"He ruined everything!"
"No, I didn't!!"
"Yes, you just do what you want to do."
This was the conversation I heard take place between two of my children. A sister upset with her brother...a boy she normally loves, enjoys and looks after, but as he messed up her project and changed her plan, she had different thoughts. And God had a good reminder for me.
As I heard this exchange my thoughts started to run...my daughter's last phrase had my attention. "You just do what you want to do," instantly had me thinking about selfishness.
Friend, I know that's something we don't like to talk, or even think, about but the reality is it still exists in my heart...and your's. My daughter was so right...selfishness ruins things. It ruins marriages, friendships, ministries and our witness.
Selfishness puts self above others. My plans above yours. My desires, my needs, my everything. Webster defines selfishness like this - "having or showing concern for yourself and not for the needs or feelings of others."
Just this past Sunday our pastor revisited an old illustration during his children's sermon. He talked about the gold medal stand and how in a spiritual sense that is where God, and God alone, belongs. The silver medal stand goes to everyone else and we belong on the bottom.
Humility is what it's all about. Let's stop for a minute and define that key word as well - "Not thinking of yourself as better than others, putting others before self."
My son was not acting out of humility when he messed up his sister's work. He acted on impulse and didn't consider her at all. It comes pretty natural for a young boy, but that same sin nature is in me as a grown girl. Friend, it's in you too.
I've been challenged to ask God to examine my heart and reveal the selfishness in it. I'd like to encourage you to do the same. If you think this is something you've outgrown, I want to caution you. Typically it's when we think we've mastered something that we fall into trouble.
Our struggle with selfishness probably won't lead us to destroying a child's simple project, but it can do damage that has life-long implications and may even impact eternity.
Think for a moment where selfishness can lead. Affairs. Lies. Wrong choices. Pain. Hypocritical living.
Selfishness may feel good, and maybe even right in the moment, but eventually the pain and consequences come. We hurt others. We hurt God.
Selfishness doesn't just put our wants above others, but above God as well. He sometimes asks us to do hard things. To follow Him down a crazy path. Selfishly we may want to stay put, we may want to quit, we may want to twist the Truth. But friend, in those moments may we remember Isaiah 55:8, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord."
In those moments when His ways are hard and not what we want, we must replace selfishness with humility. This is a good time to visit 1 Peter 5:6-9; in verse 5 we read, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time."
If we set selfishness aside, God's perfect plan will unfold. Our humility leads to His exultion. Our selfishness leads to our humiliation.
Verse 6 gives us some advice, "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." In the moment of temptation when all we want is our desires met or our plan to work, we must go to Him...God cares about what we want and friend He alone can provide what we need. His provisions always out-do our desires.
Finally in verses 8 and 9, we are reminded of important Truths that we must consider in this battle with selfishness. Here Paul tells us, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings."
I have to believe Satan loves our sinful, selfish nature. It plays right into what he does - steal, kill and destroy. Like my daughter expressed, "It ruins everything!!"
Friend, if your selfish struggles seem small and maybe like no big deal, can I encourage you to address them? It's often said a great journey starts with one small step, well I think we can flip that around - a slide into a sin often starts with one small, selfish step. One step of obedience often helps us take the next, but the same can be said about sin...one sin often leads to another. Like one of our family's favorite TV character says, "We must nip it in the bud!!"
Heavenly Father, we come to You today knowing there are times we selfishly put our thoughts, our plans, our desires above Your's. And also above those of the people we love. Forgive us Lord. Open our eyes to the selfishness in our heart. Then Lord feed us Truths that will transform our thinking. Tender our hearts and humble them Lord. Draw us closer to Yourself. You have a good, perfect plan that not only affects us, but others and your kingdom, don't let our selfishness ruin it. Father God we trust You to do this good work in us. In Jesus' Name...Amen