Several people pointed out in the scripture from the past two weeks Luke 17:1 the text says Jesus is talking to his disciples. That is likely a large group of committed followers… Contrast Luke 17:5 it says specifically the “apostles” say to Jesus, “Lord, increase our faith.” This is likely the 12 who were set apart by Jesus. It appears they want to be elevated even above the other “common” disciples: Lord, set us apart, give us greater responsibilities… They are fishing for affirmation, fishing to be elevated…
“Increase our faith” isn’t even a question, it’s a demand: “Lord, you have to do this.” Once in a while I run into somebody that demands I as a pastor have to help them with money, because it is the church’s duty.” If you want to see a stubborn Carl go ahead and tell me I have to give you money. “Increase our faith.” Set us apart, elevate us, make us awesome super apostles so we can bless you even more with our wonderfulness.
A request was made for a washer a few weeks ago. I put it on the church FB page. A few days later here in Sumas a neighbor was talking to his neighbor and said, “I have a washer, do you know anyone in need that could use it.” A day or two later, the request for a washer came to the same neighbor. Last week this gentlemen said to me, in all my years nobody has ever told me they had a washer to give away, and nobody has ever told me they needed a washer, but last week both of those things were said to me.”
All you need is a small measure of faith and you will see God’s purposes accomplished. A woman in need now has a washer to make life a bit easier. Does it get any better than that… “Lord, increase our faith” ~ that’s an arrogant demand! Just enough, that’s all we need. The apostles were fishing for compliments, recognition, greater power.
Today’s scripture is a hard story because it comes across as cold. READ Luke 17:10. Where’s the warm fuzzy Jesus that only says positive things? Where’s the love, the affirmation. Jesus is speaking to arrogant disciples, fishing for power, who are demanding they be elevated above others; this story challenges their motivation for following Him. Are you conditionally following Jesus holding him hostage that you’ll follow him with more commitment as long as he shows you His love according to your conditions, a good life, feeling his love, an easier life? I see people fall away from a full commitment to the Lord because it’s too hard, the expectation of an easy life is not fulfilled, the love of God is not evident in an evil world; they get discouraged and hold back their devotion, their service, their active participation in the things of God.
Jesus is saying in Luke 17:10 follow God because it is a privilege. Not what you can get out of it, but because it is the right thing to do. It is an amazing honor. God owes you and me nothing. At it’s purest level, motivation for serving the Lord should not be based on my faith increasing, greater recognition, wonderful accomplishments, but simply serve Him because the Lord Jesus Christ deserves to be honored. It is not about me, but Him.
This story emphasizes the fundamental motivation for me choosing to serve God and His Kingdom. READ Luke 17:7-10. If my commitment to God is based on what I get out of it, the time will come when I am not going to sense God’s presence, I’m going to wonder what God is up to, I will question if it is worth it.
If you make a commitment to serve others, (because that is what it means to serve God) one of the first hard lessons is that people are not always grateful. Many are, but many will take advantage of you, demand a bigger piece of the pie, steal, criticize that you are not doing it right. If you serve others and expect the reward of warm fuzzies, you will eventually be disappointed. I have been going to the hospital for decades. For years I have seen many of the same wonderful volunteers sitting at the front desk, answering questions, helping me find the right room. Last week I decided to ask one of the long time volunteers her name and how long she’d worked there. She told me her name and said 16 years at St. Joe’s and 10 years before that in California and she seemed so pleased when I thanked her and complimented her. I walked away thinking WOW, it only took me 16 years to finally ask her about herself, I hope others are more sensitive than me. When you make a commitment to serve Christ, you are only going to be able to keep going for the long run when your motivation to serve is because it is an honor to serve: “I am an unworthy servant, I am only doing my duty.”
The good news: compliments will come. But not everyday. Serve because you are called to serve, and when you see a life changed, when you are honored with a thankful person (next week’s message), when somebody tells you how much you mean to them, when you become aware you are a stronger Christian today because you can handle adversity in a way that was not possible yesterday, that is grace. To live by grace is to not demand anything, not demand increased faith, not demand recognition, to not put any conditions on God. Then when it happens anyway, be amazed. A month ago I was humbled when I became reacquainted with a woman I hadn’t seen in 20+ years. She introduced me to the larger group saying, “If it wasn’t for that man 20 years ago I would not be a Christian today.” What can I say in response but God is great! And grace is amazing.
