Monday, July 25, 2011

Lesson Learned

"In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God." Psalm 10:4
This past week, God has really been poking around in my heart and showing me some ugly things.  These convictions became too much to ignore on Sunday.  Years and years of pride have built up, like plaque in an artery.  Plaque build up narrows the pathway for blood to get to and from the heart.  Without the oxygen rich blood, the body part will stop working leading to life threatening conditions such as cardiac arrest and stroke.  Pride build up narrows the pathway to your heart that God uses to give you His life giving Word.  I have struggled with anxiety, stress, anger, discouragement and fear so much in the past years, but yesterday God whispered a little secret in my ear.  Pride is the cause of these things! We have been studying about Humility in Sunday School.  Humility, being the opposite of pride, is to accept that you are helpless on your own.  In your own strength, you can do nothing and be nothing.  When I thought of pride, I always thought of it as snobbishness, thinking you are better than another person, haughtiness, boastfulness and the inability to accept criticism.  I defined pride the way the world defines pride, not the way I believe God defines pride.  I believe God speaks of pride as a person believing they can do anything without Him.  Even if your hands built something, He designed the hands and how they work, He saw fit to let you be born with hands free from infirmity, he gave you the physical strength to use your hands and the intellect to understand so you could learn to build in the first place.  Deuteronomy 8:10-18 may have been written by Moses a very long time ago, but the story rings just as true today. "When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.  Be careful that you do not forget  the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.  Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions.  He brought you water out of hard rock.  He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you.  You may say to yourself, 'My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealthy for me.' But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today."  I work hard!  But I am guilty of taking pride in my work and not giving that glory to God.  I believe God wants us to work hard!  I believe he wants us to use the abilities He has provided us with in the most effective and efficient ways possible.  I think Luke 12:47-48 describes this pretty well "The servant who knows the master's will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows.  But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows.  From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. I believe if God gives you more intelligence or more physical stamina or more charisma - He expects you to use that in the best way you can find to use it-but in the end-you are using it and giving Him the glory.  The success or wealth you obtain is less a result of YOUR WORK and more a result of HIS PROVISION.  Jesus tells a parable to illustrate this in The Parable of the Talents:  "Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
After a long time, the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.” His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”The man with the two talents also came. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.”His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”Then the man who had received the one talent came. “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.”His master replied, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” - Matthew 25:14-30  The servant's earnings did not belong to him, but to his master.  As a result of his hard work, his master rewarded him.  My earnings don't belong to me.  My sense of entitlement has washed away.  My idea that I "deserve" has changed so drastically.  I feel at peace now.
"A simple definition of stress: the gap between what you expect in each area of your life and what you are actually getting in each of those areas…If reality does not meet your expectations, worry and concern set in and cause unhealthy changes in body chemistry." – Dr. Gary Smalley  Dr. Smalley created the bible study we are using in Sunday School.  It hit me like a ton of bricks when I heard him say this on Sunday.  As I reflected on this quote and as we discussed the section I realized a few things: #1-How did I form my expectations? - as in, what is the basis of these expectations?  What gave me the idea of how things "should be"?  I realized that I bought into the worldly view of "how things should be" - am i doing better or worse than my neighbor?  Galatians 6:3-5 says, "If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself.  You are not that important.  Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won't need to compare yourself to anyone else.  For we are each responsible for our own conduct." #2-My expectations should be set by my trust in His provision.  I wrote a blog prior to this one about David and my desire to expect that God will provide for me and if I don't have it, I must not be what is right for me.  This desire cannot be fulfilled as long as my trust lies in myself.  As long as I hold onto my pride in believing that the things I have were provided by my own hand, I will always feel that my life falls short.  There will always be something better that I should be working toward.  #3 I can live in contentment when I realize that all I have isn't really even mine, It belongs to the Lord and He provides it for my use while I'm temporarily here on Earth.  What good does it do me to worry because my house isn't as big as my friends or my car isn't as nice - I can't take it with me when I'm gone anyway.  Matthew 6:19-20 says, "Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal."
I am a work in progress.  I pray God will always work in me to show me where I am wrong in my understanding and where I am doing wrong.  I think releasing my pride will be a daily commitment.  I don't think I can decide not to be prideful in one day and never have another moment of pride in my life.  I think that learning this lesson demands that I commit to thinking more about my actions and the motives behind my actions.  God is so good!

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