Worthwhile

worth

Have you ever thought about what you are worth to God?

Too often, I hear brothers and sisters talk about themselves as if they are insignificant to God – sort of reflecting the question David asks in Psalm 8:4: “What is man that you are mindful of him?” What can we possibly mean in the context of an eternal God? What can one person mean to the Creator of the cosmos, to the Alpha & the Omega, to the Almighty? How can one speck of sand mean anything in the landscape of human existence?

But you are worthwhile to God. You are meaningful to Him. You are valuable to Him.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

Psalm 8:3-8

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Jon 3:16-17

When the apostle writes that God loves the world, he means you. “For God so loved you that He sent His Son.”

There is no one in the entire history of the universe who is exactly like you, and there never will be. You are singular and unique, and God wants you to spend the rest of eternity with Him. He made you to be with Him. He has prepared a home for you with Him. He sacrificed greatly so you can be with Him. These are not the actions of a Creator that sees you as worthless. Rather, they are the actions of a God who sees you as worthwhile. So let’s stop beating ourselves up and instead let Him lift us up. Let Him lift us up to His standards, to His love, to His grace.

It begins with the simple realization that yes, you are, as a point of fact, worth something.

You Are Special

We’ve all had people in our lives who we know care about us. They have helped us become who we are. They want us to do well in our lives, and they’ve had gone out of their way to be a positive force in our lives. Can you think of someone like that in your own life? Who makes you feel that you are special to them? Just take a few seconds, and think on that person right now.

What a wonderful feeling to know that someone out there loves and cherishes you, that someone always wants what’s best for you. Thinking about this, take a look at John 10:1-5.

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.

Have you ever thought about how special you are to our Shepherd? He wants to protect you, to guide you. He knows you by name. Of the roughly seven billion people on our world, Jesus knows you individually. He cares about you as an individual. Just as we all have people in our lives who take a vested interest in our health and happiness, we have a Savior who is personally vested in each and every one of us.

He calls us to Him. He calls us by name. He cares about us, and we are special to Him. Let’s then live our lives in such a way that others know He is special to us.

Our Adoptive Father

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

-Romans 8:14-17

I’m going to let you in on a secret. My wife and I were almost adoptive parents until we were blessed with our daughter last year. We had all but given up on having children of our own, so we were starting to look into adoption options shortly before we discovered we were pregnant. One friend was even encouraging us to investigate foster-to-adoption programs, herself having fostered several children prior to having her own daughter. The thought was both daunting and humbling, and we found we had to get our hearts into a certain place before we could seriously pursue the option.

In adopting a child, you are taking one who is not your own and investing in them as if they were. You are giving of your time and resources to provide for one given up by another. You are giving the gifts of love and family to one without those things. It is a great sacrifice. The risks and the unknowns involved can be overwhelming, and it is a leap of love relatively few people are willing to take.

This, however, is what God has done for us. He has brought us in from the cold and loneliness of sin. He makes us joint heirs of His promises. He reaches out to all of us who have willingly separated ourselves because of our sin. He restores us, and He provides of us. So on this day where we honor our earthly fathers, let’s not forget our heavenly Father, who has adopted us out of darkness and who has provided an eternal home for us at His side.

Memorializing the Innocent

Standing before the Lord’s Table, we often revisit thoughts surrounding the various memorials we have in our culture, whether they be monuments, days, or ceremonies. The vast majority of these memorials center around the numerous military conflicts this nation has been a part of, and we memorialize soldiers who have fallen and great leaders that led us to triumph. We lionize and idealize those to whom these numerous memorials are dedicated, but there are two groups involved in these conflicts we seldom commemorate, or indeed recognize at all: our enemies and the innocents.

The past hundred years or so have seen some of the largest and bloodiest conflicts in the history of this world. Sennacherib’s loss of 185,000 at the hands of Jehovah in II Kings 19 is mere child’s play by today’s standards. War casualties in the last century number in the millions, and if you break it down only to civilians, some casualty  figures look like this:

  • WWI: almost 7 million
  • WWII: 40-52 million
  • Korean War: 1.5 million
  • Vietnam War: 2 million
  • Iraq + Afghanistan: as many as 1 million

Counting only these conflicts – a small fraction of the wars and battles that have been fought the last hundred years – over 60 million have died in the crossfire of opposing armies. It may surprise you (as it did me) that in every conflict listed, except World War I, civilian death tolls outnumbered military deaths by a margin of at least 2-to-1. In almost every case, the number of innocents who died were more than double those actually involved in the conflict, and, with a couple notable exceptions, these lives are seldom remembered. (Memorials dedicated to the Holocaust and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki come to mind.)

In fact, far from being memorialized, these deaths are often marginalized and trivialized. They are reported as “collateral damage,” or we breathe a sigh of relief that “at least they are not American lives.” Then we forget them as readily as any other unpleasant fact we’d rather not dwell on. Try, however, to tell an Afghani mother whose son was cut down in a skirmish on the streets of her hometown that her child was merely collateral damage in a conflict for a greater good. Tell an elderly Japanese man or woman who lost loved ones in Hiroshima or Nagasaki that their loss saved American lives in the long run. See how it goes. Who memorializes the innocents, lives cut short by the choices made by others?

