I find we are a people lost in self-delusion. Sounds pretty negative and not a way many of us want to start the day, yet it is something that is worthy of consideration. Stop and reflect for a moment; how often do we lie to ourselves about why we do something? I find that most people dress up their motivation in some noble cause or worthy reason but in truth there is a self-centered purpose behind it. In fact, we can look at the very simple thing of doing something nice for someone. Are we doing it for that person or is it because we get a buzz from the person's reaction and praise for what we have done? Often my thoughts go back to Jesus' challenge for us to love where there is no love and to give where we can't get anything back.
If we are willing to be honest with our self and God we would be willing to be honest enough to admit that many of our actions are done because we benefit from them. If we are willing to admit this then I think we can go on from there and recognize our part in any of the conflicts in our life. Regardless of who started the conflict, our selfishness, or need to defend our self, our need to be right, our need to be heard perpetuated the conflict. James writes:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. (James 4:1-2)
I believe most of us are a lot more self-centered and selfish than we want to admit. Yet, the only way the Body of Christ can function properly is to understand and practice the instruction to look after others and trust that God the Father looks after us. If we remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit we would discover that our Father has planned for our need of rest, food, shelter, clothing, friendship and everything else we need. Where things fall apart is when we allow our desires to take over. Again a simple example is our desire for importance which can cause us to be overly busy so that we stop hearing God's voice. We abuse our body all in the name of sacrifice for the ministry when that is not God's intention at all. I am not saying there are not seasons and in some cases there may be prolonged years of busyness, but these are exceptions and not rules. We need to stop deluding ourselves and dishonouring the name of Jesus because of our own foolish notion of service and sacrifice which are simply selfish tools for self-importance and pride. The Scriptures continue:
You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 3:2-3)
I do not expect that everyone will agree with me on this and it is a difficult message to get across to people. There is a lot of garbage to wade through in order for us to reach a place of honesty about motivation. Another simple example is a wife who prayers for the salvation of her husband. You can ask why she is praying and her answer could be because she wants him to be nicer to her. The motivation should be because she wants him to experience the love of Jesus for himself and to be able to enter into glory; that she does not want him to face eternal damnation. That would be the correct answer but would it be the honest answer. Are we willing to dig deep to find the core of our motivation so we can correct it?
People often ask me why God is not listening to them; why is he not answering prayer? That is a complicated question simply by the sheer possible unknowns that are involved. But I wonder how many reasons have to do with our selfish motivations? Again the problem is that we have deluded ourselves so much that we have buried the truth deep within and it is hard to find. There are two problems; we trust ourself too much and, we are really good liars. We need to be able to ask ourself the question, "Why am I praying for this?" to understand why our prayer is not being answered. I doubt if we can honestly answer it though because I don't believe we are willing to be that honest with ourself.
It is a difficult task but I encourage you to examine the rough places in your life right now. Examine them in a manner in which you are willing to be perfectly honest with yourself. Ask yourself how much you are at fault in these situations; how much did your desires play in developing these rough areas in your life? What conflicts are there with people? Did you honestly apply the principles of Jesus, to love where there is no love and to give where there is no hope of receiving back? Did you put that other person ahead of your own need to be right, your need to look good, your need not to be embarrassed, your need to have the upper hand? Yes, the more we look the uglier it can be, so be prepared if you are looking for honesty in the situation; what you find may hurt how you see yourself.