Happiness does not come from success, fame, or fortune as our generation believes. John Milton, the English poet, the most significant English author after William Shakespeare, wrote the following lines in Sonnet 19, entitled “When I consider how my light is spent”.
“GOD DOTH NOT NEED EITHER MAN’S WORK OR HIS OWN GIFTS . . . ;”
“WHO BEST BEAR HIS MILD YOKE, THEY SERVE HIM BEST.”
John Milton has gone blind when he wrote those lines, and now feels a sadness and a sense of uselessness. He is confused as to what he should do, then resigns to the reality that God is the central factor in Milton’s life. It was not his handicap God was asking him to respond to but rather to God. This struggle Milton was going through echoes Jesus Christ’s prayer at Gethsemane, “Not my will, but thine be done.”
It’s all about attitude. Milton wrote the following in the last lines of Sonnet 19. “THEY ALSO SERVE WHO ONLY STAND AND WAIT.” Milton was going blind when he wrote the sonnet.
Milton’s sonnet has a tone of resignation. Among the things Martin Luther wished to reform within the church was encouraging the church to resign to the fact that all roles and vocations have the same value in the sight of God. No vocation, Luther believed, was more admirable than another. Whatever one’s work is, it is treated equal in the sight of God as it should be in us. We pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This meant that what one does outside of the church is as important as how one conducts themselves outside of the church.
Luther used the example of shepherds in a Christmas sermon on Luke 2 to show that even though they do not wear important garb or hold special positions, they are equally important as they return to their fields to serve God and do His will.
Martin Luther was here calling attention to the fact that the vocation a person has relates to who that person is in the sight of God. It is one thing to hold a position, but the attitude of that person toward God is far more important than a position. The vocation does not make the person who they are, God does.
We find that after these five hundred years, Luther’s concerns apply more than ever as to how we view ourselves. It was the officials of the church, then, who abused their positions because they wanted power and significance. Politicians, church officials, and people who have achieved positions can so easily fall into that same trap.
C. S. Lewis wrote about one’s work and the matter of self-interest and selfishness. When he first became a Christian, he never was concerned about the eternal awards but just enjoyed living life with God. It would be wrong to enjoy God for just what He can do for one. As he grew in faith, he also came to realize that there was something of great worth that only God could give, and that was eternal life.
For C. S. Lewis that was a change in attitude. Attitude can mean many things in the modern age, it is a term aeronautics uses. Attitude is a popular expression that describes an emotional attitude of a person reflected in their body posture that was a reflection of them. For Lewis, it became an attitude of expectation—an eternal life with God. Life and our living is not about us but about God. And we are to live in the expectation Christ’s returning to earth to usher in the eternal kingdom of God.
I remember looking forward to Sunday on the farm. Labor could get laborious, monotonous, and boring. What cheered us was looking towards the Sabbath Day. Just as God created all things in six days, and rested the seventh we set aside work and worship God as we will do endlessly in God’s Kingdom.
God sent His only Son into this world that this might become possible. It is made possible through His death and resurrection. And the communion of saints is the people of God, the Christian Church that sets its sights on the coming kingdom where God shall reign forever. Therefore, though the church often deteriorates into a self-righteous people, God must occasionally set things straight. Through faith it is a trusting that by grace, faith and the Word of God, alone, Jesus Christ is making us righteous in the sight of God.
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