E40: An extremely good solution to every problem
PODCAST: If something in your life isn’t quite how you’d like it to be, this might be just what you need!
In Philippians 2:3-4 Paul gives us some instructions that, if we follow them, are an excellent solution to the problems we face in life. We may not realize it, but many of our problems arise from exactly what he mentions here. Listen in on Kathy and Julia’s conversation about selfishness and how not being selfish connects to this life-changing solution.
Transcript: “Living the Gospel” podcast, Episode 40: An extremely good solution to every problem
This is ActiveChristianity’s “Living the Gospel” podcast. Join us as we explore different aspects of the gospel according to the Bible, and how we can put this into practice in daily life
Kathy: Hi everybody. Welcome to another episode of “Living the Gospel.” I’m Kathy.
Julia: And I’m Julia. And the topic of today’s podcast was kind of inspired by one of my favorite quotes, from a woman named Esther Smith. Kathy, who’s Esther Smith?
Kathy: Well, we do talk about her actually quite a bit. Like, Milenko and Eunice had a whole podcast about another quote by her, which is Milenko’s favorite quote. He’s mentioned it, I think several times: “We’re living here to be formed for eternity.” And I know we’ve talked about her before, so just wanted to give a little bit of background information.
Esther Smith is a woman from our church who passed away in 2007, and she had lived a long life of living for Jesus. So, at the end of her life, actually, a book was written about her. Or in conversation with her. It is just an incredibly encouraging book. Like, the example that her life was.
Julia: Yeah. She wasn’t anyone special in terms of ministry or position, but she just had so much content in her life that they wanted to write a book about her. And actually, one of the men in our church went to sit down with her and had a few chats with her so that this book could be written. But she was very adamant that she didn’t want any honor brought to herself. So, what she said to him was, “If this book is published after my death, neither you nor I should end up with any honor. Only God should receive the honor, and it is only Him to whom the honor belongs.” So, she had no desire to tell her life story, it says. But if there was any possibility that anything from her life, or anything she could say, could be of help to someone else, then she was willing to let this book be written about her. And it’s just a gold mine. It’s absolutely incredible.
Kathy: And in the end it has been an incredible help and blessing for so many people.
Julia: So, anyway, I have one quote from her book up on my wall, framed on my wall. And it’s, “Not seeking our own is an extremely good solution to every problem.” And in a way there’s not too much to add to that. It speaks for itself. But we thought about it a little bit and we thought that we’d talk about what seeking our own is. So, in other words, selfishness. It’s just another way to selfishness, right? So, what is selfishness then?
Kathy: Well, I think if you really think about it, the underlying root of what selfishness is, is sin, right? It’s wanting the best for myself. Thinking of myself first. Putting myself first. My own desires, my own … And what it boils down to is my own will. Which we know is exactly what we need to overcome in this life, so that we can do God’s will.
Julia: And I think too … I’m not sure if this is the case everywhere, but I feel like I haven’t heard the word selfishness used too much in sermons and things like that. But what it’s come to for me, is that it’s actually just a simpler, more practical term for pride.
Kathy: It is actually, right. Egotism.
Julia: Yeah. Because it’s all just about … Pride is just, “I’m number one, and I’m the most important, I’m the center, and everyone kind of revolves around me.” And that’s what the attitude of it is. I know for myself, there are certain things about myself that I’ve always known. I know that I’m lazy, I know that I think that I need a certain amount of time for myself every day, and all these other things. But I kind of got a revelation a year or two ago, that all these things that I thought were kind of a bunch of different things, were just manifestations of selfishness. It was just the fact that I was just selfish and I hadn’t really realized it. It’s not that I’m lazy – I mean, I am lazy, don’t get me wrong, by nature – but, it’s a manifestation of the fact that I’m so selfish that I think that I need so much time to sit on the couch. I need to take care of myself and this and that. And yeah, so it really became something that I started to work with, and as a result this quote has been a huge help for me.
Kathy: Right. So, I was thinking, why is it so important to overcome selfishness? You know? What is wrong with it, in a sense?
Julia: I mean, I guess if I think off the top of my head now, the short answer is that it makes everyone miserable.
Julia: Me and those around me.
Kathy: Right, exactly.
Julia: So, you know, you think that I need this, whatever it is, for myself. But in my experience, that’s never made me happy. Even if you have this, you know, kind of middle finger to the world attitude that, “I’m fine just the way I am,” and you build this protection around yourself. You end up lonely there!
Kathy: You really do. It isolates yourself really. Well, I just thought of what Paul wrote to the Philippians, right at the beginning of Philippians 2. He wrote: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” Better than himself. Not that I think about me first and then I think about the others. “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests …” So, we do look out for our own interests, right? Like, we can take care of ourselves.
Julia: And we should.
Kathy: Not in a selfish way, but we need to take care of ourselves. So, we look out not only for our own interests “… but also for the interests of others.” And that will involve me giving up my own will, my own selfish ambitions, in order to look out for the interests of others, right?
