November 13, 2009

About saying NO

Selfishness is a powerful foe. Ask anyone who battles a bad habit. For me, it is that extra helping when I don’t need it, or that bit of sweet dessert when I am already full. My body would be better off if I were only ten or even five pounds lighter, but my selfishness means I’m having trouble saying no.

It used to be that vanity was my reason for getting a bit thinner. I want to look better in my clothes. Then my reason was about energy. Fewer pounds and I have more pep to do the things I need to do. I can say yes to needed exercise every day, but still have trouble saying no to the extra calories that are not needed.

I have also recognized another truth. The apostle Paul wrote a long passage on the subject of self-denial and personal discipline. He said,

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
He is not talking about losing his salvation, but about rewards and about being useful in the kingdom of God. An undisciplined person who cannot control their body’s demands is disqualified when it comes to being a servant of the Lord. I cannot serve God well as long as I insist on serving my own appetites.

Lately, as I have been reading Born Crucified by L. E. Maxwell, I’ve been deeply convicted about self-effort. I already know how futile it is. Maxwell points out that I died with Christ. Therefore I am no longer in charge of my life and yet still have to learn how to live that way. It means being yielded totally to Jesus, but it also means saying no to self at every opportunity. That means that while I cannot control my selfishness apart from Jesus, I do have responsibility in the effort. This is not easy to sort out and put into practice.

Yesterday, while working on a paper about setting objectives, I came across something about the purpose of objectives. It said that measurable objectives are a good way to measure spiritual progress. That is, if I want to know how I am doing spiritually, having a visible measurement can be helpful.

I am thinking literally here, a literal tape measure, a literal weigh scale. How am I doing in saying no to those things my body demands? The best way to tell is by what my bathroom scales tell me, or by what my tape measure tells me.

Also, today’s devotional reading says about inner attitude. People who eat when they are full are simply not content with what they have. Paul wrote about that too:

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)
The sinful mind set says that every person has the right to do whatever makes him feel good. It’s the selfish person who says, “If it makes you feel good but hurts me, you can’t do it. But if it makes me feel good but hurts you, I can do it anyway.”

I cannot deceive myself into thinking my sinful selfishness doesn’t matter and that a few extra pounds do not matter. Sin always ends up hurting someone, and in this case, it hurts me physically and spiritually. Thinking otherwise is foolish, but thinking otherwise is also self-centered pride.

In contrast, Paul’s words show humility and an unselfish love for others. While he is willing to extend mercy toward those who stumble repeatedly, he knows that he must be firm with himself. The KJV of the Bible says that he “buffets” his body and brings it into subjection.

Today’s reading says humility enabled Paul to be content in any circumstances. He had the humble attitude that no matter what happened, Jesus would give him what he could not do himself. His contentment was from his Savior.

To make all this practical for me, I first need to confess both my pride and my foolishness. My choices in front of the frig are important, but they are not my source of contentment. Eating too much never does for me what I want it to do. Only Christ can do that and that extra bit of food has now become an idol.

Also, contentment is not about having all I want. Instead, it is about knowing how to be full or hungry and not letting either one dictate to me. My Lord is not my wants or what I have or do not have. My Lord is Jesus Christ, nothing or no one else.

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