Concept And Conduct
Mr. Marion J. Michaux of Colorado Springs, Colorado, is an occasional contributor to FOCUS. You will be edified by reading his thoughts on service, faith, and devotion.
“Our lives wear the character of the country in which we dwell” (J. N. Darby).
Concept and conduct are inseparable. They are like seed and fruit, hand and glove, cause and effect. We can no more cuddle in our hearts a base view of life and have a noble walk before men than expect canaries to give birth to camels. Neither can we change the character of our lives without changing the character of our thinking. Kenneth Wuest’s translation of Romans 12:2 captures the spirit of this principle:
“Stop assuming an outward expression that does not come from within you and is not representative of what you are in your inner being … but change your outward expression to one that comes from within and is representative of your inner being, by the renewing of your mind.”
What we think of God determines: 1. the character of our service for Him; 2. the measure of our faith in Him; and 3. the intensity of our devotion to Him. There striking illustration of this truth are given in the Scriptures, two by the Lord Jesus Himself.
The Character Of Our Service (Matt. 25:14-30)
In this parable of the two good and faithful servants contrasted with a wicked and lazy servant, the Lord Jesus emphasized three important points: 1. their works; 2. their attitudes; and 3. their rewards.
The works of the two good and faithful servants were effective and fruitful. They took their talents and put them to work. When the master returned, they had doubled them in value. There is no hint that they withdrew profit for themselves, nor even expected it. They went to work at once, for it takes time to double an investment, even with diligence.
Their attitude was one of cheerful zeal. They did not dicker or complain between themselves, and it is notable that they showed no envy. The one who received two talents was as satisfied to go to work and make two more, as the servant who received five.
Their rewards were unexpected. Not only did they receive commendation from the master for their good work, which apparently would have satisfied them, but they received authority over many things belonging to him as well. But here was an unbelievable thing! “Come and share your master’s happiness,” he said (NIV). Could anything be fairer, richer, more astonishing? To share his riches was wonder enough, but to share his happiness, well, that surely took their breath away!
By contrast, all the wicked servant had to show for his works was a hole in the ground. He had buried his talent. When the master came he dug it up and presented it to him with a long, complaining, bitter, defensive speech. It took him three times as many words to explain why he hadn’t done anything, as it did for the faithful servants to explain what they had done. The diligence of the other two should have warned him to take action.
“I knew you were a hard man,” he said. But the subsequent record reveals that his master was definitely not hard, but extremely fair. He gave the faithful servants a generous settlement for their work.
The reward of the wicked servant was just. He lost his talent and was thrown into outer darkness. He received what he deserved and desired. He did not desire to work. Now he would never have to work again.
In the same manner, if the Christian thinks God is unfair, hard, demanding, like that wicked servant, his labor will be fruitless, profitless, ineffectual. His character will be defensive, insulting, and joyless.
On the other hand, good and faithful servants find their masters just and fair, rewarding them “exceedingly abundantly above all that they ask or think.” They anticipate his coming with joy. They are ready to step into rulership with him and to share in his happiness, commended, approved, and accepted.
The Measure Of Our Faith (Rom. 4:20-25)
“Faith is the path of least resistance.” Faith, that is, does not argue with God. It believes God. Abraham did not stagger at the promises of God, amazing though they were. He believed God. He was strong in faith. He believed that God could do what He said He would do.
Perhaps even more amazing, and less eulogized, is the believing faith of Caleb. As a young man of forty, he went with eleven others to spy out the Promised Land. What they saw exploded in their minds. They were overwhelmed by the unbelievable, unexpected fertility of the land and the physical superiority of the people in it.
Caleb reported: “We can take it!” (Num. 13:30). He was, indeed, a man “of another spirit” (Num. 14:24). Only he and Joshua — two men out of two-and-a-half-million people who left Egypt — believed that they could go and possess the land.
But the full story is this. Caleb “wholly followed the Lord” (Num. 32:11-12). Forty-five years later, at the age of 85, he could say, “I am as strong this day as I was that day … as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out and to come in” (Josh. 14:11). To prove that he was not simply boasting, he asked for his inheritance to be the land of the giants!
Men’s faith is sometimes warped by their concept of God. They make God in their own image, and the image is speechless, helpless, and powerless to produce great works of faith. They stagger because of their unbelief. Unlike Abraham, they are not fully persuaded.
The Intensity Of Our Devotion (Matt. 26:6-13)
The third illustration is that of Mary of Bethany. She had that single eye of devotion that separated her from the world. Jesus said that what she had done would be spoken of wherever the Gospel was preached. She chose the better part (Luke 10:42). She gave all she had (John 12). This was her estimate of Christ’s worth. The disciples complained that she had wasted this treasure.
But Mary remembered a day when she sat alone with her grief. Jesus called for her (John 11:28). Heaven opened. Jesus filled her thirsty soul. God was as close to her as the beat of her heart that day. The poor would be the benefactor of these moments.
The measuring cup of devotion is not the ointment or the cost of it. Rather, it is the depth of our love, our estimate of His worth. It is not what is loss to ourselves, but what is joy to Him. The fragrance of that offering will saturate us. Where-ever Mary went that day, the odor identified her. Whatever she touched bore the scent of it.
Service is all we have poured out in devotion to Him.
What Mary had done was to be coupled with what He had done. He gave all that He had. He looks to us to give all that we have.
“What, giving again?” I asked in dismay.
“And must I keep giving and giving away “
“Oh, no,” said the angel, piercing me through,
“Just give till the Father stops giving to you.”
The Sum of it
We may boast that our God is larger than the heaven of heavens, deeper than the lowest hell, and broader than the scope of man’s transgressions, but the evidence will be weighed in the balance of our service, faith and devotion to Him, not in our exclamations. Protests are useless.
But why protest? Why exclaim? One taste of His praise will hush forever all our protests. Who can reach higher in desire than to yearn for God’s approval? Who would want more than this: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”?