Titled, Not Entitled
Everyone is gifted in one way or another. Whether we are called to serve on the mission field, in the ministry, in the workplace or in the home, God has individually gifted us with the skills and knowledge needed to do His work. When we use our gifts wherever He places us, we glorify His name and reflect His character.
However, we all have a sinful tendency to pride ourselves in our title, position and abilities. For those of us who have earned a title by a diligent use of our gifts, this can be an especially difficult spiritual battle. Here are 7 humbling truths that we would do well to remember as we seek to combat pride and continue to honor the Lord with our gifts:
1. God is the Creator and We are the Creatures. There are numerous places in Scripture where the Lord reminds us that no one--and nothing--compares to Him. He may not be compared to any man as “[His] thoughts ae not [our] thoughts, nor are [His] ways [our] ways” (Isaiah 55:8-9); neither may He be compared to other gods, as He alone is the true and living God--“glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders" (Ex. 15:11). If we really believe that there is no other god, and no one like our God, then we ought to give Him the glory due to His name. Man was created to give glory to His Creator. This truth must permeate our hearts and minds.
2. God is the Source of All. It is humbling for us to remember that our Heavenly Father is the One who has given us skills, graces, knowledge, positions and titles. The Apostle Paul put it so clearly to the church in Corinth when he wrote, "Who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it" (1 Cor. 4:7)? The Apostle James explained this truth when he said, “Every good and perfect gift has come down from above, from the Father of lights"—remembering that the best of these gifts was His everlasting Son and Spirit. The thought of God's physical and spiritual blessings should singularly bolster our humility.
3. We are Undeserving. No matter how good we are at what we do, before the Lord we are just as deserving of His displeasure as others. We also need to remember our own sinfulness and need for a Savior. It doesn't matter what we can do or how well we can do it, unless we are trusting the Lord Jesus to cleanse us with His blood, our best acts are like “filthy rags” in God's sight (Is. 64:6). John Calvin, in his Institutes (3.17.8) explained this principle when he wrote:
Forgiveness of sins being previously given, the good works which follow have a value different from their merit, because whatever is imperfect in them is covered by the perfection of Christ and all their blemishes and pollutions are wiped away by his purity, so as never to come under the cognizance of the divine tribunal…and the imperfection which is wont to sully even good works being buried, the good works which are done by believers are deemed righteous, or; which is the same thing, are imputed for righteousness.
It is only as we are washed in the blood of Jesus that we are able to “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and gave Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma" (Eph. 5:2).
4. We are Utterly Dependent. No matter how hard we work, how fast we can get the job done or how skilled we are, we would do well to humble ourselves and ask the Lord for help. We should remember to pray. When we don't turn to the Lord in prayer we are in effect saying we are in control, we can accomplish what needs to be done and we trust ourselves. These are self-exalting thoughts, and Jesus warns that those who exalt themselves will be humbled (Matt 23:12). It is better to humble ourselves in prayer then to wait and be humbled by God. Jonathan Edwards explained this is detail in his masterful sermon "God Glorified in Man's Dependence."
6. We Always Need Growth. There is always more to be learned. It is also humbling to note that we will never be able to retain all the knowledge and attain all the skills this world has to offer. It's an easy temptation to get comfortable where we are and think we've arrived. The fact of the matter is there are things we could do better, there are people out there who excel at things which we could never do and there is more to be learned. We’d do well to continue to learn new things and acquire new skills. After all, who knows what skills or knowledge which we learn will, in turn, be used by God to glorify Himself and expand His Kingdom!
7. We Cannot Do it All. In all our studies and efforts to learn how to do new things, we should also be careful to not “think of [ourselves] more highly than [we] ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3). Everyone is different. We need to know ourselves and remember that there are things others can do which we will probably never be able to do. No matter how skilled we may be at some particular thing(s), there are always others who are better and who contribute things that we will not and cannot contribute.
The apostle Paul reminds us of our diversity in Romans 12, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:4-8).
We should also remember that there will always be work we can do but are not called to do. Even though we may be able to do a job or service or fill a need better than someone else, we need to know our place before the Lord, use our gifts in that place where we’ve been called and allow others to do the same. In doing so, we are not exalting ourselves and we are putting others’ needs before our own.
As we use our gifts to labor for the Lord may we remember these 7 truths and humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand. May we follow the example of Jesus, who “being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). May we grow in awe of the majesty and greatness of our God and realize more of our need for Him. May we thank God for giving us the gifts, position and title we have. May He give us grace say no to ourselves and yes to others. May we, in the words of Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, “hear the call of the kingdom to be children of light with the mercy of heaven, the humility of Christ. Walking justly before him, loving all that is right that the life of Christ may shine through us.” And may our response to such a call be “King of Heaven we will answer the call. We will follow, bringing hope to the world. Filled with passion, filled with power to proclaim salvation in Jesus’ name.”1
1. An excerpt from the hymn “Hear the Call of the Kingdom” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend.
Meghan Rayno is secretary and children's minitry coordinator at New Covenant Presbyterian Church in Richmond Hill, GA.
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