Temptation is so subtle…
Have you ever noticed how wonderful – even wholesome, good things can quickly turn into bad? John Calvin said that our hearts are “idol factories” meaning that we turn anything into an object of misplaced worship.
Let me illustrate. Along with most everyone else who is honest enough to admit it, I spend too much time on Facebook. On one occasion I noticed some photographs of an extended family member enjoying outing with some children. These weren’t just any children – they were my grandchildren. They were playing a park – climbing trees and jumping into the outstretched arms of my nephew. I was happy to see that they were all having such a great time.
It appeared to be a beautiful day and everyone was thoroughly enjoying themselves – warm sunshine (even for late December), good company and a wonderful venue. Everyone was having a great time. The only problem was – I was in the hospital!
My mind quickly made a bad turn – all sorts of selfish thoughts flooded my consciousness. “Why did I still have to be in the hospital?”… “Why am I missing out on all the fun?”… “He’s doing what I should be doing – he’s doing what every grandfather wants to do with this grandchildren. I can’t do it!”… “Even when I get out of the hospital…”
You can see how quickly I am able to start a “pity party” and fume and fuss in my jealousy. If I allow my mind to pursue this avenue, I will be full throttle into a selfish rant. Sometimes it doesn’t take long or much to entice me to complain.
Did you notice what transpired and how quickly it occurred? I went from a passive observer in Facebook to a passionate protester of God’s providence in seconds. One moment I was looking at pleasant family photos and in the next lashing out, complaining about my circumstances. The focus of my thinking zoomed from family to me!
So in my rant, did you notice proliferation of the perpendicular personal pronoun – I? “Why do I… Why am I missing out… I should be doing that… I can’t…” Like I said – my focus zoomed from family to me. This brings me face-to-face with the real issue: I tend to think that everything is all about me. I know it’s not, but my default repeatedly refocuses on me.
(You probably know how annoying – even irritating, it is when you are with someone who thinks and speaks only of himself. I am amazed by the patience of the Lord who continually and repeatedly puts up with us people in our self-centered and selfish behavior!)
So, what should I do? How can I please the Lord in this situation? First I must recognize the circumstance for what it is – complaining is complaining against God. This is an affront to him, commonly called sin or at least it has been until recently. This means that I must seek God’s forgiveness in Christ and ask for grace to face my struggle.
I must also strive to conquer my self-centeredness by recognizing that “it’s not all about me.” God’s word tells us that we are to consider others before ourselves (my paraphrase). My human tendency is to consider myself before others. So Kip, admit again your tendency to be selfish and look to the welfare of others. It’s really not all about you!
God has promised that he is working all things for good to those who love him and or called according to his purpose. This assures me that God has a good purpose in all that happens to me. Even things that are difficult or unpleasant have a higher purpose which I might not understand. Nevertheless God’s loving work in me, confirming me to the image of Jesus, continues. In other words, I need to experience this even if it seems pointless. God has further promised to continue this could work until it is completed. He will not give up on me and will keep applying the finishing touches.
Now I am able to go back to Facebook and appreciate the pictures of my family enjoying God’s creation, God’s gifts and reunion with precious family.
Praise the Lord for his Holy Spirit who not only has given us God’s word also applies it to our lives. Here are some of my helpers:
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 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 emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, 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.” (Philippians 2: 3 – 8, ESV)
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, ESV)
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, ESV)