20/6/2021 [Thematic Message 127]                                                                                                                                                                    www.lifechurchmissions.com  

To Receive A “Graduated” Sense of Responsibility <Lk 12:41-48>

We believers often make two mistakes in the course of following and serving the Lord. The first is not being responsible, and the second is not having a graduated sense of responsibility. “Being responsible” is a duty that everyone knows and has. <Ecc 12:13>: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. <Eph 6:20>: For which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Indeed, we all have our due responsibilities. Parents have their responsibilities as parents, and employees have their responsibilities as employees. Similarly, those of us who serve the Lord also have our due responsibilities. An irresponsible person cannot please the people around him. Because of his failure to carry out his responsibility, many people will suffer losses. For example: When a Sunday school teacher is not fulfilling his duties, Sunday school students would have wasted their time in those one or two hours. Maybe they could have the opportunity to hear a certain aspect of the truth in their lifetime, but they lose it because of the teacher’s negligence. Or perhaps we are busy, and hence do not fulfill our responsibilities as parents, we are occupied with work, or only consider our own difficulties or conveniences, we do not fulfill our responsibilities to teach our children comprehensively, and thereafter give ourselves an excuse, “The children will naturally grow up to be good.” Then when the children grow up, they form some nature that cannot be changed, and that has something to do with our negligence. Today, for many people who serve the Lord, if they work outside, they will have a sense of responsibility. But once they become a full-timer in the church, the word “responsibility” is not taken into their heart for consideration at all. They think that it is natural to work by relying on the Holy Spirit according to grace, and they do not need to put pressure on themselves, and as a result, they neglect their duty. In fact, they do not know that many people suffer losses or did not benefit due to such serving by them. No matter what the reason is - be it laziness, low self-esteem, powerlessness, busyness, etc., having a sense of responsibility has nothing to do with these. Responsibility comes from the fact that we have been entrusted, trusted by God and man, and therefore know the tasks we must complete. However, the ultimate source of responsibility comes from our understanding of certain knowledge or principle. This is like a parent who has understood the important responsibilities of being a parent, and he cannot neglect his responsibility to teach his children. In the same way, when a person has understood the value of God’s will and doing God's work through the truth, his breach of responsibility is also his transgression. If we continue to remain in such a transgression, there will be consequences. Therefore, those who are created by God to manage and rule over everything absolutely have a duty to perform. But when we continue to talk about a sense of responsibility, who has more responsibilities? The Bible says, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” <Lk 12:48>. This verse tells us that everyone has a due responsibility, and the Bible also tells us a sense of “graduated” responsibility. When a person receives more grace from God, he cannot remain at “it is enough that I have completed my own area of work.” Because God in His sovereignty does give some people more grace to bless people, and hence He exhorts those who receive grace to give more, which is also what God expects. If a person can teach, he needs to teach more. If a person can shepherd, he needs to shepherd more. If a person has accumulated a lot of experiences and gifts in serving, such as playing the piano, worship, teaching children, recording and sound system, ushering, etc., God wants him to step forward and serve the saints even more. This is not only what people expect from him, but also what God expects. Because God said more will be asked. Therefore, from a certain perspective, the principle of “those who are capable can do more” is not wrong. In a company, if talented employees don’t contribute much, and are only content with the work they have already done, there is no possibility for the company to move forward. In the same way, if the Lord’s work does not have talented brethren to devote more effort to envisage, plan, conceptualize, execute, review, and seek breakthroughs, etc., some important work of the Lord will remain stagnant. Today, the Lord tells us that saints must first be responsible, but after many years of service, they must also have a sense of “graduated” responsibility.


1. Rightful duty of a servant <Lk 12:41-46>

1Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?”

Before this, our Lord Jesus told a parable about the servant’s need to be awake, to let them know that they must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour they do not expect. But Peter was curious to whom this parable was for – was it for them who were following and serving the Lord, or for all? This is also what we often asked. Sometimes, when we hear sermons calling us to be awake, we might ask, “Are these for Christians or non-Christians?” Or we may ask, “Are these intended for preachers or seasoned believers, or laity?” But the Lord did not answer Peter’s question directly, for the matter concerning a person’s life is a mystery. Perhaps after listening to the sermon, a person who has yet to believe Christ but has been listening to the Word may turn to the Lord immediately, knowing the coming of judgment. Or a lay believer is awakened after listening to the sermon, as he has heard God’s warning. Therefore, we cannot take the power of God’s Word lightly. Sometimes, we who are serving the Lord may not be awakened because we might have taken the grace for granted, and lack the sense of responsibility a Lord’s servant ought to have.


