a good person that God could overlook the lineage she passed on to her sons?

(I suppose some could say that the curse couldn’t pass through a Moabite woman, only through a man. But, taking the whole Old Testament into consideration, that reasoning didn’t hold up well enough to satisfy me.) 🙂

So I kept pondering over it, trying to reconcile it in my mind. Until the answer hit me between the eyes, as is often the case.

Ruth rejected her lineage.

When her Israelite mother-in-law tried to convince her to stay in Moab, Ruth would have none of it.

But Ruth said:

“Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.

-Ruth 1:16 NKJV

Ruth rejected the gods of her homeland and chose to follow the Hebrews’ God. She refused to identify with the people she’d been born to and instead chose to identify with the people who worshiped God.

Ruth never lost her Moabite DNA. But she chose in her heart to follow God, she gave voice to that resolution, and she changed her life to live as a Hebrew.

Her choice gave her a whole new heritage.

Doesn’t this sound exactly like Jesus’ offer in the New Testament?

We humans are born into Adam’s sin, bent toward corruption from the moment we have the mental power to choose.

Jesus offers us life free from sin and its wages. All we have to do is reject the world and choose Him, with our hearts, with our words, and with our lifestyles.

Ultimately, God is not concerned with what we call bloodlines. He’s concerned with our hearts. Anyone from any heritage on this planet can accept Jesus’ gift and join the family He calls the Church—a vast family that stretches around the globe and across the ages.

It starts with a simple choice.

The more I look, the more I am persuaded that the God of the Old Testament is no different from the God of New Testament. The interface may look different, but His operating system has always been the same.

-Miss Darcy

P.S. In Jeremiah, God spends all of Chapter 48 describing how He will judge and destroy Moab because of their idolatry. But in the final verse, He says, “Yet I will bring back the captives of Moab in the latter days.” Something He also promises to Elam and Ammon. Interesting, is it not?

There Remains Much Land

Sometimes I crave a really good story, but I can’t find a book I want to settle down with. It’s dreadfully provoking.

When that happened a few weeks ago, I picked up the Bible and started reading Joshua, just for the story. I wanted adventure. Spies, battles, miracles, noble hero—adventure doesn’t get much better than that, yes?

And I ran across a verse I’m sure you’ve heard preached on or written about sometime or other:

Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the LORD said to him: “You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed.

-Joshua 13:1 NKJV

The Lord goes on to name the places the children of Israel still need to take possession of. Having just read about all the cities and kings Joshua had conquered, I thought, “Wow. So much done. Yet so much left to do.”

If you go on to read Judges, you discover just how much land Israel left unconquered after Joshua died—and all the trouble that caused them.

I think we still do that kind of thing.

Joshua gave the Israelites a great start during his lifetime. He hit the big cities, the important fortresses. He took out the most powerful kings. But still much land remained.

When we give our lives to Jesus (“get saved” in Christianese), we almost instantly surrender the important fortresses. We depart from some of our most glaring sins. We attend church faithfully. We pause to pray three times a day. We get a Bible, start reading it, learn the order of the books. We wear Christian T-shirts, listen to Christian music.

You know. We hit the highlights. Big things change, little things change. And that’s wonderful! That’s the power of God to transform a person immediately.

But then it’s easy to stagnate.

I mean, we’re saved. We’re different. We’re getting on top of this livin’-for-Jesus thing.

Yet there remains much land yet to be possessed.

Does Jesus have all our love? Is there nothing competing with Him for our affections and energy?

Do we yet comprehend the width and length and depth and height—do we know the love of Christ?

Do we walk in step with God’s Spirit every day?

Does God’s peace rule in our hearts?

Has Jesus so thoroughly overtaken us that He is not merely our faith of choice, but also our source of identity?

Do we rely on the Lord instead of on ourselves during tribulation?

Do we gladly obey God’s commandments because we know only our Creator and Redeemer has the wisdom and the right to control us?

Does thankfulness to God permeate our lives?

Do we love others like He loves them?

Does His Word shape everything about the way we view life?

Is He really, truly, wholly the One we worship?

That’s what I want. But I am so far from being there yet. I know there remains very much land in my heart to be fully surrendered to Christ. To be fully possessed by Him.

