Editor’s Note: The AMI QT devotionals from September 16-20 are provided by Pastor Shan Gian, who oversees the young-adults ministry at Symphony Church (Boston).
Devotional Thoughts for Today
2 Kings 20:1-11
In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’”2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying,3 “Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4 And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: 5 “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord, 6 and I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David’s sake.” 7 And Isaiah said, “Bring a cake of figs. And let them take and lay it on the boil, that he may recover.”
When I was in elementary school, I would sometimes pray to God and say things like, “God, if you give me a new Nintendo, I will read the Bible everyday this week.” Unfortunately, I never got that Nintendo (and I probably didn’t read the Bible every day that week either). I’m sure many of us have prayed similar prayers when we were children. But if you’ve been a Christian for a while, you probably know better than to bargain with God like that; that is, you can’t curry a favorable answer or response to your prayers by promising to do something.
In verse 3, Hezekiah says, “Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” Hezekiah’s prayer for physical healing is not an appeal to God for mercy and grace; instead, he is saying, God heal me and spare me because of all of the good that I have done for you—he was, essentially, bargaining with God. Because of his own obedience and faithfulness in serving the Lord for his many years, Hezekiah thought that he deserved for God to heal him—he had earned something from God.
Serving the Lord should be an incredibly important part of our lives. Throughout the Scriptures, we are encouraged to serve the Lord with our lives, yet there is a very subtle danger we face when we strive to be faithful and serve Him. Instead of making our service an expression of worship and thanksgiving to God, we can serve with a subtle belief that in doing so, we are earning God’s favor. Personally, there have been seasons where I felt like I was doing so much for God—pouring out so much time and energy to serve God’s people—that I thought to myself, I think I’ve earned an easier life. It is so easy for us to think that our hard work has earned God’s favor.
So how can we have the right attitude in our service to God? Luke 17:10 says: “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'” Jesus doesn’t say this to put us down or to make us feel unworthy, but He wants his disciples to understand how their good works affects their place with God. And the answer: it doesn’t! When we serve the Lord, we’re not doing anything that makes us more lovable in God’s eyes; we are only doing what we’ve been called to do.
While this seems like a rebuke from Jesus, we should be thankful for this! If our service was actually an indicator of our status with God, what hope would we have? How much service would be enough service? Praise God that His favor and His love are unconditional. Like Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” It is by grace we have been saved, and it is by grace that we should approach our service to the Lord. We should not strive to be faithful and serve the Lord to earn anything from Him; instead, we should serve with joyful and thankful hearts because He has already given us His grace.
Father, help me to remember that my service to you is not about earning your favor or love. I pray that I will instead serve you with joy and thanksgiving because I know that your favor and love are already with me. Use me Lord for your glory. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.
Bible Reading for Today: 1 Timothy 1-2