THE SERVING SON
by Gary Carpenter
All of us are familiar with the famous verse:
Mat 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
To understand what Jesus means by "all these things," you only have to read the passage that precedes this verse:
Mat 6:31-32 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
Paraphrased in today's language, Jesus was saying:
"The unbelievers spend their entire lifetime, from birth to the grave, primarily concerned with how to get their material needs met. They do not know the Father as Provider, neither are they concerned with the Father's kingdom. I am telling you not to be like them. Your Father knows that you have need of all the same things that they spend their lifetime trying to acquire. My promise to you is this; If you will devote your life, first and foremost, to finding out your place in the Father's kingdom and putting His will first in your life, the Father Himself will take personal responsibility for providing all of these things for you Himself. They will simply be a byproduct of serving Him in His kingdom. All these things shall be added unto you."
What a promise! Most reasonable people would agree that the ultimate in prosperity would be for God the Father to take personal responsibility for providing all of their material needs. If He was to take that responsibility, then they would be completely free to give their lives totally to serving Him in His kingdom. They would not only have all of their needs met, they would also be forever free from the "care" of how those needs would be provided.
The question that arises in most people's mind is, "How, in a practical way, do I go about seeking first the kingdom of God? Is Jesus talking about Church attendance? Is He talking about me giving more of my finances into the work of God? Is He talking about feeding the poor? How do I start?"
One place where Jesus expounds on what it means to "seek first the kingdom of God" is in the passage of scripture beginning with Luke 15:1 and ending with Luke 17:10. One of the first principles of true meditation of the Word of God is to find the beginning of a subject and the end of a subject. Jesus taught in complete subjects.
Every verse in the teaching is like the stroke of an artist's brush as He paints a complete image of what He is wanting us to "see" regarding the kingdom of God and how it functions. To understand difficult verses within the teaching, it is of the utmost importance to meditate the entire passage to keep each verse in its proper context.
To illustrate this principle, say you had a painting of the Taj Mahal and you wanted to send a copy of it to a friend who lived in the remote part of the world and had never seen it. Let's say your painting is a large, sofa size painting and it shows the Taj Mahal structure itself and the gardens that surround it. You take the painting down from off the wall and take it to a Xerox machine to duplicate the image, but the painting is far too large to fit all of it on the machine.
You haphazardly place the painting on the Xerox machine and make the copy, not realizing that the only portion of the painting that was actually duplicated was a small section depicting one of the trees in the garden. You mail that copy to your friend with a note saying, "This is an image of the Taj Mahal." Your friend would look at the copy you sent him and say, "The Taj Mahal is a tree." He only saw a tiny portion of the true image.
The same thing happens in our minds when we try to understand difficult verses from the Word of God without leaving each verse within the overall "image" of the subject being taught. Our understanding will be limited, at least, if not actually erroneous.
I have learned to ask the Holy Spirit to show me the beginning and ending of the subject matter when I come to verses that I do not understand. Once I know the beginning and ending, then I read the entire passage over and over many times to equip my spirit for "day and night" meditation. By this method, every verse is left in its proper setting within the complete image. When the understanding comes, every verse will fit precisely within the overall subject matter.
This passage of scripture opens by saying:
Luke 15:1-2 Then drew near unto him [Jesus] all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them
Here we see the Son of God who has left His Father's house (heaven) to come to earth in the form of a man to "be about His Father's business" of "seeking and saving the lost." Of necessity, that means He must mingle and associate with publicans and sinners.
The religious people of the day, the Pharisees and scribes, were shocked and horrified that someone who called Himself a man of God would associate with sinners. Their idea of "seeking first the kingdom of God" was to be meticulous about keeping the traditions of their ancestors and to stay completely separate from contact with publicans and sinners.
These two concepts of "seeking first the kingdom of God" are in sharp contrast to each other. Jesus is doing it right. The Pharisees and scribes are doing it wrong. Jesus now begins to teach what it means to truly "seek first the kingdom of God" in order to give the Pharisees and scribes the opportunity to repent if they choose to do so.
The subject matter does not end until this teaching concludes in Luke 17:10. Like a master artist, Jesus begins using words in parable form to paint a complete image of what it means to "seek ye first the kingdom of God." Every parable and word illustration that Jesus uses in that passage is to be understood in this context.
