For a while now I've been thinking about writing this post, but I wasn't quite sure how to articulate my thoughts. I'm still not, but I'm ready to give it a shot.
Deserve - to merit, be qualified for, or have a claim to.
This word deserve, I've noticed, is thrown around a lot. And whenever I hear it, my attention is directed towards the person using the word. Now let me be the first to say that I am not very careful with my words. More often than not I am struggling to put them back in than to ponder them before they come out. But this one word with it's seemingly harmless and even encouraging meaning has left me feeling more conscious about how and if I use it.
"You worked hard, you deserve that promotion." "you've suffered through old, used cars, you deserve a new one" or how about "you're busy parents, you deserve a night out." And looking inwardly, "I've lived the apartment life long enough, I deserve a house."
My problem is not with the reward. Promotions are good, new cars are nice, a night out is necessary. My issue comes with the two words preceding the reward you deserve. When I try and come up with reasons that I might deserve something I'm left empty. Because in all sincerity, I, on my own merit, and with my own efforts, can do nothing.
In John chapter 15, Jesus is talking to His disciples about being the vine and them being the branches. He says that God the Father is the gardener and that He will cut off every branch that doesn't produce fruit. If the passage were to end there, a reader might think that there is a significant responsibility to bear fruit so as to avoid being cut off. But the verse doesn't end there. It goes on to say that no branch can bear fruit by itself. Even the thought of it is absurd. How could a branch laying on the ground, attached to nothing, grow any sort of fruit? The branch must be attached to the vine. So Jesus says in verse 5,
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
It is because of this teaching that I have such a hard time with the word deserve. I can do nothing apart from Christ. And the fact of the matter is, I deserve every wretched thing you can imagine. Romans 6:23 teaches us that "the wages of sin is death" that is, the penalty for any wrong doing is to die. I'm pretty sure I sealed my fate at 2 years old. In Mark chapter 10 a man asks Jesus a question and refers to Him as a good teacher. But before Jesus gives the answer, He makes a point to say, "Why do you call me good? No one is good -- except God alone." So even Jesus, a perfect man, asserts that God is the only good one.
So what am I to do? How can I expect anything less than God's horrible (and I mean horrible, check out Revelation 9) wrath? The answer is simple and yet life-changing. It is to remain in the vine. The second half of Romans 6:23 says, "the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord". Eternal life meaning never die. That's huge! Living forever is certainly not what I deserve, but because God loved this world full of dirty, rotten, sinners, He gave His only Son as a living sacrifice so that anyone that chooses to believe in Him will live forever.
You see, to say anyone deserves anything favorable is false, no one possibly can. And I hope from now on I will take the time to ponder my words when someone tells me I deserve something with a response similar to this:
For it is God who works in me to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose. Philippians 2:13