Self-Awareness and the Sufficiency of Christ1
One of the most helpful things I’ve learned in my years as a pastor is the crucial role that self-awareness plays in our growth as Christians. Continue reading . . .
One of the most helpful things I’ve learned in my years as a pastor is the crucial role that self-awareness plays in our growth as Christians. By self-awareness I mean the capacity to be honest and sincere when it comes to both our strengths and weaknesses. To be “aware” of oneself in the way that I have in mind is to be conscious and forthright about our tendencies and inclinations. To be self-aware is to possess a keen sense of the way we impact other people. To be self-aware is to have a clear grasp on why we react the way we do when we encounter adversity or threatening circumstances. It is to be in touch with how we think and what we value and why we make the choices we do.
The opposite of self-awareness is self-denial. I’m sure you’ve run into a lot of people who live in self-denial: they refuse to face reality; they live in a fantasy world; they are extremely naïve and typically either grossly overestimate or underestimate their gifts and talents and what genuinely accounts for who they are and what they do.
Stay with me here. I’m not turning into your friendly Monday morning pop psychologist! I simply want you to examine your heart today regarding one issue. I want you to measure your self-awareness in one particularly important respect. Here it is:
Are you fully aware of or in touch with the extent to which your joy and happiness in life are tied to your physical and financial circumstances?
Or I could say it in a slightly different way with the same outcome:
Are you fully aware of or in touch with the extent to which your confidence in God’s goodness and trustworthiness are tied to your physical and financial circumstances?
I’m not. I’m just being honest with you. I would like to think I’m aware of how much my happiness depends on my circumstances, but I don’t have a lot of confidence. I would like to think that I believe God is good and trustworthy even when life turns bad. But sometimes I wonder.
And the reason for this is that my circumstances haven’t fluctuated much over the years. When I look at my life in comparison with some people I know, I have to confess that I haven’t suffered greatly nor have I prospered greatly. Things have been fairly stable for most of my life. I’ve never lost every last possession in an F-5 tornado. Have you? I’ve never been diagnosed with a debilitating illness. Neither one of my daughters has rebelled or walked away from God. I’ve never been fired from a job. I’ve never been beaten or imprisoned because of my Christian faith. So how am I to know the extent to which my joy and happiness in life are tied to my physical and financial circumstances? How am I to really know, with deep and abiding confidence, the extent to which my trust in God is tied to the good things he gives me?
My suspicion is that most people, Christians included, are not very self-aware when it comes to this issue. And one reason why they are not is because they don’t want to be. In other words, most people don’t want to understand how deeply and inextricably their joy and happiness are tied to their physical and financial circumstances. To be aware of that is painful. It’s embarrassing. It’s convicting. And most of all, it would call for us to make some pretty serious changes in our lives that most of us don’t want to make.
Consider a couple of testimonies in Scripture. I trust that the people who said these things were extremely self-aware and were speaking honestly. After all, they wrote this under the inspiration of the Spirit!
“I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you’” (Psalm 16:2).
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25).
“For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one” (Hebrews 10:34).
Not only was their joy not dependent on their physical and financial circumstances, their joy actually increased when they were thrown into prison and had all their possessions confiscated!
Or what about what Jesus said in Luke 12:15 where he addressed an extremely wealthy man:
“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Does yours? Honestly, does it? Does your life consist in the abundance of your possessions? Most of us are quick to say, “Of course not. Never. Not in a million years.”
Or consider what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:3-4 –
“But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. . . . It is the Lord who judges me.”
Can you and I honestly say that our joy is not in any way dependent on what other people think of us or that our happiness is not affected by their judgments against us? Paul appears to be saying that very thing.
Nowhere else in the Bible is the importance of self-awareness in this regard more clearly stated than in Philippians 4:10-13.
“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
So, for example, I hear Paul say:
“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”
And I say, “Really? Have you ever suffered the loss of all things, Paul?”
“Well, yes I have, Sam.”
“Uh, O.K. But have you ever been persecuted and vilified and judged and rejected and gone hungry and been on the verge of an untimely death?”
“Uh, well, yes I have, Sam.”
“In fact, I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”
So let’s talk about how aware each of us is regarding our physical and financial circumstances and the degree to which our joy and happiness and trust in God’s goodness and sense of purpose and meaning in life are tied to them. But I’m warning you: it’s going to hurt.
To be continued . . .