Luke 17:7-10 uses the example of master and servant. It’s not a perfect comparison, but I find it helpful to think of the modern day parallel of boss and employee. An employee does not need to be thanked by the boss, an employee ought to say at the end of the day, I did my time, I did what was expected of me, I fulfilled my obligation.
Guess what? I read the rest of the story of Jesus Christ. It turns out Jesus Christ is the greatest boss/LORD you can possibly imagine. Have you ever taken a job for the paycheck, you fully intended to show up, do your duty, go home and have a little something to pay the bills. Then boom! Instead of the boss treating you like a robot, the boss treats you like a somebody who matters. My daughter got a job doing technical writing for an online blog, the tedious task of reviewing and writing about loans for small business. The pay was good. But tedious work. Christmas came a few months after she got the job. The boss said, “good job, here’s a $500 bonus.” That puts a smile on your face! A good boss/job is one with clear expectations; everyone does their job. A great boss/job is one where you as the employee is affirmed, complimented, recognized, not because you deserve it, but because the Boss is an awesome person and wants to make an exceptional work place.
Jesus Christ is an awesome Boss/LORD/Master. He showers bonuses/blessings upon you not because you deserve them but because it is His nature to love you when you don’t deserve it, rescue you when you go astray, affirm you just because. If you are in a good work place where everyone is responsible and does their job then you are in a good position. It is grace if you are in a great workplace with an awesome boss. To be a Christian is to have an amazing Master who loves you, cares for you, affirms you, believes in you….
I found a list of characteristics of great bosses ~ as I go through them, my follow up: How much greater is the Lord Jesus Christ?
1. Great bosses are passionate. Few things are more discouraging than a boss who is bored with his or her life and job. If the boss doesn’t care, why should anybody else? Unforgettable bosses are passionate about what they do. They believe in what they’re trying to accomplish, and they have fun doing it. This makes everyone else want to join the ride.
How much greater is the Lord Jesus Christ! 1 John 3:16: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Jesus is crazy about you, his love and passion knows no bounds.
2. Great bosses sacrifice themselves for their people. Some bosses throw their people under the bus without a second thought; great bosses pull their people from the bus’s path before they’re in danger.
How much greater is the Lord Jesus Christ! Rom. 5:6: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” God is the God of salvation, saving us from ourselves in our daily walk, he also rescues us from an eternal life of damnation, and gracing us with eternal life with Him
3. Great bosses play chess not checkers. In checkers, all the pieces are the same. That’s a poor model for leadership because nobody wants to feel like a faceless cog in the proverbial wheel. In chess each piece has a unique role, unique abilities, and unique limitations. Unforgettable bosses are like great chess masters. They recognize what’s unique about each member of their team. They know their strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes, and they use these insights to draw the very best from each individual.
How much greater is the Lord Jesus Christ! 1 Cor. 1:10: I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. The Lord knows each of us, he knows us by names, he gives us gifts, he sets us in the place he wants us to serve, he equips us with everything we need… Jesus is a great chess master!
4. They are who they are, all the time. Great bosses don’t lie to cover up their mistakes, and they don’t make false promises. Their people don’t have to exert energy trying to figure out their motives or predicting what they’re going to do next.
How much greater is the Lord Jesus Christ: John 14:6: Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth and the life. Nobody come to the father except through me. Jesus is consistent, approachable, a visionary with the highest aim.
5. A great boss is a port in a storm. They don’t get rattled, even when everything is going haywire.
How much greater is the Lord Jesus Christ. Phil. 4:6-7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. The problems in this world come so quickly, so dramatically. The person committed to following Jesus Christ has a savior that understands, that brings comfort and hope. The greatest promise of all is when Jesus Christ says, “I will be with you.”
To follow God is to make a simple commitment to Him. We are in no position to make any demands, we don’t need to fish for compliments, affirmation, a certain position, but just make that simple commitment to follow Him. While our motivation for serving Christ should be simply for the honor of it, the truth is that Jesus Christ is the greatest Master you will ever follow. His grace is more than you and I deserve. Amen.