American Christians are in a constant battle, the battle against selfishness. Christians are commanded to love and honor others more than ourselves, requiring a lifestyle that stands in stark contrast with the cultural message of individualization. Every day, every moment, and every decision we make takes place on the battleground of self. Do I make decisions based on myself or others? Often, we don't even realize the battle. The culture around us has so ultimately influenced us that before we even know it, we are engulfed in selfish desires and making decisions that work best for us. It is not easy for a person to fight against a cultural and change their thought process. That is why we are practicing weekly fasting devotionals during the Lent season. Fasting forces us to take a moment and think beyond our self. It forces us to think about God, to remember how God has worked in the past, and to ask God to work now and forever more. Throughout this week of fasting, we are asking you to fast from yourself.
Selflessness is regularly addressed in the Scriptures. We are called to pick up our cross and follow God daily. We are given example after example of selflessness. The example I always go to is in Philippians 1:21-25
"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Now if I live on in the flesh, this means
fruitful work for me; I don't know which one I should choose. I am torn between the two. I long to depart and be with Christ- which is far better- but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Since I am persuaded of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that, because of my coming to you again, your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound."
At this point, Paul had been through a lot in the name of Christ. No one would have blamed him if he have “called it quits.” But his focus was on others. He would stay on earth to keep teaching, correcting, rebuking, and encouraging for their benefit.
Now I know that most, if not all, our decisions are not life and death. But the point is to have such a focus, heart, and honor for others that we would do things for their benefit instead of our own. During the wintertime since we have lived at our house, I make an intentional effort to shovel, and snow blow one of my neighbor's driveways. It is an easy, tangible thing I can do for them. It was much needed this past winter as the husband was undergoing cancer treatment. I do not give this example to pat myself on the back and say look how great Michael is. In fact, the opposite, I usually try to do things for others without being noticed.
We must be intentional in our selflessness. But that is why it is a challenge. Our church, even our city, has been through a lot this year. It has been a tough year. There are plenty of opportunities to focus on others. I encourage you to be intentional with your neighbors and do something for them without expecting anything in return. But we do have a couple of families that need the body of Christ. This week let us focus on others and, at least for
one decision, and break the cycle of focusing on self.
Written by Michael Chadwick