A New Take on Selflessness

A message of December 13, 2020 for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH:

For audio of this message, please click here.

Our family has spent a good amount of time together over the past few months.  We’re a household of three adults with two pet cats.  The newer member is Charlie, a female who is an attention-hogging climber, jumper and mischief-maker.  The other cat is named Harry, a handsome Maine Coon, who can occasionally raise a fuss when looking for a major back rub.  As these family members are both rescue cats, there is a little baggage with them.  And it’s OK, because all of us have a little baggage that comes to the surface from time to time.

Harry’s baggage involves involuntary moments, during a deep sleep, where he suddenly awakens with a flurry of rapid shaking and a loss of muscle control, which is best described as a night terror.  We have ruled out seizures because they only seem to occur during periods of deep sleep when he appears to have come out of a bad dream.  After looking into this, we are now attributing his episodes to PTSD.  According to what we know of his history before we adopted him, he was a house cat that was forced into the streets at a young age.  There’s no telling what nightmare experiences that he has been through.

Now, we discovered this as an issue with Harry about a couple of years ago when he had his first incident, and it lasted for about five minutes, which is tough to take when you’re watching and holding your kitty writhing uncontrollably.  Lynn and I did some research and we found that CBD seems to help a great deal in smoothing out the bumps and lessening the frequency of Harry’s night terrors, and it has also helped him to have a little more energy, as well.  His most recent episodes are shorter in duration, and he bounces back a lot quicker.  We’re very thankful for this.  His quality of life is of the utmost concern to us as a family.

Now, it is important to note that a number of pet owners dearly love and care for their pets.  Needless to say, they’re part of the family.  If something goes wrong with our pets, my wife and I want to help them as much as we can, and it’s because they really can’t help themselves.  They depend upon us for love, care and companionship.

What we need to see here is that, just like my little buddy Harry, every one of us has a little something that we have had to deal with, and it’s not just because of the pandemic.  The pandemic may have highlighted some things within your overall health that you may now need to address.  Perhaps you have put this on a back burner in the past, but now your health issue, as we have had to shelter in place, has become much more important.

It’s more than a notion that some of us need a little help to get by.

Some of us have sought help and perhaps talked to doctors and nurse practitioners to find a way to take the edge off or even to get medication.  Here’s a newsflash for you…there’s no shame in taking medication.  There’s nothing wrong with finding remedies to your health concerns.  It’s a wise practice.

Timothy, for example, was given very good advice by Paul when it came to his ailments.

1 Timothy 5:23 ESV

(No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)

Why was this important for Timothy to pay attention to?  It was because Timothy was fully involved in ministry.  He was the leader of the church assigned to him by Paul.  Ephesus was one of them, and another one was the church at Corinth, and it was necessary for Timothy, a young man in his mid-thirties, to be at the top of his game as a leader of these very challenging areas of ministry.  He was clearly struggling with a chronic condition involving his stomach; therefore, Paul tells him to drink non-alcoholic wine to soothe his stomach, which would help him to feel better.  It was good advice, and it was rooted in godliness.

Here are a couple of questions for you to consider today:

If you are not feeling your best, do you feel it is important to just plod along and not do anything about it?

If you see someone is having a hard time, how do you respond on your part?  Is it a natural inclination to want to find ways to help out, or do you take a pass?

As you ponder these questions, please consider that God wants every person to be less self-centered and more selfless in our daily approach to life.  Less self-centered and more selfless.

We are to be selfless in our own approach to health.

We are to be selfless in looking after and caring for others.

To be selfless is to be unselfish.

When we are self-centered, we’re not much good for self or others.

What we are doing here is getting down to the root of human behavior.  The nitty gritty of one’s attitude. 

To be selfish vs. unselfish.

What keeps a person from acknowledging the warning signs that can lead to a stroke?  High blood pressure, a poor diet, failing to control diabetes, a myriad of aches and pains are all warning signs.  Why is a person with these symptoms less inclined to ask for help?  I’m just going to put it out there that men resist going to a doctor for all of the wrong reasons.  Now, I’m not speaking as a medical professional, but I am speaking as a husband and a father of adult children, and as a minister within the body of Christ.  All of these carry a huge responsibility.  With this responsibility comes the need for responsible behavior.  If I am not at my best, I cannot be my best for someone else.  If I am not at my best, I can’t be my best for my wife and my family.  If I am not at my best, I can’t be the best servant I can be for Jesus Christ.  This especially includes paying attention to my health.

Note that all of this starts at home.  It does matter, in the long run, how I navigate through my family before I even begin to practice ministry on the outside.

In First Timothy, note the qualifications of an overseer, as the person is referred to in the ESV. (The KJV and ASV refer to this person as a bishop, and the NLT calls this person a church leader.) I am providing this example because I believe it is important for anyone who is a Christian to fulfill these personal qualifications as a leader in the faith, whether you are presiding over a church or not.

