“What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation and praise the Lord’s name for saving me.
I will keep my promises to the Lord in the presence of all his people.
O Lord, I am your servant; yes, I am your servant, born into your household;
you have freed me from my chains.”
Psalms 116:12-14, 16 NLT
In our culture we hate being anyone’s debtor. “Neither a borrower or a lender be” is a saying from one of Shakespeare’s plays, and it underpins the proudful independence so respected in British society. But when it comes to God, we’re in a different league. There we were, bumbling along in our sinful worlds, heading like lemmings over the cliff of self-destruction into a lost eternity, “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. And all of a sudden, by a series of circumstances, Jesus found us, and we read in Romans, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” All of a sudden, as we embrace our salvation through the love and blood of Jesus, we find that we owe a debt to God that is unpayable. We can never earn enough to repay God for all he has done for us. In fact, even the whole world would be insufficient to pay the debt. Through God’s grace, our salvation cost Jesus everything but cost us nothing. But none of this stopped the Psalmist from saying, “What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me?” It’s a trap we can fall into if we try and answer that question by our own efforts. The reality is that there is nothing I can do to earn God’s gift. I can only approach Him with a humble heart, overwhelmed in gratitude for “all His goodness to me“.
I have heard people plead with God saying things like, “God, if you only heal my mother, then I promise I will go to church every Sunday for the whole of this year.” or, “God, if you help me give up smoking I’ll put the money saved in the offering every week.” I’m sure we have all walked that road at some time in our lives. But nothing we do to tug a concession from God’s heart will ever work. It’s because He knows what we need. He knows what our problems are. And through His grace and mercy, through His goodness and love, he will answer our prayers of faith, simply and effectively.
But that is not to say we should sit back waiting for our new life, basking in God’s grace. He has work for us to do. And we will be obedient, not to earn His salvation of course, but because we love Him. What does He want us to do? The Psalmist writes, “I will lift up the cup of salvation and praise the Lord’s name for saving me. I will keep my promises to the Lord in the presence of all his people.” And then in verse 16 he writes, “O Lord, I am your servant”. God has things for us to do. We are His servants and we delight in doing His will. We might ask, “What is God’s will for me?”. If we don’t know we only have to ask Him – He will soon answer.