Troublesome Topic: Selfless Living

By Audry Eberhard

There are many things that could potentially become a guidance system for our lives. Anything that takes a major portion of your time and attention is becoming a guidance system. Do you plan your schedule around a favorite TV show or sports? How do you spend your free time? What kind of music do you listen to? What types of things are you reading and how much time do you spend doing it? What do you spend time doing on the internet and how much time do you spend doing it? Have you allowed your kid’s schedules to dominate your life to the point that you have no family time outside of their activities? Do you always have to have background noise going on or do you enjoy some quiet time? Has work taken over your life, does it take all your energy? Is your hobby a way to bring glory to God or is it for your own pleasure and how much time do you spend doing it? Would you be able to spend a day totally disconnected from those things and purposefully spend time in God’s Word and prayer?

Perhaps you would make an argument that those things are good and necessary and that they are not bad things that are taking our focus away from God. For example working in order to pay bills is a very necessary thing, but if your demanding job is necessary to support the way you have chosen to live perhaps you need to look at simplifying your life. Do you really need your present size of house in your present location? Do you really need to eat out several times a week, or could you learn to cook more at home for a lot less money? Do you really need all the toys you have: pool, boat, multiple vehicles, the latest iPhone, brand new furniture, etc.? Could you buy good quality used furniture, or vehicles? The point being that debt is many times the reason that we have to work the job that we have. If debt isn’t a driving factor for job choice, you could choose a job that you enjoyed that did not demand so much of your time and energy. The apostle Paul, who was a traveling missionary and probably owned very little, said this in Phil. 4:12,

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (NIV).

What is the secret you ask? Let’s look at verse 13,

for I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me” (NET).

It is the presence of Christ in our lives that allows us to live a contented lifestyle. Indeed it is better to have little with Christ in the picture than to have a comfortable lifestyle with Christ worked in whenever we have a chance. It is not enough to be in Church every Sunday and pray and read the Word whenever we have extra time. I fear that we have allowed other things to become our focus and bring us a sense of false security.  

We lived in Honduras for three-and-a-half years as missionaries. It is a fairly poor country, but when we were there it was always so refreshing to go and visit the churches outside of the big cities. Their lives were hard and they did not have a fancy house or lots of possessions but they had Christ and they were some of the happiest people I have ever met. They would kill their last chicken for your supper, they would give up their only bed for you to sleep in. Their church services were characterized by heartfelt praise music that someone could understand even if they did not know the language. It was evident on their faces that Christ was their all. They were thankful for daily food and water (this gave me new insight into the Lord’s Prayer that many of us know by heart but can’t appreciate like these Hondurans I am describing).

As a teen I remember hearing the challenge that if you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you, or would you look like everyone else that is living for the moment focused on fulfilling all their selfish desires? There is no Christian in the world who has arrived at a place of perfection in the struggle with self, but we need to make sure that we are remaining sensitive to that Spirit-guided cruise control and not allowing self to be in control making excuses as to why all our selfish choices are okay.

As we take uninterrupted time in uncluttered space (free of any distractions) and get alone with God’s Word and seek Him in prayer (the all-important guidance systems) He will begin to shine His spotlight on aspects of our lives that need to change. When we are obedient, confessing our selfish habits, and when we act by making any necessary Spirit-led adjustments, then we will begin to experience that contentment that Paul is referring to. We are heading in the right direction and that’s all God asks of us. The adjustments may come at great cost to us such as less time in front of the TV or computer, a different job that will allow more time at home to spend with God and family, a more affordable house, less toys, or a simpler lifestyle. But any sacrifices that you make out of obedience to God will bring a richness in your relationship with Him.  

There will be numerous occasions when God will prompt you by His Spirit, through His Word or prayer, about things that need to be confessed, and adjustments that need to be made to how you are living. That’s a sign that God is at work in our lives to make us more like Him. It is not a sign of failure to return to the cross when necessary, instead it is a sign of great strength that will become visible to those around us because we are allowing Christ to shine through our lives.

Jesus calls us to forsake all and follow Him. In Matthew 19: 16-22 we are told about a rich young man who came to Jesus and asked what good thing he could do to earn eternal life. Jesus’ first response is to tell him to live in obedience to the commandments. The young man questioned which ones and Jesus lists 6 commands. The young man responded that he had done all of those. He then asked, “What else do I need to do?” Here is Jesus’ response:

Jesus said to him, “If you want to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Mt 19:21) NASB).

We are told that when he heard this, he went away sad, because he was very rich. He was allowing his personal comfort to be the guidance system of his life. He was unwilling to get rid of all those things so that he could focus on the truly important thing. If he would have followed through obediently with what Jesus was asking him to do, he would have found a life full of contentment and great reward.

The world tells us we need our comforts, even that we deserve those comforts. Jesus tells us that the only way to find true contentment is in getting rid of all the things that we are hanging on to that we think we need to be content. God will be faithful to provide all that we need. We must trust Him completely. He created us and knows us better than we know ourselves.

Later in that same chapter, Jesus explains to his disciples that these steps of obedience are difficult, but not impossible.

With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26) (NIV).

As we take our steps of obedience God will give us the needed strength to take any action-steps necessary. Confess your selfishness to God and you will experience power being unleashed in your life. You will not face the adjustments alone. Be ready as well for the enemy to throw many temptations your way making the previous guidance system of self very appealing. Remain God-focused and allow Him to be your strength. How? By being in His Word and seeking Him in prayer; these are the guidance systems that will bring true contentment.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (I John 4:4) (NIV).

The next lesson is: Affirmations Should Be God-Centered Not Self-Centered