I recently heard a speech by Claude Hamilton, who is a Canadian businessman, author, and speaker. In his talk, he said something that profoundly moved me. Mr. Hamilton stated something to the effect that if you live in North America you are better off financially than 95 percent of the world. Then he said that "We are unfairly blessed!" By that, he meant that we are no better than anyone else in the world. We don't deserve to have food, clean water, shelter, clothing, medical care, a good family or any of the other things that make life worth living any more than that starving child in a third world country. We are no better than they are, yet they may never have the privileges that we have taken for granted our entire life up until this point. In fact, many of these young human beings created in God's image will never live to see adulthood. Approximately 3.1 million children die from hunger each year.
Indeed, if you or I were born in another country outside of the United States, Canada, or outside of any other place where the rights of the individual are taken seriously, then our story would no doubt be extremely different than it is today. For instance, what if you, through no fault of your own, were living in India under a caste system with little hope for advancement if you were in a lower caste? Or what if you were a Muslim woman somewhere in the world living under Sharia law?
So much of what we have was simply given to us through no effort on our part. And the sooner we realize that what we enjoy is because of God's grace, the better off we will be and the more grateful we'll be for his gifts to us.
The same is true of our Christian life. If we think that we are special because God chose us to be saved and have eternal life, then we don't realize what it means to be a Christian. Everything that we have in Christ is because of God's unmerited favor to us and we must humbly bow to the Lord and worship him for his amazing grace.
I. Where We Were
According to Scripture, at one point all of us were sinners and separated from a holy God. Romans 3:23 tells us plainly: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." And the consequence of that sin is death, both physical and spiritual (Romans 6:23).
In Ephesians 2 Paul tells the Christians in that area:
"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient (2:1,2).
Physical death is the separation of our souls and bodies. Spiritual death is our soul's separation from the God who created us. Man, before sin, was meant to fellowship with the Lord and to enjoy his presence forever. Sin has destroyed that relationship. And if that condition isn't remedied there are eternal consequences. Eternal separation from a God in what Revelation calls the Lake of Fire (20:13-15).
Scripture plainly teaches that apart from some Divine intervention we all were in a hopeless condition. The Apostle Paul continues talking to the Ephesians and us as well who were not part of God's chosen people Israel:
"Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world" (2:11,12).
Where We Are
Thank God that the story doesn't end there. We have now been given new life in Christ (Colossians 2:13). In the very first chapter of Ephesians we learn that we have many spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. They include:
1. Being in Christ (1:3-4)
2. Being chosen before the foundation of the world (1:4).
3. Making us holy and blameless before Him (1:4).
4. Predestining us to be adopted as his sons (1:5).
5. Redeeming us through his blood (1:7)
6. Forgiving us our trespasses according to the riches of his grace (1:7).
These blessings also include being given:
1. A knowledge of the mysteries of God (1:9ff).
2. A purpose for living to the praise of God (1:12).
3. The Holy Spirit as a down payment and foretaste of future glory yet to come (1:13,14).
We who were without hope have truly been given a living hope (I Peter 1:3). In Scripture, hope is the confident expectation of good things that are to come. The Christian has an expectation of the return of our Lord Jesus Christ so we can be with him forever and one day living in the New Heaven and New Earth where there will be no more death and no mourning, crying or pain (Revelation 21:1-4). For the Christian, truly the best is yet to come!
II. Blessed to Be a Blessing!
So what should we do with all of this? Someone once said that our blessings are not given to us for our pleasure but for our purpose. We were not put on this earth, given this much both in physical possessions and spiritual blessings just to live a life totally devoted to comfort, entertainment, and ease. Nor were we put here in this beautiful country, with this much prosperity just to promote our self-interest and reputation and become world famous. Fame is fleeting and riches will not ultimately bring happiness anyway.
We live to the praise of God's glory. But what does that mean and just how do we do that? The answer is that we glorify God by using our gifts and talents to serve others. Jesus himself said:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them. It shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave" (Matthew 20:25,26).
And we read in the book of James that:
"Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (1:27).
In churches, we call the pastor, the minister. Many think that we are paying him to do the primary work of the church. However, the Bible teaches otherwise. Going back to the book of Ephesians we see that Paul, in speaking of Christ, tells the believers there:
"And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ" (4:11-12).
The truth is that God gave all these people, including the pastor/teacher, to prepare the church to minister. Believers are not saved to sit there and to merely soak in the messages but they are to be a conduit of God's blessings to the church and others in the world.
There was an old advertisement on television years ago to get volunteers for the Peace Corp, which is a volunteer program run by the United States government. The catchphrase was: "Don't ask what the Peace Corp is doing. Ask what you're doing?" We might give similar advice to the church today: "Don't ask what your pastor, Sunday School teacher, deacon, or elder is doing. Ask what you're doing!"
How are you helping the poor and needy? How are you aiding in the spread of the gospel into the world around you? Are you using your gifts and talents to build up the Body of Christ? Are you serving in some way?
If you are reading this message, chances are you are unfairly blessed in every way compared to the rest of the world. Don't waste those blessings! Use them for God's service. Make someone else's life a little better because you lived by sharing those blessings with those who aren't as blessed as you. That is what being blessed is all about. And that, in the end, makes your life truly worth living!!
© 2018 Jeff Shirley