President Kennedy stood on the steps of the student union at the University of Michigan and said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask instead, what can you do for your country?” This was the opposite of a student demonstrating in Washington DC a few years later holding a sign. “There is nothing worth dying for!” As you know, I sought out and fought for the right to serve in the USAF, having been rejected when I volunteered to serve in Vietnam. It turns out that they have lower standards for doctors than for ordinary soldiers so I got in, despite having had seizures as a child. I believe that what God has given us in this country, even with all the damage that has been done to it recently, is both worth working to uphold and even worth dying for.
Our God is vastly more worthy of worship, than even our country. Worship is an old english word for being worth-it, worth honoring, worth serving. I remember a missionary that had everything taken away as a prisoner. He was forbidden to preach but, of course, preached anyways (judge for yourselves whether it is better to obey God or men). So he was kept in isolation, fed rotten food, slept on a stone floor with a bucket for a lavatory. He told God that he was OK with all that but he had one even bigger loss. He did not feel God’s presence. He kept asking God to make his presence felt, but nothing happened. Then he thought of all that God had done for him already. That he had given his own son and saved him and given him eternal life. He said, “God, if you never give me more than this, not even a sense of your presence, still you are worthy of worship!” He set about mechanically praying and praising and singing. Suddenly God filled the room with his presence and soon after had him released. God was greatly worshiped, not for what he did or gave but for WHO HE WAS.
So many times I serve God for what he does for me and then whine if he isn’t performing up to my expectations. I may berate myself for not feeling “high” enough at church but I am really upset at him for not giving me that “high”. I “punish” God for not giving me the feeling I need by beating up on his kid. I complain, like the children of Israel in the desert, about my food, lodging, clothes, friends, abilities,ministries, feelings. When I review what God has already done for me, I find peace, the peace of loosing all my expectations that between now and heaven things have to go a certain way. Inner peace comes from remembering that, if he never did another thing for me–what he has already done would be more than enough.
A few years ago a poorly de-iced plane taking of from Washington DC crashed into the Potomac. The tail was out and a few survivors were swimming in the icy water. They couldn’t climb out on the ice but were being rescued one at a time by a helicopter with a basket. A young man kept helping them into the basket. When they returned for him, he was too cold to climb in and drowned. He gave his life for theirs. Can you imagine one of them saying, when asked about appreciation, “Well yes, he saved my life, BUT blah blah blah.” NO! There is no “yes but”, only “Yes Lord”, period!
Like the missionary, I need to set about living for him and his kingdom, singing, serving, praying, writing, teaching, reproving, lifting, and in general asking “what can I do to join into his labors on earth?” rather than, “What can he do for me?”
I often feel like the invisible man and want to quit serving or teaching or doing because, as a severe co-dependent I still connect my worth and the worthiness of my labor to others wanting to hang with me and join into the labor along side of me. When this doesn’t happen, I almost feel like it wasn’t worth doing.
In order to get my focus back where it belongs, I then ask, ” Am I doing what the Lord wants and doing it for others? Then, lighten up, remember that, even if no one else notices, he will be faithful and make something out of my obedience, he enjoys my company, he likes me joining into labor with him in order to get to know him more. That is more than enough!”
He is worthy of my labor for the rest of my years even if, like Jeremiah, if no one says “at-a-boy! or “let’s hang out together” I have not yet suffered unto death and believe that if there were nothing worth dying for–then there would be nothing worth living for. Since I am willing to die for him, these other lesser sacrifices should be nothing by comparison. However I have often thought that if someone put a gun to my head and said, “curse God or die!” that would be a simple “OK here I come Lord”.
Sometimes dying daily to myself and taking up my cross daily for however long he might choose to leave me seems harder. Praise God, his grace is sufficient.