“Begin Again”: A Weekly Devotional for a New year, Week 7

‘While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?”‘

Acts 3:11-12

If you achieved something – if something big happened on your watch – is your first instinct to give away the credit? What if you retired on the same day as a colleague, and at the retirement party, they spoke mostly about her/him? Remember that feeling of doing group homework, and you did all the work, but the teacher gave the other group members all the credit?

People who study leadership often say that one of the cardinal rules for growing a healthy work culture, is to give everyone else on your team the credit – to celebrate their wins, their progress. Who would want to work in an office, business, or church, where the boss took all the credit? After all, the boss is really only as good as the people he/she leads. That seems, wise, fair, smart.

Is this what we see in this story from the Book of Acts? Leaders giving away credit (not by “our own power or godliness”), so that a better culture can thrive among their followers? It’s different. It is really more like what I mentioned in the first paragraph, but in a good way: God has done something amazing, miraculous through the apostles, and the credit is entirely His.

This is Christian maturity at its deepest, strongest level: All the credit goes to God, and the follower of Christ delights in that. At the other end of the scale – spiritual immaturity – would be something like: “I helped God out on that one.” “God did his part, I did mine, and the good thing was done.” The spiritually mature follower of Christ, though, is always ready to say, with Paul: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

There are few things that rub us the wrong way, more than giving up the credit we believe we deserve – especially in a culture like ours, that honors and rewards individuals who beat the odds, and pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. There is much to celebrate when that happens, but it is – when it becomes your religion – diametrically opposed to the Christian faith. Again, Paul can be our guide: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)

All that we have – all that we do, all that is good, beautiful, true, and helpful – all of it comes from God. And we experience the deepest joy, when we own that; when we confess that. Life is a gift. When you learn to give up all the credit, you will find more grace, and you will see God do more and better things than you could ever have done on your own.

Prayer: Lord, all that I am; all that I have; all that I’ve done, is from you. I offer it to you, and ask you to help me “get out of the way”: I want people to see you, when they see me; I want them to know you, when you do some good thing for them, through me. This life is a gift from you, God – open my heart and mind to receive it, and share it. Amen.

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