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When the Tyrant Comes for Tea

"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other." Matthew 7:24.

I always thought this verse was a bit redundant—a case of saying the exact same thing twice. The message seems clear enough: only serve God. But why frame it this way? Why the repetition?

One of my favourite things about the Word of God is how very alive it is. I've read this verse countless times in my life and never dug any deeper than the surface—until this morning, when this phrase caught my attention in a new way, a way very personal to me.

Without being too specific, I feel I've come far enough to share that the idea of two masters has been a prevalent one in my life. I've struggled with a disease that became a tyrant in my life, ruling every decision I made and filling every spare second of every day until God was squeezed into the tiny corner that the Tyrant had left for Him. God was the one I loved. The Tyrant was the one I hated.

The thing is, I may have hated the Tyrant, but I didn't think I could live without it. In fact, I held on to that master with a grip that just got tighter and tighter as I became more and more miserable. God, in the meantime, became less and less of a comfort. I didn't want to pray because I didn't want help; every sermon in church felt like it was targeted at me and only made me feel worse. I wanted to avoid bringing my problems into a spiritual context, probably because I felt like a hypocrite. Probably because I knew God offered the solution that I didn't want.

It's amazing how perfectly Matthew 7:24 sums up my struggle. Two masters—one, I hated (the Tyrant) but held on to with a death grip anyway; the other, I loved (God), but turned away from to chase a poor alternative. There is no redundancy here. Jesus knew exactly what he was saying. And now reading this verse feels like looking in a mirror and seeing things clearly for the first time.

None of us can serve two masters. We can try (oh, believe me, we can try) and if misery and hollowness and exhaustion and disillusionment are what you're after, well, I can't stop you from trying. But if it's life we want—vibrant, full, joyful, peaceful, fearless, abundant life—there is only one Master we can go to. And that means kicking the other ones out for good.

Before I wrap up, here's the good news. Bad masters don't always give up tenancy in our lives easily: in fact, they usually don't. Mine didn't. Many days, the Tyrant still gets its foot in the door, sometimes even comes in for tea and stays longer than I'd like. But God doesn't expect us to evict our old masters alone. He promises to strengthen and guide and help us with that, too, along with everything else, from cleaning up the damage to rebuilding our lives to moving forward in His victory.

You don't have to do it alone, but only God can free you. Kick the old master out before he gets too comfy in your life, and ask God to be the One Master you will love and hold on to going forward.

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