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The Problem with Self

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“I wish thy way.
And when in me myself should rise,
and long for something otherwise,
Then Lord, take sword and spear
And slay.”

-Amy Carmichael

This morning in our corporate prayer time, God brought a conviction to my heart about the role that others’ opinions and my personal pride play in so many areas of my life. As scary is it might sound, I began praying for Divine surgery to take place, because I realized how these things can be a HUGE obstacle to Holy Spirit’s ability to work powerfully in and through me. I have learned that God’s power and presence are always available to us; however, we can often put barriers or limits on its manifestation in our lives. All in all, I was thankful that God showed me the problem area.

It won’t be an easy cut, however, and I think so many of us can probably identify. Here are some key questions to ask:

How do I measure success? Often we look to numbers. My blog was more successful today than yesterday because I had more page views. Our outreach event was successful because 100 people came and 15 people raised their hands to accept Christ. Often we measure the success of a sermon or speech we give based on how many people came up to us afterward to tell us that we did a good job. Often we measure success based on how we feel afterward. “I feel really good about it!” or “I don’t feel good about it at all.”

We measure success by all those things because what we truly desire in our lives is fruit. We want to see the results of our efforts; we want to feel significant. However, according to the Bible, our significance (righteousness) is purely a grace issue and true success (as far as it depends on us) is based solely on the level of our obedience. Was I faithful to write what God put on my heart yesterday? Yes. Therefore, I am successful. Did I preach what God put on my heart? Yes. Then I was successful. Did I hold back what the Spirit was urging me to say because I didn’t want to offend someone listening? Yes. Then, I need to re-evaluate the intention of my heart.

How do I measure my value? This is where I get in trouble with the comparison game. There have been many situations where I have been the last one picked; the last one noticed; the last one to receive something. Often, I have let this define who I am by saying, “I am the rejected one. I am the least deserving. There must be something fundamentally wrong with me.” The truth of what I believe about myself is often derived directly from the comparison of what others have and what I have or do not have. There have been times when everyone on my team was chosen for certain jobs in an event and I was overlooked. I felt a pain in my heart, when it was truly an honest mistake and nothing personal was intended. Once again I overthink a situation and pick up a jaded spirit. Ever been there?

This attitude has no place in the life of a child of God. Absolutely no place. Here’s another way of asking the question: What keeps me from rejoicing with those around me in their victories? Am I so focused on my own pity party that I can’t truly be happy for the victory that my teammate is experiencing? It’s so true…so painfully and humiliatingly true that this kind of reaction or attitude is often so woven into our being. Our brains are programmed to notice patterns and judge fairness. And it makes us livid…it angers us when those basic things are violated. The problem is, we don’t see enough of the big picture to truly understand what those things are. I am becoming more and more convinced that these things are part of the sin nature that must be entirely cut off for the Holy Spirit to truly be released in our lives.

When God brings these things up in our lives, it is not bad news, but rather a good sign that He is preparing to release something in and through us. However, the problem with self is that it is in the way. I am praying, and I encourage you to examine your life and pray this as well: that God would take away any tendency that is inside to glorify ourselves or to pity ourselves based on circumstances that we can’t fully understand.

How is your imagination?  Do you constantly imagine yourself in situations where you have the perfect answer, are the perfect friend, or the most celebrated in your field of work?  When you imagine yourself doing ministry for Christ, do you hope for the accolades of others in the process?  The Bible says that God is a jealous God and that He will not share His glory with another.  We cannot purely partner with God and still desire some of the credit.  The truth is:  He is WORTHY OF IT ALL.  I am praying that God would give me a simple and focused heart that would desire His fame and my ultimate humility.

Another truth is, we can’t compare two peoples’ journeys. Every person and situation is far too unique. I can’t look at my friend and say, “She is further down the road than me,” because her path has been filled with challenges that were totally different than mine. Therefore her victories will look different than mine. The real question I must ask is, “Am I being fully obedient in receiving and walking out all that God has brought to me today?” Often we can be so distracted by those around that God isn’t able to work with us in all the ways He wants to. Perhaps we would be “further down our own road” if our focus would have been where it should have been. Anybody feeling a little sting right now? I know I am.

In this season, God is calling for my 100% attention. Whatever that needs to look like, I must be willing to put it into practice. It is HIS voice and HIS truth that defines me, and HIS Spirit that desires to occupy my life and use me to further His Kingdom. Time for that Divine surgery. There probably won’t be any anesthesia, but I don’t care. I want the result: a life that is totally yielded and completely ready to be used by God. I don’t want to settle for anything less than a powerful life led by Holy Spirit. What better life could there be?

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