The sad answer to the question in our title is surely a resounding “No!” for some who wear the name “Christian.” In Jesus’ parables of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30) and the pounds (Luke 19:12- 25), the outstanding lesson concerns those servants who, entrusted with their masters’ blessings, were nevertheless caught unprepared when their masters returned and required of them an accounting. Like many Christians in our own day, these expected to enjoy their masters’ blessings without having to answer for their use of them. Likewise, in the judgment parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1-13), the Lord’s main point was the need to fully prepare ahead of time for the bridegroom’s arrival. In each of these examples, the elements of preparation and accountability are paramount. Jesus even concludes the parable of the virgins by noting, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 25:13).
It is crucial that we both understand and accept that stewardship of the gospel (which is a consequence of becoming a Christian) means that the will of the Master necessarily takes precedence over our own. Everything we have actually belongs to God rather than to us (cf. Ps. 24:1; 1 Cor. 10:26), and therefore, the use we make of His things should first be subject to His will, not ours. When the apostle Paul set sail from Ephesus for Caesarea (Acts 18:20-21), the Ephesian Christians wanted him to stay longer; he demurred, promising to return to them “if God will.” It is this recognition of the primacy of the Lord’s will that is missing in the lives of many who profess themselves servants of the Most High God! As long as I live according to my own wants and whims rather than according to the will of God, I am unprepared for service to Him (cf. Gal. 2:20-21).
When Paul wrote to the Roman Christians of their “reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1-2), he emphasized the profound change (a fundamental transformation) that marks the choice to become a servant of Christ. This change can occur only when we grasp and appropriate for ourselves the Lord’s eternal perspective on our existence here (to wit, that this life is merely preparation for eternity). When we see our lives from heaven’s point of view, we should realize that there is much more to our existence than we see in this world (note Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:1-8). The recognition that we must one day stand before our Lord and account to Him for how we have used His blessings and what we have done with the opportunities He placed before us should make us very aware of the way we live each day (cf. Rom. 14:12; Titus 2:11-13).
To be truly prepared as servants of God means that we are equipped with both the tools to do what He wants of us and with the attitude that we will follow through and accomplish all He desires! God provides our tools through the instructions, abilities and opportunities He places before us; but He leaves it to us to supply the willingness to use these things for His honor and glory. When the temple was rebuilt after the Babylonian captivity, Nehemiah specifically identified this combination of God’s provisions with Judah’s will as the reason the task was accomplished (Neh. 4:6).
Just as the challenges of Nehemiah’s day differed significantly from those of Solomon’s time, so we must recognize that no two days in our own lives are alike; each has its own potential for good or evil (Matt. 6:34). The apostle Paul pointed out this aspect of our existence when he wrote of accepting the Lord’s refusal to remove his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7-10). He was not saying that suffering was inherently good, but that by leaning on God’s grace, he was more than equal to whatever challenges and changes each day might bring (2 Cor. 12:10). By adopting heaven’s perspective as his own (and urging us to do the same, Titus 3:1, cf. 2 Cor. 9:8; Eph. 2:10; 2 Tim. 2:20-21, 3:16-17), Paul was prepared to cope with and conquer each day as it came in the confidence that God would supply whatever was lacking on his part. His own life and experiences as a servant of Christ vividly demonstrate that Christianity is not a ticket to a carefree life; surely he did not plan to be beaten or jailed for his faith (e.g. Acts 16:37), but because of his faith, he was able to turn even these events into opportunities to share the gospel and glorify God! Just so, we are not assured that faithfulness will result in a trouble-free journey through this world (note both the prospect, 1 Peter 4:16, and the reality, John 16:33), but we can be confident that God will enable us to accomplish His will if we walk with Him each day (Heb. 13:20-21).
Being a “prepared servant” involves the willingness of the individual to serve the Lord in all that He requires of us. It extends beyond attitude, however, to the positive steps of equipping ourselves for His service (Phil. 4:19) and becoming skillful in the use of the abilities He places within our hands (Ezra 7:10; cf. Matt. 25:24-27). Let us always keep uppermost in our minds the fact that we are God’s servants (doulos, slave, Titus 1:1; Gal. 1:10), and therefore our time and talents properly belong to Him and not to us. If we will so live for Him, we can, with confidence, anticipate the day when we, too, can hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your lord” (Matt. 25:21).