It’s Not About YouPosted: March 12, 2011
Do you really think this is all about you?
It wasn’t about Abraham. God honored his faith, promising to make him the father of many nations. But Abraham had to leave his homeland and journey to an unknown destination. He lived as a wanderer all his life, surrounded always by lawless and violent pagans. At one point he was required to offer up his dear son as a sacrifice, and in times of doubt he made grave errors in judgment that cost him dearly. He died without ever seeing the promise come to pass. No, it wasn’t about Abraham.
It wasn’t about Joseph. He dreamed of future glory, but first he was sold into slavery by his own brothers. He spent years in prison and slavery, no doubt wondering every day why God had abandoned him. He was tempted and wrongfully accused by an adulterous woman, for which he was sent back to prison. Only when God’s plan came to fruition was he able to understand God’s purpose: to be the instrument of rescuing Israel from famine. No, it wasn’t about Joseph.
It wasn’t about Moses. Moses, it has been said, “spent 40 years thinking he was something, 40 years finding out he was nothing, and 40 years finding out God is everything.” Before he was born, he was chosen to be the Deliverer of Israel. When God sent him to stand before Pharoah, he had to sacrifice all his self-will to be truly God’s man. If God said, “Spend 40 days on the mountaintop taking neither food nor drink,” he did it without question. His will was so lost in God that he was called more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. But when he became willful and transgressed by striking the rock, God judged him harshly, denying him access to the Promised Land. God required perfect obedience of “his man.” No, it was never about Moses.
Saul thought it was about him. God chose him to lead Israel, and faithfully placed his Spirit upon him. Moreover, the great prophet Samuel was there to guide him. Saul was blessed with many victories over the Philistines. Yet Saul became rebellious, even presuming to offer sacrifices himself. He was jealous of David, and tried to kill him for years. Saul was rejected by God and finally took his only life during his defeat at Mount Gilboa. So it wasn’t about him.
It wasn’t even about David. God in his mercy chose David, “a man after God’s own heart,” to replace Saul as king of his Chosen People. Because David obeyed, he received the promise that his progeny would rule over Israel forever. But first David had to defeat Goliath at grave risk, then spend many years hiding from Saul’s jealous wrath. At one point he took refuge with his enemies the Philistines, acting like a crazy man to escape death. Then after reigning as king for many years he backslid, and his abuses of office included adultery and murder. As a consequence, the child of adultery died, his household knew nothing but strife, and he had to flee for his life from his own son’s revolution. No, David was a flawed individual, and it wasn’t about him, either.
So you think things changed under the New Covenant? What about the twelve Disciples? Sometimes they thought they were special, but they learned better. James and John asked for places of importance in the Kingdom. The same day on which Jesus nicknamed Peter “the Rock,” Peter dared to rebuke Jesus for saying He would be crucified. Jesus told the Disciples they would sit with him on twelve thrones. The Disciples argued amongst themselves who would be the greatest. But soon they would suffer hardship, persecution, imprisonment, and torture. When Jesus was arrested, they all ran for their lives and denied him. According to tradition, all were martyred except John, who was exiled to the barren island of Patmos.
Nor was it about Paul. When he accepted Christ, Paul turned his back on the Pharisaic pedigree that once set him in good stead among his fellow Jews. Fervent in spirit, he forsook marriage, family, home, comfort, and safety to live an intinerant and precarious lifestyle, suffering persecution, imprisonment, beatings, and torture at the hands of his opposers. It never even crossed Paul’s mind that it might be about him. Indeed, he vigorously declared that he himself was nothing, Christ was everything.
Then there was Jesus. Surely it was about him. But He would have been the last to say so. He said that the Son came at the behest of the Father. He said and did only what He heard from the Father — he could do nothing of himself. He had no will of his own, seeking to do only the will of his Father. The Father was greater than himself. He was offered kingdoms, but he himself had nowhere to lay his head. Jesus didn’t know the day or hour of his return, only the Father knew. And when death was imminent, He prayed, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.”
No, Jesus didn’t focus on himself. It should be all about God, and God’s Plan. Lacking a vision of God’s Plan, we so easily concentrate on ourselves: our own provision, safety, comfort, and pleasure. Most church services today focus on meeting the needs of church members, not on sacrificial worship, giving, or service. We Christians are called to crucify self, deny the flesh and its desires, make our lives “living sacrifices,” and in every way to serve the Lord rather than self.
Like Peter walking on the water, we begin to sink, spiritually, when we begin to focus on ourselves. But if our focus is on the Lord and Eternity, we can take all danger, hardship, and earthly disappointment in stride; for we have crucified the flesh, and Christ is now our Life.
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:1-4).
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:20-21).
© 2001 Paul A. Hughes