In this light we will take another look at what is commonly called the story of the Prodigal Son. To refresh your memory, you will find it in Luke 15:11 32. In context, the Prodigal Son represents the publicans and sinners. The Elder Son who was angry that the Prodigal had been restored to fellowship with the Father. The Elder Son represents the Pharisees and the scribes. The Elder Son, like the Pharisees and scribes, did not understand the heart of the Father at all. He, like them, had no idea that the Father was longing for the return of the Prodigal.
As I was reading through this entire segment from Luke 15:1 through Luke 17:10 one day, the Holy Spirit asked me, "What would have been the only hope for the attitude of the Elder Son to be changed?" I could see from the Elder Son's statements that he had served in his Father's fields for many years, but his emphasis had been on "not transgressing the commandments." Since he did not even know that his Father was grieving over the loss of the Prodigal son, it was obvious that he never spent much time with his Father. His problem was; he didn't know his Father's heart at all.
I responded to the Holy Spirit's question, "He would have had to come in from the fields and spend time in fellowship with his Father." In my mind's eye, I could see the Elder Son simply abandon all of his ritualistic "busy work" for awhile in order to come into his Father's house for the sole purpose of fellowship. I could see him pulling up a couple of chairs to the breakfast table and saying, "Father, we haven't just sat down and talked in a long time. Could we just spend some time together? I would like to find out what's on your heart and I would like to tell you what's on my heart."
I could see that the Father, who was already grieving over the loss of one son, would have been overjoyed to spend time in fellowship with the Elder Son. As this time of fellowship continued it would not have been very long before the subject of the lost Prodigal Son would have come up in their discussion. The Elder Son would have discovered that his Father still loved the Prodigal and missed him terribly. The Father would have told him that he went out on the front porch several times every day to gaze down the road that leads from their house just in case he might see the Prodigal Son coming home.
The Elder Son was now, for the first time, learning what his Father was really like. He had assumed that the Father was enraged with the Prodigal. After all, the Prodigal had squandered the Father's inheritance on harlots and riotous living. He had disgraced the family name by his licentiousness. He knew that the Father had not raised him like that. He was angry with his Prodigal brother and he "assumed" that the Father was also.
As the fellowship with his Father continued, the Elder Son's hardness of heart would gradually have softened as he learned of the great love the Father had for the Prodigal. The Father was not pleased with what the Prodigal Son had done, but his love for His son had not diminished in the least. The Father's heart was aching for the Prodigal Son to return home.
Eventually, as this fellowship between the Elder Son and Father continued, this great love for the Prodigal Son would have been transferred from the Father's heart to the Elder Son. He would have said, "Father, I had no idea that you felt like this. I didn't know that you were grieving over the loss of my Prodigal Brother. Would you like for me to go look for him? Perhaps I could find him and tell him that you still love him. I could tell him that your heart longs for him to come home. He may not know that, Father. Would you like for me to go seek after him and tell him of your love?"
I can see the Father's eyes brighten with joy at the prospect of the Elder Son's offer. I can hear the Father saying, "Would you be willing to go? Yes, I would love for you to go seek my lost son. If you find him, tell him that I love him. If you can persuade him to come home, my heart would overflow with joy."
From this point on in the lesson I will refer to the Elder Son as being the Serving Son. He is a freeborn child of his Father, but he has chosen of his own free will to become the servant of his Father in seeking and saving the lost Prodigal Son. He is now a son who serves. Not by compulsion, but motivated by the love that was transferred to his heart through fellowship with his Father.
The Serving Son immediately begins to assemble a caravan of camels and pack mules to carry the provisions that will be needed on the expedition to seek and save the lost son. He gathers together some of the Father's servants to go with him on the journey. They load the pack mules with supplies of food, drinking water and many other things that they will need in the wilderness as they seek to find the Prodigal.
When all is ready and it is time to depart, I see the Father coming out to hug and kiss his Serving Son. The Father gives his blessing to all who are going with him to seek and save the lost son. As the caravan travels down the road from the Father's house toward the wilderness, the Father's emotions are full of joy at the prospect of his lost son being saved. He wants his Serving Son to have a prosperous, successful journey. He wants them both to come home to him safe and well.
