“Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:8-9 NLT
Last week, I shared with you how the Lord is teaching me valuable lessons in my process of serving a grumbler and complainer. We looked briefly at what spiritual warfare is and how there are enemies who are strategizing against us, whose end goal is our demise.
We reviewed that we are in constant opposition with the devil, his demons and our flesh; enemies in direct opposition to Yahweh.
Our flesh, is in constant war with our spirit. Our flesh wants us to revel in sinful deeds that bring no glory to God.
When faced with a miserable or unkind person, our flesh wants to rile up and declare the unfairness of it. Our flesh wants to be bitter and keep scores of the wrong. Our flesh wants to be appeased and so leans towards retaliation (whether passively or otherwise). Our flesh wants to get out of service to Christ and if service must be given, the flesh wants it to be from selfish and self-centered motives.
This leads to part two of the lesson.
Being Self-CenteredNo one has to teach a toddler to whine and through a tantrum. The moment a child enters this world they begin crying, seeking comfort and attention. I once heard a sermon by Voddie Baucham where he joked that the Lord in His wisdom made babies small and cute. With all their crying and fussing and demanding, if they were not cute, small and helpless – they would certainly get tossed to the curb. Babies do not know how to wait patiently for service to be given to them. When they are hungry, they want to be fed – NOW. When they are dirty, changing must be immediate. When they require attention, the caregiver can feel forced to stop whatever they are doing and tend to the needs of the infant.
As they begin growing into toddlers, parents have to administer necessary discipline and begin guiding their thought and behavioral patterns. They are taught to share, to wait their turns, to do without, to help themselves and others, to hear the word no, etc.
Sadly, like babies we have similar tendencies as we get older, and with each challenge we face in our lives, our natural tendency is to become self-centered and even self-sufficient.
As I dealt with my issue of serving someone who murmurs incessantly, I found myself fixated on how it made me feel.
Self wanted attention.
Self wanted to be appeased.
I became a whiner to my parents. I grumbled to my friends. Like a baby, I needed someone to fix this situation – right away.
Not so, however.
Abba began showing me that this was a lesson for me to learn spiritual warfare and secondly, that I became the grumbler I despised. I became self-absorbed.
Instead of seeing how I can help the grumbler through prayer or otherwise, I daily found myself complaining to Abba, to others, and yes, even seeking to be pitied by those around.
I recall a conversation with a sister who asked how this person was and after I responded, the suggestion was to pray for the individual. Friends, I felt as though bile rose up in my throat. My thought pattern: “how dare you suggest praying for so and so when I’m the one suffering?” How can you overlook my pain caused by this individual? Can’t you see me – me – me?”
You see friends, in this situation, my eyes were focused on how I was being affected. I overlooked the fact that I am responsible to pray earnestly for this individual. Hear me out, our feelings are important, but never to the expense of aborting the transformation process our Lord wants us to endure.
I wanted it to be all about me and neglected the fact that there was a role for me to fill. Sure, serving someone who complains is hard, but didn’t our Father promise us strength for the journey?Doesn’t scripture say His grace is sufficient?
I realized the following:
- Focusing on self causes me not to see others or the big picture.
- Focusing on self takes my eyes off God and places it on the problem and/or person.
- Being self-absorbed makes me not genuinely show mercy and compassion. In fact, I often forget I need to be patient and kind.
- Being self-absorbed encourages me to walk in my own strength
- Being self-absorbed leads me to do everything opposite 1 Corinthians 13:4-6
- Being self -absorbed causes me to miss the needs of others around me.
- Being self-absorbed is plain tiresome – true rest is only found in Jesus.
- Focusing on my self (and the issues) makes me miserable and agitated.
Corrie Ten Boom said it best, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.”
As the Lord continues to show me how self-centered I was becoming (and from time to time still am), He reminded me that I was not entirely innocent. Like the children of Israel in Numbers 11, I grumbled often. He would bless me in one area and I would want it to be another. I would ask Him to use me for His glory and when He did, I raised a stink because it was not the glamorous or easiest way I wanted – it was outside of my comfort zone. Instead of living in gratitude I found myself comparing my life to others and considering what I was missing out.
The Lord also showed me that in order to be like Him and have this self crucified, He is the example I should pattern. As a good Father, He allows His creation to receive the blessings of the sun and the rain. We also are given the gift of life. One scripture goes further to describes Him as being long suffering (super patient), why, because it is not His desire that any should perish.
“The Lord does not delay and is not tardy or slow about what He promises, according to some people’s conception of slowness, but He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should turn to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 AMPC
Another scripture points to His deep love for us – sending His only begotten Son to die in our stead. This very Son, Christ Jesus, in turn obeyed His Father – to the point of death on that rugged cross – for the world to be given the opportunity for salvation.
I end with this statement a dear friend of mine shared with me, “This is not service, it is Ministry.” When we view our lives as being ministers of Yahweh, it shifts our perspective. Our situations may not change, but as ministers, our heart posture is under processing and we get an opportunity to let His light shine.
Father, we repent of our selfish ways. Help us to see Jesus. Help us to commit to staying on the altar of sacrifice and not jump off every time the heat is turned up. Teach us how to die to our flesh daily and to turn the other cheek. Forgive us for leaning on our own strength and not following Your leaning. Lord, we are weak and helpless without You. We look to You as our strength, our hope, our Guide. In Jesus’ name. Amen.