Daily Reading & Meditation

 Sunday (October 6):  "Lord, increase our faith"

Scripture:  Luke 17:5-10

5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" 6 And the Lord said,"If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, `Be rooted up, and be planted in the  sea,' and it would obey you. 7 "Will any one of you, who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep, say to him when he has come in from the field, `Come at once and sit down  at table'?  8 Will he not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, and gird yourself and serve me, till I eat and drink; and afterward you shall eat and drink'? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, `We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'"

Meditation: What is the greatest force in the world? Jesus tells us that with faith we can do far more than we could accomplish by our own strength; faith can even move mountains and trees (see Matthew17:20; Mark 11:23)! What kind of faith did Jesus have in mind here? By faith Jesus meant more than just belief in God and in his power. Jesus spoke of faith as something dynamic, active, and very alive. Expectant faith is a gift God gives us for overcoming obstacles that stand in the way of doing God's will. It enables us to cooperate with God's grace and power for accomplishing whatever God wants us to do. To illustrate the powerful force of faith, Jesus used the image of an uprooted tree. Have you ever seen an uprooted tree caused by a sudden wind storm or flash flood? On another occasion Jesus illustrated the force of faith with the incredible image of a mountain transplanted: "For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this  mountain, `Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will  be impossible to you." (Matthew 17:20) The term "mountain remover" was used in Jesus' time for describing someone who could solve great problems and difficulties. Don't we often encounter challenges and difficulties which seem beyond our power to handle? What appears impossible to human power is possible to those who believe in God's power.

Faith is a gift freely given by God to help us know God personally, to understand his truth, and to live in the power of his love. God expects more from us than we can do by ourselves.  Faith in God is the key for removing obstacles and difficulties which keep us from doing his will. We are his servants, and he is ever ready to work through us and in us for his glory. For faith to be effective it must be linked with trust and obedience — an  active submission to God and a willingness to do whatever he commands. Do you trust in God's grace and power to resist temptation and to overcome obstacles in doing his will?

Jesus’ parable of the dutiful laborers seems to suggest that we ought to always give our best, regardless of what we can expect in return. But, aren't we like the laborer in Jesus' parable who expected fair compensation for his day's work?  How unfair for the master to compel him to give more than what was expected!  Don't we love to assert our rights: "I will give only what is required and no more!" But who can satisfy the claims of love? Jesus used this parable of the dutiful servant to explain that we can never put God in our debt or make the claim that God owes us something. We must regard ourselves as God's servants, just as Jesus came "not to be served, but to serve" (Matthew 20:28). Service of God and of neighbor is both a voluntary or free act which springs from a generous and merciful heart and a sacred duty which we owe to an all-merciful and gracious God. One can volunteer for public service or be compelled to do service for one's country.  Likewise, God expects us to give him the worship and praise which is his due. And he gladly accepts the  free-will offering of our lives to him and his service. What makes our offering pleasing to God is the love we express in the gift of self-giving. True love is sacrificial, generous, and selfless.

How can we love others selflessly and unconditionally?  God himself is Love (1 John 4:16) and he fills our hearts with the boundless love that gives what is good for the sake of others. If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us (1 John 4:12).  God honors the faithful servant who loves mercifully and gives generously. He wants to bless us richly with his gifts and graces and to work through and in us for his glory. We must remember, however, that God can never be indebted to us. We have no claim on him. His love compels us to give him our best!  And when we have done our best, we have simply done our duty. We can never outmatch God in generous giving and loving service. Does the love of God compel you to give your best?

"Lord, fill my heart with love, gratitude and generosity. Make me a faithful and zealous servant for you. May I generously pour out my life in loving service for you and for others, just as you have so generously poured yourself out for me."

Psalm 95:1-2,6-9

1 O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
6 O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.  O that today you would hearken to his voice!
8 Harden not your hearts, as at Mer'ibah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 when your fathers tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.

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 (c) 2013 Don Schwager