Now I want you to imagine, for a moment, that Great Britain launched a war against us. Imagine they carpet bombed strategic locations and major metropolitan areas to cripple us quickly. Imagine you had a son or daughter in one of those locations who was killed in those bombings – not because they were part of the military trying to fight the invading forces, but simply because they were in the way when the bombs fell. Imagine that son or daughter became “collateral damage.” How would you feel after that?

After the dust cleared, the treaties had been signed, and the troops gone home, would you ever be able to look at England the same way again? Would you ever be able to forgive them? Might you cringe every time you heard and English accent? Would you throw away all of your old Beatles albums? Adding to this, what if the attack on our soil was completely justifiable by political standards? What if history was on the side of Great Britain? Would that change how you feel? Would the pain be erased, knowing that your child’s death, in the long run, saved the lives of those you view as enemies? Somehow I doubt it.

This, however, is exactly what Christ’s sacrifice was, and it is what God did for us.

  • Jesus was an innocent death. II Corinthians 5:21 and Isaiah 53:9 refer to Christ as sinless or blameless. Even Pilate attests to Jesus’ innocence in the face of unjust accusations.
  • Jesus was “collateral damage.” Repeatedly, in Isaiah 53, the prophet tells us God’s chosen Servant would be bruised, beaten, and killed in our place. We should be the casualties of the war with sin, but those sins cut Him down instead.
  • Jesus died for His enemies. The first few verses of Romans 5 make it clear that Christ came and died for us while we were at enmity with God. Where few would think to die for a righteous man, Christ laid down His life to save those opposed to Him.

Unlike the numerous civilian casualties of war, however, Jesus was not merely caught in the crossfire haphazardly. He was not in the wrong place at the wrong time. His death was no accident. He walked into the conflict willingly to be the innocent sacrifice that would save those who would reject Him. God sacrificed His child that those who set themselves against Him might not perish but have eternal life, and I have to ask myself, “How could God do this? How could He send His Son to die in my place? How could He offer such a sacrifice for an enemy?” Then I read Isaiah 55:6-9, where the prophet extends an invitation of forgiveness to a people who rejected God:

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God’s ways are higher than our ways. His love is greater than our love. He was willing to sacrifice His Son for the sake of those on the side of sin and lawlessness that we may have hope of life after death. That’s why we take the time to memorialize this innocent death.

The Value of a Soul

We value things like our health, our jobs, our friends and families, but, when we experience something that shakes our foundation, sometimes circumstances force us to step back and look at what matters beyond the things of this life. While jobs, relationships, and even health are important in life, it is not these things God values the most. For a snapshot of what God views as important, look no further than Luke 12:13 where one comes to Jesus, demanding that his brother rightfully split their inheritance. Jesus responds by telling a parable of one who laid his trust in the things of this world while making no provisions for his soul. In verse 21, Jesus admonishes that people should strive to be rich toward God.

What God treasures the most for and about us is our souls. In the parable, the wealthy man seems to think he has provided for his soul by amassing sustenance for many years, but God then uses that same term to demonstrate his spiritual unhealthiness. While this man had provided for himself for a time, only God can make provisions for eternity.

The Worth of a Soul

Why does God place so much emphasis on our souls? For one thing, it is something singularly unique. We can change jobs; relationships come and go; health fluctuates; but we only get one soul, and no one else can affect our souls. He has invested a great deal in providing for and saving our souls, and God has paid an incredible price for our souls. When it came to our creation, God granted us a part of Him, making us in His image, giving us eternal souls. In Matthew 16:24, Jesus is speaking to the worth of our souls, and verses 26-27 asks what could possibly be more valuable than our souls. We are quick to chastise Esau for selling out his physical birthright, but are we any better when we sell out our spiritual birthright for the things of this world? We have, within us, a part of God that He values immensely. We should value it as much.

God is patient regarding our souls. In II Peter 2:5, Peter calls Noah a preacher of righteousness, and that is exactly what he was during the century in which he built the ark. II Peter 3:8, then, reminds us that God counts time differently than us, that He is patient, waiting for all to come to repentance. In the days of Noah, God waited 120 years for a small number to respond to His salvation. Every soul that is saved matters greatly to our God.

This soul salvation comes at a great price. John 3:16 beautifully sums up the love it took for God to provide for the saving of our souls. Romans 3:23 reminds us that we have all hurt our souls with sin, but the following verses assure that Christ took those injuries for our sake, rising up as a propitiation for our sins. The beginning of Romans 5 tells us we can, in no way, be worthy of that sacrifice, but God’s great love provided it anyway. What does it take to save our souls? It takes the ultimate sacrifice of one spotless and pure from sin.

The Value of One

In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables in a row, each illustrating the value God places in saving one soul. Likewise, do we value the souls of those we know and love? Are we making sure we are providing for their eternal needs while we strive to provide for the physical? Are we teaching what is truly valuable to God?

Isaiah 52, one of the four servant psalms written by this prophet, records God calling on His people to come out of sin, looking to that suffering servant for guidance and salvation. Rather than looking to ourselves, our relationships, our health, and our possessions in measuring our fulfillment in this life, we should be looking to the needs of our souls. Only in God can we find provision for our eternal needs and rely on Him to save our souls where we cannot.

lesson by Tim Smelser