Archive for March 5th, 2018

My Life Is Not ‘Dear unto Myself’

March 5th, 2018

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:34

I love Oswald Chambers’ devotional book My Utmost for His Highest and read it daily. This morning, March 5, he shared a great thought on the second part of this verse:

Have I received a ministry from the Lord? If so, I have to be loyal to it, to count my life precious only for the fulfilling of that ministry. Think of the satisfaction it will be to hear Jesus say – “Well done, good and faithful servant”; to know that you have done what He sent you to do. We have all to find our niche in life, and spiritually we find it when we receive our ministry from the Lord. In order to do this we must have companied with Jesus; we must know Him as more than a personal Saviour. “I will shew him how great things he must suffer for My sake.”

I would like to share a few thoughts on the first part of this verse – that my life is not to be “precious to myself” or, as the King James says, “dear unto myself.” First, and most obvious, the value that is proclaimed here confronts selfishness; it confronts the view of life that begins and ends with me. Life is not given to me for my sake alone, or even for my sake mostly. It is given for God’s sake, that it may be used for Him, for whom He loves and for what He loves. Paul wrote, “I am willing to spend and be spent” for the believers in Corinth (2 Cor. 12:15).

The word translated “precious” or “dear” means something of great value. It was used by several writers in the new Testament to describe a “revered teacher” (Acts 5:34), the “precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:19), the “precious promises” of God (2 Peter 1:4), and “precious stones” (Rev. 21:19). The idea can only be used if it comes from a value system that understands what is important in God’s estimation of things.

Albert Barnes wrote:

Dear unto myself – So precious or valuable as to be retained at the sacrifice of duty. I am willing to sacrifice it if it be necessary. This was the spirit of the Saviour, and of all the early Christians. Duty is of more importance than life; and when either duty or life is to be sacrificed, life is to be cheerfully surrendered.

It is the opposite of the world’s view of importance, which is carried along by the deceptive “power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), or Satan, who deceives the world and leads it astray – “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:15). We must say no to the fallen world’s assessment of the value of things, and this begins in our own fallen natures. It is easy to be selfish or self-focused or narcissistic.

Whereas respect for our personhood, respect for positions of Godly service, such as pastor, respect for positions of leadership, such as parents or even political leaders (Rom. 13:1), are all good things – my life and your life are given by God and should be respected as such – and we should not let people disrespect God-ordained positions of responsibility and leadership – we must always be careful of the attitude that seeks to serve self, that avoids risks that would help others.

I saw a video recently of a man who noticed a passing driver was having a seizure and had lost consciousness. The man risked his own life and leaped into the open window of the man’s car to stop the car and save him and others. That was a man who did not consider his life dear unto himself, but was willing to risk it to help another.

The coward thinks only of himself and whether we speak of spontaneous acts of compassion or a long-term commitment of service for others the attitude is the same. My life is not to be of value only to me. “The coward dies a thousand deaths,” wrote Shakespeare, and the self-obsessed never thinks beyond himself. He sees only the praise of the hero and desires not to be a hero by sacrificing or risking anything, but only that he be thought to be a hero.

Harry and Bonaro Overstreet observed, “The ungiven self is the unfulfilled self.” Only the one who can say honestly from his heart, “I do not consider my life dear unto myself,” is the liberated person. And the Christian who grasps this truth and, as Paul said in this passage, can identify the calling and purpose of God upon his life, is the most liberated of all.

That calling has many generic qualities about it. We Christians are all called to be a worshiper, a servant, a witness of God’s goodness to us, a person who stands and identifies with Christ, a godly neighbor – these are to be embraced by every Christian as an inseparable part of our new life.

There are also roles of husband, or wife, or brother and sister, mother or father, etc. As the scripture says, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8).

And there are other callings that God gives to some – “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Eph. 4:11-12). Many can identify specific callings and leadings of the Spirit – and this is a matter of someone’s conscience – where they know they must remain a certain place to complete a certain task. “Then Jesus declared, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God'” (Luke 9:62). We must let these matters rest with one another’s inner communion with the Spirit, for the apostles moved around quite often.

But we must dispense with our love for ourselves, with our high esteeming of “me,” and of letting God replace our selfishness with His sacrificial love. What happens to you and to me is of little consequence in the long run of things. What people think of Christ is of great consequence for all eternity.

Daily Devotions