#MovingForward: From self-serving to serving God

There is a big difference between the expectations and prayers stemming from a temporal and self-serving view of God, and those coming from an evolving spiritual understanding of the power of His love and promises.

psalm 4

Today’s Verses

Many people say, “We can’t find goodness anywhere, the light of your face has left us, LORD! But you have filled my heart with more joy than when their wheat and wine are everywhere! “(Psalms 4:6-7, CEB)

Exploration/Affirmation

The verses above come from King David’s musings on seeking happiness in God’s favor rather than through amassing riches, attaining honors, or reveling in worldly pleasures. Here he notes that while others bemoan the lack of earthly “goodness” — his reward is greater and longer-lasting than the yield or reward of those who are self-serving  rather than leading a life of service to God.

In 1632, Alexander Gross substantiated this, when he noted, “Where Christ reveals himself there is satisfaction in the slenderest portion, and without Christ there is emptiness in the greatest fullness.”

And in Romans 8:6, there is a strong  comparison and contrast of the value and promise of temporal vs. permanent happiness — “The attitude that comes from selfishness leads to death, but the attitude that comes from the Spirit leads to life and peace (CEB).”

I have a strong desire to move away from what isn’t working (temporal focus) to the promise of what will work (spiritual understanding) — from reliance on my own insight to reliance on His Wisdom, from chasing my own schemes and plans to following His plan and implementing His purpose and ways. This means making a conscious effort to move from serving myself to serving Him.

Inspiration

Thus, on this journey of faith, I seek to keep developing, and to fully embrace a practical understanding of the magnitude of His power and promise. The following are some key truths (reminders) to assist me in moving from a self-centered existence to a God-centered life:

Beginning with His promise of Hope for my future:

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me. (Jeremiah 29:11-13, CEB)

From my way/will to His way/Will:

There is a path that may seem straight to someone, but in the end it is a path to death. (Proverbs 14:12, CEB)

SO

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence. Know him in all your paths, and he will keep your ways straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6, CEB)

From selfish living to godly living:

Don’t love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them. (1 John 2:15, CEB)

 [You] shouldn’t trust in what has no worth, for [your] reward will be worthless. (Job 15:13, CEB)

From doubt and insecurity to confidence in God:

When I am feeling weak or inadequate:  He said to me, “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.” So I’ll gladly spend my time bragging about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power can rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9, CEB)

When I am consumed by worry about day-to-day living:  “Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:25, 32-33; CEB)

Strength and fortitude to weather the storms:

He is a refuge and a force — The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalms 9:9, CEB)

If I am afraid and depleted, my strength derives from His — Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand. (Isaiah 41:10, CEB)

From despair to hope:

But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5, CEB)

From inward focus to outward focus:

Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. (Philippians 2:3-4, CEB)

 From pride to humility:

And everyone, clothe yourselves with humility toward each other. God stands against the proud, but he gives favor to the humble. (Peter 5:5b,c; CEB)

From seeking validation through my own accomplishments to seeking validation through what  He can accomplish through me:

We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, CEB)

 Romans 8-28

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Exchanging fear for faith: #priceless

I have spent my entire life in a big “shadow of doubt” created by insecurity that developed at a very early age (Swope, p. 21). Insecurity arising from my perspective of how others’ viewed or valued me, which in turn, determined my self-worth  and has continued to do so. That shadow always looms, as the insecurity manifests itself in many ways and many situations — its symptoms are not pleasant — fear, anxiety, depression, defensive and offensive behavior and caustic speech, to name a few. I have desperately sought to get rid of that shadow and its consequences in a variety of ways — some of which I am not terribly proud of. I have tried, over and over, in many different ways and many different arenas to prove that I am “perfect,” or at least well above average, when in reality I am flawed, and average. I have pretended that everything is fine, and that my life is going well and that I am satisfied, because some of my “successes,” by most standards should have been enough. The pretense has been very costly at times. So, I now take great comfort in the fact that “because His love is perfect, I don’t have to be (Swope, pp. 29-46).”

I have been seeking to prove my worth to and through others, through my jobs, promotions, new cars, new technologies and gadgets — and it hasn’t worked. I love my family and friends, and I know that they love me. But, I still keep seeking, “what a person desires: unfailing love (Proverbs 19:22).” So, I want to believe that, as Renee Swope (2011) states, “[I] was made for love that isn’t measured by my last accomplishment, but marked by God’s measureless grace (p. 62).”

There is indeed an emptiness in my heart. No amount of validation from others, no single accomplishment (or even a compendium of all of them), no possession, no career path, promotion, accolade has or will give me value or a true sense of significance — nor will any of these fill that emptiness. Why? Because I guess I finally realize that material goods wear out or lose value quickly, and performance-based measurement of my worth, is dependent upon the opinion, action, or behavior of others (who are likely seeking their value in the same fashion). I also don’t like who I am very much when I seek my worth in this fashion. The realization that the emptiness can ONLY be filled by God, because reliance on any other validation will never provide the abiding love and acceptance marked by His grace is a big, and welcome “wake-up call,” at a time when it is much needed. It implies that “His love will not fail, even when I do (Swope, pp. 47-64).” That type of love is #priceless (Pure; Redeeming; Inexhaustible; Comforting; Energizing; Liberating; Enduring; Supportive; and Sustaining)!

In my quest for #AConfidentHeart, I want to move from “fear-filled thinking to faith-filled believing (Swope, p. 228).”

The following When I/Then He statements address my “Top Ten” doubts and insecurities — they serve as a basis for replacing my doubts and insecurities with His truths:

  1. When I find myself seeking validation of my  worth through the 4 Ps (people, performance, possessions, or position); Then He will remind me that what I really desire is the unfailing love (Proverbs 19:22) that can be found through the 3 Gs (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
  2. When I feel as though life has filled with adversity and has become too difficult; Then He will remind me that He is with me in times of trouble, that He will rescue me, and honor me (Psalms 91:15).
  3. When I sense doubt creeping in and worry becoming all-consuming and non-productive; Then He will remind me that he cares about me and I can surrender my cares to Him (1 Peter 5:7).
  4. When I think that I have no strength left to face the latest trial; Then He will remind me that through His strength I can do all things (Philippians 4:13).
  5.  When I perceive that others are against me and feel beaten down, or defeated; Then He will remind me that no one can be against me if He is for me (Romans 8:31), and that I am a conqueror through His love (Romans 8:37).
  6. When I start to worry about finances, and finding a job that will provide the basic necessities; Then He will remind me that He knows what I need, and it will be provided (Matthew 6:32).
  7. When I begin to feel as though I will never find a sense of peace and contentment; Then He will remind me that I can find peace and confidence in Him (John 16:33); and can learn to be content in any situation or circumstance (Philippians 4:12).
  8. When I am tempted to pretend that things are fine, when in reality I am FINE (Frazzled, Irritated, Neurotic, and Exhausted (Swope, p. 31)); Then He will remind me that He can give me rest (Matthew 11:28), peace, and confidence (John 16:33).
  9. When I feel as though I don’t know what to do next; Then He will remind me that I simply have to ask him, and He will give me wisdom (James 1:5).
  10. When I find myself feeling uncertain about my next steps or my purpose: Then He  will remind me to rely on Him to guide me (Proverbs 3:5-6); and that His major goal is that I enjoy the full riches of complete understanding of the divine truth. (Colossians 2:2).

References

NRSV translation of The Holy Bible

Swope, R. (2011). A Confident Heart, Grand Rapids, MI: Revell Publishers.