“And he did obeisance, and said, ‘What is your servant, that you should look upon a dead dog such as I?” Mephibosheth, II Samuel 9:8
“You are of your father the devil . . . for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Jesus Christ, John 8:44
“But by the grace of God I am what I am.” Paul, I Corinthians 15:10
“You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.” God, Isaiah 43:4
There is a world organization called the “Hemlock Society” dedicated to suicide by choice. Their newly published 276 page book, Suicide: Operating Instructions, is a bestseller in Europe. It teaches how to achieve “nonviolent deaths in conditions which do not degrade human dignity.” The book itself is often found beside the bodies of suicide victims. And the volume is soon to be released here in the United States.
Obviously the book will fill a need in our society, for there are millions of people filled with low self-esteem and self-hatred. According to the U.S. vital statistics office there were 35,000 suicides in this nation last year. Four thousand, seven hundred and forty-seven teenagers took their own lives in the past 12 months alone. That’s a rate of 13 a day. Since the Golden Gate Bridge has been built, over 430 people have used it as a perch from which to leap to their deaths.
Between 1968 and 1978 suicide rose 17% nationally. But for white males aged 20 to 24 the rate jumped 86%. In fact, last year for males aged 15 to 24 suicide ranked number two behind accidents as the number one cause of death.
And it’s not just poor people, unknown people, friendless people who destroy themselves.
Mary Tyler Moore, Paul Newman Gregory Peck, Jim Arness, Art Linkletter, Lana Turner, Oral Roberts, and Edward G. Robinson, Jr. all had children who allegedly committed suicide.
The question is why? Why do people destroy themselves in increasing numbers today? For the answers let’s turn to the Bible and our four texts.
Now, two of our texts introduce us to different men. The one is Paul. The other is Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth was a prince, the grandson of King Saul of Israel. He was normal in every way except that an accident as a youth had left him crippled in his feet. And in our text he tells us what he thinks of himself. “What is your servant, that you should look upon a dead dog such as I?” That’s a pretty low estimation of oneself, isn’t it?
The next text introduces us to the apostle Paul. His real name is Saul, but someone has nicknamed him “Paul,” which is Latin for “shorty.” He is a poor speaker with troublesome eyesight (II Peter 3:15-16, Galatians 4:13-14). And his face and back are frightfully disfigured from several whip-lashings and stonings (II Corinthians 11:24-25). All of this, and he is constantly being misunderstood, betrayed, rejected, and thrown into jail. And what does this fellow think of himself? Does he too, consider himself “a dead dog?” No. In 1 Corinthians 15:10 Paul affirms himself saying, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”
So, here we have two human beings, one a king’s grandson crippled in his feet. The other a short, thick-tongued, nearly blind, and scarred up, imprisoned theologian. Yet one’s self¬ esteem is on the level of a dead dog while the other’s is on the level of the grace of God. One loved himself and lived a useful life. The other hated himself and lived off welfare. And the question is, what or whom made the difference for these two people? And can that same difference be made for you and for me and for our children?
For answers let’s turn to our other two texts. The first one is a statement by Jesus Christ about Satan. In it Jesus simply calls Satan a liar. It is a reminder that as the devil lied to Adam and Eve in the Garden – “You won’t die . . . your eyes will be opened . . . and you shall be as gods” – so he continues in his lying ways with us today. “You’re crippled in your feet, Mephibosheth! You’re no better than a dead dog!”
The other text is a statement by God to people everywhere. “You are precious in My eyes and honored, and I love you.” He says.
Now with all this in mind, here is our human dilemma. There are two voices speaking to us in this world. The one is Satan’s. The other is God’s. God tells us we are precious, made in His image, loved and honored. Satan lies to us. He tells us we are worthless, despicable, “a dead dog.” And our self-esteem will emerge largely from which voice we listen to and believe.
What I want us to do now is to begin to study a few of Satan’s great lies to us in our culture today. I want us to contrast the devil’s lies with God’s truth in the Bible and then each of us must decide whom we’ll believe and then get about the business of building or tearing down our self-esteem.
