March 29, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 21, 2014.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Let’s Encourage One Another”

Philem. 1:11

“Formerly he (Onesimus) was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.”

In 2005, shortly after I got into the car of the assistant pastor of the church (that invited me to preach), who picked me up at the airport, he said he knew me.  I, too, recognized him, vaguely, from my first youth group in the early 1980s; the story he told, however, made me squirm.   

Playing a softball game against another youth group, I, his youth pastor, wouldn’t let him bat even once, apparently because we were losing.  When he asked me whether he could play, I kept repeating, “Next inning,” until we ran out of it.   Looking back, I guess, since my objective that day apparently was to win, I found this small guy useless!

In one parable of Jesus, the master of the house tells a servant, who just returned from working all day in the field, “Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink” (Lk. 17:8).  That’s a very useful person to the master and that’s what Onesimus was to Philemon, which would, then, make him very useful as well.  Why, then, did Paul say that Onesimus was useless to Philemon before?  

Let’s return to that softball game.  Had I been more Christ-like that day, that boy would have been very useful to teach me that “encourage[ing] one another and build[ing] each other up” (1 Thess. 5:11) is more significant than trying to satisfy my ego by winning a meaningless game.  As for Onesimus who ran away from Philemon, likely because of the hard work, his uselessness stems from the fact that when we pursue even good things without “serving the LORD” (Eph. 6:7b), it is quite meaningless.  However, now that Onesimus belongs to Christ, whatever he does, either as a freeman or servant, he can “work at it with all [his] heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Col. 3:23).

The significance attached to our work does not hinge on whether one is a blue or a white collar, or an assembly line work or a professional.  Rather, it depends on whether, through our work ethics, products, and relationships with co-workers, the kindness, graciousness and righteousness of God have been duly displayed.  

As for today, encourage someone, may be a co-worker, friend, or even your own child, by doing something for that person that would mean that he or she matters to you, better yet, to God. 

Prayer: Dear God, first, forgive me for thinking that I’m more spiritual and moral than the next guy.  I often forget how miserable and useless I was before you found me.  Thank you that you’re into rebuilding lives; you surely have restored mine.  Use me to help someone to become useful to you.   Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 17


Lunch Break Study

Read Matt. 4:18-20: “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’  At once they left their nets and followed him.” 

Jn. 6:27a: “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” 

Questions to Consider

  1. In what sense was what Peter and Andrew did (catching fish) before knowing and following Christ useless?
  2. What does it imply that these brothers readily left their nets to follow Christ?
  3. God prepares us for his work even if we weren’t aware of it at the time.  How did God prepare Peter, Andrew, and even Onesimus for their future ministry?

Notes

  1. No one should demean an honest day’s work to feed one’s family.  However, without believing in the work and person of Christ, we will all die of our sins; whether we perish with a full stomach or not then becomes a mute point.  “Uselessness” refers to all our toils done without serving God, which only produces “food that spoils.”
  2. What they did is equivalent to a computer programmer leaving his laptop to follow Christ.  It implies that in Christ and the ministry that was given them, they found something they always longed for:  doing something that REALLY makes a difference.  When this happens to you, you will do the same!
  3. Onesimus was a slave, a man under submission; now that he was God’s servant (from the same Greek word that is translated “slave”), he knew very well what was expected of him.  As for Peter and Andrew, many years of fishing had taught them about the most effective way to draw or attract fish to their net.  This is a useful insight when trying to draw people to Christ through the gospel. 

Evening Reflection

Did you have a useful day?  If yes, in what sense was it particularly productive?  If not, what can you do differently tomorrow to make it more fruitful for yourself as a believer, and for God’s Kingdom?  

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