Spiritual Growth

Looking out for “number one”

I’m beginning a study of Philippians — although written over 1900 years ago, Paul was so spot on for our contemporary, narcissistic culture when he said, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interest of others” (2:3-4).

With this scripture in mind, I am sincerely praying for some that I hold dear this morning, and I have to wonder — what would marriage relationships look like if husband and wife applied Paul’s instruction? How would sibling relations change? Would businesses operate differently if looking out for “number one” was placed behind looking out for the good of others? What about relationships in the church? Would we be reconciled with each other rather than demanding to be right (even when we are wronged)? I don’t see anywhere in scripture where Jesus told us, “be right”; however, scripture does give a clear directive to “be reconciled” (Matt. 5:24).

How would it look this week if I made personal application of Paul’s instruction in all my relationships? I believe my husband would be the first to reap the benefit of my looking out for his needs over my own. Simple gestures are too numerous to count in the area of putting his needs first; however, I know he has a full week, so my first opportunity could be to see what “tasks” I could take off of his to-do list to help him stay more focused on the needs of the church. My children and grands would know that my heart is set on extending grace to them instead of having a judgmental attitude and giving “my advise” about some of their decisions. My church family and extended family would see more selfless acts and hear more encouragement from me. My agenda may seem pressing, but when I see a need, surely, I could set my agenda aside for just a moment and stand in the gap for someone else. I believe God has already showed me a couple of dear sweet friends who are struggling this week — a phone call and an afternoon visit could be in order. Following Paul’s directives would mean that I would be purposeful in looking for opportunities to “be second” — I’m certain I can find many ways to practice this in places like WalMart or Lowes. 🙂

The Bible is not simply another beautiful literary writing; however, it can be viewed as such if application is not exercised from its direction. So, here’s Paul’s challenge of application to me this week — examine everything I do to see if I am putting others’ needs ahead of my own — if not, I’m in direct disobedience to the Word of God. That’s pretty plain. I don’t need a theology major or Bible scholar to interpret this Word for me. If I want to be in obedience to God’s Word, I must put other’s needs ahead of my own. Period.

I will be in prayerful thought this week, looking for opportunities and listening to the Spirit speak to my open and willing heart — “…Carolyn…do nothing from selfishness…regarding others as more important than yourself.” Does this look different than our narcissistic culture? Who am I kidding? Narcissistic culture!? That’s way too broad and nonthreatening! I might as well admit it — my narcissistic SELF! Paul may have written this to a society, a church, a fellowship, but God spoke this directly to me! Does this look different than my narcissistic self? I nod my reluctant head, sadly and definitely yes, my narcissistic self. The Spirit of Truth has pinpointed an area in my life He wants to reclaim, so now, what am I going to do about it?

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). This is another directive from God’s truth — a directive for my good as well as those around me. As a believer, I am to be in stark contrast to the world. Am I willing to give an honest answer to the question, “Do I look and act differently than the world?” Will I allow the mirror of God’s truth to reflect on my image and meditate on Paul’s words? Not only meditate, will I make application of this truth?

The fruit of obedience can be very beneficial to those around me.  Oh, and the benefit for “number one?”  Well, I better get ready because it could completely knock my “kingdom of self” off its narcissistic velvet throne.

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