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So this ancient king whose lovely palace sat secure in the middle of his dominion that stretched far and had many borders and many enemies sent one of his most trusted aides to get an update on kingdom affairs. The king was greatly loved and his servants were fiercely loyal so he wasn't expecting a report that disappointed him though he knew that in some distant areas his enemies were constantly making war. Off went the ambassador and within a few days he had visited a couple of strong forts not far from the palace. They were manned by competent, loyal and cheerful troops whose commander assured the ambassador that these well-drilled and disciplined troops were at the king's command. The peace they enjoyed in those areas lifted the heart of the ambassador and because the praise of the king rang out from every corner of the settlement and his colours flew high above the battlements the king's aide knew that his master's honour was safe with them. Wanting to do a good job for the king he loved he visited many such forts as he moved farther and farther from the centre of the kingdom toward its borders. As he travelled outward the reports of skirmishes with enemies became more numerous and the skirmishes were often more than skirmishes—sometimes they were major battles.
After more than a month he arrived late in the night at a fort right on the edge of his lord's dominion, weary and ready to get back home to his own comfortable surroundings with his close friends and family. In spite of his high rank and the fact that he had sent ahead to say he was coming he was treated curtly, in fact, almost offhandedly, and taken to quarters that showed no sign of having been prepared for him. Smarting a bit he wanted to tell the officer in charge to have a more civil tongue in his head but he was too weary—he'd do it tomorrow. He rose early and made his own way around the settlement and saw the ill-kempt soldiers, many of them unshaven, few of them giving him even as much as a glance, some of them sleeping on the ground, hugging their weapons. The entire place had a markedly run-down look and there wasn't a smile in the entire garrison much less laughter. He climbed stone steps that led up on to the wall to look out over the land and was roughly pulled down by a young soldier who yelled at him, "You want your head blown off? Idiot!"
In a few moments, the commander who met the aide in the dark the night before—now looking a wreck, blood-shot eyes, stained uniform and unwashed—yelled to soldiers everywhere, "Up, they're back again." A full scale attack had begun and lasted most of the day. Later, as he shared whatever supplies there were with the leader of the settlement the aide asked if what he had seen this day was common. "As common as mud," the soldier said, "but, believe it or not, a man gets used to it and when you know it's for a good king and his people it makes it easier."
Several days later, in a lull between battles, the ambassador headed home; his own clothes stained and his own eyes a bit glazed. He kept thinking of the words he would report to his master about the faithful servants he had in all the garrisons—their wishes for honour and long life for their king. He especially thought of the forts right on the border where the battle raged fiercely and the last words of the commander with the abrupt tongue; "Tell the king there isn't a man here who would not die gladly in the king's service and for his honour if that's what's called for."
I don't know who serves the King of Kings best—only he can tell that. Only he knows the whole story, the hidden depths of a life, the strength of the currents that flow against it or with it, the purity or lack of it that beats in a heart and the support or lack of it that comes from outside it. I know there's more to be taken into account than appearance and I know that for some tired souls that face daily battles they never asked for and who struggle against drives they inherited and wish they hadn't—I know that for them, just to stay on their feet is a glorious tribute to the love of their Master who has graciously called them to his service.
I know that clean, cheerful lives filled with praise for the King and that enjoy peace close to the centre of the King's dominion—I know they should be congratulated. To wish that everyone everywhere should experience a daily hand-to-hand brawl to the death with "enemies" of various kinds might be nothing more than frustration tinged with resentment. To rejoice with those that rejoice is like the King. Joyful, thankful souls at peace in their service should please us all.
I know this too: there are those whose lives aren't neat and tidy, who aren't always cheerful and courteous, who often blunder and stumble in the heat of battle but who would, without hesitation, throw themselves in front of an express train if the King asked them to.
Maybe all his servants please the King.
If that's not true, would somebody explain to me how the King could say Luke 22:28 to that band of misfits?