How’s that spiritual wardrobe coming along? Back to Colossians 3 v 12 today to consider another item that makes up this beautiful Designer’s outfit.
Today we come to ‘gentleness’; however we can probably get a truer picture of what this fruit really looks like if we translate it as humility or meekness.
The last few fruits we’ve considered have had lots to do with how we handle other people (being kind, good and faithful to others), but now as we approach the last two fruits we are called to handle a whole other monster……these last two fruits look at how we handle SELF!
Brace yourself…..this may hurt!
Ok, so I’m thinking of all the slogans and advice about ‘self’ that I hear or read about regularly. Things like:
- Believe in yourself
- Look after yourself
- Stand up for yourself
- Develop your self esteem
- Pamper yourself
- Be good to yourself
- Feel good about yourself
- Look out for yourself
Erm, not much there about ‘forget about yourself’. I’m sure you’ll agree that this definition of gentleness as “self-forgetfulness” would not sell many magazines if it appeared on the front cover. We love to hear about how to indulge ourselves and take care of ourselves, but the teaching of Jesus that says to “deny yourself” is a little bit alien to our present world. This of course means if we choose to live our lives guided by this principle, then we will be regarded as strange to the world, but then again…we do belong to a different world after all!
Pride in Disguise
Now before we move on to our verses for today, just another little consideration.
If I’m honest, in the past when comparing myself against the list of the fruits of the Spirit, humility wasn’t one of the areas I’d have been most concerned about (although that probably shows I wasn’t humble about being humble!). The reason for this was that I had a fairly unhealthy habit of always putting myself down and thinking negative thoughts about myself. Advice I would often have been given was “Stop being so hard on yourself”, “Have more confidence in yourself”. Perhaps you can identify with this? Do you always look at other people and compare yourself negatively or constantly beat yourself up about the things you’re ‘no good at’?
Do not be fooled – this is not humility! I realised that when I came across this quote from CS Lewis:
You see with this kind of mindset we are actually just as pre-occupied with self as the boaster or show-off who thinks they can rule the world single-handedly. Are you spending a lot of time wishing you were….prettier / smarter /funnier / more popular / more like someone else / better at sport? Do you get down at times because you don’t really like yourself? Do you find you’re always comparing yourself to other people? When you check out others’ profiles on Facebook or their photos on Instagram, does it leave you with an empty niggling feeling that your life isn’t as exciting as theirs?
Then today we look at verses that are the key to finding freedom from those feelings. It’s time for us to forget about ourselves!
(Today’s readings are in 3 sections. You may choose to split them up over 2 or 3 days)
Philippians 3 v 3
Philippians 3 v 8
From these verses list what Paul firstly puts no confidence in and then secondly, counts as a priceless privilege.
It may be helpful for you to make a list of the things you feel you put your confidence in. For example, it could be
- Looking pretty
- Having nice clothes
- Getting compliments from other people
- Getting top marks at school
One of the reasons why it is unhealthy to rely on these things to make us confident is that they don’t last. For example, even the prettiest girl in the school is one day going to meet someone who looks more attractive, or as she gets older and her looks change, if this is all she has relied on for happiness, then it will be very traumatic to watch it slip away.
Pray that God will help you to give up the place these things have in your heart as you learn to place absolute value and worth only on “knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him.”
Luke 9 v 23
John 3 v 30
Make a list of how the Amplified Bible explains the instruction to “deny” ourselves in Luke 9 v 23.
As you do this and spend some time thinking about what this verse might mean for you today, why not listen to the words of Robin Mark’s lovely, but challenging song, “Jesus, All For Jesus”, by clicking on the link below.
“All of my ambitions, hopes and plans: I surrender these into your hands.”
John the Baptist spoke those powerful words from John 3 v 30 (incidentally, he was the long-awaited son of Elizabeth and Zechariah who we looked at last week….so after their long wait they definitely got a very special son!). Write these words in your journal and perhaps on several postcards to place as reminders in lots of places you will see this week.
Pray that God will make this the genuine desire of your heart!
To let this happen we must let self fade into the background and become more and more consumed with Jesus. But how do we do this?
I think some of the practical things we have considered from previous days will really help with this self-forgetfulness:
Just as we saw yesterday, start with little things – little denials of self on a daily basis that will eventually become our character and our life. These will include things like letting someone else have the last word when they argue with us (Patience – remember Dougal and Lily!), inviting those who are in need of friends to our lunch table or birthday party, even though it’ll require effort on our part(Kindness), risking our popularity by telling the truth and standing up for what’s right (Goodness), going the extra mile to do a job well (more goodness), making commitments and sticking with them even when we really don’t feel like it (faithfulness). These daily acts of self-denial will train us for a future of decreasing as Jesus increases.
But what about ME?
Perhaps inside that is your deep concern, and if we’re honest a lot of us feel this way. It’s all well and good always putting other people first and denying ourselves what we want, but this raises the question: “Who’s going to look after me?”
The answer is simple and glorious. You’ll find it in these last verses:
Matthew 5 v 5
1 Peter 5 v 6
Wow! Think about the promises in these verses and remember we learned yesterday that God is completely faithful. What he has promised will come to pass.
I love the fact that 1 Peter 5 v 6 is immediately followed by that beautiful verse we considered some days ago about casting all our worries and concerns on the Lord. This reminds me that the Lord knows it’s difficult for us to humble ourselves and give all our hopes, dreams and ambitions over to Him and seek His will above our own; but if we’re concerned about this He wants us to talk to Him about it and give that to Him as well.
Why not do that now!
When we are finding it particularly difficult to surrender something to the Lord (maybe something we feel He wants us to give up, or alternatively a path we feel He wants us to take that we’re resisting) it can be helpful to really study and focus on how much God loves us and remember that He is full of goodness and only wants the best for His children. Perhaps God’s Love could be your next area of focus for digging deeper after these studies are finished tomorrow.
Freedom from Self: How to Catch a Monkey
I heard this story being told by Danielle Strickland recently and it reminded me how we so often cling on to our own wants and desires, putting self first and yet ultimately getting ourselves caught in a trap of discontentment that God wants to free us from:
Do you know how to catch a monkey using only a coconut? This is how the natives on the island of Borneo do it without causing any injury to the monkey. They hollow out a large football sized coconut leaving a hole in one end just big enough for a monkey to slip its hand into. They then fill the coconut with either green bananas or peanuts, both favourite foods for a monkey and attach a hidden chain and bolt to the coconut. Along comes a monkey, excited to discover the lovely food, and he slips his hand inside and grasps a handful of banana. However, when he tries to withdraw his hand, which is now a clenched fist holding the food, he discovers it won’t fit back through the hole. Obviously the solution is for the monkey to let go of the banana and escape without it, but he is so keen to hold on to this treasured food he won’t let go and so is trapped and captured! He’ll often end up exhausted and bleeding from his attempts to escape while still holding on to the banana.
Jesus tells us to deny ourselves (self-forgetfulness) and follow Him, because He knows this is the path to freedom. Are there things today we are clinging on to and refusing to let go of? Let’s not be like the monkey, who missed out on the chance of freedom simply because he wouldn’t let go!
You can read more about the lovely quality of meekness in a woman from the blog “Lies Young Women Believe” which posts new articles every day, at the link below:
See you tomorrow for our last one!