Thinking Of Yourself – This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch
|(Each Sunday, This Day’s Thought is blessed to share Eric Elder’s sermons from his wonderful ministry, “The Ranch“)|
Thinking Of Yourself
Lesson 28 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder
The way you think of yourself is often affected by what others say about you. One of my favorite stories that shows the power that other people’s words can have over us is a true story by a woman named Eddie Ogan.
Eddie tells the story about how the pastor at their church challenged everyone in the congregation to prepare for a special offering to be taken up at the end of the month for a poor family. Eddie, her two sisters and their mother were so excited about what they could do to help that they went home that night and came up with a plan: if they were to eat only potatoes, turn off the lights, not listen to the radio, get odd jobs and sell what they could, they could help out with this special offering.
Eddie says that was one of the best months of their lives. When the time came for the special offering, they put in all the money they had saved: $70, made up of three crisp twenties and a ten. They felt rich.
Later that afternoon, the pastor of the church stopped by for a visit. He left an envelope with their mother. When they opened it, out fell 3 crisp twenties, a ten, and seventeen one dollar bills. Their hearts sank as they realized that they werethe poor family. They never thought of themselves as poor before, but at that moment, they felt they were and felt that everyone else must see them that way, too.
The next week, they didn’t want to go back to church again, but their mother made them. A missionary was speaking about needing $100 to put a roof on a church building in another country. The pastor asked his congregation if they could take up an offering to help these poor people. Eddie and her family smiled for the first time in a week. They put the contents of their envelope back in the offering, and when the money was counted, it was just over $100. The missionary was surprised and said that the church must have some rich people in it to take up such an offering!
When Eddie and her family realized they had put in $87 of that offering, they realized that they were the rich family in the church! “Hadn’t the missionary said so?” Eddie says that from that day on, she’s never been poor again. (It’s worth reading the whole story if you want, at this link.)
The way you look at yourself can often be shaped by what others say about you…whether for good or bad. But God wants you to look at yourself for who you truly are: a child of His, created to fulfill a purpose here on earth. He doesn’t want you to think of yourself either too highly, nor too lowly than you really are. Pride can ensnare you, but low self-esteem can keep you from reaching your fullest potential.
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:3-8).
When you realize that God has created you for a specific purpose, you can better see how you fit into the scheme of things here on earth. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
God doesn’t compare you to those around you. He compares you to the potential that He has put within you. And that potential is often defined by how you act, or don’t act, “in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”
If God has created you to prophesy, then prophesy in proportion to your faith. If God has created you to serve, then serve in accordance with the amount of faith God has given you. If teaching, teach, if encouraging, encourage, if giving, give generously, if leading, govern diligently, if showing mercy, show it cheerfully.
By living your life in this way, it releases you from comparing yourself with others, and from the pitfalls of both pride and low self-esteem.
But living this way is easier said than done.
I recently finished reading a series of books called The Hunger Games. It’s a gripping story about what might happen in a post-war America, in which the leaders of the country pit children against one another in a fight to the death for the entertainment of the rest of the country. As these gruesome games go on year after year, one girl stands up to the games, and finds herself at the center of a revolution.
But throughout the book, this girl, Katniss Everdeen, thinks she’s not the right person for the job. She doesn’t want to be the face of the revolution. She doesn’t see how she could possibly lead the charge. Yet everything about her screams out to those around her that she’s exactly the person who can spearhead this effort to make things right again.
At one point in the story, she struggles with a decision about a particular strategy they’re considering, so she asks a friend what he thinks. He says:
“I think… you still have no idea. The effect you can have.”
When I read that line, I was considering fasting and praying about some situations in my own life, and the lives of some people close to me. But I was wondering if it would make any difference anyway. Just then, I felt God was speaking to me and saying, “Eric, I think you still have no idea, either, the effect you can have.” God was right. I had no idea. But I was willing to give it a try. I stepped up in faith, began fasting and praying, and over the next few days watched as God unfolded the answers to those prayers.
I felt like Katniss Everdeen, the girl who had no idea the effect she had on those around her, yet who sparked a revolution to change the course of history. I felt no pride, and I felt no lack of self-esteem. I felt like I was simply acting “in accordance with the measure of faith God had given me.”
Sometimes we’re unable to see ourselves for who we really are, and it takes others to point it out to us. But we have to be careful whose judgments we take into account. As Eddie Ogan found out, she had to choose whose words she was going to believe: the words of the one who said her family was poor, or the words of the one who said her family was rich. Either statement could have been true, depending on how she looked at it. In the end, she chose to believe what God said about her: that her family had acted in faith to help someone else in need, and in doing so, were considered rich.
Sometimes we have to let the words of others sink deep into our hearts so that we believe them. Other times, we have to do as Solomon said in the book of Ecclesiastes and let them just pass on by:
“Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you-for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22).
Not every word someone says about you is true, nor is it the whole truth. Only God has that perspective. Don’t think you’re stupid if you can’t climb a tree if God created you to swim!
Renew your mind today in the way you think of yourself. Take what others say about you with a grain of salt, then take it to God for His perspective. Let God tell you exactly what He thinks of you, without getting puffed up and without getting down on yourself, but with sober judgment. Then do what God has created you to do, “in accordance with the measure of faith that He has given you.”
Who knows? Perhaps you’re like Katniss Everdeen, too. You have no idea…the effect you can have.
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for giving us a purpose for our lives, and thank You for giving us gifts to carry out that purpose. Help us to put the gifts You’ve given us into use this week to a degree that we may have never used them before-according to the measure of faith that You’ve given us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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Questions for Reflection
How have words spoken to you through others either boosted you up or pulled you down? Take those words to God and ask Him to give you His perspective on them.
2. Looking through this short list of gifts in the book of Romans, are there any that stand out that you feel God might have given to you? Is there a way you could step out in faith and use one or two of those gifts in your life this week, this month, or this year?
3. Paul lists some specific adjectives to describe how we are to use our gifts: generously, diligently, and cheerfully. If you were to use those words to measure how well you’re doing in using your gifts, how are you doing?
4. How could changing the way you think about your gifts change your approach to using them?
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