1 Timothy 3:1-7 ESV

1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Look at all of the potential issues for the overseer here. There is a lot to consider before he is to be accepted in a role of leadership over a group.  In order to be sober-minded, self-controlled and gentle in his approach in his own home, he has to be selfless.  He must be unselfish.  This is not just before others, but it also includes his own behavior.  Failure to do this will lead to sinful behavior.

Let’s ask this question again:  Why does a person ignore the warning signs?  Is it conceit?  Is it pride?  Is it fear? 

All of these things do not come from God.

Proverbs 16:18 CSB

Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.

Pride and arrogance are problematic for believers.  It leads to not wanting to help others, and it also contributes to not even wanting to deal with our own personal issues—our own health issues.  Let’s face it…pride and arrogance can condemn a person to eternal separation from Jesus Christ.  Nothing more and nothing less.  Only recognizing Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life brings eternal salvation.

Of course, Jesus provides salvation and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit as a remedy for our conceitedness, pridefulness, arrogance and selfishness.  The opposite of conceitedness and pridefulness is humility.  We are told by Jesus to be courageous and to not be fearful, and this applies to our own approach to our health.

Joshua 1:7 NIV

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.

Isaiah 58:11 ESV                          

And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

Psalm 3:5-6 KJV

5 I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.

6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.

I’ll just speak about men, here.  We can be really big babies at times when we get sick.  We don’t like getting sick (Who does?), but we also deeply fear receiving bad news.  That’s not exactly very heroic.

Speaking frankly, one of the hardest things for men is to reckon with their own health issues, and yet, they must reckon with them.  How many times have we heard of people who ignored those warning signs and finally, when the pain became unbearable, went to the doctor and received a grim diagnosis?  This becomes a very difficult thing for a family to deal with, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way.

We must remember that there is no shame in going to a doctor or getting medication to address a problem.  Do you recognize that God is being very gracious to provide healing in the midst of difficulty?

For those of us who are older and with less ability to move about, the message here is not much different.  We all need to pay attention to those signs that raise health issues, and to do what we can to eat right and move as much as we can.  I saw a very sobering comment on social media about how people who had attended someone’s funeral were later, during fellowship, eating the same rich, fatty foods that were enjoyed by the one who had passed on.

We need to make sure to eat healthier and make wiser choices in our diets.  Drop the fatty food diet as the bad habit that it really is.  This is selfless behavior in action.

1 Corinthians 6:12 ESV

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.

In First Corinthians, Chapter Six, Paul addresses the Corinthian church about not abusing themselves with sexual immorality, but the same principle applies to not abusing ourselves with what we take into our bodies.  It’s not illegal to eat or drink whatever we want, but that doesn’t mean it’s what we should be doing.  Our health choices remain our personal responsibility.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Let’s say that we’re doing everything right.  We are paying attention to our diets and even exercising as we should.  Even with all of this, there are times where some of us may still experience chronic physical ailments.

What if God doesn’t heal you in the way you expect Him to?  What if the chronic pain or condition seems to linger?

In Scripture, you may recall that Paul had begged the Lord to take away his severe pain, but note that Paul, because of his position and because he was privy to much more in the faith than the average person, had to experience this humiliating pain to recognize what God was teaching him.  He was to go beyond the physical and humble himself before the Lord:

2 Corinthians 12:6-10 CSB

6 For if I want to boast, I wouldn’t be a fool, because I would be telling the truth. But I will spare you, so that no one can credit me with something beyond what he sees in me or hears from me, 7 especially because of the extraordinary revelations. Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not exalt myself. 8 Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.”

Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. 10 So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Was Paul healed in this instance?  Yes, he absolutely was.

His attitude was what needed to be fixed.  He was indeed healed in a way that was unexpected.  An arrogant man cannot be an effective servant of Jesus Christ.  God will sometimes humble us in our selfishness.  A humble man is the best servant for Jesus.

The key is humility.  God had to show him what was most important.  It is humility.

Humility is a necessity in that it lays the foundation of our obedience to Jesus Christ.  Our flesh desires selfishness.  Christ demands selflessness.

1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Are you anxious about your health?  Are you anxious at all?

God addresses every fear or concern with loving care.  Are you fearful?  Take your fears directly to Him.  Don’t hold onto them.  Your fears will only deteriorate you over time.  Don’t hold onto them.  Give them to Jesus in fervent prayer.

Philippians 4:6-7 BSB

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Have you humbled yourself before the throne of grace?

Have you trusted God’s power of healing in your life?  Is there more that you can do in trusting Him?

Have you looked at the way you live and are you paying attention to God’s warning signs?

Have you made an effort to change the way you live in order to be a better servant for Jesus Christ?

Are you prepared to live a life of selflessness, no matter how you are feeling, to be a willing servant for Jesus Christ?

Are you prepared to make a testimony of God’s greatness in your life because of what He has done?

Jesus is ready to address all of your concerns and prompt you to do the things necessary to help you grow, in selflessness, in your relationship with Him and before others.

He’s waiting for you.

© 2020 Melvin Gaines

Categories Christian Studies, Christianity, Sermon, The BibleTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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