My friend Larry, a retired school superintendent in our Sunday morning Bible fellowship, had a frightening stroke last month but has bounced back pretty well.
He’s at church each week and endures a slight physical impairment with good humor and a still-razor-sharp mind. He shared with us that, because he credits his faith in Christ for his even-keeled, almost unconcerned reaction to his medical situation, his physical therapist calls him the “independent stroke patient.”
That got a laugh from our group, and it prompted me to blurt out loud (as I too often do), “Isn’t it odd how a Christian who trusts and relies on the Lord is considered to be ‘independent’ by the outside world?”
Truly, life in Christ is liberating. But not in a way that our self-centered world, culture and society readily understand; not in a way any human mind could have conceived to bring peace, joy and salvation.
Christian freedom requires complete dependence on Christ. Jesus had to die to beat death so we could live eternally. The only way to be a master in the Kingdom of God is to be a “dulos” (which in biblical Greek really means “slave” but is antiseptically translated in modern Bibles as the less-contentious “servant”). None of these truths makes earthly sense, but they do, in Christ, make a pathway to God.
How? Jesus was 100 percent about giving. We ask “What’s in it for me?”
That’s not a new question. Peter asks Jesus in Matthew 19:27, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus’ answer in verses 28-30 is at once remarkable and, I’m sure to the disciples’ ears, incomprehensible.
“Sit on a throne in heaven … judge the nations of Israel … receive a hundred times as much (as you gave up) … inherit eternal life.” While our minds are stuck on earthly payback, God’s plan is eternal glory.
You want to be greatest in the kingdom? Be the least. You want to be first? Be last (verse 30). Get on your face in complete humility with faith in Christ and praise God. There is no way to trade for the grace of Christ, because grace is all about giving. Like my pastor friend John Samples said, “When all you want to do is give, you will never be disappointed.” That’s true independence.
Larry doesn’t ask, “What’s in it for me?” His faith is sufficient, and he knows he has nothing to trade for the grace of Christ. The world wants Larry to worry; he knows Christ wants us to trust.