Every Monday through Friday you will see this entry in my calendar: “ASSIGNMENT 11:30 AM – 8:00 PM.” That “assignment” in this season of my life is employment in a large institution. Having worked there for more than nine months, I have become accustomed to the intense dynamics of the environment in which I serve.
One of the things I have not gotten used to, however, is staff turnover. Seeing people come and go over these past few months has been a bit unsettling. And the more I have focused on it, the more my uneasiness has increased. With each departure, questions like, “Who else?”, “How will?”, and “What about?” consumed my thinking. And just as Luke 6:45 reminds us that “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks,” my internal wrestling was beginning to spill over with snarky sarcasm and chronic cynicism. My once-fixed, heavenward gaze subtly shifted to anxious, earthly scrutinizing. Ultimately, my “assignment” became "a job.”
Amidst this season of instability, I came across a profoundly simple quote from Graham Cooke that stopped me in my tracks. “If your thinking has brought you to a place you don’t like, have another thought.” Now read that again, slowly this time.
The Holy Spirit used that statement to shape my whiny prayer monologue at God into a humble conversation with God. “God, I know I don't have to think this way. Would You give me ‘another thought’? I have had enough of my own thoughts about this situation. What do You think about it?”
“Another thought,” unexpectedly came in a prompting to read a parable found in the Gospel of Matthew. ““At the end of the day, the owner of the vineyard said to the boss of all the workers, ‘Call the workers and pay them. Start with the last people I hired and end with those I hired first.’ “When the workers who were hired at five o’clock came to get their pay, each received one coin. When the workers who were hired first came to get their pay, they thought they would be paid more than the others. But each one of them also received one coin. When they got their coin, they complained to the man who owned the land. They said, ‘Those people were hired last and worked only one hour. But you paid them the same as you paid us who worked hard all day in the hot sun.’ But the man who owned the vineyard said to one of those workers, ‘Friend, I am being fair to you. You agreed to work for one coin. So take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same pay that I gave you. I can do what I want with my own money. Are you jealous because I am good to those people?’" (Matthew 20:8-15 NCV).
Reflecting on that scripture, it struck me. I had become the worker “complaining to the man who owned the land.” And, as if that was not painful enough, I realized that while my eyes were busy looking at the other workers, entitlement slipped in the door and made itself at home in my thought life.
As I continued to consider the parallel, I was unexpectedly encouraged. The vineyard owner could have rightfully called the complainant "ungrateful whiner" or "entitled brat." Instead, he called him, “Friend.” Lavish grace continued to flow as the owner reaffirmed two attributes of his nature toward the worker. First, that he was fair, and second, that he was good.
My heart leapt as God gently whispered, “Son, I am fair and I am good.” And with kindness in His voice, He continued, “Son, I gave you this assignment. I moved on your behalf and you walked through the open door that I provided. You agreed to work that shift for that amount of money.”
I sat in grateful silence as God began to displace entitlement with meekness. In those quiet moments, He illustrated my Peter-ish behavior found in John 21:21-22. Tugging on the arm of Jesus, I was pointing left and right at all the staff changes, saying, “Lord, what about him?” And instead of affirming my entitlement, Jesus responded as He did to Peter, “What is that to you? You follow Me.”
Then God gently placed His hands on my face redirecting my eyes toward His. With loving firmness He said, “So, what others are paid, when others work, the type of work they do, no matter how long they have done it, when they come, or when they leave... son, what is that to you? 'You follow me.'" Selah - pause and calmly think of that.
Since that encounter, I am learning to fix my eyes on the Vineyard Owner, praying the words of John Wesley, "Rank me with whom You will." The result? Outpoured grace to serve willingly and joyfully. Best of all, the stormy seas of my emotions are being silenced as I rest in the knowledge that He is fair, He is good, and He calls me, "Friend."
Perhaps your eyes have been drawn away from an awe-inspired, vertical gaze to an entitlement-driven horizontal analysis of your situation. Pause for a moment and "have another thought." Listen. Hear God call you, "Friend." Refocus your eyes on Him and receive Spirit-granted grace to, "Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people" (Colossians 3:23 NLT). Then watch and see what God will do! "Faithful and absolutely trustworth is He who is calling you [to Himself for your salvation], and He will do it [He will fulfill His call by making you holy, guarding you, watching over you, and protecting you as His own" (I Thessalonians 5:24 AMP). Amen!
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