Living a Life of Discerning Servitude

What does it really mean to be faithful to God?

If the Lord wills it, we hear the true gospel message preached. We feel our hearts quicken, sense that we are being drawn into relationship with a Being we cannot see…and yet One that we sense is more real, more lasting and more true than anything we can touch or feel. And so begins our walk with Christ.

But what does it truly mean to persevere in that walk, each and every day? One of my deepest desires is to one day look Jesus in the eye and be one of those blessed and chosen, one to whom He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)

But how does one do that? Where should I focus?

Love, Service, Trust and Wisdom

The Bible has a lot to say about how to live a faithful life – how we spend our time, manage our money and guard our sexuality (just to name a few). In addition to the Ten Commandments, the Old Testament gives literally hundreds of directives to the ancient Israelites for how they were to live as God’s chosen people. On this side of the resurrection, we understand that the law was given to make it clear how far we fall short of God’s standards and to drive us into a deeply-dependent relationship with Him. But still, all of those directives have merit and meaning. How can we focus on what’s most important as we walk through our days in 2015, in our current culture? What matters to God the most?

In the gospel of Matthew, we are told that a Pharisee asked Jesus this very question. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus provides us with the answer we need; He responds by telling him that to love God with all our heart, soul and mind is the most important thing – and then He says “The second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

It seems to me, then, that the most important thing to God is how we live within relationships. With Him and with others.

In fact, if you look at the Ten Commandments from this perspective, it becomes clear that all the commands given simply refine what Jesus says is most important. Love God and love others.

Okay, so our relationship with Him should be our first priority and the center of our lives. That seems clear enough. But immediately after our devotion to God, Jesus says that our relationship with others is of great importance. All the other flawed, selfish people living shoulder-to-shoulder with us this side of heaven…He calls us to love those people sacrificially. To think about and care about everyone around us as well as we care for ourselves. And let’s face it, as selfish as we all are, we’re always looking out for ourselves. In fact, one thing I’ve come to see over and over is that my relationship with the people around me is a direct reflection of my relationship to God.

To have a close, deep, committed, loving relationship with someone here on Earth, we must be able to trust the other person. To feel safe with another person, to feel free to share vulnerable thoughts and feelings, to know that you can share even the ugliness of your soul with another and they will love you…you must first have built up a significant level of trust with him or her. The relationship deepens and strengthens as trust deepens and strengthens.

The same is true of God. The more we trust God in the details of our lives, the more our relationship with Him is strengthened. I get that. But it’s precisely at this point that my thinking gets somewhat cloudy.

God calls me to love Him, and that involves trusting Him. I have learned over time – and through many tough circumstances – that God is indeed entirely trustworthy. Every time I step out in faith and trust Him with a big decision in my life, or with my finances, He shows me that He can be trusted to get me through the situation.

But God also calls me to love others sacrificially. Not just the people I’m in a close, committed relationship with, but all people. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and to pray for them (Matthew 5:43-47), to do good to those who hate us. In Luke 6, Jesus says, “To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.”

To some, it might sound like Jesus is calling us to be “Christian doormats” for the worst that the world has to offer.

Let’s face it, people are flawed and sinful. Downright evil sometimes. People can often be manipulative and self-focused, even unconsciously so. They can’t necessarily be trusted, but thankfully Jesus isn’t calling us to love everyone in a way that extends trust. He is, however, calling us to live in a way that puts our own temporal lives on the line in ways that show a deep trust of Him. Not others.

Jesus loved people more deeply than anyone. He gave up His heavenly throne to be born of a woman, to live the life of a human, and to ultimately give up his own life to save wicked, sinful, selfish people, including you and me. Never was there a more sacrificial love offered. And yet he did not ultimately trust people (John 2:24-25). He trusted His Father. Jesus could love others and treat others far better than they deserved because He trusted God, the only one who is trustworthy, with His very life.

This means that we can love others well – even people we don’t trust or even those we don’t know well – not because they are trustworthy, but because God is. Our relationship with the Triune God shapes and influences all our other relationships. We can love others well as we love, trust, depend on God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

It takes a lot of discernment to know the difference between loving someone and trusting them. It often takes more discernment than you or I typically have to navigate our way such that we can serve lovingly in a world filled with hatred, violence and selfishness. For myself, I can think of no better way to understand the mind of God and the will of God than to be regularly immersing myself in His Word and praying to Him daily to protect and preserve my life such that I might serve others in His name.

Jesus in Matthew 10:11-16
“And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

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