How can we make the most of the advantages we've been given?

Depending on your personality, you may see your life in this world from a generally positive perspective or possibly a perspective that's somewhat negative or fatalistic. If you tend to buy into the narrative that many voices in our culture have been crafting, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that some of us hold to a view that teaches that we're being intentionally held back, disadvantaged, and prevented from reaching our full potential. But from what I see in God's word, that is not the case when it comes to what matters most.

In our walk with Christ, we have been blessed with great advantages. There are blessings we have been granted that testify to God's desire to intervene in our lives. We have been intentionally created, placed where we're located, and granted the privilege of living during this specific era of history. There are people we have been blessed to know and learn from. There are ways in which God has made us strong. And we have been granted access to His throne through faith in Jesus Christ.

What else does His word tell us about the advantages we've been given and how we can make the most of them?


I. Make it a joy to serve you

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
— Hebrews 13:17, ESV

Right now, my wife and I are missing our children. Our oldest kids are currently working at camp and we don't get to hear them or see them much. But I did receive a call from our daughter Hannah the other day that encouraged me. She's a camp counselor this Summer and she has the privilege of leading groups of girls that are just a few years younger than her. She told me that the experience is stretching her in good ways and fostering a new sense of maturity in her. Some days are easier than others and some campers are easier to lead than others, but overall, she's been joyful about her responsibilities this Summer.

If the Lord is calling you to leadership, please understand that it can certainly be a joyful experience, but it definitely isn't easy. And if the form of leadership you're being called to is specifically within the context of the local church, it can be helpful to remember the content of these verses. The task of church leadership is to keep watch over the spiritual well-being of the church family, with the understanding that the day will come when you'll give an account to the Lord for how seriously you prioritized that task.

The essence of Christ-like leadership is service. Jesus came to this earth to humbly serve and graciously give. Good leaders keep His example in mind when they lead. Good leaders look for opportunities to serve those they have been called to lead, always remembering that they have been sent on a mission as Christ's ambassadors.

The writer of Hebrews was encouraging the Hebrew Christians in the early church to make the responsibilities of their leaders a joy to carry out. Most leaders wrestle with various insecurities. They also get tired. They hear a lot of complaints. They are the targets of regular criticism, yet they probably don't complain about it very much. Many leaders internalize the majority of their struggles. For this reason, the Holy Spirit inspired this Scripture to be written to remind us all to make the task our leaders have taken on a joy. We are called to be men and women who are a joy, not a drain, to serve.

And not only does it bless the leader when we make his task a joy, but it also is of great advantage to us. As we build our leaders up, we help fill their tank, and the overflow of what we've been investing in them can be likewise used to make a reciprocal investment in our lives.


II. Make prayer a priority in your day

Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.
— Hebrews 13:18-19, ESV

Growing up in the context of a family business, I always thought it was pretty cool when I was a child that I had free reign to go wherever I wanted to go in my father's grocery store. I could walk behind the counter, hang out in the stock room, and even walk into his office without knocking if I wanted to talk to him.

As children of God, we have been blessed in an even greater way. We have an even greater advantage. We can enter into the presence of the Lord, through prayer, whenever we want, without fear of being chased away.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
— Hebrews 4:16, ESV

When we receive the gift of Christ's righteousness and holiness through faith in Him, we are blessed with this kind of access to the presence of God.

The writer of Hebrews encouraged the church to make regular use of this advantage. He encouraged the church to keep him and other church leaders in prayer. He asked them to pray that he would be restored to them very soon. He wanted to enjoy fellowship in their presence, so he asked them to be earnest about praying on his behalf.

What place does prayer play in your life? Would you consider yourself to be an earnest pray-er or more of a casual pray-er? The truth is, the way we treat prayer reveals what we actually think gets accomplished by it. If prayer is more of an afterthought in our lives, that reveals that we may have more faith in the work of our hands and the fruit of what we can accomplish in our own strength than what we believe the Lord desires to accomplish on our behalf. Prayer-less-ness precipitates spiritual burn out. Prayer-less-ness contributes to a lack of contentment. Prayer-less-ness facilitates discouragement. But when we make prayer a priority, we are shown and we experience greater things. Make use of this advantage.

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.
— James 5:13, ESV


III. Make ample use of the ways God has equipped you

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
— Hebrews 13:20-21, ESV

What task is too big for God? What seems too complicated or difficult for Him to actually do? Can He heal the sick? Can He calm a storm? Can He raise the dead? When we look at this Scripture, we're reminded yet again of the power of God at work in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And if the power of God is sufficient to raise Jesus from death, what is His power sufficient to do in your life and mine? Truthfully speaking, He can do all things. Through faith in Jesus, we too have been raised from death to life. And as men and women who enjoy new life, we are also being equipped by our Lord. His grace enables us to do His will. His grace empowers us to accomplish work that pleases Him. His strength which is being poured out into our lives enables us to live in such a way during the course of our earthly lives that we actually give glory to Jesus instead of coveting His glory for ourselves.

Oddly, some believers believe this theologically, but not practically. And that can be seen by our willingness to watch others do what we believe we can never personally do. We embrace timidity instead of truly believing that in Christ, we are equipped for every good work God has ordained for his people to do. Do you believe you're equipped to do anything with your life that might bring Christ glory while meeting the needs of others?

An elderly widow, restricted in her activities, was eager to serve Christ. After praying about this, she realized that she could bring blessing to others by playing the piano. The next day she placed this small ad in the Oakland Tribune: “Pianist will play hymns by phone daily for those who are sick and despondent. The service is free. The notice included the number to dial. When people called, she would ask, “What hymn would you like to hear?”

Within a few months her playing had brought cheer to several hundred people. Many of them freely poured out their hearts to her, and she was able to help and encourage them.


IV. Listen when God speaks to you through others who also love Him

I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. Grace be with all of you.
— Hebrews 13:22-25, ESV

As this Scripture concludes, it would be easy to look at these closing words and miss one additional area of advantage the Lord has blessed us with. But as we look at these closing verses, we read the writer's appeal to the church that they "bear with" his word of exhortation. The idea being conveyed here was that they would listen patiently to what he was saying, and that to the best of the ability God granted them, they would put it into practice.

Looking at this, I see a great reminder of the importance of carefully listening when God speaks to us through the voices of others who love Him. Truthfully, this is the pattern He likes to follow. He has specifically ordained that the truth of His gospel would be communicated, person to person. He has commissioned our lips to be the vehicles by which the need for Christ's gift of salvation be communicated.

And no matter how long we've been a follower of Christ, it is of great benefit to us to be regularly reminded by others who love Him, of His calling on our lives and His presence with us.

In Christ, we have been given great advantages in this world that we should be careful not to minimize. We've been blessed with leaders who serve us like Jesus. We've been blessed with the privilege of accessing God's presence and power through prayer. We've been equipped with all that we need for life and godliness, and we've been blessed with relationships with people who remind us of these truths. Our time on this earth is relatively brief. There's no time like the present to make the most of the advantages we've been given through Christ.

© John Stange, 2017