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What do we think of ourselves?
- Jacob Ninan
"But by the grace of God I am what I am, ... but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me" (1Co.15:10). The apostle Paul was not acting humble as many people do and saying he was a nobody and he hadn't done anything great. I wonder if such talks really fool anyone. Paul knew he was an apostle and also that he was more hardworking than the others. He had no qualms about acknowledging that. But at the same time it was not a boastful posture, but just a recognition of facts. What made Paul truly humble was the deep acknowledgement in his heart that this was all because of the grace of God.
We can't become humble by behaving in certain ways externally; that would be merely acting humble. God looks at our innermost being, our deepest thoughts and attitudes of our heart. These are even deeper than the conscious thoughts we have about ourselves, and it is even possible that we are really not aware of them. Most people only concern themselves with what others would think of them, and so they do everything they can to give a good impression to the others. But God knows the real person in us (1Sa.16:7), and some discerning people also can get glimpses into our inner being. It would require deliberate effort on our part to examine our life to see if it is characterised by the knowledge that we cannot do anything without God's grace.
God wants us to be true in our innermost being (Ps.51:6). Trying to impress God or other people with our greatness is pure folly. But even imagining great things about ourselves is stupidity. If we will not look at the things that are wrong with us, we will not be able to recognise, acknowledge, repent and turn away from them. Then we shall only remain in the same spiritual condition, if we don't actually get worse!
But we don't look only at the negative things in us; we also have to address the good things the Lord has done in our lives. Here our natural tendency is to take pride in ourselves as if it was we who accomplished them. But it would be wrong to 'act' within our thoughts as if we had no part in them but it was all God who did everything. No. We did those things, but apart from God we couldn't have done any of them (Jn.15:4,5). Pretending even to ourselves that we didn't do anything but it was God would not reflect the truth, and God wants us to be really true.
Paul exhorts us to have a sober opinion of ourselves (Ro.12:3). Just because we have accomplished something for God it doesn't mean that we are the greatest! At the same time just because we came short of our own expectations before God does not mean that we are a nobody. We are children of God, and even if we are not the most important part of His Body we are still a part! Isn't it good to recognise just who and what we are in reality?
Frequent thoughts create attitudes, and attitudes define us. The right type of attitude will have a sense both for our inability and God's grace.