reclaiming the gift of our God as master

We’ve said it before. But one of the most precious things about living out the Sanctuary’s rhythm of prayer and worship is the discipline of considering a different name or characteristic of God each day. Our list currently stands at 186 and yet – of course – we are barely scratching the surface of who God is! Some are familiar, some fresh; some feel like welcome friends or life-giving revelation and some are nigglingly uncomfortable.


Today’s characteristic is one lots of Christians today find difficult. Master.

How do we know people find it uncomfortable? Well one of the sure fire signs was there straight away as we prepared worship this morning… there are very few recent worship songs that mention it even in passing.

It appears we are very comfortable with singing Lord. But master? Not so much.

Why is that?

Perhaps it’s because Lord has largely become an easy-to-trip-off-the-tongue pseudonym for God. It’s a distant, exalted word that doesn’t always challenge us with the degree of surrender it truly should require from us to say it.

Not so with master.

Slave-master; headmaster; taskmaster…. all these terms are still in use in our culture. The connotations it brings are complex and challenging.

It doesn’t feel a principally religious word. And it certainly does feel close to home. Do we really want God to be our master? Someone we surrender to completely? Someone who has the right to our full obedience?

Most of us honestly want to be our own masters.

Our culture rightly rejects oppressive authority… but not all authority is oppressive. Not all masters exploit.

What was it like to call Jesus Lord when the feudal system was the dominant reality for most people in the UK? When not submitting to your lord threatened your livelihood and even your life… just as you hoped your lord would protect your livelihood and life?

What was it like for a woman to break a bottle of perfume over Jesus’ feet and adoringly call him master in a culture that had slave-masters – and in personal circumstances where she had undoubtedly experienced the abusive side of men’s mastery over her?

The point is that everyone’s culture and personal stories provide limitations to accessing the full truth of God’s multifaceted, multicolour reality.

For some God as father is as hard, or even harder, to process than God as master.

And so we all often tend to overly embrace the characteristics that appeal and squirm away from the ones we feel would be deeply challenging – or perhaps even inappropriate – to mention in our context.

Often this overemphasis and neglect happen subconsciously of course. Most Christians really want to see God as he is – not how we would like to make him to fit our culture and circumstances. It can just be harder to see past them than we always realise.

That’s why we’re so grateful for the discipline of looking at each characteristic on our list in depth. Because we always learning something beautiful, glorious and life-changing from each one – however uncomfortable some of them are initially.

Just because we’ve had some bad experiences of earthly masters, it doesn’t mean we should abandon the life-giving reality of relating to God as our master.

For he is the perfect master. His authority always seeks others’ good; his power is always rooted in love; when he asks us to jump, it honestly is safe to ask ‘how high?’. Indeed the only fully ‘safe’ place to be is at the centre of his will for our lives.

Recognising and relating to Jesus as our master (and our lord in the correctly understood sense of the word) is incredibly freeing as well as challenging. It puts the ultimate responsibility back on the right shoulders and releases us to play the part we are called to – no less than it and no more than it – with the confidence that being under godly authority and guidance brings.

Today we were responding in prayer to the issue of global hunger again. 1 in 9 people will go to bed hungry tonight – most of them in a handful of the world’s poorest nations, and a grossly unjust proportion of these in sub-Saharan Africa.

For many of our pray-ers here at the Sanctuary these statistics are as familiar as they are alarming. For some, they are so new they are paralyzing.

In either case, the wisdom of 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 is helpful. Christ is the master. He is the head and the whole body is in him – and under his authority. It is all his constituent parts – right across the body – that must do his work.

Some have been given a big role, some a small one. Some are prominent, visible or famous. Some are hidden. Some have many gifts, large resources or lots of time. Some have less. Some face on direction and do one task. Some another…

We are all made in the same image. And those of us who follow Christ are all grafted into the same body. But we are not all equally blessed, gifted or equipped. And as a result, we are all called – but not in the same way, and sometimes not to the same extent.

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded. And from the one trusted with much, much more will be expected.‘ (Luke 12:48)

Each part must play it’s part but not the others’. If the ear doesn’t hear then the body can’t process sound. But equally if the ear tries to be the hands and feet, not much will get done! And what are the hands and feet to do meanwhile?

C.S. Lewis said true humility – a quality we need in abundance to keep submitting to God as our master – is not thinking less of ourselves… but thinking of ourselves less.

We must be able to see past our own problems to others’. And we must be able to surrender the misguided notion that we are the solution to everyone’s problems too.

The key thing here – as always – is our relationship with the master. And what he is saying to each one of us us on each day and in each situation… so much harder and yet so much more wonderful than a single, universal set of detailed one-size-fits-all rules to display on the wall of the workshop!

So today, could you join us in prayerfully coming to Jesus as master and asking him to illuminate where we need a new picture of what this means from him?

Perhaps you could also ask him to highlight any areas of your life that you are with-holding from his protection, provision or command?

And perhaps, if you’re feeling really brave, you could gently ask him to show you if you need to pray, do, or give more in response to people’s physical hunger… or if today you need to recognise that you have gone beyond the call and taken the master’s responsibility on as fully your own.

Let’s pray:

Lord Jesus, come and be our master again –
Truly, fully, completely; lead us to true surrender.
We need to recognise you as you truly are
and to remember to relate to you with a bowed posture again.
Lord Jesus, what are you saying today?
Where have we made ourselves master
In pursuit of less responsibility – or too much?
And where have we forgotten how much you love your other children
In pursuit of always receiving or always giving?
Lord Jesus, come and be our master again –
Teach us how to follow and obey with joyful abandon
To your safe authority, power, provision and plan:
No more, no less… we give ourselves completely to you –
the perfect master, lord and leader.

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