The First Lie: Looks
The first lie has to do with one’s physical appearance. Satan’s number one untruth here is to get us to compare ourselves with others and then say, “You’re a real loser. You don’t look as good as that person.” And the result when we come away accepting his lie as truth is that we do not feel worthwhile because we are too tall or too short, or too flat¬ chested, or our teeth aren’t perfect or we’re too stocky or our eyes aren’t right.
Have you ever noticed how much time, energy, and money we spend in this nation trying to look different than we are? Wigs, weight reduction plans, Oil of Olay, breast implants, plastic surgery, girdles, hair conditioners, colored contact lenses – why, it’s a multibillion dollar a year business! According to a recent college campus poll, 95% of the students surveyed said that they were dissatisfied with their looks.
Just this week someone gave me a free month’s membership to a local health spa. I went in for my first visit and an attendant took me by the arm, welcomed me to his office, then looking at me as if I were some sort of “dead dog” to be pitied, asked, “What do you want to do? How can we change you to suit yourself?” Then he went on without waiting for an answer to show me a machine that firms up your thighs, another which increased the muscle tone in your tummy, and yet another guaranteed to expand your chest.
With all of this emphasis on our outward appearance it is easy to see how we are so vulnerable to the lies of Satan. Yet contrast his word with God’s word and you’ll get at the truth of the matter.
In 1 Samuel 16, the prophet Samuel is sent to Bethlehem to the home of Jesse. Samuel is to anoint one of Jesse’s sons King of Israel. Naturally Jesse is flattered and he first suggests his eldest son, a big handsome specimen noted for his prowess. But God says, “This isn’t the one.” So Jesse suggests his next boy, another hunk of healthy, handsome humanity. “No, this is not the one,” God says. So Jesse sends his boys out one at a time until he has none left but David, the youngest who is out keeping the sheep. And to prepare Samuel for David who must have been something of a physical disappointment, God said, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). You see, God is not so concerned with what we look like as He is with what we are. He is interested in giving us moral beauty (Galatians 5:22). He wants to reproduce in us His very image (Romans 8:29).
Stop and consider for a moment. Some of those who are actually lacking in what many might call physical beauty are those we consider some of earth’s most beautiful people– Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Eleanor Roosevelt to name a few. Each of these people were beautiful in a way that endured. They were lovely from the inside out.
The Bible is quite clear that Jesus Christ shared our humanity with us here. Isaiah 53:2 says of Jesus, “He had no form of comeliness that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.” So why is Jesus largely considered as the most beautiful man who ever lived? He had moral beauty. He was in the image of God! And we can have that beauty, too, by the grace of God.
So the bottom line here is really whom we’ll believe. Satan will try to get us to focus all our energy on physical glamour. Then he’ll lie to us that we’re not worthwhile because we’re not as pretty or handsome as Hollywood’s latest fad. It’s like Liz Taylor said, “I don’t like to complain about our Creator’s handiwork, but if God had to give a woman wrinkles, He might at least have put them on the soles of her feet.” We can never satisfy ourselves here!
On the other hand is God’s word. Psalm 139:13-16 teaches that we are no accident. Each of us looks just like God wants us to look right now. And if we’ll but cooperate with Him by faith He will reproduce in us the moral beauty of His image. And that is a beauty that lasts for eternity!
I think it would do our society well to memorize Woodrow Wilson’s favorite limerick about looks. Better than anything I know, it puts one’s appearance in perspective.
“As a beauty I’m not a great star,
There are others more handsome by far;
But my face I don’t mind it,
Because I’m behind it;
It’s the folks in front that I jar.”
The Second Lie: Clothes
A second lie Satan often uses to lower one’s sense of self-worth is to say, “You don’t dress well enough! You’re out of style, man! You’re just a dowdy old wallflower!” It is our culture that has believed this lie so much that it has ruled that clothes make the man. So we fill our closets with enough clothing to outfit a small tribe. We’ve got pink and green, “alligators,” Weejuns, Papagallos, mini and maxi and middies. Our labels say “London Fog” “Lord Jeff” and “Hart, Schaftner, and Marx.” Our jeans say “Calvin Klein,” “Chic” and “Jordache.” And have you noticed that we’ll pay any price and suffer any indignity here just to be in style?
