Everyone wants and evaluation of how they are doing. We bought a chair a couple weeks ago. The furniture store has sent me two requests to rate their service. You buy from Amazon and they want to know how satisfied you were with the transaction. Even the doctors office and hospital wants you to rate their service. OK, I understand about competition and wanting to satisfy more customers so they come back. Personally I find it a nuisance. But it is also something individuals want to know. Unless one’s ego is so big they already believe they are the greatest, they want to have a sense of acceptance and value. But our God has said, “I created you. I love you. I have given my life to redeem you. You are my child for Jesus sake.” We can have no greater status or acceptance than that. We can be content in the truth that in Christ we are children of the King. It matters very little how anyone else sees us.
A few years ago some friends of ours gave us a small wooden wall hanging from Italy. It is a picture of a building with ornate arches, and a tower in the background. The wood process is called marquetry, where many different and tiny wood slivers are cut, shaped, and inlayed to form a larger picture. Each individual piece doesn’t look like very much, but when assembled by the artist’s hand, all form a beautiful picture. The parallel is obvious. God is the Great Artist. We are those small and different wood slivers. Individually, we may not seem to be of great value, but we are very necessary in the plan of God. He has called us to be a part of His life. He has a purpose for every one of us. If one is missing there would be a blank spot in the work He is forming. Just as that little chip of wood, you are unique and necessary in God’s plan for His Kingdom. And it will be a beautiful work of art.
Reputation, status, and appearance are something we all care about, at least to some degree. Even Jesus’ disciples argued among themselves which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus always turned things around. “If anyone wants to be first he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”(Mark 9:35) In the Sermon on the Mount He cautioned, a number of time, about not doing good works to be seen by people, but rather in secret, only before God. What is of ultimate importance is what God thinks of us, and not what others say. God calls us His children for the sake of Jesus. We are children of the King. We do not have to be concerned about worldly status, or peoples opinions. If our desires and actions are to please and honor our Lord there is no greater status. Sure, we still want to look nice when we go out, but a heart that has been cleansed and made whole by Christ is the most beautiful apparel there is.
From time to time, we hear of someone finding a treasure in their home. A picture that has hung on their wall for years unnoticed. A vase collecting dust in the attic behind a pile of books. Things there for decades, now discovered to be items which are valuable collectors pieces worth many thousands of dollars. There was one instance just recently of someone finding a box of old baseball cards in the attic. It was worth more than a million dollars. We all have things in our lives like that, but they’ve been around so long we forget to recognize their value. It may be as simple as the good home in which we live. It may be as important as the love of a spouse, or a faithful friend, or our freedom to worship. Things can become familiar around us. We see them every day. They are allowed to collect dust, so to speak. Yet, they are true treasurers. We may never find a great art object hidden in the attic, but we all have treasures of great value around us. Look for them and appreciate them today.
What is an accomplishment? That can be an interesting question since we are an accomplishment oriented people. That is to say, at the end of a day we want to feel like we have had one or more things usefully completed. We often tie our self worth to this attitude. If something we feel meaningful has not been accomplished then we can feel a lack of value. But back to the question, what is an accomplishment? I know that if I have completed my sermon by the end of the day, or perhaps several needed chores around the house, I feel good about the day. Other day, nothing seems to get completed as I would have liked, but maybe it is those days we realize the truth of what Thomas Edison said about his light bulb experiments, “We’ve learned a thousand things that don’t work.” Other days, are days we just need a rest from accomplishing stuff. We need to slow down, think, pray, and let the Lord work in us. “Those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength.”(see Isaiah 40:28-31) Accomplishment is not always completing our so called useful tasks. At times it is stepping aside and allowing God to decide what is useful for this day.
Audrey and I are one of three couples who have been close friends since high school days. Among us we have 450 years of combined experience. There are 10 academic degrees and well over 200 years in various occupations. We like to think that with all that time has come a bit of wisdom, and good common sense. But then this almost sounds like the Apostle Paul boasting about all his credentials with his Jewish background. Anytime we are tempted to do this, we must also come to the same point that Paul did. “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,…”(Philippians 3:8) The six of us are Christians and have raised Christian families. What we have, all we have, is by the pure grace of God. Whatever wisdom or experience we might have gained is a gift of grace from our Lord who has infinitely more than 450 years of experience. The marvel of our Lord is that that gift of grace is totally unlimited and available to all. That gift has been working in your life, throughout your years, in the rough spots as well as the joyous ones. He will not stop until His work is complete. That is the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord.
The debate between Darwinists and Creationists will undoubtedly continue for a long time. There is an aspect of this that concerns me more than coming to a definitive conclusion. That is the attitude each position engenders in the people who accept it, particularly our young people coming through modern education. If one is taught that they have come from lower forms of life, and are no different than any of the others in the animal kingdom, then they have no basis for developing any respect for themselves, for others, or a reason for a moral foundation for their actions. If, on the other hand, one believes that they are an intentional creation by a God who loves them deeply, they have an entirely different foundation of love and respect upon which to build. I think we see the results of this former position reflected in many aspects of modern society. You, dear one, are not a product of random chance. You are deeply love by the Lord who created you, and who wants you to live the valued life He intended.
One of the annoying ads that came up on my e-mail server asked, “What do you live for?” and their answer was “Virginia Beach.” Hum! A very serious question, with a very shallow answer. But then, that is much of the advertising business. If you go here, or do this, or buy that, you life will be better and you will be happy. Our Lord would never make it in the advertising business. “Love your enemy.” Do good and pray for those who hate you.” “If you want to save your life, you must loose it.” “You need to take up your cross and follow me.” These are no shallow statements. But then, the life that He offers is not a passing one week vacation. Jesus is offering us life more abundantly, and, I might add, eternally. Sure, we listen to the advertisers, and we take our short vacations, but what we live for is Jesus Christ. In Him is true life.
What determines the value of a human life? There have been shameful times throughout history where one people declared another not worth living, and exterminated them. In our day we have seen leaders kill their own people because of ideology or simply to retain power. Even in our own country some people declare pre-born children, or the elderly without the right to continue to live. But who are we to arrogantly decide such things? Scripture says, “Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his.” “When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 100:3 & 139:15-16) It is God who determines the value of each human life. And further, “You were bought at a price,” of Christ’s redeeming blood. (I Corinthians 6:20) All life is valuable to God. You are valuable to God.
Comparing ourselves to other is always a dangerous proposition. If we are thinking about sins, we can always find someone who is worse than we are, so we don’t look so bad. We don’t take seriously that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We diminish the seriousness of sin. If we are thinking about accomplishments, there is always someone who does it better than we do, so we can get depressed. Even our own self opinion is not that valuable. The only opinion that is really important is God opinion of us. He has said, “you are my child for Jesus’ sake. I love you. I have given My Son as atonement for your sins. I have given you what talents and abilities you have, to use for my glory. I have made you unique for my purpose for you.” The more we take our eyes off of ourselves, and keep them on Jesus, the more we are free from false evaluations, and we can truly rejoice in all that God has done for us.