2Where do the faithfulness and wisdom of servant come from?

Faithfulness is from the way a servant responds to the tasks entrusted by the master. Hence, all Christians should serve the Lord faithfully, for this is the expression of a servant who respects and loves the master. Think about it: Why do we still come to meetings when we are weak? Why do cell group leaders persist in leading the group despite the tiredness? Furthermore, we do not do these for personal gains. Actually, all these actions reveal our faithfulness. Our hearts know that we cannot undermine the tasks entrusted to us by the master, hence we bring this faithful heart in completing the tasks entrusted us. But wisdom is different. Wisdom comes from having more knowledge and understanding of the master’s will and ways of doing things, such that our serving is effective. Why would a servant know how to manage all of the household, to give other servants their portion of food at the proper time, and manage all that is entrusted to him well? These are possible not only because of his faithfulness, but also his wisdom. Today, many things in our Lord’s household are not done well. This stems firstly from the servants’ unfaithfulness, then they also do not think deeper into the master’s intentions, they discharge their duties recklessly, or they merely do the duty without seeking breakthroughs. For example: how should a Sunday school teacher teach in order to simplify a profound sermon and impress upon the children’s hearts; how should gospel livestream be done so that it brings the greatest effect when people listen. If enterprises in this world are advancing like this, why doesn't the work of the Lord advance similarly? Having received grace, have we overlooked the duty that comes with grace? Actually, grace does not bring us laxity but a sense of responsibility. A faithful and wise servant will do his best.


3Where do the evil deeds of the wicked servant come from?

It is mentioned here that the servant beats the male and female servants (lack of love), eats and drinks and gets drunk (let loose the flesh). From here, we first see that the wicked servant does not respect nor love the master, hence he treats the servants whom the master loves this way. In addition, he thinks to himself, “My master is delayed in coming.” This tells us that the servant does not believe the master will accomplish what he has promised. Perhaps, he is not even looking forward to the master’s return. This refers to those who are serving in the church, but they are actually serving their own bellies (flesh) <Php 3:19>. Their true colors are wolves and wicked servants. When the Lord returns, they will be severely punished. Sometimes, God’s punishment might not be the judgment upon His return. At times, we also see God may punish those wicked servants suddenly by taking their lives away (just like how prophet TB Joshua who passed away suddenly a week ago). Throughout history, God may also refine His church through pandemic like today, and punish the wicked servants in churches. Many preachers or servers who do not love the sheep genuinely will not sacrifice for the sheep at such a time. They only wait in vain, and act after the pandemic. Therefore, the sheep that truly need to be fed will not follow them. But to shepherds who love the sheep and give them their portion of food at the proper time, the sheep will follow them instead – these are conscientious servants.


2.  Some servants also have a sense of “graduated” responsibility <Lk 12:47-48>

1There is direct relationship between the master’s instructions which the servant knows and the responsibility he has

<Lk 12:47-48> does not talk about wicked servants, but it uses another example to answer Peter’s question in <Lk 12:41>. Perhaps Peter thought that he and the other disciples were more faithful servants of the Lord. The masses were like seekers of the faith, simply listening to sermons, but they did not have very obvious acts of service. However, the Lord brought out a very deliberate reply here. First, the Lord clearly mentioned that those who heard the Lord’s word but did not respond will certainly be beaten (disciplined). That is because the Lord’s word is not merely to satisfy our rationality, but it also calls out to our hearts, demanding our submission. Therefore, after hearing the Lord’s word and understanding His will, we must prepare our hearts to submit. However, when hearing the word of the Lord, everyone’s degree of understanding is different. Just as the disciples indeed received a lot of grace. From the mouth of the Lord, they directly knew the words of eternal life. Therefore, in proportion to what they knew, they were entrusted with huge responsibility. For the ordinary people who heard the word, many did not receive it so clearly, or they only understood a bit of God’s will from the word. In that case, the responsibility entrusted to them is little. If these two kinds of servants do not submit to the Lord, who should get more beating? It should be the servant who received more grace and who understood God’s will better. Thus, sometimes the more word we hear, the more truth we understand, but if we do not prepare our hearts to submit to the Lord, that will bring more contradictions to our lives instead. But why do we understand God’s will yet do not submit? There are many reasons. Perhaps we are lazy, or we feel inferior, or our lives are too busy, or we give in too much to our difficulties, or we feel we are being treated unfairly because others do not do as much as us, or there are other reasons, but all these are not reasonable factors. Instead, we must overcome all these difficulties by the Lord. Why? Because we already knew the master’s will. Hence, knowledge (of God’s word) goes together with our responsibility.