The expedition goes well as the Serving Son's caravan travels from village to village asking, "Have you seen my lost brother? The Father has sent me to find him." Sometimes he would get information such as, "Yes, he came this way a year ago. We think he headed south when he left our village." The expedition continues, but the journey is longer than expected. Provisions begin to run low as they enter into the vast wastelands of the desert.
The Serving Son writes a message to his Father; "Father, we are still looking for the Prodigal. We have some good clues, but we have not found him yet. We are running low on food for the camels and mules. We are running low on food for ourselves and drinking water is in short supply. Could you please send us fresh supplies? Thank you. Your Serving Son."
The Serving Son gives this petition to one of the servants and the servant begins running back to the Father's house to deliver it. When the servant arrives, he finds the Father once again standing on the porch looking down the road in hope that the entire caravan was returning with his lost son. He sees the runner coming and wonders if he is bearing good news from the Serving Son.
The Father opens the message and reads the petition from his Serving Son. He calls all the servants together and says, "My Serving Son has asked that I send him fresh supplies. I will not only supply every need that he listed here, but much more besides. He has not asked for enough. Gather some wagons together and begin loading them with provisions that are exceeding abundantly more than everything he asked me for. Also, gather some fresh camels and some fresh mules to take to him. Also, some of you servants pack your bags and prepare for a long journey. My Serving Son needs more help. All that I have is his. My Serving Son shall never lack ANY good thing."
Dear Reader, this is true Kingdom Prosperity by "relationship and fellowship." The Serving Son is now "seeking first the kingdom of God" by giving his life to the "will of the Father" to seek and save the lost. The messenger that was sent back with the petition is representative of prayer to make our requests know to Him. The Father has sworn to provide every need abundantly while we remain His Serving Sons.
This relationship and fellowship eliminates all formulas. What I mean is this: Can you imagine, in your wildest dreams, that the Father would respond to his Serving Son in this manner? "No, I will not send you the provisions you asked for because you did not first send me an offering."
Ridiculous! The Father was not seeking a financial offering from the Serving Son. The Serving Son had already "sown" what the Father was after. The Serving Son was sowing his "life" to do the will of the Father by seeking and saving the lost.
The reason that the Church falls for such nonsense is that we do not yet understand that we are truly sons and daughters of our Father. Also, for most, their hearts have not yet become single minded in serving the Father. For others, it is simply a matter of being delivered from all of the "formulas" they have been taught in order to believe the plain words of Jesus Christ:
John 16:23-24 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
Faith in those words, and single mindedness of purpose, makes available unlimited resources to every Serving Son, no matter what job has been assigned to you in the overall mission of the body of Christ.
What was it that changed the attitude of the Elder Son that caused him to be changed into the Serving Son? FELLOWSHIP WITH THE FATHER! That is what changes us all. The new birth gives us a heart that has the capacity to fellowship with our heavenly Father once again. The more time we spend with Him, the more of His love for all people will be "shed abroad in our hearts." That love will eventually "compel" us to take our respective place in the overall body of Christ and be fruitful for our Father as we also endeavor to "seek and save the lost."
That does not mean that all of us are called to be "evangelists" in the normal sense of the word. But in a way, we all are. Paul tells us that the body of Christ is one body, made up of many parts:
1 Cor 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, andall the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
Christ has not changed. He is still in the business of "seeking and saving the lost." You could say, that IS the mission of His body. But even though not all of us are called to be "front-line" evangelists, we ALL have a place in the body. Nobody gets to choose their own call. Paul also tells us that God places us in the body according to His own will:
1 Cor 12:18-20 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body.
Of major importance, then, to "seeking first the Kingdom of God" would be for each of us to find our place in the body and begin fulfilling it. Some might say, "Gary, I would be happy to do that. the only problem is, I don't know what my place in the body is. I don't know what I have been called to do."
Well, since it is God who determines your call in the first place, doesn't it make sense that the best way to find out what your call is would be to spend time in fellowship with Him? That's what the Elder Son did in order to become the Serving Son.
I encourage you to spend more time in fellowship with your heavenly Father. Of course this would include all of the usual things like worship, prayer, meditation of the Word and so forth. But I am actually speaking of simply taking some time every day to just sit down and "talk with Him." Who knows? Perhaps you will find that He has been standing out on the porch today looking to see if you might be coming to fellowship with Him?
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