Saturday, 11 February 2012

A Humble Heart

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." Romans 12, 2.

Oh dear sisters, yesterday I went about my evening chores, the last of the day, with such a heavy heart. I don't know what came over me at all. What a Martha I was being! I felt as if I could not fold another pile of laundry, wash another floor, tidy another bedroom. The list seemed huge and endless (after everyone has eaten, tomorrow's prep is to be done and the animals must be put to "bed", there seems a whole new day's worth of work, sometimes!). How I sighed, as I stood at the sink, washing up! Thinking of it now, as I write, I feel so ashamed of myself. I didn't say anything about how I felt, but God sees everything, and He knew I had an ugly attitude, even if my family couldn't see it.

But something wonderful happened not long after this! I didn't finish my chores yesterday evening with a heavy heart. I finished them with a joyful one! This is what happened ...

As I huffed and puffed over my sink, I remembered the "attitude of gratitude" that is my 30 day challenge this month. And in doing so, a feeling of shame, and guilt, came over me. How childish and selfish I was being!

Would Jesus have sighed over the washing up, the way I was doing? No! Of course not. And neither should I! The Bible clearly tells us, that we are to strive to be like Jesus by following the example He set on earth. We are to seek to be in union with Him through a life lived with joy, perseverance, and, most importantly, humility.

Paul, writing to the Philippians, tells us that we should aim to ...

" ... fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Philippians 2, 2 - 8).

How these words helped me yesterday, to refocus my thoughts away from myself, and to direct them towards Jesus instead! I reminded myself that my calling is in fulfilling my God given duties as a wife and mother, and that I must humble myself by carrying out that work with a servant's heart, dying to self and living in Him instead.

I can't say that it was easy, realising this. It was a big challenge, tired as I was, to ditch my self-pitying attitude, and clothe myself in joyfulness instead, but do you know, I did it! I did it by praying, and by hearing God's answer, loud and clear. This is my God given role - the one He has instructed me to fulfill. I have no better work to do than this - His work. I must be thankful, and be glad. So I was! I cast off my sighs and grumbles, and started to smile instead! It wasn't long before I was singing the Hosannah song "Give Me Joy In My Heart", and my chores were done before I knew it! I challenged myself to see just how much I could enjoy what I was doing. Washing all the dishes from tea time was a breeze once I'd determined that I would enjoy it. How quickly that task went, once I embraced it with pleasure instead of reluctance. I placed my burden with God, and by His grace, I had the energy and enthusiasm to carry out all my chores with thankfulness and joy. How grateful I was! And how glad, when I was finished, to look around our clean tidy home, peaceful and calm and ready for the weekend, and know that everything was done, and with a tranquil heart too.

How easy it is, for us to stumble, when it comes to matters of the heart. In the secular world around us, the focus is not on dying to self, but on SERVING self. Everything is geared towards satisfaction of needs, both material and emotional. OUR needs - not the needs of others. This selfishness invades every aspect of our lives, and I know I must be vigilant, to stop it becoming a negative force in my own life. The enemy knows where our weak spots are, and he will do everything to lure us away from a Godly life, to one of self-indulgence and pride. I know what my weak spots are! I was reminded of this yet again this morning when Papa Bear and I were reading our morning devotional. We use the "Morning And Evening" meditations by Charles H. Spurgeon, and here is today's morning reading ...

"And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13).

"A Christian should be a striking likeness of Jesus Christ. You have read lives of Christ, beautifully and eloquently written, but the best life of Christ is His living biography, written out in the words and actions of His people. If we were what we profess to be, and what we should be, we should be pictures of Christ; yea, such striking likenesses of Him, that the world would not have to hold us up by the hour together, and say, "Well, it seems somewhat of a likeness;" but they would, when they once beheld us, exclaim, "He has been with Jesus; he has been taught of Him; he is like Him; he has caught the very idea of the holy Man of Nazareth, and he works it out in his life and every-day actions." A Christian should be like Christ in his boldness. Never blush to own your religion; your profession will never disgrace you: take care you never disgrace that. Be like Jesus, very valiant for your God. Imitate Him in your loving spirit; think kindly, speak kindly, and do kindly, that men may say of you, "He has been with Jesus." Imitate Jesus in His holiness. Was He zealous for His Master? So be you; ever go about doing good. Let not time be wasted: it is too precious. Was He self-denying, never looking to His own interest? Be the same. Was He devout? Be you fervent in your prayers. Had He deference to His Father's will? So submit yourselves to Him. Was He patient? So learn to endure. And best of all, as the highest portraiture of Jesus, try to forgive your enemies, as He did; and let those sublime words of your Master, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do," always ring in your ears. Forgive, as you hope to be forgiven. Heap coals of fire on the head of your foe by your kindness to him. Good for evil, recollect, is godlike. Be godlike, then; and in all ways and by all means, so live that all may say of you, "He has been with Jesus."

(You can read each day's devotions here).

