The Workers (2)

“As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”
Ephesians‬ ‭6:6b-7‬ ‭NLT

We are “slaves of Christ”. The word “slave” is perhaps not the most popular way to describe us pilgrims. It has so many negative connotations, still lingering in our DNA, a stain left there due to the practices of our ancestors. Even today, examples of slavery, occasionally bubble up to surface in a media report. Sad tales of unfortunate people locked into a situation because the hold another person has over them. There are even tales of “slavery” occurring in a marriage, an unhappy husband or wife locked into a relationship from which there seems no escape. 

So what does it mean to be a “slave”? First of all, we have to realise that slavery in Paul’s day had good and bad points. Of course, the bad included the loss of freedom and potential abuse, but in many cases the slave was treated as part of the family. He or she was fed, had the clothes they needed and a bed to sleep in. And we read in the Old Testament, about slaves who came to the end of their tenure and were due to be released, but chose instead to stay with their masters (Deuteronomy 15).

But to be a “slave of Christ”? Are there any bad points? The paradox we have is that as Christians, we are called “slaves of Christ” but in so being, we are set free. Free of sin and its consequences. Free of the worldly and dark practices so endemic around us. To be enslaved to God means we live in His ways, live with His people, submit to His will, and enjoy His protection. We are His possessions and have been elevated from the mundane into a position of royalty as part of His family. We are sons and daughters of the living God. So, back to our question – there are no bad points of being enslaved to Christ.

I remember an old Bob Dylan song and the chorus goes like this, “But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed, You’re gonna have to serve somebody. Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, But you’re gonna have to serve somebody”. In this life we will never be truly free in the absolute sense because we are bounded by our capabilities and our life-choices. If we don’t follow God then we are following the devil – there is no other choice, no other way. We can never escape from either – if we are not following God and His ways then, by default, we are following the devil and his ways. We may think we are following neither but the reality is as the song says – we will be enslaved to either God or the devil.

So as pilgrims in today’s war-torn world, struggling through the devil’s minefields on our way to our promised land, we must remember our status as royal sons and daughters of God our loving Father. Sin has defined our environment but we don’t have to be enslaved by it. Christ has set us free.

The Cave

“I cry out to the Lord; I plead for the Lord’s mercy.
I look for someone to come and help me, 
but no one gives me a passing thought! 
No one will help me; 
no one cares a bit what happens to me. 
Then I pray to You, O Lord. 
I say, “You are my place of refuge. 
You are all I really want in life. 
Bring me out of prison so I can thank You. 
The godly will crowd around me, 
for You are good to me.””
Psalms‬ ‭142:1, 4-5, 7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

David was going through a time of personal examination and contemplation, as he was hiding in a cave somewhere. It might have been the Adullam cave mentioned in 1 Samuel 22, but regardless of its location, David was in a cave. He daren’t show his face anywhere because we read that his enemies had set traps for him. But as usual with David, when in a place of stress and loneliness, he turned to God. He knew that with God in his life, he was never alone. And in addition, he also knew that nothing else in his life had any importance, an attitude he retained all his life. It was quite something that with all his regal trappings, he could cast them aside as of no importance compared to the riches he had in God.

The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:12, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” And the verbal exchange between Jesus and the young man, as recorded in Mark 10, exposed the difficulty encountered by people who have lots of “stuff”. When Jesus suggested that he sold and gave away all he had, we read, “At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” Like David, we must ensure that we have the right attitude to what we have. We must hold what we have with an open hand.

David also expressed disappointment that nobody cared about him. That is a natural attitude in times of depression and loneliness. The long hours waiting for a knock at the door or the phone to ping. David equated the lonely place with being in prison. But he wasn’t really alone because he reassured himself that God was his place of refuge. And he knew that once he was out of the cave, he would find Godly people. When we too decide to leave the “cave” of our depression and loneliness we must look for, and find, God’s people. Sadly, many people, by choice, prefer a life of isolation, mentally and physically, rather than embrace the love and caring of God and His people. 

David asks God to bring him out of his prison, the cave where he was languishing. In what “prison” are we incarcerated today? We have already mentioned loneliness and depression, but there are many other “caves” where people find themselves, often through no fault of their own. Places where circumstances have left people in a place where they didn’t want to be. At such times we can invite God to be with us in our “prison” and be assured that He will lead us out into freedom. Jesus said, as recorded in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,”. Everything Jesus said was true and trustworthy. He promised a life of freedom. John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Amen?

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Set Free from Fear

“I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” Psalms‬ ‭34:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What makes us afraid? With some it is the dark. With others it is spiders, or snakes or some other small animal. In today’s Covid-ridden world it is the fear of contracting the virus. In North Korea Christians are afraid that the authorities will find out about their faith. Some people are afraid of what others think about them, or what they are saying about them on social media. The list is endless. And any fear can be paralysing. Debilitating. Life changing. Some fears are irrational, the result of childhood conditioning. But others are very real and can lock people into a prison with no release in sight.

The verse we are reading in Psalm 34 gives a chink of light to those gripped in the clutches of fear. It says that through our relationship with God we can bring our fears into His presence through prayer, and, in expectant faith, we can receive His answer. A gentle touch. Reassurance. Encouragement. And before us He will open fear’s prison doors and release us. And the mental prison we have built in our minds will evaporate like the morning dew before the warmth of His love. But this can be a continuing process because fearful humans have a tendency to rebuild their prisons during unguarded moments, entering once again the familiarity of their prison cells. The Bible has many verses about fear and God gives us much encouragement through His Word. Let’s read together another great verse about fear this time from the Amplified Bible version. “Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me.” Psalms‬ ‭23:4‬ ‭AMP‬‬

So today, I reach out to God for His help with my fears, and I encourage You to do the same. And our loving Heavenly Father will answer our prayers. And set us free.