"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Dangerous Little Pest

Envy lurks at my door.  Just when I think I’ve moved past its grip, I visit a friend’s palatial home, admire shoes beyond my budget or gaze longingly at a piece of jewelry completely out of my price range. Young and old experience the reach of jealousy’s jaws even though the price and type of toys we long for changes. Why can’t we be satisfied with God’s gifts? What causes us to want increasingly more including those things others’ own? 

This problem with envy is as old as time itself.  Characters in Scripture, Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, and David and Saul struggled with envy. King Solomon accurately stated there is nothing new under the sun.  Cain’s envy caused him to kill his brother because of a sacrifice; Esau’s jealousy over Jacob stealing his birthright caused him to also consider murder.  Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery because of a colorful coat and his father’s favoritism.  Saul sought to kill David after hearing the people shout, “Saul has slain his thousands, David his ten thousands.”  He eyed him with envy from that day forward. 

While I haven’t descended so far as to attempt murder, I have regarded others’ luxuries with eyes of jealousy. My focus isn’t always material possessions either.  While not immune to envying items such as homes, boats, cars and clothes, I more frequently wistfully regard spiritual things like other women’s giftedness, areas of service or places of ministry.  Gee Lord, I wish I could sing like her.  Why didn’t I get asked to teach?  Why can’t I lead that group?  This truth hits so many of us who serve in the church.  We desire other’s gifts and areas of ministry in which God has blessed them. 

As I confess my envy of other’s accomplishments, I take the sting out of its affect on my life.  If Saul would’ve repented of his envy over David’s prowess in battle, think of what accomplishments Saul and David could’ve achieved together.   How much greater could the Kingdom of Israel have been if Saul had focused on making God’s name more famous than his own? If Saul had encouraged and promoted David in his battles on behalf of Israel, might he have benefited as well? The fear that plagued Saul pesters me as well. God, will there be fewer gifts for me since you dumped all these blessings on them?  Why do we think God’s resources have limits?  Scripture says our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. (Psalm 50:10)   

Satan uses my envy to distract me from the life God has called me to live.  If I’m consumed with comparing my gifts with others, wondering why they seem more blessed than me, complaining to my Creator about the unfairness of his gift-giving, I am opting out of the place where God desires me to minister.  No one else can fulfill the calling on my life but me.  If I want to be someone else, who will be me?  I must quit comparing my life and my gifts with my friends’ lives and gifts and live for One who made me and gave me a specific purpose to carry out.  I should encourage others in their gifts so they can also fulfill God’s purpose in their lives.

Perhaps as I am faithful to exercise the gifts with which God has blessed me, working diligently in the place God has called me, He can entrust me with more. When I am careless and bury my talent like the man in Matthew 25, even what I have been given will be removed.


May I be grateful for the gifts with which you have blessed me. Help me to keep from the sin of either spurning or burying what you have so graciously given. May I realize that if I do not use my gifts, the work to which you have called me will not be done. Keep me from looking to my left or right, the sin of comparison. I desire to focus my eyes on You, the abundant Giver of all good and perfect gifts.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ready for Something New!

There’s something exciting about the word “new”, don’t you think? We love to shop for a new outfit, get a fresh pedicure, sit for a makeover, and purchase new pillows or pictures for our homes. After a sleepless night, who doesn’t want to begin anew? What drought affected and deer decimated garden doesn’t crave replanting? Who knew those beautiful creatures could destroy a zucchini plant in one night of feasting? From the latest vacation to the purchase of school supplies, we love new things.

If we aren’t careful, however, we can get caught up in obtaining the latest new-fangled contraption. Some of us find ourselves in debt because of our impulsive need for the new. This dangerous trap is the primary reason I avoid the mall. If I don’t go, I don’t see the latest Vera bag, iPod or Target tee. Who hasn’t visited Target for a handful of items and exited with a cartful?  

Perhaps it’s healthy for us to cling to the word “renew”—to make new again. Some have perfected the art of creating new from old in the physical realm. They transform worn-out furniture into beautiful pieces, or repair and repaint a car from the 50’s, or remodel a dingy home into something amazing. Our fascination with this type of creativity is evident in the plethora of shows broadcast into our living rooms each day. Something deep within us resonates with the old being transformed into something not only usable but also beautiful.  

The Master Creator planted this desire for newness inside of us. Our hearts and minds are corrupted without God renewing them. Too often we rely on our own willpower and strength to invoke virtuous thoughts and upright behavior. Yet, all our human effort can’t accomplish this task. Isaiah 64:6 states that all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. Thus, I can stake no hope in my own dogged determination to do or be good. And, even if I can outwardly appear charming, kind and benevolent, my heart may be loaded with bitterness, anger and envy. Scripture points me to Jesus as my only hope for renewal. He who spoke the world into existence from chaos is the only one who can restore and refresh my infected heart and mind.

So I pray, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10) Then I reflect on His word.

            “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

            “who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:5)

            “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Later this week, when my family departs for vacation, I will recall this to mind. While I rest, relax and renew physically, I remember that true heart and mind renewal comes via my God. He makes my spirit new every single day as I tap into His never-ending supply.

            “Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca (tears or weeping), they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.” (Psalm 84:4-7)