Ponder your privileges
The beginning of a new year is a good time for Christians to remember who they are and whom they serve. Too easily we allow the sheer busyness of life, the weight of responsibilities and the ‘day of small things’, to dull our minds and hearts. We forget just how privileged, blessed and favoured a people we are.
Stop for a moment and consider this – if you are a Christian you are the most privileged being on the face of this earth. You may have no public profile, no political influence, no money to speak of – but your Father is the cosmic King, the sovereign, holy, all-powerful, loving, predestinating God of time and eternity.
Indeed, you are his ‘glorious inheritance’ (Ephesians 1:18), chosen to be his child, chosen to be an heir of God and a ‘co-heir with Christ’ (Romans 8:17). Is this not staggering? Is it not almost beyond belief?
Missing the point
John Owen, the great Puritan divine, wrote: ‘Our greatest hindrance in the Christian life is not our lack of effort but our lack of acquaintedness with our privileges’. Have you ever thought that this may be the reason why you struggle as you do and fail to live in the blessed enjoyment of God’s forgiving love in Christ? Do you take the time to ponder your vast privileges?
It is no doubt one of the devil’s great stratagems to absorb us with ourselves and our circumstances – because he knows that Christians who become acquainted with their privileges are less easily diverted from Christ and the cause of his Kingdom.
Why, then, do so many Christians miss the point and think that the greatest hindrance in their service to Christ is their lack of effort rather than a lack of ‘acquaintedness’ with their privileges? Probably because there is, indeed, a lack of effort in our lives!
Christians today, at least in the West, know little of struggling and striving. We are not persecuted to any meaningful extent. Life is too comfortable and easy. Our spiritual sensibilities become dulled by affluence and indulgence.
And then our consciences are pricked and we think that renewed effort is our greatest need. It is true, probably more than we know, that we need to make greater effort for Christ. But there is something far more needful than greater effort – namely, a deeper ‘acquaintedness’ with our privileges!
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, becoming more acquainted with the Lord – with his grace and love, his boundless goodness and mercy, his astonishing patience, and his burning but gentle holiness – will stir and warm our cold hearts to praise and adoration, which is our first calling in life.
But secondly, such spiritual ‘acquaintedness’ with our privileges will itself produce the greater effort we need. Indeed, it will provide the true gracious motivation that makes greater effort acceptable to God!
What use is ‘greater effort’ unless it arises from love to Christ? It becomes little more than legal obedience, not the gospel obedience the Lord seeks from us.
When Paul prayed for God’s people in Ephesus, he prayed above all else that ‘the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you; [and] the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints; and his incomparably great power for us who believe’ (Ephesians 1:18-19).
He could have prayed for many things for them – good and proper things like a spirit of unyielding perseverance, of courage and constancy – but first he prayed that they would be better acquainted with their gospel privileges.
Take the time, indeed make the time, to do this. Nothing is more needful to a useful Christian life. In other words, what God has done for you is prior to what you do for him! It is the fountainhead of all effective Christian service.