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The blessings of believing that Jesus is who He said He is are largely forfeited when we don’t go on to believe that we are who He says we are.

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The enemy of your soul has a story he’d like to share today.  It’s a tale of frustration, failure, and pain.  It’s a narrative filled with “if only’s” (e.g. if only this would happen, if only that hadn’t happened), which will always leave you one step away from wherever you want to be.  The Creator of your soul also has a story He’d like to share today.  It’s a plan of provision, strength and hope.  It’s a narrative filled with “even if’s” (e.g. even if that happened, even if this never happens), which will free you from the constraints of your circumstance.  Ultimately, the reality of your day will boil down to which one of these narratives you find more compelling.  (Deut. 30:19)

 

We should never mistake self-doubt for humility.  You cannot doubt yourself without also doubting the One who promised to faithfully complete the good work that He’s begun in you.

 

In popular Christian culture, being like “a friend of Job” has taken on the connotation of someone who isn’t a true friend (i.e. one who is sincere, loyal, and compassionate).  But a review of Job, chapter 2 would seem to indicate otherwise.  According to the text, when Job’s three friends heard of his troubles, they immediately stopped what they were doing, and made bringing comfort to their friend a priority.  The language within the passage seems to suggest that they may have travelled a significant distance to get to him, and when they got there, they sat, silently grieving with him for seven days.  It seems doubtful that many of us could claim to have “friends” who might demonstrate this level of sincerity, loyalty and compassion in our hour of need.  In truth, the problems didn’t start until these friends tried to offer explanations for, and give advice about, things they did not understand.

 

This is significant because we “Christian” folk have become rather famous for offering explanations for things that God hasn’t necessarily made clear.  Over and over again the scripture warns that our understanding is limited (e.g. lean not on your own understanding, the wisdom of men is foolishness to God, we know in part and prophecy in part, we see as through a glass dimly…), and yet, even with the best of intentions, we endeavor to go where angels fear to tread.  Indeed, “Christian” bookstores are filled with volumes claiming to offer special insight into the mysteries of God, and many a false doctrine has sprouted from the desire to offer a finite word to describe an infinite concept.  I sense that the spirit of religion often bewitches us to believe that if we are legitimate sons and daughters of God, we’ll have an answer for every question; but the scripture makes no such promise.  We can rationalize that we’re just trying to help people, but that’s all Job’s friends were trying to do for him.

 

Crippled Lambs

Self-pity may seem to be a very natural and non-threatening emotion, but the spiritual effects can be dramatic.  Indeed, there is perhaps no state of mind more debilitating for a believer.  A love for the Lord certainly doesn’t make us immune to this; as a matter of fact it, is probably one of the most effective tools of the enemy against those who count themselves followers of Christ.

The problem with self-pity is that it keeps us focused on ourselves and bound to our circumstance, which countermands the scriptures exhortation to fix our eyes on Jesus (i.e. the author and finisher of our faith) and to focus on things eternal (2Cor. 4:18).  As we fixate on our condition, it opens the door for both our flesh and the “accuser of the brethren” to assert themselves.  In the spiritual battle that rages for control of our soul, this is no small matter.

Within the scripture we see some examples of how destructive this emotion can be.  As the nation of Israel was liberated from Egypt, the people witnessed a spectacular display of Gods sovereignty, as they were not only freed from, but literally plundered their oppressors.  Yet, a short time later, we hear them wishing for a return to their chains, all because the food and accommodations didn’t meet their expectations.

On a more personal level we see some of the prophets fall prey to this emotion, as Jonah bemoans his situation after finally delivering the message to Nineveh, and with Elijah as he hides from Jezebel.  In both of these cases, they had heard God clearly speak to them, had won great spiritual battles, had witnessed firsthand His miraculous power, and yet their self-pity effectively neutralized their faith, leaving them without hope.

As we focus on our difficulties, the enemy of our souls is quick to exploit those emotions, giving us an exaggerated sense of how bad things are.  When the vine that was providing Jonah shade withered, he said that he would be “better off dead”.  As the Lord queried him as to his anger at this, Jonah said that he was angry enough to die.  As Elijah was hiding from Jezebel, we hear him tell the Lord that he had been rejected and that he was the only one left.  Later, we learn that there were seven thousand who hadn’t forsaken the Lord.

This is the effect that self-pity has on us as well.  It magnifies our struggles beyond reality, and eclipses our view of God’s provision.  The spiritual principle is similar to that of praising the Lord.  As we are praising Him, we are acknowledging what He has done in the past, what He’s doing today, what He’s going to do in the future, acknowledging His influence on our lives, bowing to His will, and submitting to His authority.  As we know, there is great power in those times, and a tangible connection between the spiritual and the natural realm.  Unfortunately, we are doing the exact same thing for our adversary when we indulge in self-pity.

In other portions of scripture we see examples of those who refuse to indulge in self-pity, even when our natural minds tell us that they’d be justified to do so.  It was Job, who in the midst of his miserable situation, uttered one of the most hopeful phrases in all of scripture, “I know my Redeemer lives”.  There was Paul & Silas, unjustly imprisoned, and in chains, praising the Lord in the middle of the night.  And even more powerful is the picture of Jesus; beaten, bloodied, nailed to a cross, and praying that His Father would forgive them, because they didn’t understand what they were doing.  We later see Stephen do the same as he is stoned to death.

These men were being treated unjustly, but they wouldn’t allow themselves to focus on that.  Instead they focused on the Lord, and accomplishing His will in their lives.  We like to justify that we have a right to be offended, sad, angry, bitter…, but the cost of indulging those emotions is ultimately our ability to do the will of the Father.

There is a world of difference between wanting to live righteously before God, and simply wanting to be right.  One is about Him and the other is about self.

At times we feel as though other people are judging us when it is actually the voice of our own conscience trying to get through to us.