A Question of Focus

Insight Five


When someone, a pastor, for example like John, comes to us for spiritual counsel we often have a certain clash of opinions. John wants to pray to Jesus but we want him to pray to the Heavenly Father.

John wants to better serve the Lord, which is good, but more importantly; we want John to be a better son of God. Also John feels that his worth comes through service but we feel that John has worth just because he is created in the image of God.

John wants to focus on Jesus and service. We want him to focus on the Heavenly Father. Our relationship to Him creates the balance for both life and service.


It really boils down to what kind of relationship with God we should have in our walk as a Christian. Unfortunately John has the same attitude that the prodigal son had (Luke 15). He wants to be in the father’s house but feels that he can do so only as a servant.

Actually there are two sons involved and both are wrong. The prodigal son felt he could only live with the father as a servant, he deserves nothing more. The second son, the stay at home one, felt he had to earn the right to have anything.

The father knew the truth. To the first he says, “You are my son and nothing changes that; you were born my son.” To the second he says, “As my son everything I have is yours already.”

Too many Christians have accepted salvation on their own terms. They are happy to be servants and have Christ as Lord but hesitant to be sons and daughters and have God as Father. Yet Christ’s purpose in taking our sins on Himself was so we could have access to God as our Heavenly Father.

Servant Benefits

When I directed a Bible translation program in Ethiopia, one of the national translators translated the first verse of the Epistle of James as “James, a worker of God . . .” instead of what the text actually said, “James a bond-servant of God . . .” This would then bring the translation into line with the Marxist thinking at that time: everyone is or should be equal. I would not approve the change. There is a great deal of difference between a worker and a bond-servant.

A worker has an employer and is paid wages. He goes home at night after work. He lives and works where he wants or the market conditions permit.

On the other hand, a bond-servant, one who has volunteered to live in life long service, has a master and is paid little or nothing depending on the culture. He lives where the master decides and works at whatever task the master directs. The servant’s job is to obey.

Servants obey and workers get paid. The master or employer can approve the performance or pay the wages. There is a world of difference between servants, workers and sons!

Neither the worker nor servants relationship were intended for us as Christians as our primary relationships. Christ did not die so we could work for God. Neither did He die so we could be servants or slaves for God. Christ died so we could be the Children of God.

Out of the Circle

Everything clusters around a circle labeled Heavenly Father and His children. Love is reserved for sons and daughters! A daughter of God doesn’t have to earn love; love comes with the ‘package’ that is labeled daughter. We cannot subtract or add to our Father’s love, but we can live in a way that causes Him pleasure or sadness.

It is out of this Father-child circle that comes service. Jesus was definitely a servant but He was first and foremost a son. In the midst of His ministry and God said, “This is beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” Not, “this is my servant.”

Children Do Serve

The servant’s job is to do as she is told. She is to respond to what is commanded. But we should not obey primarily because God commands us but because we love Him and want to please Him. Even more so, we want to be like Him and act like Him.

Bill loves the Heavenly Father; Bill wants to be like Him and wants to please Him. Bill’s motivation is to imitate, not because God is bigger than he is but because God is his Father.

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.”   Interesting order of words: out of love comes obedience.

This makes our good deeds a natural response rather than a task. So why does Helen do good deeds? Because, as a daughter of God it is natural to her nature to do good. God says, “be holy” and I will make you holy.” Knowing that makes it harder for Helen to do evil. Because it is contrary to who she is. Helen is a daughter of God.

Status and Role

I haven’t used the phrase but status and roles are in focus here. More self explanatory words would be position and performance. Our position determines our performance. For example, if your position in life is that of a cowboy then you performance will alter to fit that: you will dress like a cowboy, talk like a cowboy, like cowboy things and think like a cowboy. That is what real cowboys do.

But what if, instead of talking about being a cowboy, we talk about being a son or daughter of God? What if we accept who God says we are. Really accept our position. Not based on our labor or obedience, we are who we are because we were born into it by God. Jesus knew what He was talking about when He used the term “born again.”

This is what being born again is all about. We have spent so much time and energy on the birthing process that we have often failed to notice the new child coming into the world: God’s son, God’s daughter! Not, “Praise God, looks like another little servant child!”

Now as we grow in knowledge and practice who we are then we begin to do what our Heavenly Father wants. And out of our being a son or a daughter can come service.

Labels and Layers

There are many labels that we can take upon ourselves that identify us. We all wear many different labels but only a few surfaces at one time, depending on the circumstances. I am a man, husband, father, grandfather, professor, spiritual counselor, Christian, sinner saved by Grace, servant, semi-Republican, missionary, etc.

I don’t bring up all the labels at once. Around my grandchildren I turn on or put on my grandfather label. I act like one. Bring in my wife and I shift to my husband label and perform. I do not bring up that label and performance with the lady next door.

Some labels are more important that others. I am a man and that label overrides some of the other labels I wear.

In Morocco a professor is treated with a great deal of respect. I once corrected two young American ladies who joked with me in front of Moroccan students. Their behavior was not suitable with me, as the professor, but it would have been okay later, when we were all ‘off duty’ so to speak.


Notice that a professor has students. A lawyer has clients, doctor has patients, masters have slaves. Father has a child; husband has a wife; brother has a sister or a brother. Each has a label and with the label comes a counterpart. These are known as sets.

What is the label uppermost on you? Servant? Worker for God? Sinner saved by Grace but still a sinner? The best label to wear first and foremost is that of son or daughter of God. That makes God your Heavenly Father.

And that means:

  • The Heavenly Father loves you because you are His child.
  • He already loves you as much as He ever will.
  • You want to do what He says because you want to please Him.
  • And because you want to be like Him.

Copyright 2000 Richard D Smith


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