The Apostles did in Luke 17:5. Look at the somewhat astonishing answer Jesus gave in verses 6-10! He starts out by saying that it is not the size of your faith but the substance of your faith. Jesus used an agrarian and husbandry illustration. Think how hard it would be to plow a field with an ox and a plow? Think of the hours of rigorous effort and broken blades. You would have to remove large rocks, break up the hard ground, and work in the elements…all while keeping the rows straight! Or what about being a sheepherder? Sheep are independent creatures with below average intelligence. They require extraordinary attention and consistent vigilance in order to be kept safe. It would not be an easy task to say the least! Farming and sheepherding were then, as they are now, lifestyle jobs. They demanded an all-out effort 10-12 hours a day, 7-days a week.
When a farmer or sheepherder came home at night, he was fortunate if he had a family member who would help with preparing meals, cleaning up, or doing chores. In the story Jesus tells, the servant who had been working all day in the fields would come home from a long day only to be required to serve all the more. The master had no obligation to thank the servant, nor would the servant have expected thanks. The servant was simply doing his duty. Notice how Jesus ends his story: “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” Now, I don’t know about you but this strikes me as strange. If someone asked me how to increase a person’s faith, I would say things like, “Dream big! Expect God to do mighty things! Live on the edges! Take risks and go for the impossible! Trust God to accomplish the unthinkable! He desires to do big and grandiose accomplishments in your life as you trust Him in faith!”
Jesus says just the opposite. Role up you sleeves. Be willing to function in obscurity. Do your job. Keep a strong work ethic. Be humble enough to live with a sense of duty… not glory. Keep working without recognition, and never give up simply because the job is always there. Have you noticed that the word “duty” is almost completely non-existent in our modern expression of Christianity? Yet here Jesus is giving us a practical lesson in regards to the development of our faith. In the past, I have mentioned the website www.wallbuilders.org. David Barton has a fantastic CD titled “Reformation”. I bought several of them and you can borrow them if you wish. He tells the story of George Whitfield who the Holy Spirit used to bring revival in the 1800’s here in America. George Whitfield gave over 32,000 sermons in 34 years of ministry. Imagine the sense of duty that he had by giving over 3 sermons a day for 34 years! He did it all from horse back with a portable pulpit traveling through adverse weather, battling physical sickness, as well as harsh treatment from other pastors. Yet it is said that at the end of his ministry, 80% of all Americans had personally heard George Whitfield preach. The great Awaking took place in large part because of the dutiful, and committed faith of workers like Whitfield.
Would you stop for a moment and pray with me? Oh LORD, forgive us of our laziness. We ask that you would cleanse us from our desire for glory and for our lack of humility. We repent and surrender to You. We confess our lack of effort for Your Kingdom purposes. Oh Holy Father, please empower us for the duty of obeying. In Christ’s Name, we pray. Amen.