God owes you no favours

Rev Dr Andrew Prince, Director of Centre for Asian Christianity, Lecturer in Ministry and Mission

C.T. Studd is a legend in cross-cultural evangelism. C.T. Studd is a superstar of mission. Born in England in 1860, into a family of wealth and privilege. Educated at Eton and Cambridge. A rising star of English cricket. In fact played in the 1882 match won by Australia, which was the origin of “The Ashes”. But he gave all this up, along with his large inheritance, in order to go to China to serve as a missionary with Hudson Taylor from the China Inland Mission. In 1884, from the age of 25 he spent ten years in China, during which time he fathered four daughters as well as two sons- both of whom died in infancy. Ill health forced him back to England but six years later, in 1900, he continued his missionary service, this time pastoring a church in India. He was there for six years, before returning to England due to ill health once again. In 1910, against doctors’ advice, he left to serve in his third continent- Africa, where he served for a further 21 years before his death, forming the WEC mission agency in the process. During the last 14 years of his life he only saw his wife for two weeks, with her running the mission agency from England while he served in the African interior.  Studd’s ministry in Africa bore much fruit for the kingdom as he endured hardship, sickness, weakness, hunger, heart attacks, exposure, hostility, financial strain and separation from family. Shortly after 10:30 p.m. on a July day in 1931, C.T. Studd went home to be with His Lord whom he had loved so dearly and served so faithfully! The last word he spoke was “Hallelujah”!

A life lived like that. With courage. With zeal. With single-mindedness. With sacrifice. Is worthy of recognition. Of praise. Of thankfulness to God. As are the deeds of anyone who makes great sacrifices for God, don’t you think? Well, reflecting on Luke 17:7-10, of Jesus’ parable about the master and the servant, has given me pause to reconsider how we as Christians should evaluate the sacrifices they have made for the sake of the gospel. For in vv7-9 Jesus makes the point that it is the servant’s job to serve the master, not the master’s job to serve the servant, before concluding in v10 with these sobering words: “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.’ ”

You see, we can easily forget that we are servants of God, and slip into thinking that God is there to serve us. That he somehow owes us. For all that we have done for him. Sacrificed for him. It’s easy for us to forget our position before God. That he our master, and we are unworthy servants. And that in being obedient as Christians we have only done my duty. God is not in our debt. He owes us no favours. He owes us nothing, while we owe him everything for sending his Son to die for us, for forgiving our sins, for guaranteeing us a glorious eternal future.

On his desk in Africa, C.T. Studd had the following words written on a card, “If Jesus Christ be God, and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” Friends, as great a sacrifice as C.T. Studd made. Or we may have made. We have simply done our duty. And so, let us joyfully and thankfully do all that our master has asked of us.