Having just come back from a week away, it was easy for me to think of it as a “well-deserved” rest. One works hard, and afterwards I’m due some downtime, right? I can think of times in the recent past where I feel like I deserve this or that. It’s my birthday today, so we should do what I want to do. Or, I’ve worked super-hard over the last few months: I’m owed this rest. I earned it. I’m entitled to it.
Do you ever feel like you’re owed something? After a hard day at work, don’t you just deserve an evening of rest? Or perhaps you feel owed something else: you’ve tried to do good and obey God, so now you deserve good health. You’ve been working on personal holiness and obedience, so now you deserve a spouse. I’ve worked hard at this company for many years, I deserve a promotion.
How does it go when you don’t get what you think you deserved? Doesn’t feel great, right? We get angry or resentful, towards the people we think are withholding what we’re due, or – worse still – towards the God Who is saying “no.”
There are many and varies ways in which we can convince ourselves we’re due something. If this is you, then read this brief excerpt from Paul, and consider the following points.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Praise God we do not get what we deserve
Romans 6:23a says, very simply, “The wages of sin is death.” As God said and then demonstrated way back in the Garden of Eden, sinning against God leads to spiritual death. This is what we deserve. All of us have spent at least a portion of our lives in rebellion and rejection of God, doing things that ought not to be done. Paul said, “We know that the judgement of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.” (Romans 2:2)
If we are in Christ, then God has shown mercy, meaning He does not and will not give us what we deserve — that is, eternal judgement in hell. We see that in v4-5 of Ephesians 2. Even when we were spiritually dead in the trespasses and sins we’d embraced, children of wrath and due nothing but punishment, God had mercy upon us, choosing not to give us what we deserved.
We already have much more than we deserve
God has shown mercy, but furthermore He has shown grace, meaning He gives us what we do not deserve. As Paul says here in Ephesians, much more than merely forgiven (if I can use the word merely… it doesn’t feel right!) we are furthermore exalted and seated with Christ in the heavenly places, and will richly receive immeasurable riches of grace in kindness. How many riches will we receive in the coming ages? Immeasurable. I mean, mathematicians and physicians can measure pretty big numbers… are we sure it can’t be quantified? How many zeros are we talking here?
In Christ Jesus, we are possessors of far greater riches, of a far deeper rest, and far greater significance than is available here on Earth. Greater riches, because the riches in Heaven do not wear out, suffer due to exchange rates, diminish through taxation, or any such thing. Greater rest, because we have peace with God (Romans 5:1) and have entered into His rest (Hebrews 4:10). Greater significance, because we’re called to do works that God established in eternity past for us to do: works that will have eternal significance, not merely temporal. We can see this right here in Ephesians 2:10.
We already have so much more than we deserve. Hallelujah!
Our obedience is no more than a reasonable response to grace
The Gospel teaches us that God has cancelled the record of debt against us, and furthermore credited our account with all of the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. What is the reasonable response to such an incomprehensible act of mercy and grace?
It is obedience. As Paul says in Ephesians 4:1, we’re urged to walk in a manner worthy of these things. Jesus told a parable to this effect in Luke 17:
Luke 17:7–10 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ ”
You see, if you or if I indeed work hard for our Lord, or focus on personal holiness and spiritual growth, then “we have only done what was our duty.” We’re called to this, having already received (or been promised) a far greater reward than anything of which we could conceive. As yet sinful people, who among us could honestly say “I have done all that I was commanded?” Not me, that’s for sure.
So then, how should we approach things like rest, and holidays, or any other thing we’re due? As we prepared to leave, our car wouldn’t start. All of us were sat there, belted in with suitcases packed. The engine refused to start. So we prayed. We praised God for His grace in allowing us to take a week off, and whether or not we actually got to go, we would be content to receive what He had for us. When we eventually arrived on holiday, we had a real sense of God’s grace. We weren’t due a holiday. We haven’t done anything to merit it; who could? But God, in His grace, chose to bless us with it. We received it as a blessing, a token of God’s love and grace. As such, there was an air of gratitude and joy in the Lord.
I think this is how we should receive all things, whether it’s a job offer or promotion, an exam result, whatever. You and I, in and of ourselves, do not deserve anything. If we have worked hard, have we not merely used the ability God sovereignly chose to bestow to us? James said that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). So there is no basis for boasting, and certainly none for entitlement either.
So what do you feel like you’re owed? Maybe people have said you deserve this or that, and you’ve started to believe it. Know that you are loved by God, and if you are in Christ you have something far greater than anything you could possibly feel like you’re due.