A man visited our church a few times and then I saw him a few other places, and I would ask him the standard: "How ya doin'?" He answered, "Better than I deserve." The normal reply: "Good!" He remembered that no man is good, although I believe that a justified person can do good (proof text: Rom. 7:21). But "better than I deserve" is a good answer. And I've been thinking about these two concepts in contrast: What I want and what I deserve.
There's a lot we want. Burger King said, "Have it your way!" Of course, my way was free, but I didn't deserve that. I deserved to pay for my Whopper. What we want often clashes with what we deserve. I regularly ask people whether they deserve Hell. They normally say "no." Is that true? Of course not. James 2:10 and Galatians 3:6 say that one sin is enough to keep anyone from eternity in the presence of God (cf. Habakkuk 1:13). So that's what I deserve. I might want Heaven, but I deserve Hell. And I deserve Hell right now. Because I have sinned.
I think that we need to think more about what we deserve. We'd be happier, don't you think? Lot's of bad things happen to people and they think they deserve differently. I feel bad, very bad when other people have hard times. I might even feel worse sometimes when I go through difficult ones. But no, we really don't deserve better times; we deserve worse. We haven't merited any special consideration from God. It doesn't work that way. David wrote that at our best state we are altogether vanity. Paul said that his best was dung. Pilate tried to wash his hands of Jesus' death, but we can't scrub away our sins. We can't get rid of sins through our works. Titus 3:5 says it's not by works of righteousness that we have done. Isaiah 64:6 tells us that our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.
This is a sin-cursed world groaning for its day of redemption. The sins have cursed this world with disease, devastation, difficulties, destruction, discouragement, and death. It hits some harder than others, but hits everyone ultimately without the mercy of God. We deserve it. We deserve much worse. We can't really be happy until we live with a consciousness of what we deserve. When we do, we will understand how good we really have it. God has given us the opportunity to be saved. And then every time we think of what we should be getting, we can smile and exult in what we have gotten instead. As bad as it is, it could have been way, way worse.
You might want more. More praise, better positions, better relationships, nicer things, greater belongings, bigger houses, more money, and even more. I can want more. I'm can be discontent. I still struggle against this every day. But I want to exult in God's mercy, in His grace, and His love. He spares us. He withholds wrath. He postpones judgment. And then He saves to the uttermost. I want Him to know I'm thankful for that by living for Him and loving Him and leading others to the same. When I think about what I deserve, that's what I want.