Vol.XVI No.IX Pg.4
November 1979

Where's Your Emphasis?

Robert F. Turner

"How many times did he make reference to himself?" This question was asked me while I was speaking to a brother about a recent convert. Not yet realizing the intent of the question, I again explained that I had been meeting and studying with this particular babe in Christ for several months, but there seemed to be little progress. The same problems and weaknesses kept coming back with little or no effort being made to overcome them. Sure, he listened to the scriptures and wrote them down, convinced that this time he would do better. Yet a few days later, he would return with the same problems. Again, the brother who had been listening to me asked, "How many times did he make reference to himself?" Remembering past conversations, I began to realize at least part of the problem. The young convert was always referring to himself — what he wanted to do and why he couldn't overcome his weaknesses and his failures. He was so preoccupied with himself that there was very little room for God or others. His self- centeredness was the main hindrance to his spiritual growth.

The saying that a seed must die to itself before it can grow applies to the spiritual realm as well. Truly, we must die to ourselves before we can begin to grow. The most destructive weapon against that growth is selfishness. This self-centeredness manifests itself in many ways: bearing grudges, prejudices, pouting, rebellious and angry attitudes, temper tantrums, destructive criticism, self-indulgence, etc. What work of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21) does not stem from selfishness? Is there any sin which is not, in some way, connected with selfishness? If we are to overcome our weaknesses, we must first learn to overcome our selfishness. Jesus said, "For whosoever would save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it." It is for this reason that he said in the preceding verse that we must deny ourselves. (Mat. 16:24,25)

Are you denying yourself as far as your brethren are concerned? Do you take the time to visit those that may have a spiritual problem (Gal. 6:1,2)? Do you take the time to visit the new Christians; to invite them into your home — or are you too busy? Do you notice who missed services at the last assembling, or are you too concerned with getting home to watch the ball game? Selfishness can blind us to the needs of our brethren, but an even greater tragedy is that it can blind us to the needs of the lost! "The harvest indeed is plenteous, but the laborers are few" (Matt. 9:37) — and a lot of potential laborers are too selfish to help bring in the harvest! Christ gave up his life — can't we give him our time in return?

As long as Satan can keep us preoccupied with our own selfish desires and pursuits, Christ's work will continue to be pushed aside. As long as our emphasis remains on what we want and our "compassion" remains self-pity, we will continue to neglect the needs of our brethren and the needs of the lost. Remember, selfishness hinders not only your own growth, but the salvation and growth of those around you. Where is your emphasis: on yourself or others? Kevan O'Banion