The war to win full surrender of our hearts is the fight of a lifetime. I don’t want to be satisfied with being a good Christian. I want Jesus to truly be my everything.

So let us fight on, warriors. Let us set ourselves against the Lord’s enemy and our own selfish desires. Let us be faithful.

Not that our own strength is sufficient. But God’s grace will make good what we lack.

-Miss Darcy

Christmas Peace

In my church’s Christmas concert this year, we sang, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

‘Tis a common theme of songs and stories and Scripture quotations at Christmas. After all, the angels sang to the shepherds: “…on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (see Luke 2:14)

Yet Jesus said something very interesting, almost startling, to His disciples.

“Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.

“For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two and two against three.

-Luke 12:51-52 NKJV (emphasis mine)

Matthew 10:34 says, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”

At first glance, it doesn’t seem to fit with the Jesus who died to save lives and is not willing that any should perish. But seem is the operative word here.

Jesus didn’t come to set the world at war. Division is an unavoidable side effect of His mission.

He came to redeem people. To free them from sin, Satan, and death. If everyone accepted that redemption, then peace would reign on earth.

But someone has far too much to lose if everyone chooses redemption. Satan would completely lose his power over humans. Oh, sure, he’d still be able to tempt them. But they would be equipped to resist his lures. They’d be armed to withstand him as never before. They would no longer be his slaves.

And he will stop at nothing to prevent his captives from slipping away.

So Satan convinces people that Jesus is the problem. That all who follow Jesus are a threat. To freedom, to pleasure, to life. Anything to get souls frightened and furious at the very thing which could save them.

Clever distraction tactic, is it not?

Unfortunately, this distraction tactic tends to ensnare Jesus’ followers, too. We see all these people attacking us, and we think we have to attack back. (Best defense and all that.) We fall into bickering and bitterness, cruel words and worse. But we miss the real enemy. We think it’s the people charging against us. It’s really the devil who has deceived these people.

It’s such a brilliant plan. It keeps the slaves safely bound, and keeps the redeemed ones wasting their energy on the wrong enemy.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

-Ephesians 6:12 NKJV

That’s why God commands us:

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

-Romans 12:18 NKJV

Christians are not supposed to be quarrelsome, contentious, argumentative, rude, disrespectful, unkind, or violent. We may be hated and despised because we follow Jesus, but we shouldn’t retaliate. In fact, we don’t need to retaliate; it doesn’t do any good. Our job is to live peaceably as much as possible.

But guess what? Sometimes it’s not possible. We may do everything in our power to have amicable relationships with others. We may bend over backwards until our heads touch our heels (figuratively), and still be unable to appease those in our lives who just cannot stand us.

That’s okay. That’s when we step back and pray because the enemy is not the person in front of us. The enemy is the “spiritual hosts of wickedness.” Until Satan’s defeat, begun on the cross, reaches its culmination, there will always be conflict on earth.

See, Jesus didn’t come to give peace. He came to be peace.

The angels’ message was true in the most literal sense possible. Peace had come to earth—because Jesus Himself is the Prince of Peace and He had come to physically dwell on earth. Peace was truly on the earth for the first time.

Now those who believe in Him have God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within them. We have peace. Mind-blowing peace, if we choose to embrace it. (see Philippians 4:6-7)

So as we sing this Christmas of peace on earth beginning with us, it is a worthy goal. We should strive to let the peace of God dwell in us and spill over into our relationships with every person who crosses our paths.

And when people dislike you, despise you, or hate you for no apparent reason, take heart. Division is just part of life in this world.

One day, Jesus will come to this earth again. And at His second coming, He will finally establish peace on this earth.

-Miss Darcy

A Complete Fall

Funny thing about being a Christian—life tends to knock you down just as often as anyone else. Perhaps more so. Jesus did promise us tribulation, after all. (see John 16:33)

I think there might be two different kind of falls. First, the circumstances we can’t avoid. Life tries us or people attack us, and there’s not a thing we can do about it. Second, the things we fall into because we weren’t staying close to Jesus. Sinful traps of this world and the devil that we could have avoided.

Either way, we fall, and sometimes we end up crawling because we think there’s no way we’re getting back to our feet.

But that’s not true.

In the Bible, the number seven represents perfection or completion. Take a look at this verse:

For a righteous man may fall seven times
And rise again,
But the wicked shall fall by calamity.