Julia: And there’s lots of opportunity to do that. I mean, even if you have a handful of close friends, each of those close friends are going to be very different. And if all of us are just the way we are and completely unbending, then there is not going to be any fellowship in any way. There’s no need to worry that you’re becoming a door mat, or losing your own identity by changing things that are in your nature, ugly things that are in your nature, to make it better for someone else.
Kathy: And we’re not talking about changing your personality.
Julia: No, of course not.
Kathy: We’re talking about getting rid of things that are selfish. That make it hard for others to bear you. Things like laziness, you know. Leaving everything to someone else because I don’t feel like it, for example.
Julia: Yeah. Being that person who always has to have the last word in a discussion, or always has to be right, and creates strife in that way. All of that, that needs to go.
Kathy: Stubbornness, for example. And it’s a work to get rid of these things, right. Like, we are egocentric by nature; that’s how we’re born. And you can see that with kids. Right from when we’re babies, everything revolves around ourselves. And that’s our nature. So, it’s something that we very consciously have to work on, right, to be awake and to see when the motivations for my actions are driven by selfishness. Or, in other words, driven by sin that I see in my own flesh, right?
Julia: So, if we think about this quote again, this, “Not seeking our own is an extremely good solution to every problem,” then what I can do is I can ask myself, what is my problem? What is it that I need a solution to? Am I lonely? We talked about, you know, if you’re feeling lonely take a look and see if maybe you feel so lonely because you’re not willing to be that good friend to somebody so that they are a good friend to you. You know what I mean?
Kathy: Right. Could the solution be that I need to stop living for myself? Well, Jesus talks about laying down our lives for our friends. And, I mean, the odds are very good that that’s never going to be a physical laying down of our lives. But to lay down my own will, you know. Give up my own pride and my own opinions and my own demands for someone else, for example.
Julia: Well when you think about, when we look at kids who are so selfish and stubborn by nature because that’s how human nature is, and they cling to these things that when we as adults look at them, we see how ridiculous it is. But if we could see our situations through the eyes of eternity, if you want to call it that way, and see how fleeting all of these kind of temporal things that we cling to by nature are, then we’d really just see that it’s actually so easy to just give this up for the sake of fellowship. For the sake of blessing someone else, making it good for somebody else. And therefore, also building a stronger bond of fellowship between you and them.
Kathy: I’ve often thought of that. In different relationships, things come up in every relationship that, you know, because we’re not all exactly the same, and we have our own personalities and we have our own will and our own opinions and so on. But I’ve often just asked myself: what is more important now, this relationship, or …?
Julia: Or the fact that I’m right?
Kathy: Yeah. Or do I need to be right? Do I need to get my way. You know? And again, coming back to … It’s not that we’re saying be a door mat. But is it possible that I can give up my own will and humble myself? Be humble, so that I can increase fellowship, instead of break down and cause division. And we all know what our own problems, so to speak, are, right? And we can judge ourselves on them. And especially ask God to show us the truth about ourselves. Is there something – you know, if I’m experiencing a problem – is there something of sin in my own flesh that needs to be exposed and fought against and overcome? And if I am so humble that I want to find that, then I really will find the solution to my problem.
Julia: Yeah, for sure. No matter what your problem is. If you’re somebody who’s maybe easily stressed. If you’re somebody who worries about 20 years at a time instead of taking one day at a time, by nature. If you’re somebody who has complicated thoughts and as soon as you start to sit down and have a little bit too much time your thoughts get all crazy. So many of these things can be alleviated so much by just expending your energy to do something for somebody else. And then it occupies your thoughts and it fills you with, probably scientifically speaking – I’m no scientist – but it probably fills you with endorphins to be honest, right? Because God is the Scientist that created all these laws of nature. So, when you do something for somebody else, and you see how blessed they are, and maybe you strengthen a bond with them, maybe they just become so happy, you’ve made something good, whatever it is …
Kathy: Or you’ve alleviated some burden for them maybe, or something.
Julia: For them, yeah. … then you feel better, and not just that, but whatever it is that was consuming your thoughts before, this anxiety or whatever it was, it’s been replaced with something. So, it becomes a solution, and it’s not just a band-aid. It’s something that comes in and heals, actually. And I thought … We had a get together with our youth a few years ago for, our youth leader was actually “aging out” if you want to say it that way. And we had a get together, kind of a good bye party for him. And a few people were speaking about him, and one person said that if you could go inside Steve’s heart and look around you would see framed photos of all of the young people hanging on the walls of his heart. And I’ve thought about that so many times. To have it that way that those that are around me, those that are my best friends, maybe those that I have to do with that aren’t so easy to love, do I have them in my heart, hanging framed in a position of honor there in my heart? That I pray for them. That I think about them. That I do things for them. That they’re the people who I expend my energy on.
Kathy: How completely different is that from being so obsessed with my own desires and my own will and demands and opinions and so on?
Julia: And then my heart’s just full of this … I’m just imagining this tempestuous cloud of my own thoughts and anxieties and everything just swirling around in there.
Kathy: It gets dark.
Julia: Yeah. And instead to have that clean, pure heart that’s filled with care and love for the others.
