The Choice of Self Preservation – God or Self?
Has God given you a task – and you instantly felt stressed asking God, “How in the world?” And thoughts of iniquity, uncertainty, and reason after reason over why that was just not right flooded your mind?
I have – and I’d go to bet you have too.
The idea of creating a podcast was laid on my heart in prayer several years ago. I felt it come upon me, and to be honest it stressed me out. I was rattled and that rattling has held me captive over the past several years.
As I prayed over that uncertainty and how to move forward God revealed the root of that feeling was self-preservation.
Self-preservation is all about doing what we can to be sure we remain safe.
It’s well intended – no one wants to be harmed – EVER. But there’s a danger when our self-preservation stands in the way of our relationship with God.
Self-preservation is good when it comes to preserving our; health, physical safety, guarding our time, making wise commitments, things like that. But sometimes it morphs into something that isn’t good. Sometimes God will ask us to do something and we begin to focus on protecting our social status, reputation, and ego. When that happens, we begin to tiptoe the line of sin, and disobedience.
Psalms 27:8 NLT, “My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.”
I heard very clearly that the Lord told me to come and talk with him when he dropped this into my mind.
We hear God, we feel Him – but our response is not immediately, Lord, I am coming. No, unfortunately uncertainty has a way of erecting a wall between us and God. It can cause us to choose self-preservation over obedience to God.
Stretch Assignments force you to get back Self-Preservation.
What I’ve found is that God will give us stretch assignments that require us to throw ourselves out there. He’ll lead us to a place of vulnerability. We’ll understand there is no way we can do what He is asking, but that’s the point. It isn’t about what we can do – it’s about surrendering so that He can do what he desires through you. This opens us up to an opportunity for failure or for people to disagree with you. Most people don’t like those sorts of things. And I’m most people. And if we really want to be honest – we’re all most people.
When we think of the failure, or compare ourselves to others who are already successful – our flesh says, “No way, Lord. Not me!” We begin to ask, “Why would anyone want to listen to me when they can listen to her?” Our mind goes to — what if I fail? People might know us for our failure — and suddenly we see it. Self-preservation caused us to hedge ourselves in, because we don’t want to take a chance on looking bad. That revelation should lead us to a place where we take on a holy anger seeing the enemy has us deceived.
The Parable of the Talents
When God revealed my issue, he magnified in my mind the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:14-30
In it we learn of a Man going on a journey. He called his servants together and entrusts them with his property. Then delivers to each of them talents according to their ability – then he leaves and the servants get to work. After a long time, the master comes back and finds the servant he gave 5 talents to has turned it to 10, and the servant he gave 2 talents to has turned it to four – and the servant he gave 1 talent to – has buried his.
Self-Preservation and the 1 Talent Servant
Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
When we’re operating with self-preservation in mind, we’re showing ourselves exactly where our treasure is – in ourselves.
Bouts with Self-preservation are nothing new, and we find multiple examples of it when we scour the Bible.
4 Triggers for Self-Preservation:
Fear losing relationships or social status
John 12: 42-43, “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”
It feels somewhat repulsive when we read this about the Pharisees, yet we’re guilty of the same. What’s the synagogue we’re afraid to be put out of… What position are we afraid of losing? What social status do we love more than the glory the comes from God? Is it respect of our peers, standing at the office?
Lack of Trust
In Genesis chapter 12 we read of Abram trying to be the hero of his own story. He went in to Egypt. He knew his wife Sarai was beautiful and it caused him to concoct a plan to keep himself safe. God told Abram the path to take – and Abram questioned his safety through it. He created a no fail plan to be sure he was covered… are we the same?
We’ve got to fully accept the fact that we are NOT the hero of our story. God drops tasks into our day, ministries along our path, things for us to do in this life. Yet, here we are like Modern Day Abrams trying to create a no fail plan to be sure we’re covered. All the while we’re serving the Omnipotent God of all creation – all powerful. Yet we think we can do it better.
What about Lack of Control?
