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On the one hand this Pauline conception of the absolute and indelible proprietorship of Christ throws much of our modern "service" into striking contrast. Rather than being in willing, full, and free servitude, vassalage, and slavery, to Christ, we often regard our service as a kind of religious V.A.D. affair. [Editor's note: Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) in the UK provided medical assistance in time of war.] We may be interested, we may be philanthropic, we may be condescending or we may be dutiful, but we are certainly not under any compulsion. We can do pretty much as we like about it, and if things do not suit us, we can either "throw up" our work altogether, or go where we shall be more appreciated, or where things are smoother sailing. So today, the "worker" too often makes the cause serve him or her instead of being the servant of the cause. Paul took his directions as to sphere, time, and kind of work from his Master, Christ, and relegated every concern to Him. He was not his own, and he could not use either his powers or his time as directed by the flesh. But on the other hand he was fully aware and convinced that this "slavery" to Christ was for him the greatest thing in the world. He had caught the true significance of the Master's invitation to "Take my yoke... and you shall find rest unto your souls." That to Paul meant control and direction for the most serviceable life.
The stream rushes aimlessly, frivolously, and noisily on, until it is yoked by a water-wheel, and then by its arrest it grinds the grain to feed mankind.
The wind blows wildly to no purpose on the sea until the mariner yokes it with his sail, and thus it is harnessed to bear the enriching cargoes from shore to shore.
To capture the electricity which would otherwise be lost, we suspend our telegraph wires, and direct it intelligently along them, bringing the whole world into an intimate association. And so, as in these and many other ways, the yoke is the symbol of useful control, and serviceable direction, Paul knew that the yoke of Christ's service and association would make his life more fruitful than his own independence. There is a liberty which leads to havoc, ruin, uselessness, and remorse. But the supreme element in Paul's abandonment to Christ was a strong, clear sense of what Christ had done for him, and a perpetual consciousness of what Christ was to him. There is nothing which makes slaves of us more than love, and it is an ecstatic and sublime slavery which never wants release, and only dreads that a breach might at some time come. In the captivity of Christ's love, Paul would ever be found doing everything which would preserve it from suffering hunger in his life, and he would over be found praying that the "marks" might be burnt more and more deeply into his soul.
Who that one moment, has the least descried Him,
Dimly and faintly, hidden and afar.
Doth not despise all excellence, beside Him,
Pleasures and powers that are not and that are.
I am persuaded that nothing shall sunder
Us from the love that saveth us from sin,
Lift it or lose hereover or hereunder,
Pluck it hereout or strangle it herein.
In summarising what we have said, let us clearly point out that for effectual Christian service and the more powerful corporate testimony of the Church, it must be realised that the Divine calling and equipment for the prophetic, or pastoral, or teaching, or evangelistic, or apostolic work is not centred in one man in any given community, but that these personal gifts are distributed over the whole Church. Every true disciple of Christ is called to be a "servant of the Lord" and should prayerfully seek to know in what specific capacity He calls them to serve; not taking up work at random, but having sought His guidance, they should give themselves earnestly, devotedly, and vigorously to their special ministry, and regard their calling as from God.
The "marks" of Christ must be seen upon His servants whether in the place where the Lord's people assemble, the business, the home, or the social circle, and he must ever be proud to say of Him, "whose I am, and whom I serve."
A vital relationship with Christ born of a deep personal appreciation of what He has done for, and daily is to our souls, and a clear understanding with a profound conviction of what He wishes to do through our instrumentality; these covered by a complete and utter abandonment to Him, are the only legitimate grounds for His service. Of such servants the world and the "Church" stands in tragic and pathetic need, and by such all problems of ineffectiveness and failure are solved. Such never take up the work lightly, and therefore never give it up easily - if at all. I am more and more convinced that the problems of the untouched masses, the leakage of young people, will be solved most lastingly and fruitfully; not by social organisations or increased machinery, but by the type of workers for Christ who have this work committed to them. Every Christian must conceive of himself or herself as being definitely called by God into the "Fellowship of His Son" and as "Workers together with Him," and that this calling is a solemn and irrevocable ordination to "the work of the ministry." (Read carefully Ephesians 4:12 R.V.)
To be Christ's own purchased possession; and to be Christ's own controlled, directed, and equipped servant, is to have the strength of a great assurance that nothing can separate you from Him; that you work under supreme authority; that all the resources of Christ are at your disposal; and that while doing His work there can be no ultimate failure, unless He is to ultimately fail, which is impossible. This is a service which is eternal and supreme, and is only the probation for "higher service," where and when "His servants shall serve Him, and they shall see His face."
Christ! I am Christ's! and let the name suffice me,
Ay, for me, too, He greatly hath sufficed;
Lo, with no winning words I would entice you,
Paul has no honour and no friend but Christ.
Yes, through life, death, through sorrow and through sinning,
He shall suffice me, for He hath sufficed;
Christ is the end, for Christ was the beginning,
Christ the beginning, for the end is Christ.