It is so easy to read this and agree, but so much harder to put into practise! So often I can be deeply inspired by what I have read, both in the Bible and in my devotional texts and Bible studies, but inspiration is not the same thing as action! I might INTEND to change my attitude and my behaviour, but actually doing so is another challenge altogether. In this season as we approach Lent, I do feel it is important to consider my own character faults and how these can lead me to turn away from the example of Jesus, and follow the example of the world instead. Never more so, than when I am using the internet! As I have written previously, we need to be especially vigilant in our internet use, because it is so easy to be lured into thinking that what we are doing there is harmless, when in fact it isn't. Just recently, when I've been having rest times with Papa Bear in the evenings, I have been using the internet to visit sites of interest such as the Taste of Home website for recipes, and various nature websites, to find out more about some of the wildlife that interest us (we watched SUCH a funny programme on TV about pandas yesterday! It had us laughing out loud. They are such amazing, amusing creatures. Papa Bear was crying with laughter at their antics). But between doing that, I have also strayed onto several different blogs, chat rooms and message boards (I don't post on any of these, for it is such a time waster, let alone the time spent "surfing" in addition). Papa Bear knew what I was doing as he was right beside me, reading the newspaper and doing the "sudoku", but even so, time ticked away from me and before I knew it, an hour of my evening with him had been stolen, reading comments and blog posts that in point of fact, were not all entirely wholesome. It's such a temptation, when you are hidden behind a wall of anonymity online, to act in a way that you would never dream of doing, in real life. I have written already of the negative aspects of internet use, and how we need to employ vigilance to ensure that we don't get drawn into this, but oh how easy it is, to be lured into reading comments and debates that are in truth, despite being authored by good, Christian wives, occasionally quite ugly.

I think the real problem is that even though we all know what God's will is for us as wives and mothers, we are all still battling with the natures we were born with which are self serving and self indulgent, and therefore quite counter to the calling that we have from our Saviour. In real life, we have witnesses who can call on us to change our behaviour. We can challenge ourselves to be different, and can ask God to help us with this, as I did yesterday. But online, it is so much easier to give in to our faulty natures, because we can convince ourselves it isn't real, and is therefore harmless. We don't feel the same level of moral responsibility which we feel when we engage in negative or ugly behaviour in real life, and we know that if we do, we can walk away from the damage we've done to others and ourselves, without having to deal with the consequences. We can be proud, judgemental, condescending and shrewish (believe me, I am sure I have been all of these online, in the past, and I'm just as sure, if you're honest, that you have too, dear sisters). We can justify it to ourselves, even when we are being quite contentious, because we're sure we're right, and the other person is wrong, or, worse still, we think we are better than they are, because we have superior knowledge or experience. And we indulge ourselves in giving in to these vices, because it's all "virtual", and not part of our real world.

It may be so that we are blessed with greater wisdom or more life experience, but it doesn't mean that it is OK to behave like this, online as much as anywhere else. It is NEVER justifiable. To reiterate, God's will for us all as Christians, is to walk in the Spirit - to be like Jesus. We are told by Paul ...

"Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law" (Galatians 5, 16 - 18).

In case we are in any doubt, we are told exactly what the works of the flesh are;

"Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings and such like:" (Galatians 5, 19 - 21).

How often we can encounter examples of all or any of these - even on websites and blogs that might appear to be wholesome, Christian sites, with useful information and engaging anecdotes to read! We can be lulled into believing that it's OK to stray onto these sites - participate in them even, because as it's not in real life, we are somehow detatched from it - looking, but not touching. But the message is clear. Indulging in any of these vices (even in mind, not just in body), will mean that we cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. We are sinning. We are reminded in this same passage in Galatians, that ...

"... the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another." (Galatians 5, 22 - 26).

I have written out that passage, to put beside the laptop when I am using it, as a reminder to seek only those things which are the fruit of the Spirit! God loves us. He wants us to be like His son, so that we can receive the beautiful gift of Salvation that He has for us. But if we give in to our fleshly desires, we can't have it - we aren't saved. It isn't enough to understand what our duties are. We have to carry them out, and do so with willingness and joy. Furthermore, in humility, we must to seek the companionship and inspiration of others who also think this way, and cast aside the temptations of the world, seductive and apparently innocent as they are, and those who concur with them.

There are a great many wolves in sheep's clothing out there. Let us humbly seek to avoid them, and instead look upwards, to our Heavenly Father and His beautiful Son, that we might find our inspiration there, and not on earth.

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation." (Romans 13, 1 - 2).

More like Jesus would I be, let my Savior dwell with me;
Fill my soul with peace and love — make me gentle as a dove;
More like Jesus, while I go, pilgrim in this world below;
Poor in spirit would I be; let my Savior dwell in me.

If He hears the raven’s cry, if His ever watchful eye
Marks the sparrows when they fall, surely He will hear my call:
He will teach me how to live, all my sinful thoughts forgive;
Pure in heart I still would be — let my Savior dwell in me.

More like Jesus when I pray, more like Jesus day by day,
May I rest me by His side, where the tranquil waters glide.
Born of Him through grace renewed, by His love my will subdued,
Rich in faith I still would be — let my Savior dwell in me.