February 12, 2014

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Here is yet another Scripture that is all too often “honored in the breach,” so to speak. The Japanese has “self-centered” where the NIV has “selfish ambition,” but the thought comes through clearly either way. Such an attitude is seen as totally “natural,” yet it’s not the way God created us to be. Recent studies have shown that even small children have an innate tendency toward altruism, that is, helping others at no benefit to themselves. However, we generally don’t expect that, and essentially train children to be selfish. However it happens, we generally wind up feeling the world revolves around us, or at least that it should. That’s no recipe for happiness! I regularly visit the patients at a mental hospital, and I would say that a for majority of them, whatever their specific diagnosis, their fundamental problem is in being unable to see past the end of their nose. In contrast to that, one of the amazing things about the Gospel is that Jesus would have needed to die in order to save even one person, and He would have been willing to do so. The love of God is that focused and individual. The thing is, we’ve got to realize both that God loves us that much and that He loves everyone else that much. It’s that last part that Paul is bringing out here. Of course Jesus is the ultimate example, as He is in everything good, and the beautiful hymn in verses 6-11 is an expansion of that. Hebrews 12:1-3 is another such passage, pointing out the way to genuine fulfillment, which is the opposite of selfish ambition.

I certainly have my moments of being self-centered, and I’m worse off for them. It is when I center my thoughts, my heart, my being on Jesus that I am filled with His peace, joy, and energy. As well as I know that, you’d think I’d do it more consistently! However, I am never to give up, but keep pressing in for more of Jesus so that I may be more like Him. At the same time, I am to seek to engender that ambition (which is certainly not selfish) in those around me, and especially those under my care. We have such a stubborn attitude, encouraged by the devil, that “if I don’t take care of myself no one will take care of me.” Since in the final analysis we can’t really take care of ourselves, that’s a recipe for failure and unhappiness if there ever was one. I can think of so many people right now whose lives are poisoned by that attitude, and they poison the people around them as well. I cannot “fix” them, but I can speak the truth to them in love and submit them to the Holy Spirit for correction and healing. I might be an instrument in that, or I might not; that’s God’s business. However, I am certainly to love them and seek (and operate in) God’s wisdom in relation to them. (James 1:5)

Father, You know who is on my heart most on this issue right now. I ask Your grace and mercy for them, and especially Your grace, mercy, and comfort for Cathy as she is having to deal with them in my absence. May Your Name be hallowed and Your kingdom come as Your will is done, in every detail, for the healing and deliverance of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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