Psalm 119:16 (ESV, same for all verses)
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
These three passages of Scripture convicted me strongly this morning as I was reading them during my devotional time before Church. It’s not easy to meditate when you’re battling allergies and a mild cold, but that’s when the Holy Spirit steps in to help. The past few weeks I have been dealing internally with a lot of things; not so much worrying as putting too much focus on my future and current situation. “What situation” you may ask? Well that’s precisely it, things are going well in my life consistently for the first time in a few years, and when things are going well, Satan comes like a “roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Leadership is a difficult thing; ironically, the difficulty isn’t so much with who you’re leading as much as the people, or spiritual forces, who do not want you to be leading other people to Christ. There are many flaws in my leadership , but these flaws, though true, are not what I’m struggling with either. Though these problems are something I’m working on.
Now you’re asking, “what’s your problem then, Austin?”, I’ll tell you my problem: lies. Not so much from me as from my flesh and of course, Satan.
The late Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones once said, “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you.” And that is my problem: listening to my flesh instead of listening to God.
Before you think I’m crazy, hear me out: do you have thoughts that come to your mind (be it lustful, bitter, envious, greed, etc) that you know didn’t come from God and from your own soul? These struggles come from three sources, which the Reformers called, “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” The fall of man began with a lie and exchanging God’s truth for it; and that sin is still a part of us today. What I’ve been lied to, without going into detail, deals with my own pride, self-centeredness and wrongly looking at other leaders or Pastors and trying to discern error in them.
You see, the part about gossip that makes it gossip is that it assumes something that isn’t clearly spelled out in front of you. By trying to find a problem, I was filling in areas that were by no means made visible to me. But when the seeds are planted, the fruit is going to show. I found several convicting things about my own soul this morning, but I want to share with you some solutions that have impacted my life and I hope will stir you to be an example of Jesus Christ.
1. The first deals with self-centeredness. How do I deal with it? You can try viewing other people in light of who God made them, but you still will miss the boat. You can be more outgoing and ask people questions, and still hit the wrong target, though you’re a bit closer. The answer comes from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (emphasis added)
When I value others and their own lives and interests as more significant than my own, I place their value above myself, meaning I take myself right out of the center and put others own interests ahead of my own. This is how we should deal with the rut of self-centeredness, and the example of true humility here is Christ. Verses 5-6 of that same chapter tell us that Jesus, who is very God of very God, emptied himself and took on human flesh. Since He is God, the idea of becoming a human being and ministering to them, seeing their stupidity, and their hardness of heart, and yet dying for them requires a humility that goes beyond human and a love that goes beyond mere affection.
Philippians 2:5-8 says this, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a [slave], being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
2. I often need to be reminded that grace is at work in others, not only myself.
By acknowledging my own sin and the need for grace, yet still stirring wrong thoughts and attitudes in my heart, I was taking God’s grace as something cheap, and failed to follow Christ-likeness in this respect. I was looking through Christ’s eyes when it came to my own sin, my own failures, but with other people I did not look at the fact that God’s grace was daily shaping them as well, even when I could not see signs of failure but of joy in God! To reach out with God’s grace means that I see it at work in my own life and others. We’re all being sanctified (set apart) to becoming more like Christ, but it won’t be finished until we’re with him eternally.
Cheap grace is no grace at all.
3. When I settle for anything less than joy in Christ, I reveal that my true desires for Him are weak, and need to be strengthened.
C.S. Lewis wrote in his powerful essay, “the Weight of Glory”, that when we look at our sin and when we give into it, the idea behind why we run to it isn’t so much a problem of desiring much, but desiring little. He said, “It seems our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.” When I take time out of my day and invest it in people, things, posessions, comfort, etc and not in God, what am I showing to be my treasure and my joy? My true desire should be to spend time with my Savior, my desire should ultimately be for Him, I need to ask God to strengthen my desire for Him each day.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake Ihave suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
To quote Charles Spurgeon, “Many hours spent with men, how many with your Maker?”.
And lastly, I want to point out why this blog is about not giving up. Because I’ve wanted to quit leadership many times, I constantly am reminded of the words my mother told me that transformed my life for the better: “Austin, maybe its not about you”. The reason I am here is because God wants me to be, and He has called me to where I am today. One of the keys I’ve learned to leading is that maybe its not about me after all!
This week ask God to unravel your heart and find where you need to grow, what you need to uproot, and where to place your joy, which is in Him.
Until next time, remember this:
The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.
Ultimately its God who is guiding you and making where you stand solid.
46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”