One that my mind goes immediately to is the Israelites in the Wilderness. God was raining down Manna each day, and they were given exact instructions on how much they were to gather. Some thought they could take care of themselves better. They wanted control. They wanted to know they were going to have another meal, but you know what happened to that extra manna? It rotted. God in all his loving kindness used that moment as a teaching opportunity. He wanted them to know they could rely on him.
How do we try to keep things in our control? Has God given you an instruction – yet you feel compelled to go above and beyond to be sure that your safe?
Fear of the unknown – this is a big thing – like huge.
I get why Peter denied Jesus. I don’t think any of us can say anything evil about him. Yes, he had seen the miracles of Jesus – and YES, he was also seeing what was happening to His Savior. His fear of the unknown terrified him. It took him to a point where he denied even knowing Jesus.
OR just like Peter are we guilty of watering down our faith to fit in? We don’t want to stand out… Are you pretending? Are you trying to be ok when really you aren’t? Maybe you don’t want anyone to know you don’t have it together and you aren’t perfect? The unknown of how you’ll be received might have you stuck denying they exist, or seeking the help you need.
What does our fear of the unknown cause us to do?
Maybe we grew up not knowing anything about Jesus or being part of a church. Does your fear of what your family, or friends will think keep you from moving forward in your faith?
Maybe God’s calling us to make a move. Maybe we’re moving physically, feeling led for a job change. Or we’re stuck in a place where we just don’t know what our next step is. Is that causing us to push God’s call aside so we can try to protect ourselves from the unknown?
Maybe God is asking you to go deeper in your devotion, and you have no idea where to begin. Is it causing us to avoid?
The world’s call or God’s?
This world calls us to a place of self-preservation filled with pride, independence, skepticism… God is calling us to a place of reliance, humility, trust, and surrender.
“He who finds his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
That scripture alone destroys any idea that self-preservation works. It speaks to total and complete surrender to God’s will in our life. It’s tough to wrap our brain around – but absolutely not a reason to stop trying to figure it out. When we let go of our plan God is able to lead us to His. His leading takes us to a life that includes a soul satisfaction like nothing, we could ever dream of with an eternal promise that nothing can compare to.
Let’s go back to the Parable of the talents.
I’m certain the three servants encountered each trigger we discussed.
Those 2 fruitful servants were able to harness something the 1 servant chose not to – and that was Courage.
Courage is a requirement – and a step of faith necessary. My Pastor says this… we move God moves. You can take that and look all throughout and see its been tried and proven. God speaks to his people. When Joshua was leading Israel the waters didn’t part until the priests took a step in. God didn’t tell Abraham the location of the Promised Land – Abraham first had to move. Esther had to approach the King. Ruth chose the unknown over going back to familiarity. They took God at his word and moved.
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Fear will tempt us to bury our talent. Dismay will tempt us to hide it.
Paul said, “I die daily.”
Which is the same call we have. Dying to our self-will picking up our cross and patterning our life after Jesus.
Self-preservation is opposite of what Paul was trying to teach us. It begs the question, “What am I trying to keep alive by not doing what God has asked me to do?”
My reputation, pride, position?
Is it intimidation?
Thoughts, and feelings of iniquity?
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end there of are the ways of death.”
That one talent fella, you better believe the path he chose seemed right in his eyes – but look where it landed him? The one talent he had was taken from him. Then it was given to another – and he was cast into the outer darkness.
It should prompt us to consider.
What are we potentially giving up, by delaying our response to him?
Remember Matthew 10:39.
“He who finds his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
- There was a fearful consequence for the one.
- There was grace, and redemption for the two.
“So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”
We learn of truth of this statement when we read that parable of the talents. Each of those workers gave an account of what they did with their talent.
I don’t want to be the one. You don’t want to be the one. God isn’t calling us to a state of self-preservation. He calls us to reliance on him, humility, and acceptance. He’s asking us to come and talk with him… let’s choose our response needs to be Lord, I am coming…
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