The Never Ending Search for Character
We live in a society that is consumed with selfish people. An article a few years ago by David Crary of the Associated Press cites a study by five psychologists who found an increasing narcissism and self-centeredness among today's college students. The article quoted the study's lead author, Jean Twenge, as saying, "We need to stop endlessly repeating 'You're special' and having children repeat that back. ... Kids are self-centered enough already." And according to Twenge, technology has only reinforced self-absorption: "Current technology fuels the increase in narcissism," Twenge says. "By its very name, Facebook and Myspace encourages attention-seeking, as does you tube."
We are a self-absorbed culture. The conventional wisdom of today says that if you want to succeed in life, then you need to do whatever it takes. If you need to lie on that résumé, if you need to connive or manipulate, then it's OK. Do whatever you need to do to get ahead, because that is how the world works – or so we are told. Many repeat things they have heard authority figures say such as, “if you aren’t cheating you are not trying.” Yet the way in which the Bible tells us to live is directly opposed to that philosophy:
PHILIPPIANS 2: 2-4 (Message)
Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Humanism tells us to be capable and believe in ourselves. Pride tells us to be superior and promote ourselves. But God tells us to be unselfish and humble ourselves.
Now you may be thinking if I humble myself people are going to walk all over me and that is no way to get ahead in life. That is no way to succeed. But the Bible says,
1 PETER 5: 6 (NIV)
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor.
It takes more strength to be humble than it takes to be proud. It is not difficult to be proud. It is not hard to lose your temper, but it is hard to control it. It is not tough to lord over someone, but it is a challenge to submit to another person.
When the Bible tells us to be humble and to be meek, it doesn't mean we are to be weak. It simply means turning our will over to God and keeping that power under constraint. Have you done that?
The Bible is effectively saying, "Do you want real success and true happiness? Do you want a deep and abiding joy instead of the fleeting happiness of this world? It is found in following Jesus and loving others." It could be summed up with the acronym JOY: Jesus, others, yourself. That is how to be a truly happy person.
Maybe you find yourself a little depressed today. You might be down in the doldrums, even though you are in good health, you had a meal today, and you have clothes on your back and a roof over your head. But maybe you are down because you know someone else has it a little better – or maybe a whole lot better – than you do.
If that describes your situation, then I have a 10-step solution for you. Step No. 1: Do something for someone else who has greater needs than you. Step No. 2: Repeat step No. 1 nine more times.
When we take our eyes off ourselves, it put things into perspective. In this assignment God has me currently in, I visit people in hospitals. I can have the sniffles and be thinking, poor me, and then go and visit someone who is critical condition. I leave just thanking God that I can walk out of a hospital.
The Bible tells us to,
PHILIPPIANS 2: 3 (NIV)
do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
In other words, never let selfishness or conceit become your motive in life. Selfishness is at the root of almost all sins. Most of the quarrels and conflicts we have in life occur because self is either being threatened, challenged, or ignored. It is all about us. As the Bible asks,
JAMES 4: 1 (NLT)
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don't they come from the evil desires at war within you?
Now how true is that? We all want our own way. And that is prewired in us from the earliest days. The Bible says,
ROMANS 3: 23 (NLT)
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard.
There is no getting around it: We are all naturally selfish.
Selfishness ruins so many things in life. Why did Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit? Because Satan told them,
GENESIS 3: 5 (NIV)
You will be like God, knowing good and evil.
THEY WERE SELFISH.
Think of all of the immorality in our culture today. Why do people have sex before marriage? They are selfish. They don't want to wait to commit themselves to each other. They want the fringe benefits of marriage without the commitment that goes along with it. And why do people commit adultery after they have been married? Selfishness. They don't care about their mate; they want to have a little fun.
Do you know someone that has a need right now? Someone you can reach out to? Someone who is hurting? If you wait to feel love for people, you will never do anything. If you wait until you feel like putting that relationship back together, it will never get put back together. Will you do it by faith? Will you do it in obedience? If you will, then you can live a joyful life. But if you run around living for self-fulfillment, then you will be miserable. If you will remember your purpose on earth is to glorify God and to love others, then you will find the personal fulfillment you always wanted. And along the way you will find happiness as well.