"Let everyone see that you are unselfish and considerate in all you do."
- Philippians 4:5 TLB
There are a lot of Thanksgiving Day memories that have remained with me over the years, but the ones that I treasure most were made on this holiday in the year 1990. My husband and I, and our two young sons, were having Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' house, along with all of my sisters and their families. As usual, we were eating an abundance of rich foods, and making merry. When dinner was over, and we began clearing off the table, my father approached my sisters and me with a somber expression on his face. As he began sharing with us how our grandmother, his own mother, had died that very morning, my sisters and I burst into tears. "Granny" had lived with us the entire time we were growing up. She had been like a second mother to us, and we loved her dearly. In recent years, her health had declined to the point that she had to be moved into a nursing home, but she was still a very big part of our family. I must confess that when I first realized that my dad had delayed in telling us the sad news, I was angry. But after my emotions settled down, I began to recognize what a selfless act of love he had performed. He knew the depth of the love we felt for our grandmother, and he wanted us to have some time rejoicing together as a family, before he had to break the unpleasant news to us. Many years later, I still marvel at the precious gift my father presented to all of us that day.
The Bible says: "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus..." (Philippians 2:4-5 NIV) I can't help thinking of these verses when I think about what my dad did that Thanksgiving Day years ago. And I have often asked myself if I could ever have done such a thing. Quite honestly, I doubt it. I was brought up in a generation that was called the "Me Generation," and with good reason. We were always told, "Look out for number one." And, "If you don't look out for yourself, no one will." So when I began studying the Scriptures in earnest, it shocked my senses to discover that God expected me to look out for other people's interests as much as my own, or even more so. At first, I was intimidated by the "love commands" that I found in the Bible, but then I realized that God had equipped me with everything I needed to succeed in this area. Scripture says: "Now you can have real love for everyone because your souls have been cleansed from selfishness and hatred when you trusted Christ to save you; so see to it that you really do love each other warmly, with all your hearts." (1 Peter 1:22 TLB) When we received Christ as our personal Savior, His Spirit came to dwell in us, and to continually pour the God-kind of love into our hearts. (Romans 5:5) But living a life of love is still a choice that we have to make on a moment-by-moment basis. The world, our own flesh, and the devil will try to keep us focused on ourselves. By giving our relationship with God first place in our life - and making prayer, praise, and Bible study a priority - we can cooperate with the Lord to become more Christlike every day.
If you had asked me years ago if I was a selfish person, I would have answered with an emphatic, "No". That was before I got serious about my relationship with the Lord, and about studying His Word. I was judging myself by the world's standards, not God's. Once I discovered what His standards were, I realized that I had been living a very selfish lifestyle, and that I needed to change. One of the first things I noticed was that my level of joy increased immeasurably. Seek out a truly self-centered individual, and you will find a truly miserable person. On the other hand, look for someone who is living a lifestyle of giving to others - of their time, talents, and treasure - and you will undoubtedly discover someone who enjoys a sense of contentment. The Bible says: "The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped." (Proverbs 11:25 MSG) The truth is, we can't be a blessing to others without being blessed ourselves. My dad has since gone to be with the Lord, but he left me a gift and a legacy that lives on to bless me and my loved ones. And if he were here today, he would give you some valuable advice straight from the Word of God - "Don't think only of yourself. Try to think of the other fellow, too, and what is best for him"! (1 Corinthians 10:24 TLB)
Prayer: Lord, when I am feeling joyless and empty inside, remind me to check my "selfish level". Do such a mighty work in me that everyone will see that I am unselfish and considerate in all I do. (Philippians 4:5 TLB) Thank You that my selfless lifestyle will touch and change lives for Your glory!
Promise-Power Point: No matter what my circumstances are, I can live a joyful and fulfilling life when I cheerfully consider others above myself according to God's will.
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