Tuesday, May 16, 2017

You Think You're Special?

1st Peter 5:6  Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

There are times when we all have to wrestle with our own pride, and I have found that pride is one of the sneakiest vices of all.  "More subtil than all of the beasts of the field," if you will.  It creeps up in ways that we rarely expect, and is hard to notice in ourselves and even harder to deal with if someone else notices it in us.  It's one of the most interesting character flaws, in that, as C.S. Lewis, pointed out, the more we have of it in ourselves, the more we detest it in others.

A commencement speaker at Wellesley High School made an incendiary statement in his speech at the high school graduation: "You are not special."  How does that hit you? The statement rubs our millenial, impact-addicted generation the entirely wrong way, and runs contrary to what parents and other high school graduation speakers tell their children constantly.  His point was to affect a little humility...to realize that even as the earth is not the center of our solar system, and the solar system isn't the center of our galaxy, we are not the center of our world.  We are not entitled to anything, really. Hard work, dedication and principles are still required.  If everyone is special, no one really is runs along the same lines as if everyone receives a trophy, trophies become meaningless.

God spoke to Baruch through Jeremiah the prophet at a time when Judah, the nation God had chosen for Himself, and Jerusalem where He had chosen to put His name was suffering the worst defeat it ever had.  In the midst of all this, Baruch seems very focused on himself, which prompts this rebuke from the prophet:
Jeremiah 45:5  "And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the LORD: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest."

There's more at stake here than just you, Baruch.  There's more going on in the big picture than your specific troubles.

I have wrestled at various times in my life with the feeling that I'm not doing enough, stemming from the belief that I am capable of far more than I'm producing!  The proverbial carrot in front of my nose is that next big thing around the corner that will fulfill me and have a huge impact on the world.  But when I'm asked to define what I would want that to be, I have a hard time nailing it down.  I just know that it's something bigger...better than where I am now in my life.  And yet, time after time, I get the sense that God is tempering me, and shutting doors, and placing me in places I don't want to be, doing things that I feel others could be doing.

Now before I continue with this post, I do want to provide a clarifying caveat.  I am not encouraging laziness, inaction or apathy.  I am not suggesting that we should just settle with a sub-par life doing menial work with mediocre results.  I am 100% with William Carey's maxim, "Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God."

My only concern is that we let smaller opportunities go by in search of THE BIG THING.  That illusive great thing that will fulfill and complete us.  Sometimes, I get the sense that when we turn in our resume from God and He gives us a job, we turn it down because it's not quite big enough and we feel that we are slightly overqualified for the position.

I want to work on that in my own character.  The story of Korah and Dathan and Abiram from Numbers 16 convicted me the other day.

Numbers 16:1-3 (KJV)
(1)  Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men:
(2)  And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown:
(3)  And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?

We COULD construe their statements as, "Everyone is special...why do you think YOU are?"  Which is really an odd question when you think about it.  Their point, however, was that they felt they could do the job just as well as Moses, and why did he think he could be in charge?  They wanted something greater.   They thought Moses took too much upon himself, when anyone could have done his job.

The part that really got me though was Moses's response to them:

Numbers 16:4-11 (KJV)
(4)  And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face:
(5)  And he spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even to morrow the LORD will shew who are his, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto him: even him whom he hath chosen will he cause to come near unto him.
(6)  This do; Take you censers, Korah, and all his company;
(7)  And put fire therein, and put incense in them before the LORD to morrow: and it shall be that the man whom the LORD doth choose, he shall be holy: ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi.
(8)  And Moses said unto Korah, Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi:
(9)  Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them?
(10)  And he hath brought thee near to him, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also?
(11)  For which cause both thou and all thy company are gathered together against the LORD: and what is Aaron, that ye murmur against him?

First of all, Moses turns it around on them.  In the very act of accusing Moses that he had taken too much on himself, they were in turn, taking too much upon THEMSELVES.  But then it gets more pointed.  Verse 9 really hits home...

"Seemeth it but a small thing unto you...?"

It's almost like Moses answered their question of "You think you're special?" by asking, "You think you're not?"

God had already chosen the tribe of Levi and these leaders in particular for a very important task.  They were already set apart from the rest of the congregation because God had chosen to bring them near unto Himself to do the service of the Tabernacle of the Lord!  But that wasn't enough for them.  They wanted to be more separated.  THAT calling wasn't enough.  They wanted a greater calling.  But guess what?  Calling isn't based on skills and abilities.  It's based on God's choosing.  God's anointing.

There's a song the Jews sing at Passover called "Dayeinu" that repeats the phrase, "It would have been enough."  A few of the verses go like this...

If He had rescued us from Egypt,
but not punished the Egyptians,
It would have been enough. (Dayeinu )
If He had punished the Egyptians,
but not divided the Red Sea before us,
It would have been enough.
If He had divided the Red Sea before us,
but not supplied us in the desert for 40 years,
It would have been enough.
If He had supplied us in the desert for 40 years,but not brought us to the land of promise,
It would have been enough.
If He had brought us to the land of promise,
but not made us a holy people,
It would have been enough.

I think most of us acknowledge (if we have any sense) that just by redeeming us from sin, God has already done so much for us that He is under no obligation to bless us anymore.  But we don't really live or pray like that.  We DO expect certain things from Him.  And, again, I DO believe we should take God's promises seriously and, as the widow with unjust judge and the mandate in Isaiah 62 teaches, not give God rest until those things which He has promised has been fulfilled.

However, it's just possible that we need to step back and evaluate our expectations to see if they are really in line with God's promises or moreso to heap upon our own lusts.

Let us not neglect the seemingly trivial assignments, or the character development that is incumbent upon us in menial chores by virtue of the illusive "greater" thing we are looking for.  David knew he as going to be king, but he didn't refuse the sheep-watching, harp-playing, armor-bearing, giant-slaying, troop-leading, cave-dwelling tasks God gave him in the meantime.

An interesting statement in Numbers 18, just after God has proven His point about whom He has truly chosen, He makes an interesting statement to Aaron about the role of the Levites...

Numbers 18:6  And I, behold, I have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel: to you they are given as a gift for the LORD, to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. 

God gave the Levites to Aaron and his sons as a gift, (which was ultimately to give back to the Lord for HIS purposes and service), which is all fine and dandy if you are Aaron or his sons.  But what if you are the gift that God is giving someone else who is in a higher position than you?

Are we willing to fulfill that role?  It's still special.  It's still necessary.  It's still a work for God.  We're just not the top dog anymore.

Hopefully this blog post gives us pause to evaluate our view of ourselves.  These are the thoughts I've been pondering.

As a closing thought, no matter what season you are in, coming out of, or going into; no matter what role you are fulfilling; no matter what stirrings are in your restless heart, let it all be strained through the filter of what God wants, and what His plans are for you.

1st Peter 5:6  Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful article, what comes to mind is the heart of man is so sneaky and crooked. Our very own sprit can lead us astray, Lord help us remain meek and honest with ourselves about our own motives and Purpose.