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Posts Tagged ‘Matthew 18:21-35’

There are certain little members of our family who are adept at delaying tactics. At a family birthday celebration this past week, I watched as our grandson kept refusing to eat his dinner, despite the threat of no special dessert or lollies until he ate some of it at least. Eventually, he gave in and wolfed it all down in no time—we are still mystified as to what the fuss was all about.

IMG_20150702_144848558Then recently, his little sister discovered a very useful little phrase. She has started saying, ‘Not yet!’ in a definite voice to her mother when faced with having to do something she doesn’t want to do. Can you imagine a sweet little eighteen-month-old sizing you up with her big, brown eyes, then uttering those two powerful, little words?

Now how did our Zain and Maxine come to be so determined? Did they inherit this from their father, who readily admits to being very strong-willed as a child and getting into lots of trouble? Perhaps our daughter was responsible—or maybe even their Nanna! I well remember my mother saying to me as a child more than once when I would not listen to her or do what she asked: ‘I might as well speak to a post!’

Sometimes this childish wanting our own way carries on into our adult years as well. And, sadly, that was the case with me as a young mum when it came to my attitude to God—that is, until one Sunday morning over forty years ago now. I was standing in the crèche at the back of the church we attended, holding our baby son who was unwell. I had come because I wanted to hear the visiting speaker. Instead, God spoke to me so clearly through the Bible reading that preceded the sermon—the parable of the unmerciful servant from Matthew 18:21-35—that that was all I remembered afterwards.

You see, I was very involved in church activities at the time, but I knew I was neglecting my own personal relationship with God. So there I was, listening to the story of the servant who owed the king a great deal of money and couldn’t pay. And then came verse 26:

The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘And I will pay back everything.’

I did not hear the rest of the story that day—how the king forgave the servant that huge debt and how this servant did not show similar compassion to others. All I heard was God saying clearly to me, ‘This is how you’ve been treating me, Jo’. In an instant, I realised I been saying to the King of Kings: ‘Yes, I know I need to spend more time with you, but I’m too busy right now. Just wait—just be patient and I’ll get back to you when I’m good and ready!’

It was as if a knife had been plunged into my heart as I realised the enormity of saying ‘Not yet!’ to God. That day I repented—and my journey with God changed forever. Yes, our God is gracious and longsuffering and so patient with us. But let’s think twice before we turn and say ‘Not yet!’ to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

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This past weekend, I attended the Sydney book launch of My China Mystery, written by my friend Marion Andrews, about her father’s experiences as a missionary in China and also as part of a British Gurkha regiment during the war. Marion and I have known each other since high school days – I have many fond memories of travelling across Brisbane together to our old high school, wearing hats, gloves and black stockings as the rules stated we must, even on the hottest and stickiest summer days! So I enjoyed being able to provide some of the food for the afternoon tea and helping out in general. Besides, Marion’s home is in Tamworth and since she needed to be in Sydney for the previous week, she had no opportunity to bake anything for the occasion.

Yet as I thought about it, I realised there was something else driving me to help in this way. You see, I myself have five published novels, so have held a variety of book launches of my own over the past five years. And for at least three of these, I was so grateful for the help my friends gave me, freeing me up to speak and then to sell and sign my books. I remember clearly how they prepared food, arrived early to set up, helped me decorate the venue and set out the food in a much nicer way than I would ever have thought of – not to mention cleaning up afterwards.

So now I was passing on the blessing – ‘paying it forward’, as the movie of that title showed people doing. This is what we are encouraged to do in Scripture, time and time again, in different ways. For starters, Jesus tells us in Luke 6:31: Do to others as you would have them do to you. My friends had already ‘done’ it for me – so now I was to ‘do’ the same for others. And Paul writes in Ephesians 4:4: Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. At my launches, my friends looked after my interests – so now it was my opportunity to look after my friend’s interests in a small way at least.

But more than that, Jesus shows us clearly what our attitude needs to be when he instructed his twelve disciples how to act, before sending them out to minister (Matt 10:8) – ‘Freely you have received, freely give. And Jesus himself gave up everything, even his very life, for us. So what excuse do we have not to give to others as we are called on to do? Years ago, I was greatly challenged by Jesus’ parable about the unmerciful servant who was forgiven a huge debt he owed to the king but was not prepared to forgive another who owed him only some pitiful amount in comparison (Matt 18:21-35). Just as we are to forgive others as we have been forgiven, so I believe, in all our relationships with others, we are to treat them with the same grace we have received.

This week, I pray you too will have an opportunity to experience yet again the grace of passing it on, of ‘paying it forward’ in some way. And when you do, I’m sure you will discover, as I did yet again, how true it is that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)

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