-Proverbs 24:16 NKJV

“A righteous man may fall seven times.” In other words, flat on the ground. He’s down. Completely. Perfectly. Hopelessly.

Well, not quite hopelessly.

Because a righteous man may rise again.

In fact, Proverbs seems to indicate it’s pretty likely he will. Look at verse fifteen:

Do not lie in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous;
Do not plunder his resting place;
For a righteous man may fall seven times
And rise again…

-Proverbs 24:15-16a NKJV

Proverbs warns the wicked not to tangle with the righteous because, although the wicked may get the upper hand for a while, the righteous will rise again. And again. And again.

As Christians, we know we’re not really fighting people. (At least we should know that.) No, we’re at war with something far bigger. Something we can’t see.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

-Ephesians 6:12 NKJV

And, unfortunately, our enemies will probably take us down from time to time.

But take heart. We will rise again.

Of course, there’s an interesting qualifier in this verse. Only “righteous” people can expect to have this power to rise again, over and over. If you’ve read this blog long enough, you’ll probably guess what I’m about to say.

Jesus alone makes us righteous.

All the good deeds in the world can’t wipe the sin off of us. Only Jesus’ blood can do that. He washes us clean and leads us to the paths of righteousness that we could never find on our own. Nor be qualified to walk in if we had found them.

But sometimes we start wandering and dabbling in the same stuff that left us filthy in the first place. (Very stupid of us, I might add.) Then we wonder why we fall and can’t seem to rise again.

Sometimes when we fall and can’t rise, we need to take a good hard look in the mirror. Make sure we’re walking in paths of righteousness Jesus brought us to.

Sometimes we get slammed down even when we’re walking in the paths of righteousness. And sometimes it takes a while before God raises us to our feet again.

But never lose heart, brothers and sisters. When God’s time is right, we will rise again.

-Miss Darcy

The Funeral Verse That Isn’t

If you haven’t yet heard this Bible verse read at a funeral, that probably means you just haven’t attended enough funerals. (Which is good because it means you haven’t lost many people who are dear to you.)

Seems like whenever a serious discussion of heaven arises, whether at a funeral or in general conversation among Christians, the conversation is eventually going to include a quotation of this verse.

But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

-1 Corinthians 2:9 (NKJV)

I’m not sure who first applied this verse to life after death. It’s true that we can’t really imagine what is waiting for Christians in heaven. But the context of this verse has nothing to do with heaven at all.

As 1 Corinthians chapter 2 begins, Paul writes that when he preached the gospel to the Corinthians, he did not use “persuasive words of human wisdom.” Instead, Paul preached only “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Paul didn’t want people relying on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (see verses 2-5)

Then he goes on to say,

However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,

which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

-1 Corinthians 2:6-8 NKJV (emphasis mine)

In other words, once a Christian starts maturing in his faith, he’s ready to dive into the wisdom of God. The hidden wisdom. The mystery which God ordained before the ages.

That’s what Paul refers to in verse 9 when he quotes, “Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

It is this awesome wisdom of God which we could never have imagined.

No one, not even the Jewish scholars of the Law, knew this wisdom. Otherwise, they would never have crucified Jesus.

Interestingly, verse 10 of this chapter is never read at funerals (in my experience), nor is it often quoted.

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.

-1 Corinthians 2:10 NKJV (emphasis mine)

Did you catch it? “But God has revealed them…”

The things we could never have hoped to conceive of on our own? God’s Spirit reveals them to us as we mature.

They’re not a secret any longer.

Now that Christ has come, we can plumb the depths of God’s mysteries. Not through our own wisdom, but through the the Spirit of God.

“No one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.” But now we have received that Holy Spirit, “that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” (see verses 11 and 12)

Oh, we’ll never fully comprehend the mystery of God’s wisdom. But isn’t it awesome that we can dive in and explore? The followers of God who lived before Christ had no chance of studying the depths of wisdom we can.

Because Christ IS the wisdom of God.

but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,

but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

-1 Corinthians 1:23-24 NKJV (emphasis mine)

We could never have fathomed the plan of Christ our Substitute, Savior, and Friend.

But God has revealed Him to us.

So I think we need to find a new verse to be our go-to verse when speaking of heaven. A new “funeral verse.” Got any suggestions?

-Miss Darcy