There’s something that I’ve been meaning to speak to you about for some time now. It’s a lesson that you started to learn a little while ago but have already started forgetting. Let me recap your memory…
I want to remind you of a couple of verses that once pierced your heart and woke you up. “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:8-10. Self, who chose you to be a servant? Who called you? Who promised to strengthen you and help you? Was it not The Lord… Was it not He that gave you your gifts… Are you not His vessel?
“Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8. Recently you’ve forgotten that all you are is clay in the hands of the potter. You’ve forgotten that it’s not you who ‘earned’ the gifts you have but that you’ve been granted them graciously by your potter – as St. Paul says “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to us…” Romans 12:6. It’s not you who’s in control, it’s Him. You’ve forgotten that it’s not your service, It’s His service. “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.” Jeremiah 18:6-10. You’ve become so concerned with being a ‘good’ servant on the outside. Do you not remember that God can only work in the vacancy of your heart?
It’s time for you to wake up Self and realise that you’re merely a vessel that He can choose to use for His glory. Whenever you feel that you’re a ‘good’ and ‘righteous’ servant deserving the praise of people around you, humble yourself. Remember that it is God’s name you want to bring the glory and praise to, not your own. Remind yourself of how unworthy you are to be called to be God the Almighty’s servant – that even though you are covered in so much sin He still chooses to use you. Pray that God instils in your heart the desire to have people look at you and say ‘wow, God is so amazing’ not ‘wow you’re so amazing’. You’re like a small box containing an incredible diamond ring; if the box is fancy but opaque, people will look at it and admire it but not see the prize inside at first glance. But if the box is made out of cheap plastic but is clear, people will look at it and instantly gasp in admiration of the diamond ring inside. Self, you need to desire to be clear/ transparent/ invisible so that it is not you ‘using’ God to shine in-front of people but God shining through you to His people.
“He must become greater; I must become less.”
Repent and examine yourself O my soul. If people’s praise is what’s driving you to serve, then you are not serving at all. If showcasing and utilising your gifts is what’s driving you to serve, then you are not serving at all. Even if it’s love towards the people you’re serving that’s driving you to serve, then the root of your service is wrong. St. Augustine says “If the intention is unclean, the deed that follows from it will also be evil, even if it seems good.” When you serve, you do so out of love for your Creator – you desire to be nothing so He can be everything – you want everything that you say/ do to glorify His name not yours. In Exodus “…if the [Hebrew] servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.” Exodus 21:5,6. It was the Hebrew servant’s personal choice in the seventh year of service whether to go free or willingly choose to serve his master forever. Ask yourself: “Do I really love my Master so much that I’m willing to be His servant for life?”.
In order to serve your Master you need to love Him; and in order to love Him, you need to know Him. Self, do you know your God? Do you know what His personality’s like? What He loves and hates? How can you trust Him or ask for His will in service if you don’t know Him? “. “The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught… You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”? Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”?” Isaiah 29:13,16. Self, God loves you and wants you to serve Him but you have to spend time in His presence reading His word, getting to know who it is that you’re serving. Join King David in saying: “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” Psalm 86:11 for you hurt God when you don’t give Him the honour He deserves. “A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty.” Malachi 1:6.
“No matter how much we may study, it is not possible to come to know God unless we live according to His commandments, for God is not know by science, but by the Holy Spirit. Many philosophers and learned men came to the belief that God exists, but they did not know God. It is one thing to belief that God exists and another to know Him. If someone has come to know God by the Holy Spirit, his soul will burn with love for God day and night, and his soul cannot be bound to any earthly thing.”
St. Silouan the Athonite
So Self, repent and ask forgiveness for your sins. Ask the Lord to introduce Himself to you once more that you may again understand how insignificant you are and how almighty He is; how it’s He, the King of Kings, who deserves all glory and honour. Persevere in prayer and reading His word that you may know your Creator and love Him abundantly, offering Him praise and service in return. Let not Satan trick you and fool you into thinking that you accomplish anything with your gifts or talents for “man’s life is a period of time which the devil tries to waste” H.H. Pope Shenouda III. Instead remember in your heart that “…’Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.’ says the Lord Almighty” Zechariah 4:6. Finally stand before your gracious God and thank Him that in your brokenness His strength is perfect, and in your weakness He uses you as an empty vessel to serve Him.