The Bare Soul - August 5, 2012
Eye on the Prize

Psalm 123:2 - Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until He is gracious to us.

To be certain, there is a difference between fine and elegant dining. Most of us have experienced the former. This usually entails an upscale restaurant where we are waited on by a waiter or waitress. This particular employee is generally serving our table along with a few other patrons at the same time. However, elegant dining is different. If we have not experienced it in person, we have probably seen a characterization on a TV program or in a movie. There is usually a head waiter and a staff of underling waiters who wait specifically on one party of persons, whether that be two or twenty. The underlings are generally invisible until the moment someone in the party nods for more wine or for their dish to be cleared. This gesture is normally done to the head waiter, who then accompanies his or her subordinate with whatever is needed. While the underling waiter pours more wine or serves in some other manner in silence, the head waiter will come along side and make sure all of the party is waited on properly. The head waiter will be the only one who dares speak to the guests, but only as necessary. Once the service has been accomplished, both the head waiter and the underling staff will retreat to the background and await further instructions. This staff of waiters, led by the head waiter, have set their goal not to be seen as good waiters, but rather to offer extraordinary service to their guests. Individual charm or beauty becomes superfluous if they have not served with passionate grace regarding their collective duties.

As our lead verse states, our attitude toward Jesus our Master should be similar to the example concerning elegant dining. There are many who would preach to us their brand of Christianity, saying we must accomplish this and that for the Lord and seek to satisfy Him by all our "doing." This can be analogous to fine dining, in that we often try to serve this group or that, or run after this ministry or another, thinking we are serving the Lord. Sometimes, we can get so busy like dear Martha that we forget what are the most important things (Luke 10:38-42). Serving Christ's disciples both then and now are important. However, if we begin to lose context with the reason or the motive behind our service, then it is time to re-evaluate. If we would take this example into a fine and elegant dining analogy, then we might see Martha running from table to table, trying to please all in attendance. However, I believe Jesus wanted Martha to understand the importance of what it meant to elegantly dine with the Master. Perhaps He was thinking of this very psalm when He mentioned to Martha that she needed to reassess who and why she was serving. Her visibility by her unneeded outburst to the Lord regarding her sister Mary was not characteristic of "elegant dining." She should have been watching her Lord much like the head waiter, anticipating Jesus' queue regarding how she was to wait upon Him. Martha had unfortunately thought the prize was in the serving when in reality the prize was the resultant praise (or rebuke in her case) of the One she served.

Mary lived and loved simply, as her sister Martha hopefully attained. Others such as Paul, while scholarly and educated, lived likewise as remonstrated through his writings. In his former life, he served his Pharisaic community with an eye on self-promotion, resulting in commotion in the church through his persecutions. However, he had missed the point of devotion---not to a culture but to his Creator, nor to a lifestyle but to the Life Giver. Once Paul understood with certainty whom he was serving, he became that "apostolic head waiter" that orchestrated love and devotion through those whom he discipled. Everything prior to Paul's conversion, the apostle regarded as futile attempts to know God. However, once he found the Lord, he counted all things rubbish in comparison to knowing Jesus (Philippians 3:8). That is why the apostle stated the prize was not in living out the pharisaical life and attempting to serve God through the law which could never be kept. Instead, it was being a servant to the Master and learning to look to Him and then responding accordingly in a way pleasing to Christ. As Paul states: "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14) He was no longer looking for praise upon this earth, but he sought the praise of the One who would one day say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. ... Enter into the joy of your Master." (Matthew 25:23)

For those of us who learn to look to the Master upon this earth---like the psalmist, or Mary, or Paul---we too will hear the accolades of Jesus as we enter into His joy. Paul and others stated there was a crown laid up for those who persevered (II Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10). However, as Paul, we should regard the prize of the upward call our chief desire, that we please the Lord. As the twenty four elders cast their crowns at Christ's feet, we can better understand the superfluous idea of any recompense we might receive in view of our great reward of serving Christ faithfully. Crowns and rewards may seem moot in the light of His great suffering to receive the reward of His sufferings. At that moment, when we see Him face to face, we will truly understand that we have not worked for a cause or labored for a way of life, but we have served a Beautiful Man who loved us with all of His Being. Our great desire should be to gaze to the Master as those who know nothing about serving, but to have a willing heart to learn from the Great Servant Himself. Only then will we be fulfilling our roles as waiters upon His divine grace.

Gracious Father, Wonderful Master ... Grant us eyes to see You and to wait only upon You. Teach us to serve You first, and then others as You lead and guide. Help us to be faithful, loving servants that desire to catch a glimpse of Your desire and for us to immediately act upon Your direction with passionate devotion. May we all one day hear, "Good and faithful servant" as we run into the arms of the Master. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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