Because Herod did not give the glory to God, an angel of the Lord immediately caused him to be sick, and he was eaten by worms and died.” Acts 12:23
That’s an awkward verse. Uncomfortable, and one you don’t often see replicated today. People complain about the lack of miracles, say we don’t see people risen from the dead like we used to. There don’t seem to be as many jailbreaks as in Peter’s time, but we also don’t see quite so much of the striking down.
I have never heard anyone tell a story like this one about Herod. I’ve not heard about people being eaten by maggots because they got arrogant and puffed up. And I’m quite sure it’s not because there aren’t arrogant and puffed up people in the church. I’ve not heard of God striking people dead because they kept their money from Him and lied about it, and again, I’m quite sure it goes on.
But there’s something about this story which grips me, challenges me. Something that makes me remember something I read just the other day, the words of a different King, one who was after God’s heart:
But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” 1 Chronicles 29:14
Here’s a king who at the end of what could, without exaggeration, be described as a magnificent reign, knew where his magnificence came from. Here was a King who had slain giants, killed ten’s of thousands of men and brought Israel peace for the first time in years. Here was a man who was given glory by man long before he became king; who enjoyed the adulation of a modern day footballer. Here was a shepherd who had risen through the ranks with astonishing speed to become ruler of a nation. Yet here was a King who knew exactly who had enabled him to do that.
David knew that everything is a gift from God and walked in the humility of that. Not just finances, but health, success, talents, gifts, family, friends. He knew not to hold those things tightly. He knew he was a steward of them, not an owner.
There’s such a challenge there. We talk, sometimes, about how we hold our finances, about the importance of giving or tithing, but our family, friends, success? That’s hard. How do we feel about holding our health loosely, our talents loosely, even our gifts? How does that change how we feel about illness, failure and struggle?
And how do we find the balance when we do well? How do we celebrate success? Where is the line between pride and humility?
There are times when I know without a shadow of a doubt that the only reason I have succeeded is because God was with me, working in me and through me. Days when I felt I wasn’t well enough prepared and yet somehow gave a message that spoke to people’s hearts. I know that wasn’t me, I know I can’t do that, I know that somewhere God has taken what I have done as a sacrifice of some sort and turned it into something pleasing. I know it was Him.
But yet I am pleased. Pleased to be have been the bearer of the message, pleased that people liked it, liked me. Pleased that I’ll get asked again, encouraged that I can do it, that people believe in me.
I guess the line lies in knowing that it’s an honour. An honour to be in that position. An honour to have the words and the wisdom. It’s an honour to be asked and an honour to be used. A God-given privilege to be grateful for.
And I guess that goes for everything that we’re good at; cooking, parenting, hosting, organising, leading or serving. It’s wonderful to be appreciated, but let’s never forget who put us in that place in the first place. Let’s never forget who gave us the kitchen, the kids, the guests, the home or the talent.
God is so good to us. It says in the Bible that He will always give us what we ask for, but the truth is, He has given us so much already that we take for granted. Things we never even had to ask for, things we don’t even realise are gifts. It’s why our heart’s song needs to echo those words of King David and join with another great song writer, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”