20 Aug Live beyond yourself
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e live in such a selfish world that seems to get more selfish by the minute – a world full of people ever trying to improve their lives while not sparing much thought for the lives of others; a world where people are obsessed by them-selves and their own needs. In the middle of this world is the church, positioned by God to make a difference and to change communities. How do we do this? What’s the answer? The answer is quite simple: it is to remind ourselves of God’s purpose for our lives. As Christians we are called to live differently in our everyday lives, not to live for ourselves, but to live beyond our own needs, dreams and comforts and for the needs and dreams of other people.
[heading size=”4″]Life is not just about me![/heading]
Sometimes being resident in a big, old, selfish world can rub off on any of us and it’s good to let God remind us that life is not just about us.
Christianity that is lived out is all about every one of us caring for the needs and dreams of others even to the point of putting their needs before our own. It is so easy for a church or an individual to get obsessed with their own promised land (that thing or dream that you know God has promised). But that is not the picture that God has for us or the land He has called us to. I believe He wants us to have a much larger view of life, a panoramic one, where we live to see not only our promised lands come into being but also where we live to help others come into their promised lands at the same time.
This is what I mean by ‘living beyond yourself’ – that we daily make the decision to live sacrificially, to get other people into their promises as much as to get ourselves into ours.
I have read chapter 1 of Joshua many, many times but recently I felt God drawing me back to it to teach me something new. So I went to it and was not disappointed. As I read through it, I saw something that I had never seen before.
Have you ever done that, read something in the Bible that you have read so many times but this time you read or see something that you have never, ever noticed? It’s like someone just added it! That’s a ‘revelation’ or a God-revealing moment.
What I saw for the first time was that the commandment of God to Joshua was bigger than just to reach his own promised land and that it was all about other people’s promised lands, too. If you read through the above verses, you see that God basically said to Joshua, to get up and go into the land He had promised him. That is the point at which I had always subconsciously stopped reading. But this time, God had me read on. It then says that he was to settle his wife and family and then take his mighty men (his potential) and go and help his brothers, the other tribes, to get into their promised lands, too.
God clearly said to him – and says to us – do not rest until your brothers are in their promised lands (and have rest) as you are in yours (and have your rest); as soon as they are settled in their place of promise, that’s when you can put your feet up, make a brew and watch Sky TV in yours.
Wow! That’s so powerful! It’s not just about us and our promised lands but God wants us to live bigger lives that, by conscious intention, help others come into theirs. This can be a challenge, both to us as church to be ready to help others, and as individuals. Either way, it’s a great challenge that delivers any life from being average to being dynamic. It’s nothing new either. It’s called having the servant heart of God operating within us.
[heading size=”4″]God blesses us for us and beyond[/heading]
As we have said before, life is bigger than me or you and God’s intention through blessing our lives is always bigger than just benefiting us as individuals. I believe that He blesses us in order for us to bless, or be a point of blessing to, others also. When God blesses you He is always thinking beyond you. We must understand this if we want to walk correctly with God. He wants to bless you to be a blessing. If we don’t understand the purpose of both the facets of this, all we are left with is a pretty selfish, me-based variety of Christianity that will never change a world.
We can see this principle both initialised and worked out in the life of Abraham.
God blesses Abraham and declares that his life is going to be a good one, a life of influence and fame. But God then adds the important closing part: that his life would be source of incredible blessing to others and that all the families of the Earth would be blessed because of his life.
I love how the Amplified translation expands this: that his life would be ‘dispensing good to others’ always. That’s a destiny worth embracing!
Within this promise to Abraham we clearly see God’s heart for blessing every person: that, firstly they themselves will be blessed but that, secondly, they will then be a blessing to others.
The challenge then for us is that it’s not so much a question of whether God can get stuff to us, but rather can He get stuff through us? Can He bring things through your life that will benefit others beyond you?
Another way of looking at this is asking whether we will be like the Dead Sea where everything coming in stops with us because there is no outflow; or if will we be like the Sea of Galilee that is full of life because it has life coming into it, through it and out of it to other places. I am convinced that if God can get stuff through your life, He will always get stuff to your life.
[heading size=”4″]Legacies are left by people who live beyond themselves[/heading]
Think of people like Mother Teresa: such a quiet little lady yet she left such an incredibly large legacy with the life she lived. Why? Because she dared to step out of living for her own benefit to living for the benefit of others – namely, thousands of homeless, hungry and dying and so many orphans that needed someone to care for them and speak for them.
It is when we live to help others come into their place of promise or rest that we leave a legacy worth being remembered.
[heading size=”4″]Our God is others-minded – He ‘lives beyond Himself’[/heading]
What an awesome thought, that God is ‘mindful’ of us. His mind, like that of any loving father, is focused on, or full of, our needs and desires. He is not selfishly sitting in heaven wondering what He needs to make Him feel a little bit better. But rather He sits and thinks about our promised lands and what we need in life. And we are to be in His likeness – mindful of lives beyond our own. We are called to carry others – in their joys, challenges, and in their sorrows. Surely Church should be a place where we live beyond what we like or need, but one where we focus on what others need? Our preferences should be for what God wants and what others need, lest we be found with the mentality of ‘consumer’ instead of ‘consumed’. As we build church we need to think beyond ourselves even to the next generation.
[heading size=”4″]Paul lived beyond himself[/heading]
Listen carefully to what Paul is saying in these verses [my paraphrase] “It’s not about what is better for me but rather what is beneficial to you. It’s better for you that I stay.” Paul was, as always, being ‘beyond himself’-minded.
This is a great example for us all as it is not about what we want but what will benefit the church or someone else. Being led by the Spirit is always about doing something that will cost you but profit the life of another: it’s about committing to living uncomfortably – it’s easier for me if I go – but they reply, “Yes, but it is better for us if you stay”. Live beyond what is comfortable.
When he had entered his own promised land, Joshua could have said it was easier for him to unpack and enjoy what God has given him. But he chose to get back up and to go and bring his friends and brothers into what God had promised them.
[heading size=”4″]Jesus lived beyond Himself[/heading]
In closing, Jesus is our greatest example. When reading about Him in the gospels, page after page is filled with accounts of Him doing something for someone, never taking time out, always staying until everyone was prayed for, re-routing his journey or day to fit someone else’s need in. He lived His life, giving it away for the benefit of others. Even at the Last Supper, as He sat with His disciples, knowing exactly what lay ahead of Him at the cross, all the pain and the torment, He did not focus on His own emotional needs but on those of His disciples. He checked that they were all OK before He left. Then He went on to live even further beyond Himself – to the limit – giving His life at the cross for the benefit of a lost humanity.
The Bible says ‘Greater love has no man than this that he lays down his life for his friends’. Jesus lived and died beyond Himself and I believe that this is what He calls us to do as we now walk the Earth following Him.
I hope this challenges you like it challenges me. It challenges my soul, my role as a Pastor, my role as an individual with the days given to me to live. Let me be found like Joshua, Abraham, Paul and Jesus – living beyond my own comfort and ‘promised land’ for the benefit of others.
Give a bit of yourself to someone else today.