“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” Luke 22:42.
Do you live in a bubble? Are you so concerned with your own affairs that you are not being mindful of others? Are you too “busy” to get to know and help your fellow neighbor? Are you numb to the needs of the lowly and poor in your community? Is you spare time all about you, your family and what happens in your own sphere? Are you a giver or a hoarder of time, talents and resources? Do you step in to help when it is convenient or when it is needed? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill God’s will for you on Earth, or is it asking too much to allow Him to dictate your agenda?
I don’t know about you, but I know I struggle to honestly answer these questions. Human nature says, “It’s all about me” or “look out for number one.” 1 Timothy 3:2 describes human nature pretty well: “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy.” As Christians, God calls us to put the needs of others above our own. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” Philippians 2:3. Selfishness does not come from God, but from the devil himself. “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” James 3:14-16. So-called wisdom takes many different forms these days! People everywhere are claiming to wise about something–hoping to gain fame, power, recognition and money from some secret formula to a better life. Pursuing your own interests apart from the true wisdom found in God’s Word leads nowhere but death and destruction. “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” Galations 5:19-21. We need to see to it that we are putting off selfishness and living a life after God’s own heart. It’s like the song says: “If you want to be great, in God’s kingdom, you’ve got be a servant of all, servant of all.”
I think one of the most common ways our society as a whole expresses selfishness is by being “too busy.” It took years for me to understand that my schedule was so overcrowded that I barely had time to spend it with others. I think this can be a struggle for everyone because there are so many demands on our time. We have to work, take care of our families and maintain our households. However, we are often too busy chasing things that have no real value. “Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it” Psalm 39:6. Have you ever met someone who seems like she’s always on the go? She never seem settled, and she often seems like her busyness is a coping mechanism for a much deeper problem in her heart. Jesus reminds of of our priorities when he visits Mary and Martha. ‘Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.'” Luke 10:38-42. I love how Jesus says ONE THING IS NECESSARY. Oh how Jesus longs for us to drop what we are doing at times and come sit at his feet! He desires so greatly that we develop our relationship with Him. We can only do this by making Him a priority in our lives. Otherwise, Satan will do all He can to ensure that there is always something more important to do with our time. If we can begin to learn how to make God a priority, we will then learn how to make other people a priority too. “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” Romans 8:8. If we want to please God, we must let go of our own agendas and let God control our agendas.
There is so much talk about the U.S. economy. You might think some people have put all of their faith in our economy instead of God by how they respond to our slow economic recovery! One thing is for sure: There are many people in dire need of assistance. Everywhere you turn there is someone asking you for money for something. The need is great. People have lost their jobs, their wealth, their homes and their marriages because of the economy. It can be so overwhelming thinking of so many people in need, that it becomes easy to shut out their cries for help. We turn a blind eye, close up our pocketbooks thinking about how we alone will manage with our resources–what if this or that happens to us. What do you think God’s response would be to this scenario? Below are some verses to stimulate your thoughts.
“If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother” Deuteronomy 15:7.
“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land” Deuteronomy 15:11.
“The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” Psalm 9:9.
“He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy” Proverbs 14:21.
“He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done” Proverbs 19:17.
“He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich — both come to poverty” Proverbs 22:16.
Jesus answered, If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me'” Matthew 19:21.
“‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:35-40.
Many of the things we acquire in our selfishness and busyness trying to obtain mean nothing to God and do nothing to glorify Him and benefit His kingdom. God despises those who would rather hoard what they have rather than give in away to those who need it most. When we help others in need, the passage in Matthew says we help God! We show God’s love and compassion to others which really shows His heart and character. Psalm 86:15 is such a wonderful and comforting verse: “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Oh let us pray we can be a Godly example to others and bring glory to His name!
How can we burst this bubble in which we often live? First, we need to accept Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross. John 11:25 says, ” Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?'” When Jesus comes to live in our hearts, we can become more like Him. Jesus demonstrated the ultimate act of selflessness. John 10:9-11: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” If Jesus was willing to come down to Earth from His heavenly throne and live and die on behalf of His own creation, then surely we can learn to serve one another!
Second, we must change our thinking. Stop thinking as the world thinks, and learn to seek after God. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” Romans 12:2. When we spend time with God and dig into His Word, we will learn to serve God with our thoughts. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true,
whatever is noble,whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” Philippians 4:8. And Colossians 3:16-17 instructs us to develop a Biblical worldview: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Prayer is another way we can change our thinking, as well as gaurd our minds. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.'” Prayer is so important for keeping our hearts and minds focused on who God is, how amazing He is and how He has overcome the world and can help us overcome our trials and tribulations.
Third, when we focus our minds and hearts on Christ, we start to live like Christ. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” Proverbs 4:23. Just as a waterfall or a river bursts forth where there is an abundance of water in the ground, so too will the light and love of Christ if it is abundant in us. Matthew 5:14-16 says, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Everything we do should be for the glory of God and the work of His eternal kingdom. The light of Christ cannot be hidden! In the same vein, when a fruit tree is healthy, it will produce fruit. When our spiritual lives are healthy, we too can produce spiritual fruit. Galations 5:22-23 is a well-recited scripture read and sung by children. It is also a great description of the fruit we can produce as we live a righteous life: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” It pleases God when we bear fruit, and this can only be done when we spend time with Him and His Word. “Have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” Colossians 1:10. The Bible also says a Christian can be recognized by his or her fruit. “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” Matthew 7:16-20. Honestly evaluate yourselves and ask the Lord to show you what kind of fruit you are producing.
Prayer for today: “Dear Lord, thank you so much for demonstrating the ultimate act of selflessness with your death on the cross. Thank you for your resurrection and the hope that we have in you. I am grateful that you have made it so easy for me to live eternally in your presence. Please help me not to be so selfish, but instead to live each day serving you, glorifying you, bearing good fruit and doing the work of your kingdom. Please help others to see the Truth, your light and your love through my life. You make all things new. Please continue to renew my heart and my mind and make me a new and glorious creation. Show me how I can serve others and lift up their needs above my own. Amen.”