Imagine you are about to move to a new area. Not just a new location, but a whole new part of the world—surrounded by a new culture and new faces, and without any familiar friends or contacts. Besides the personal, emotional challenges of such a move there would obviously be some significant spiritual challenges to anticipate. Whatever spiritual habits you have in place will be changed or challenged; the fellow Christians by whom you’ve been encouraged and to whom you’ve been accountable won’t be nearby to help you.
Along with so many other “small” sins in our lives, self-pity is actually very dangerous and self-destructive. The good news, however, is that the Bible gives us some very insightful help regarding this age-old sin. Some time ago I preached a message on self-pity, as part of a series “Beware of Small Sins.” Let me share a brief outline of it with you. Here are four ways that self-pity distorts your perception of reality, with some biblical solutions.
The apostle Peter writes to hurting and persecuted Christian believers, who have been “scattered” from their homes and familiar surroundings, and tells them to cast all their anxieties on God knowing that God cares for them (1 Peter 5:7). This is not some puff piece, or academic lecture, or thoughtless encouragement. Peter is communicating to real people, in real pain, and giving them real comfort. God cares about you!
Not long ago our church studied through the Ten Commandments together. In preparation for considering this formidable and famous piece of Old Testament law, it was helpful for me to consider, or reconsider, the goodness of God in all that he does, including giving us the law. More than just a list of do’s and don’ts, Jesus later summarizes all the law, including these “top ten,” in terms of love. So, we might well approach each commandment as an answer to this question first and foremost: how can I better love God and love my neighbor?
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). God is faithful. What a wonderful reminder! God will never give up on what he has begun, he will never renege on any promise he has made. Because God will never give up, we ought to never give up. And yet God’s faithfulness, we are reminded in this very verse of Scripture,
We know that “an idol has no real existence” (1 Corinthians 8:4). Paul, while addressing an immediate problem related to Christian liberty, simultaneously addresses a vital overarching point regarding idolatry. Idols are nothing; they are not just false gods, they are no gods at all. Of course the material, physical stuff from which the idol is made is real, but the god it represents does not exist. There is no need to fear idol gods, and there is certainly no reason to worship them.
What does the church of Jesus Christ really look like? Of course, I am not talking about the architectural style of the building in which it meets, but what a local body of believers looks like. We know the church should be sound in doctrine and zealous in proclaiming the gospel. But how does a sound church really function?
In Ephesians 3:14-19, Paul gives us four specific prayer requests he had for the people of God. And all of them center around the person and work of Jesus Christ: that Christ’s Spirit give you strength, as Christ lives in you by faith, giving you an ever-deepening, familiar knowledge of Christ-love, that you may enjoy the very best, the fullness, of what God has to offer: Jesus!
“As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!“ (Psalm 40:17). I am poor and needy. Is that your self-description today? It is the reality, whether we recognize it or not. No matter how strong, healthy, or financially secure we may feel at the moment, we are poor and needy because we have nothing in ourselves. But at times we feel it much more keenly than at other seasons, don’t we? There are times when we might read this and wonder
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? … And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Such were some of you. On one hand, what sweet words these are to believers! The church is not for perfect people but for sin-scarred, once-blind, still struggling people.
Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? (Psalm 85:6). We are in desperate need of revival. Our marriages, our families, our churches, our nation (no matter what nation we hail from)—in every arena of life and society and religion we need the omnipotent, renewing visitation of the Holy Spirit. Yet many of us as Christians do not know what “revival” even means precisely.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism. He was involved in plots planned by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He was arrested in March 1943, imprisoned and eventually hanged, just before the end of the Second World War in Europe. I have lately been enjoying Bonhoeffer’s classic work The Cost of Discipleship, written at the height of his conflict with Nazi ideology and with the compromising German church.
Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity (1 Corinthians 16:12). Even our very best plans often meet with significant snags. Many variables can conspire to derail our plans, but one in particular often proves a great help or hindrance in our efforts: people. Planning would be so easy if it weren’t for other people with other opinions! Pastoring, marriage, child-rearing, and evangelism would all be a cinch if you just didn’t have to
There is a well-worn and pessimistic saying that the only things that are sure in life are death and taxes. And it certainly is true that life is full of uncertainties. Health can deteriorate in an instant. Even the most promising of careers can meet with disappointment. The best of plans can fall apart. And even after a lifetime of faithfulness, one temptation can catch us by surprise. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.
This beautiful, biblical description of a Christian comes from James Smith in 1856. As you read this pastor’s wise and insightful summary of the Christian life, prayerfully consider — not only whether these words describe you, but — how they may better describe you. May each of us as Christian believers learn Christ’s doctrines better, trust his promises better, and do his will better. If anyone is in Christ — he is a new creature: