Defeating Self-Defeat

It is customary in America to dub every decade with a name that is characteristic of the overall mindset of that era. If I were naming the present era, I would call it “the decade of the selfie.” In this age of cultural narcissism, people are consumed with self, and what’s more, they are not embarrassed by it. Gone are the days of subtle self-promotion. And this condition is not peculiar to the world and the unsaved. It has taken a firm hold of many in the Church.

The Bible describes these people as being “puffed up in their own imaginations; they think more highly of themselves than they ought” (Ref. Rom. 12:3, 1Cor. 4:6, 18-19, 5:2, 8:1, 13:4). Satan uses this as an entry point, especially for those in ministry, often creating a sense of superiority and entitlement. He knows this is a successful tool, because pride stemming from self-focus is what caused him to fall from his lofty position as the worship leader before the throne of God.

There are scores of Scriptures that address the problem of pride, but there’s something on the other end of the spectrum that is just as insidious and detrimental to spiritual growth, and perhaps, harder to identify; and that is a sense of inferiority—even worthlessness, self-condemnation and self-incrimination. This kind of self-focus-low-esteem can undermine a person’s faith and productivity in the life of the Christian. They continually lament: “I feel so unworthy. I am such a failure.” Sometimes they seek to mitigate it by blaming it on an unhappy childhood or other unfortunate experiences that affected their emotional development.

But the source and the motive are the same: Satan is behind it, and he seeks to chip away at their confidence to prevent them from fulfilling their purpose and potential in Christ. While the person full of pride may be repulsive, the one who is always wallowing in low self-esteem is no less defeated, and defeat after defeat serves to confirm his self-doubts, which in turn perpetuate the cycle. How can we help people who are trapped in this bog of self-defeatism? There is a little known verse, Philemon 1:6, that provides a good start:

“That the communication of your faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.”

God Has Put Good Things In Us!

Fact: Anyone who is in Christ Jesus is filled with good things, starting with the gift of faith by which we all are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9).  The new birth guarantees that we do not have to live the rest of our lives clinging to the damage of our past (2Cor. 5:17). Furthermore, the value of a thing is determined by what a person is willing to pay for it. At auctions sometimes a thing (painting, jewelry, a memento of a famous person) is sold after aggressive bidding for what seems to be an exorbitant price. One person was willing to bid higher than all the others, because to him, the item was worth it. Its value was set by what he was willing to pay.

God was willing to pay the exorbitant price of the perfect, sinless blood of His only Begotten Son for us, and He did so when we were damaged goods. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us …” (Rom. 5:8). Therefore, our value is that of Jesus Himself.

Hebrews 2:11 states: “He that sanctifies (Jesus), and they that are sanctified (you and me), are all one; wherefore he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” This means we are just as sanctified as Jesus! We’re just as holy, just as righteous as He is.

“But that’s not so!”—some would protest—“ I’m not that holy!” Neither am I in myself. But in Jesus, God sees us that way, because we are one in His Son. Paul wrote in 1Corinthinas 1:30-31: “But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. That as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

It is okay to boast—to declare your position in Christ—who you are in Him. Paul didn’t say not to glory, but to have the correct posture—to glory in who you are in Christ! Our acknowledgment of who we are, and what our value is to God, is vital to our being able to stand strong against the lies and attacks of our adversary, whose title is “the accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:11).

Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “To the praise of his glory of his grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the beloved” (1:6). This has to be one of the most powerful, revelatory statements written in the New Testament of who we are. This is why we should say good things about ourselves. To continually speak negative things about oneself can lead to your own mouth becoming your worst enemy. What we repeatedly hear, we will eventually believe, even if it’s false. Stop saying things like: “I can’t. I’m dumb. I’m not a good reader. I’m not a good speaker.” God says He has a great future for you and me. But we must believe it in our hearts and activate it with our mouths: “that the communication of your faith may become effectual.”

The Greek word for communication is koinonia and means fellowship, sharing of your faith. You have gifts and faith to share with the rest of the Body of Christ and with sinners. God has dealt to you the measure of faith (Rom. 12:3). You need to exercise those gifts, so that you may bring forth your measure of faith, grace, love, charity, and Christian service to others effectually!

But you must start by accepting yourself in the Beloved as valuable, and acknowledging the good work God has begun in you and promises to “perform, complete, and perfect” (Phil.1:6). Then communicate these things by using the gifts God has given to you to bring glory to His name. A defeated, “I’m unworthy” testimony won’t win anybody to Christ. Neither will a puffed up, self-righteous braggart. But when we can communicate what Christ has done for us and who we are in Him, we give hope to others and honor to Him. By acknowledging the good God has put in us, we inspire ourselves to walk in it.

Meet Johnny Lingo

An American military person was stationed in Japan. He had a three-week leave, so he rented a boat and sailed to Kiniwata, part of an island group in the South Pacific. The guesthouse where he stayed was managed by another American, a man from Chicago who had a habit of giving native islanders American nicknames. One islander was a man he named Johnny Lingo.

He told the American visitor that Johnny Lingo was the brightest, quickest, and strongest man in all the islands. He was sort of a legend amongst the people. He was the best trader in the islands, and had many connections, which made him very rich. He built a five room house on one of the islands, which was considered extreme luxury.

If you wanted to go fishing, Johnny knew the best places to fish. If you wanted fresh vegetables, his garden grew the best. If you want to buy jewelry, such as island pearls, he could get you the best deals. Still, the visitor noticed that whenever he spoke of Johnny Lingo, he laughed in a somewhat mocking way. Even the little boy who hung outside around the porch cracked up laughing when he heard his name. Curious, the visitor asked the manager why?

The manager explained that five months ago Johnny Lingo had come to Kiniwata to find a wife, and he paid her father eight cows for her. This was a ridiculous price—2 to 3 cows would buy a fair wife, 4 to 5 cows would buy a very good wife.

“Well, she must be a beauty,” the visitor said.

“To call Sarita plain would be kind,” he replied. “She’s very skinny, and she walks with her shoulders hunched over and her head ducking down. She is scared of her own shadow.”

“Then how do you explain the eight cows?”

“We don’t, and that’s why the villagers laugh when they talk about Johnny. He is the sharpest trader in all the islands, and yet he was bested by Sarita’s father who is a dull old man.”

The visitor decided he wanted to meet Johnny, so the next day he sailed to that island to meet Johnny at his home. They were seated when Sarita walked into the room. She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, with beautiful, graceful shoulders. She walked with her chin tilted up, and the sparkle of her eyes showed the confidence she portrayed. When she left the room he said to Johnny, “She is glorious—nothing like the villagers described. They said she was homely, and they make fun of you because you let yourself be cheated by her father.”

“So do you think eight cows are too many?” Johnny asked.

“No, but how can she be so different?”

Johnny explained: “Do you know what it must mean to a woman to know that her husband bought her for the lowest price which she could be bought? And then later on, when women get together and talk, the rest of the women tell what their husbands paid for them. One says four cows; maybe some even six. How does that make her feel when she was sold for just one or two? I didn’t want this to happen to my Sarita.”

“So you did it to make her happy?” he asked.

“Yes, but more than that… You say she is different. This is true. Many things can change a woman, but the thing that matters most is what she thinks about herself. Sarita believed she was worth nothing. Now she knows she is worth more than any other woman in the islands.

“I wanted to marry Sarita. I loved her and no other woman—but I wanted an eight-cow wife.”