“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” – (Philippians 2.3-4).
It is amazing to me at how easily I become focused on myself. What is worse is that I often use my desire to pursue God’s will for doing so. I was in the bookstore last week and couldn’t help but notice all of the self-help books that have hit the shelves to ring in the New Year. I need to _____ (learn to be happy, lose weight, eat better, stop smoking, stop cussing, fill in the blank). Even when we write about ourselves, the capital “I” rears its dotless head leaving the lesser pronoun of “you” secondary to itself. Me, me, me, me, ME! Don’t get me wrong, resolutions are usually all good goals, but in a culture of self-preservation, self-dependence, self-worth, we have forgotten the substance of our efforts.
In God Is The Gospel, John Piper asks about heaven:
“The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever say, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?”…
“The best and final gift of the gospel is that we gain Christ. In place of this, we have turned the love of God and the gospel of Christ into a divine endorsement of our delight in many lesser things, especially the delight in our being made much of. Our fatal error is believing that wanting to be happy means wanting to be made much of. It feels so good to be affirmed. But the good feeling is finally rooted in the worth of self, not the worth of God. This path to happiness is an illusion.”
How often we forget the one who purchased our redemption. Heaven is composed of Christ Himself, not His gifts. We want the outcome without the process. We want the victory without the battle. We cannot worship ourselves; we must worship God, and if we fail to do so, we completely miss the mark. We crave praise when we should be praising God. We crave admiration when we should be admiring the King of kings. The kingdom is for those who agonize to enter it, whose hearts are shattered over their sinfulness, who mourn in meekness, who hunger and thirst for God to change their lives. It’s hard when you have hell against you, and when all we do is focus on ourselves, we make Satan’s job a whole lot easier.
It’s funny: the more we focus on ourselves, the more we lose focus of our purpose. In the moment of Jesus’s greatest pain and in his darkest hour, he was fully focused on us, the sinners for whom he was about to die. As he is on the cross, reaching out to the theif next to him and as he is asking His father to forgive those who have crucified Him, not only is he perfectly self-less, but his purpose is made fully known. Let us learn from Christ.
It is not always about me. We often pray for God to form us, to make something of us. I have a new prayer today: a prayer to be broken. In my own brokenness, God’s power becomes my grace. In my own brokenness, I am reminded that I am dependent and not self-sufficient. In my own brokenness, I am reminded that there is an even more broken world that is begging for me to take my eyes off of my own problems and to tend to theirs. Let us remember that “I” should not be my primary concern; rather, my attention should be fixed on the great “I Am.”
I was so powerfully reminded of one simple thing this week. Our greatest statement of faith often has little to do with ourselves; rather our faith seems to reach its greatest potential when it is igniting the faith of another.