2From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

First, this verse is positive instead of negative. Thus, no one can say, “The Lord does not give me much, so He cannot demand much from me”, and use this as an excuse not to submit to the Lord. Even if there are new believers or spiritual infants in the church, the Lord’s grace still comes to us ceaselessly. Hence, we cannot be like those who have been believers for years yet still think they are spiritual infants, thus unable to give much. On the contrary, we should acknowledge that God will give saints a kind of “graduated” responsibility. After we have received God’s word for years, often shepherding brethren and have understood that God’s kingdom is the ultimate purpose, we cannot treat ourselves like spiritual infants, or choose to withdraw when faced with demands of serving. Sometimes, it is only right that we demand certain long-time believers to be involved in some serving. <Ro 12:3> says: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. This verse tells us that it is wrong if we over-value or over-humble ourselves. We must learn to think of ourselves with sober judgment. Some brethren will step forward to take up serving roles once they see the needs of the church and ministries. Perhaps before the pastor entrusts the ministries to them, they already prepared their hearts to rise to the challenges. Such servant is most pleasing to the Lord. Hence, starting from those of us who serve full-time in the church, it is only right that everyone and God demand from us. Because we are meant to be set apart to serve the Lord. If we fall short of our responsibilities or we are sloppy, God’s people will be the first to suffer loss. Think about it, during this pandemic, when the country’s economy is hit, the ministers of the nation are so concerned. Then how can we not be concerned if we are supposed to give spiritual and eternal blessings to brothers and sisters? Furthermore, in the entire serving of the church, we must understand the principle of doing more when one is capable. Because the Lord has said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.” If we realize we have many talents, gifts, opportunities, time, money, etc, do we feel that we have responsibilities in these areas? Perhaps if such a person does not give more, people will also not realize, as he has been giving a lot already. But his conscience will know that he has not done his best to respond to everything that God has entrusted to him. If so, he has the obligation before God to respond to the Lord.


3 In this period of pandemic, we must all be responsible for our own lives.

1Many God’s servants who were greatly used by God took ownership in establishing relationship with God.

Consider the example of David. Since young, he has been a shepherd boy who was pleasing to the Lord. He received grace from God’s words and in his shepherding, he relied on the Lord and the Lord rescued him from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear <1 Sam 17:37>. Look at Paul, after he converted, he went to Arabia to study the scripture, to be clear about the revelations concerning Christ in the Old Testament <Gal 1:17-18>. When Calvin was fleeing the persecution of the Roman Catholic church, he studied the Bible himself for 3 years, preached the Word and wrote his first book on Christian doctrine. Reverend Stephen Tong is also the same. After reading good Christian literature, he continued to study and mediate on the Word of God, and later he became an influential pastor amongst the Chinese churches. Actually, it is not just these well-known men of great faith. Each one of us who genuinely loves and follows the Lord will have our own story with God, and that story comes from us independently taking ownership of our faith and not be led along by trends or just following what other believers are doing. How God is leading our church is also something we must confirm and not merely imitating what other churches are doing. Now, because of the pandemic, we are restricted in our visitation and shepherding. Physical cell group meetings and Sunday school are also not possible. However, the Lord blessed our church to churn out more than 10 messages each week, including 5 different sermons for the services. Right now, in each week, we must be responsible for our own lives. Even though there are not many opportunities to meet during the week, we have to take on the responsibility of receiving the messages from the church pulpit well. Those with children, should also learn how to use the Word of God and Sunday school materials to encourage your children through home-based learning, to protect their faith.


2The co-workers in church must receive a “graduated” sense of responsibility before God

Especially, as church leaders and shepherds of the sheep, we must learn to pay attention to the responsibility God has given to the church. We do not only pray for the needs of our brothers and sisters, we must also recognize the mission the Lord entrusted to our church for this era. If we have all received the “graduated” sense of responsibility, our serving is self-initiated, and always seeking breakthroughs. If the church has about 30 mature and experienced believers to lead 300-400 congregants, that is more than enough for every aspect of church operations to function properly. Not just that, the church will also have capacity to bless many overseas churches and brethren. Pastor has 3 prayers for the co-workers:

     Have a pure heart that loves the Lord. Only then, our hearts will not be taken captive by the world, and in all challenging circumstances, we can rely on the Lord.

     In all the holy work that the church has entrusted to us, fulfill our responsibility and do the work of the Lord as best as we can.

     In matters of serving, seek first the benefit of the church and the congregants before thinking about ourselves.

If the overseers, deacons and cell group leaders possess the above spirit to serve the Lord, we will surely become a church that is pleasing to the Lord, and in the midst of the pandemic, become a shining beacon in the darkness of this era.