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"Servants, be obedient unto your masters, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not in the way of eye-service, as menpleasers; but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing Berviee, as unto the Lord, and not unto men."—Eph. vi. 5-7.
THE importance of the teaching these words contain can hardly be overrated. They tell us that not only when we are fulfilling some direct command, but equally when we are doing our common daily work, all is to be done, may be done, as the will of God. They tell us that this cannot be done except as it is done in singleness of heart, and from the heart, with the joyful and loving consent of our whole being. They tell us that the strength thus to act is to be found in doing all as in Christ's presence and unto Him. They teach us, too, how the most common daily life, with its drudgery, or even its oppression, may be transfigured into the work of Heaven—doing the will of God.
The passage derives special force from the fact that it was addressed to slaves. At that time almost all servants were slaves, entirely, even with their life, at the disposal of their masters, and with no rights in law. Many of the early Christians were slaves, of the base and despised whom God had chosen. Their servitude was often harsh and thankless, and the very liberty and brotherhood which the Gospel preached, would only make some of them feel all the more the bondage they endured. To such Paul writes to be obedient to their masters, as unto Christ, and to perform all their service as the will of God from the heart. If this was expected of these slaves just come out of heathenism, in circumstances of such difficulty, it is surely time that our Christianity had learned the lesson that everything we do, even the compulsory or ill-requited service of a hard master, is to be done as the will of God.
And how can this disposition be attained? Only in one way. By heartily accepting any position into which Providence brings us as God's will for us. Then the work we have to do in that position will be God's will for us. In our opening chapter we saw that one of the first lessons in the Christian life is to accept every trouble that comes to us from the mistakes of ourselves or others, or the trial of circumstances, as God's appointment His Providence is His will for us. This alone can prevent the irritation and anger and fretfulness that so often embitters life and clouds the sense of God's favour. Nothing under heaven can then disturb our faith or peace: to see God in all gives rest and hope. Every work we have to perform, however unpleasant, however unjust or ill-rewarded, becomes, as long as God allows it, His will for us. To do it as such makes it easy, and makes it holy, a wellpleasing sacrifice. And if this be true of the work of a slave, much more does it hold good of all the duties of daily life. In housekeeping and business, in all the thousandfold work or service in earning a livelihood or fulfilling a calling—everything must, may be done as the will of God.
The thought at once suggests itself of this demand being too high and hard. Who can always be remembering, with so much to occupy and disturb, that this common work is all God's will? There is only one way to succeed in doing this, and that is to do the work "in singleness of heart," "from the heart." The heart means desire, will, love, delight, joy. What we do from the heart is a pleasure. The only religion that satisfies God is that of the heart; that is why He asks us to love Him with the whole heart. As long as we only take God's will as a law that we are obliged to obey for our own safety and happiness, or to prove our faith and gratitude, the doing of it is a burden. But when we take it into our heart as a thing we delight in, and cannot have too much of, as what we have given our life up to, everything is welcome that gives us an opportunity for doing more of that blessed will, for keeping our devotion to it unbroken.
"Doing the will of God from the heart." God not only asks the heart; He has promised to put His law into our heart. God wants the heart, and nothing less can please Him. He has therefore made provision for securing it. He sends forth the Spirit of His Son into our heart. Let us believe in the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, and imparting the love of God. Let us in that faith worship and give ourselves away to " the beautiful, sweet will of God," and cherish it as our choicest treasure and chief desire. As it gets possession of the heart, and opens itself in it, the heart that has learnt to adore its glory in God will learn to welcome every trace of it on earth, and we shall find ourselves doing the hardest service in singleness of heart, with the heart only set upon pleasing God, in very deed doing the will of God from the heart.
Our text tells us one thing more—how the doing the will of God will always be connected with the presence of Christ. The will of God and the Son of God are inseparable. Jesus is the will of God. He did it. He works that will from heaven. His great work as Saviour is to secure our doing it. And so Paul writes to the slaves: "Be obedient to your masters as unto Christ; not as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ; with good will doing service as unto the Lord." Here we have the thrice-repeated thought that in the daily drudgery the animating motive is to be that it is a service rendered to the Lord we love. His presence and His pleasure are to be our inspiration. The poor slave could understand that. The eye of the slave-master, with the fear of displeasing him, spurred on to continuous effort. The presence of Jesus Christ, the sense of being His servant, the bond-slave of His love, the glory of pleasing Him, can as unceasingly fill the heart and carry you through all the day, doing work for men, as servants of Christ. The presence of Christ fits us for this. He knows what the difficulties and temptations are in the way of always doing God's will. He knows how the victory can be obtained, and the will of God always be done. He lives to secure to us the strength and the victory. If we give ourselves to nothing less than to be wholly His servants in ever doing God's will alone, if wo trust Him to maintain His own presence in us all the day, we can know the joy of His service in His strength.
"Doing the will of God from the heart." Let God, let Jesus Christ, God's Son, let God's love, have the heart, the whole heart, and nothing less, and God's will will be done by us on earth, as it is in heaven. God Himself will work it in us, and amid all the changing circumstances of life there will be one thing that never changes—our place of rest in the centre of God's will.