So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. (Mark 6:27-29)
We have already addressed the subject of “belief” as it relates to our expectations of God. While God works in and through His believing subjects, we must be careful not to grow over-expectant of things God has not promised. Does God bless us in ways not specifically promised in the scriptures? I am convinced that He does. However, there is no reason why we should be angry if He doesn’t. Disappointed perhaps…but not angry.
Now we are going to consider a similar subject…that of hardship for the servants God uses. John the Baptist was unquestionably one of the greatest servants of all time. No one could have been more committed, faithful or enthusiastic for the kingdom. Yet, his faithfulness wasn’t rewarded with a golden chariot and a home on the Mediterranean. Instead, he was tossed in prison and executed in a grizzly beheading.
Therefore, we must know, following and serving God doesn’t necessarily guarantee our lives will be easy, peaceful, or safe. In fact, there is a good chance we will be called on to make a significant sacrifice.
This does not mean it is a sin for us to want a peaceful life, or to seek safety for ourselves and our family. And I don’t think we should feel guilty if God has chosen to allow us to have worldly wealth. However, I think the scripture does say we are sinning if we have been blessed in these ways and our response is to be self-absorbed: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” (1 Timothy 6:17-18 NIV)
Unless we die to Christ and are willing to serve Him first, our blessings can destroy us. In parenting we learn when we constantly intervene in our children’s challenges, or criticize others for not giving them everything they want, we rot their souls from the inside out. In our homes, if we insist on having the best of everything and never think about giving God our best, we will never be satisfied.
In short, all of the blessings in the world are meaningless unless we have first learned what it means to be God’s servant. This is true in all situations, regardless of one’s socio-economic status.
God never promised a specific level of worldly success to His servants. He did make promises to Israel as a nation in the Old Testament, and He made good on those promises. But John the Baptist’s experience reminds us this is not the case for everyone, at all times.
So if you have it good, in worldly terms, ask God how He wants you to use what you have. If you are struggling, rest assured your greatness has nothing to do with what you have, but rather what you do for the Lord. I know this goes against culture. …But then, so do a lot of things in the King’s kingdom.
Dear God, give me a kingdom perspective. In Jesus’ name, Amen.