Kathy: And it starts, of course, with a love for Jesus. And wanting to be pleasing to Him, to my Savior, right? If I start there, then it spreads out into all other areas of my life too.
Julia: And what did Jesus say? He who probably deserved honor and being served or whatever more than anyone else. He said that “I did not come to be served, but to serve.” So, to have that attitude. That’s the most noble attitude of heart that you can have. And there’s no way that that doesn’t fill you with a life of content and just a fullness in your heart that you can’t get from trying to fill it up with stuff for yourself.
Kathy: Right. I thought too about what Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane there, where He said: “Not My will, but Yours be done.” And what is my will? It’s my own selfish desires, right? And Jesus was human, and I think this prayer that He prayed there proves that very much. He had a will, because He said, “Not My will.” So, He had a human will. But because He had this humble desire that God’s will should be done instead of His own, He never sinned. That’s why He never sinned, because He had this complete humility of heart. “Not My will, but Yours be done.” And I thought for myself, if I also have this humble heart, this humility that my only longing, actually, is to do God’s will and not my own, then I too can come free from sin as God gives me light over it, right? And it’s a work, it’s a process. He gives me light in varying degrees as I go through life. I don’t see my whole sin and my whole flesh at one time …
Julia: Thank goodness.
Kathy: Yeah, exactly. He gives grace that I can overcome it step by step. And then I become free from those selfish ambitions and desires, little by little. And life becomes better and better that way, right?
Julia: It does. And we can … Like you alluded to, it is a battle, and we can take great comfort from the fact that it was also a battle for Jesus. I mean, what does it say? When He was in the garden of Gethsemane and He was praying, that His sweat came down like great drops of blood. And I think He even said, “If this cup can pass from Me … but nevertheless, not My will, but Your will.” And the fact that He pushed through there, and He prayed and got the strength, and then went knowing that He was facing crucifixion and death, what a tremendous, eternal result that had for so many people. Him laying His life down. And in the end, He arose from the dead and went and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Kathy: And He’s our Forerunner. He’s not just that … He did this and that was an amazing thing because He was the Son of God, but He came and He showed us the way to do it ourselves as well. To give up our own will, so that God’s will could be done on earth.
Julia: Yeah, that we can follow exactly after Him. And all these little things, these selfish thoughts, these points of pride. I think for myself, it’s points of pride so often. They can just be done away with and life becomes extremely light, actually. Like, I was thinking about how much we have it in us as humans to require that everything be fair. And then these little points of pride that become like, “Ugh, I’ve been mistreated, I deserve this, I shouldn’t have to do this.” All these things, they cause so much unrest. But if instead I can just give that up and be a blessing, it’s so much better. Even if the other person doesn’t meet you halfway. Right? Because how many times have we read and talked about how nobody else can decide if I’m going to be happy or not? Somebody not meeting me half way cannot rob me of my happiness.
Kathy: Well, because what makes us happy is when we start to get the virtues of Christ growing in us. And I can do that regardless of what’s going on around me. Actually, what’s going on around me can lead me to that. Because I use those opportunities to find my own life and lose it.
Julia: So the worse I’m treated, the better. Well …
Kathy: That’s a bold statement.
Julia: God knows, and He sends us what we can handle, so. But I thought for example, like just little things around the house. If you feel like, I do this chore more than the other person, and then every single time you think it’s fallen on you again to do the chore, if every single time it becomes a little thing that festers inside of you, it can grow into this huge thing that you end up throwing in someone’s face during an argument. Whereas, instead, if you just every single time it comes up, just put it to death quietly, it takes two seconds.
Kathy: Especially when you think about it rationally, this is a tiny thing in comparison to the importance of my relationship. And the importance of not letting sin control me!
Julia: Yeah, and instead it can become a situation where there will come a point where it wouldn’t even occur to you to be unthankful anymore. We’ve heard often this quote, that first you can’t, then you can, then you can’t do anything but. And that’s how it is, when you practice these things. Putting to death sin in the flesh and filling yourself with the virtues. It becomes not just second nature, but first nature.
Kathy: And it’s just an incredible life that we get to live. That we’re allowed to understand these mysteries. And live this life that just becomes free and light. I was just thinking about this song we have in our songbook “Ways of the Lord.” And there’s a verse that says: “There is a life so full of weight and content. A life of mercy, love, and righteousness. A life possessed by those so poor in spirit. A life for those who walk in lowliness.” To me that’s just …
Kathy: It’s goals! Exactly. That’s what I want my life to be.
So thanks for listening again today, everyone. And I hope that we’ve been able to convey a little bit of what we’ve gotten from this quote from Esther Smith.
Julia: You know what? Maybe we’ll take a little peek through the book and see if there’s anything else that we can pull out and bring to another podcast episode. Because this book is full of gold.
Kathy: Yeah, it is. So, a reminder that you can find us on Facebook and on Instagram and follow us there. We always have lots of stuff we’re posting there to encourage and edify each other. So look for us there!
Julia: Yup. Thank you very much for joining us today. We’ll see you next time.
Kathy: Bye everyone!