The other night, I was quite irritated with one of my children because of an attitude issue. As I took a moment to calm down and clear my mind, it dawned on me that “I don’t matter!” Now, initially, this was a very self-pity-ish way of thinking. “I don’t matter; woe is me. No one cares about me.” Blah, blah, BLECH!!!
Nonetheless, as I began to take care of some things, the deeper truth welled up inside of me. I really don’t matter! Now, this is not some self-pitying tripe. Nor am I saying that my life or activities don’t matter to anyone at any time! That’s asinine; I have kids, and by virtue of being their parent, my existence matters.
Rather, what I came to realize is that, when you get down to it, I am not the one that matters! Jesus is! He matters because He is God, because He laid down His life for my sins, because He rose again on the third day, and because He is the only one worthy of such worship and importance! By His declaration, my life matters, but He matters more, and I need to acknowledge that.
When you’re in pain, experiencing pain, or just generally unsettled, it’s easy to get selfish. If you’re on the Autism Spectrum, it’s even easier to get self-centered because you’re oft inside your own head, even more than being in the world around you. So, this isn’t meant to condemn anyone, but it is hoped that it might convict a few, as I was convicted.
And that conviction should lead you to repentance (turning away from the sin, in this case selfishness). Whatever my desire, and however well-reasoned or well-intentioned my thoughts, my desires and my thoughts are not what matters. What does Jesus want? What has caught Jesus’ attention?
For me, I have made a point to pivot and redirect my selfish thoughts and intentions. Most notably, I’m working on purging the phrase “I’m tired” from my vocabulary. Most of the time, it’s an accurate expression, but even so, many times, it benefits no one to declare it. My yawns are visible, the tiredness is seen in my face, or the clock, alone, shows that the day is coming to a close and it’s times to rest. Declaring that I’m tired benefits no one in these situations.
On the flip side, there are times when my tiredness is my reason for not doing something. I worry about pushing myself too far or too hard, and I try to strike a balance between what I must do and what is optional to do, so I can maximize my energy level over the day. And yet, that’s not really what Christ calls us to do. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus asks the disciples to pray with Him in the garden of Gethsemane, and the disciples keep falling asleep because it’s late. In this moment, Jesus acknowledges “Keep watch, and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” (Matthew 26:41, NLT, emphasis mine)
In short, Jesus is telling the disciples (and, now, us) that the inner-man, the part of us we call the “spirit”, the part that, in Christ, communes directly with God, that part is more than willing to push beyond our physical limits. But our flesh, that part which is inclined toward sin, is weak. This plays out two ways; 1) The flesh can’t conquer the spirit, if we choose to follow the spirit, and 2) If we live our lives by our flesh (or by our own efforts), we will find ourselves not able to do what He’s called us to.
At the same time, Jesus knows that we’re human and need rest. This blog is not trying to say that you can go without sleep! I am not of the mind that we should knowingly do harm to ourselves. However, I am also not saying that we should tell God that we can’t do something because we’re tired or because we don’t think it’s possible. Quite to the contrary, if God calls you to do something, then that is what you should do, consequences notwithstanding!
Paul reinforces this in Galatians 5:14-17, when he tells us to follow the Spirit and not give in to the flesh. Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews reinforces this in Hebrews 11 as the various miracles of God, throughout history, are identified as coming from God through faith. He even goes so far as to say, “Faith shows the reality of what we hoped for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1, NLT)
With all these ingredients, let’s cook this stew!
God understands our weaknesses; Jesus lived as a God-in-flesh for 30-ish years. He knows how tiring life can be, having been persecuted, sought out as a celebrity, having lost his earthly father, having been on the go for most of his 3 years of ministry, and having suffered a brutal death of abusive torture, endured the death-inducing 40-lashes, and then walked up a hill to be nailed (raw back against rough wood) to a cross and hang for 3 hours before dying. He surely understands being tired and being worn out.
While He understands our weaknesses, He also calls us to live by the Spirit, not by the flesh. As Zechariah 4:6 (NLT) says, “It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” In the context of this passage, God is laying out before Zechariah that He will work through Zerubbabel to finish the temple, and that nothing will stand in Zerubbabel’s way. But this is not going to happen by any other manner than by the very Spirit of God, Himself! Similarly, our lives can be lived in the flesh, but we will miss the best of what God has for us, and we will fall short of all that God desires to accomplish through our lives. We are called to live by His leading, through His strength, in His Spirit!
And when we live by the Spirit, when we submit our plans and desires to Jesus’ Lordship, we will find Isaiah 40:31 (NLT) becomes very real in our lives; “but those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” And I can testify to this! I have seen the Lord make me able to do that which I could not; I would’ve never thought I could be a single Dad, let alone raise 3 kids through their teenage years, but here I am, doing so, by the grace and strength of the Lord!
At the end of the day, it’s not about me! I don’t matter! I think John the Baptiser put it best when he said, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30, NLT) He is greater than I, and His reflection through my life must increase, and my reflection through my life must decrease. People should see Jesus, through me, more, and they should see me, through me, less. In essence, the highest compliment I can ever expect to receive is “you [sound/look/feel] like Jesus!” Of course, I assume that will be the day the Lord takes me home, and then, I hope His compliment will be, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
Godspeed – 1 Corinthians 15:10