Creditor or Debtor?
In Romans 1:14-15 Paul writes:
For I am debtor to all people, to the civilized and to the savage, to the educated and to the ignorant. So then, I am eager to preach the Gospel to you also who live in Rome.
Wise words from a wise man, written especially to those of us who may be tempted to see ourselves as creditors instead of as debtors.
At my age, it's easy to live with a sense of entitlement. Aging baby-boomers like myself may be tempted to think, "Hey, I've paid my dues. I've served Jesus faithfully for many years. It's time to be served. It's time for life to be easy. I have the right to comfort, respect, and appreciation."
It's so easy to make an idol out of appreciation. We start needing others' affirmation so that we feel a sense of achievement and success. "I've traveled thousands of miles serving Jesus. I've trudged through deserts and forded rivers for the cause of Christ. Isn't it about time I got some credit for it?" Or a parent can think, "I've poured my life into raising you. The least you can do is show me some appreciation!"
The older I get, the more I'm finding it's necessary to re-examine my perspective on living. Like all sinners, I suffer from spiritual myopia. With a humble dependency on God, I need to expose the critical issues of my heart to the pure light of God's Word. Our identity as Christians, says Paul, is not rooted in our performance. It is rooted in the Gospel. We are called to be faithful servants no matter what the outcome. In the end, I do not need to be concerned about the approval and affirmation of others. Because Christ is the source of my identity, I need not allow respect, comfort, or appreciation to rule my heart. I can glory in the knowledge that in every trial of life God has a greater agenda than my personal comfort.
Friend, do not give in to an entitlement mentality. In moments of discouragement and defeat, we can choose to accept every difficulty as a God-given opportunity to develop a more Christ-like attitude toward life. Paul is showing us where our real priorities are to lie. In order to live for Christ, God must expose those areas in our life that reflect irresponsibility, foolish thinking, and immature behavior. This is true whether you are nine or ninety! And immaturity often rears its ugly head whenever we decide to wallow in self-pity instead of choosing to serve others.
So, "debtor" is not just another word in my vocabulary. It has become a real part of my life. The older I get, the more I need this perspective. I AM NOT MY OWN. I BELONG TO GOD. AND I AM TO GLORIFY HIM BY SERVING OTHERS IN HIS NAME. Without question, there are lost sheep out there, and we're sent to find them. But we will never pursue Gospel living as long as we see ourselves as creditors instead of debtors.
I warn all of us against such thought and action. Unless we consciously guard ourselves against it, when we face discouragement we'll begin to search for a way for others to feed our much-deserved utopia. But the Christian owns nothing! We simply manage God's resources.
Have you "ordained" everything in your life to God and His service? You don't have an eternity ahead of you to do this. Aging is a process from which none of us can escape. As the reality of growing older looms ahead, we can grow better, not just older. I can't drive or read without eyeglasses. My back aches when I pick up the lightest objects. Ugh! Paul says, "Think about who you are. Instead of sitting there in selfish silence, give of yourself for others, regardless of their cultural background or educational level. Let the benchmark of your life be generosity. God has given you undiminished potential to serve Him. Let go! Let it flow!"
At the age of eighty-eight, John Wesley could still preach with eloquent power. Our older years can be the most fruitful years of life in terms of Gospel service. None of us is finished or washed up. The worst thing we can do is to carve out a rut and crawl into it. There are too many opportunities to serve Jesus to do that!
December 20, 2011
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.