They allow themselves to be ‘trapped’ with a poor self-image influenced in the main by the negative experiences in their lives and not knowing that there is an alternative perspective to one’s life.
There are three issues that control the self-image of most people: their past, the lack of vision and comparisons.
Let’s examine each of these.
irst, most of your thoughts about yourself in the present, are based on things from your past. It could be past failures or successes, past comments, past teaching, or past examples.
Things that we pick up in the past generally influence the way we are today. Chapter 19 of the book of Genesis tells a short story about the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
These cities were wicked places – homosexuality was rampant, and people were locked into their evil ways.
God was about to pass judgment and destroy these places but first He had to get Lot and his family out safely.
So the angels came and hurried Lot, his wife and two daughters and said, “Get out of town and don’t look back!”
As they were escaping to the mountains, the Bible says:
“Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. So He overthrew those cities … all the inhabitants of those cities, and what grew on the ground. But his (Lot’s) wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis19.24-26).
In a sense, I believe there are people, including Christians, who continually look back, and they have become pillars of salt. They’re not moving; they’re not growing; they’re not increasing or improving.
They’re just looking back and not realising that focusing on the past, good or bad, would be to regress.
Sometimes I get the chance to watch the “X-Men” or “The Force” and I would say to myself, “To think that “Flash Gordon” or “Dr Who” were really great acting. Compared to the modern effects on movies, it makes them drab.
When we remember the good old days, we are usually exercising selective memory. Sometimes that keeps us from moving ahead.
Of course, we also selectively recall the negative – when we were abused, molested, or when dad said, “you’re a nobody, and you will never amount to anything”. Or, “if your head weren’t screwed on, you’d lose that too.”
We look back and remember those thoughts, those incidents, those situations, and we relive that hurt. We forget that time has moved on, we’re much older now, but we are still carrying those things around as if they were real right now.
Looking back paralyses us! We become ‘pillars of salt’, spiritually speaking. It keeps us from going on to the destiny that God has for us.
The Apostle Paul wrote in the book of Philippians 3.13-14:
“One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
The Bible says, you’ve got to forget the past. You’ve got to leave it – the good stuff and the bad. It is past and it is history. Stop looking back! It will weigh you down and keep you from being all that God purposed you to be.
HE second issue is the lack of vision.Many of us are controlled by the future. You might say, “That sounds strange.” But it’s true. The Bible says in Proverbs 29.18, “Where there is no vision, people cast off restraint.”
Or as one translation puts it: “Where there is no vision, people scatter like sheep without a shepherd.”
Lack of vision brings fear, worry, doubt, and confusion into people’s lives. They look ahead and say, “What are we going to do?” The truth is, God has put tremendous ability, creative power, and potential into you. But if you look at the future with fear and trepidation, your potential and creative power are stifled.
Ray Kroc was fifty four years old when he started McDonalds. Before that, he was selling milk-shake blenders and doing very well.
But then he got a vision of McDonalds all over America. He wrote this in his book, “Everybody believed that you couldn’t prosper in those days because of the tax situation, the economy, the recession. It was hard to get ahead. There was no more opportunity in America.”
It was 1977 when he wrote his book. Today, people are still saying the same thing: “Can’t get ahead. It’s too hard. The government … taxes … rocketing prices.”
There are always those who believe you can, and those who believe you can’t. You must decide which one you are going to be. Ray Kroc said, “Let’s go get them!” And you know where McDonalds is today.
You are going to live through the rest of this year. My question is, what are you going to do with yourself?
Why don’t you decide right now to prosper spiritually, emotionally, physically and financially.
Decide how much you are going to weigh at the end of the year and go for it. Get a vision.
You may be saying, “But I’ve tried before …” But I’m afraid …”
There’s your past speaking. Are you going to let it control you? And don’t let the future be negative. Get a vision of a bright future!
he third point is the limitations of making comparisons. The fact is you are a unique individual. You are unlike anyone else, and you cannot be compared. The Bible says, “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10.12).
God says, “Don’t try to be like someone else. I like you the way you are. You are a very good you, while at best, a mediocre somebody else.” When you compare yourself with other people, one or two things happen.
One, you may put others down to make yourself look good. “I look better than her. I know the Bible more than you. I earn more than you.”
The second option is to put yourself down. “I wish I was as good as they are. I wish I had a job like her. I wish I had a family like they have. I wish I had a car or a house like they have.”
The Bible says when you compare yourself with others, you are acting unwisely.
Now God predestined you before the foundation of the world, and gave you a game plan. Your game plan is not the same as mine nor is my game plan the same as yours. What you need to win at your game in life, does not compare to what I need to win at my game in life.
What you do to be successful in your life, does not compare to what others do to be successful in their lives.
Having said that, I want to mention that the Bible encourages us to compare ourselves with good models in order to help us move forward in life. The Apostle Paul said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” In this situation, comparing can be a positive thing.
Unfortunately, we spend less time practising this positive form of comparison but more time of the trivial and destructive sort of comparison. God says, you cannot build a healthy self-image by comparing yourself with others.
Now the question is, how can I succeed living out God’s purpose? Jesus was talking with some Pharisees when one of them asked Him a question. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said to him, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind! This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 22.36-39).
Note what it says: love God, love myself and love your neighbour. The truth is while the Pharisees asked for one great commandment, Jesus Christ gave them two. And you can’t do one of these without doing the other. The two go together, hand in hand.
Why? Because you cannot love God unless you love yourself, and you cannot love others unless you first love yourself.
When you love yourself, you are free to sincerely love God. And when you love yourself, you begin to love the people around you, and more accepting and tolerant of their weaknesses. You desire to bless them, help them, lift them up, enable them, and empower them.
But when you feel bad about yourself, you feel jealous, competitive, angry, separated, and isolated. We see this principle operating in our daily lives.
Knowingly or unknowingly, we treat everyone around us as we treat ourselves. If we love God and love ourselves, you will have no problem loving your neighbour.
The husband or wife who is frustrated and bitter, who hates his/her spouse, doesn’t need a new spouse. He or she needs to love himself or herself. They need to find out who they really are in God’s eyes.
The young person who rebels against his parents and society by indulging in alcohol and drugs and sex, in reality, needs to find out who God is and who he is. If we could ever get him to see that he is a creation of God – with destiny, and dignity, with glory and honour – then he could begin to love himself and he’s not going to need alcohol or drugs any more.
As a whole, people, including Christians, live far below the level of what the Bible says about us. Your purpose is to find out who you are and to become what God created you to be.
Of course, the starting point in knowing your God-given destiny is to get to know Jesus Christ as Lord over your life.
In Christ, you and I have a great destiny. Great potential has been placed in each of us by God.
Let’s go for it. Let’s maximize it.
God says, “You are created in my likeness, my image. You are crowned with glory and honour. You have dominion, and all things are under your feet.”
Enjoy your weekend, go to church and keep safe.
- Pastor Tevai Matapo, Assembly of God.