The Return on Obedience

      The story is told of an elderly missionary couple who were returning home on a ship after many years of sacrificial service in Africa. On the same ship was Theodore Roosevelt, who had just completed a highly successful big game hunt. As the ship docked in New York harbor, thousands of well-wishers and dozens of reporters lined the pier to welcome Roosevelt home. But not a single person was there to welcome the missionaries.

The circumstances of life often rob us of seeing the Lord’s blessing in our lives. The Bible does remind us that there is a blessing, a return, for choosing to obey.

     We should not be surprised that our choice to apply Biblical truth influences the outcomes in life. The Bible speaks to making the choice to obey God rather than being controlled by temptations that appeal to our natural desires. I was recently reminded of the value in living out Biblical truth in Paul’s instructions to “bondservants” and “masters” in Ephesians 6. We are reminded that God’s Word is applicable to every area of my life, even my place of employment. Our passage speaks of the master / servant relationship of that day. The application today would be our opportunity to live out our faith at our place of employment. 

     Paul challenges the workers, “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ,” (Ephesians 6:5) It is worth noting that Paul does not qualify this charge. The general understanding is that we are to do our best in our service to our employer. Our response to them would not be based on how they treat us but “as you would Christ.” Of course today, workers have rights that were not afforded to these servants. But it is worth noting he provides no exceptions to not give our best. This truth also applies to believing masters. Paul instructs, “Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.” (Ephesians 6:9) The point is we are to treat others the way the Jesus Christ has treated us. This is the other centered mandate for the follower of Jesus Christ. It is worth pointing out, that this truth is so significant, that Jesus teaches that being “other-centered” is the summation of the Old Testament instruction.

     What stood out to me in the passage was the return for the believer choosing obedience. Paul writes, “rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.” (Ephesians 6:7–8) The circumstances of our situation should not change our response. Working for the Lord rather than my boss changes everything. It changes our motivation and the quality of our work. It is worth pointing out that the Christian’s response is almost always the opposite of the culture. The phrase “this he will receive back from the Lord,” speaks of God’s blessing in our lives, that while they can include temporal benefits, also include the spiritual benefits in our lives. We must not forget that the Lord’s rewards can be counted on and are always appropriate.

    As the missionary couple rode to a hotel in a taxi and being overlooked at the dock. The man complained to his wife, “It just doesn’t seem right. We give forty years of our lives to Jesus Christ to win souls in Africa, and nobody knows or cares when we return. Yet the president goes over there for a few weeks to kill some animals and the whole world takes notice.” But as they prayed together that night before retiring, the Lord seemed to say to them, “Do you know why you haven’t received your reward yet, My children? It is because you are not home yet.”

  -Pastor Joe Parkinson

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