Years ago, King Louis XIV whimsically decided it would be fun to don an enormous white powdered wig with curls just to see what people would do. Predictably, nobles around the realm copied his taste in wigs. The nobler the noble, the bigger his wig became. And from that noble fad came the term, “Bigwig!”
A “Dennis the Menace” cartoon showed Dennis looking at himself in a full length mirror. His mother had just bought him a new leisure suit which he had tried on. And Dennis was saying, “If it was anybody else but me, I’d die laughing!” Then there is Sue. Her friends say she has suffered much for her beliefs. “Indeed, what is her belief?” That she is able to wear a size five shoe on a size seven foot! The colors we’ll wear! The tight jeans we’ll suffer into. The see-through blouses we’ll endure. The expenses we’ll pay. All of this just to believe Satan’s lie that clothes make the man.
And Jesus Christ brings us God’s wonderful, freeing truth here in Matthew 6:25 following. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall . . . put on. Is not life more than . . . clothing? . . . And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow . . . Yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field . . . will He not much more clothe you?”
When India’s great leader Ghandi died, reporters took a photograph of all his earthly possessions. Why it was but a small pile of things – a loincloth, a cloak, a bowl and spoon and a pair of sandals, and some eye glasses. Aye! He was a lily of the field. He let God clothe him with his beauty, His glory and honor and love. And it was enough. And do you know what else is true? It will be enough for you and for me as well.
A Third Lie: Houses
Yet another lie Satan whispers our way in order to bring our self-esteem down to the level of Mephibosheth’s “dead dog” status is the old “You-don’t-live-in-the- right-place” line. You know how it goes. “Your home is on the wrong side of the tracks. Your house is not Williamsburg! The good people don’t live on your street. They live over there!” In other words, geography and architecture and square footage and landscaping are what make one special. And to prove it we print up full color tabloids called “Better Homes and Gardens.” Thus life becomes a race to get to where it’s happening. And if you have to stick your head in the noose of an impossible mortgage, well, so be it!
Have you ever noticed that, for those who believe this lie of Satan’s, happiness is somehow always just over the next hill? When we’re in junior high school we say, “Man, when I turn 16 it’s gonna happen!” And when we turn 16 we say, “Man, when I get to be 21 it’s gonna happen!” Then 21 arrives and we say, “Man, when I get married it’s going to happen.” So we get married and we say, “Man, when I get that better job at $40,000 a year, it’s going to happen!” And, loot in hand, we proclaim, “Man, when I move into that house on Country Club Lane it’s going to happen.” And so we go on and on until one day it happens – you’re dead, man! Henry David Thoreau said it so well, “Though a man search the whole world over for happiness, if he doesn’t carry it with him he’ll find it not.” Would that the average American who moves every five years could learn this!
Jesus Christ is interesting to study here. He was born in a barn. He spent His toddler years a fugitive immigrant in Egypt. Then He moved back to Israel, a tiny little nation most mid-eastern countries used as a door mat to wipe their feet upon. And of all the cities He could have moved into, His Father chose Nazareth, a one horse town known only for its obscurity as a rest stop on the way to some place more important. Why, when Jesus was introduced as the Messiah recently come from Nazareth, Nathaniel scoffed, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). And Jesus Himself never owned a home. Christ said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58). And even if you are from a barn, an obscure little town, and even own no home, the truth of God still stands against Satan’s lies. “You are precious in My eyes, and honored, and I love you.”
A Fourth Lie: Friends
Yet another lie, a final lie we shall consider in this, part one, is the story, “You don’t have the right friends. You’re not in with the in-crowd. You don’t date the right people or you’re not even married yet. Therefore, your life is not worthwhile!”
Believing this untruth, have you seen what a teenager will do to get in the right sorority or fraternity? And have you witnessed the price an adult will pay to belong to the right spa, club, yacht basin, and jet set?
“We spend our lives,” Sam Shoemaker said, “going to the right school trying to make the right grades so we can get the right job so we can make the right salary so we can live the right neighborhood and move in the right circle of friends and vacation in the right places. And you know where it all ends, don’t you?” he wrote. “It ends on a little hillside under a tiny plot of sod with a granite tombstone which should read ‘You’ve pampered yourself into mediocracy when God wanted you to commit yourself to immortality!”
Again God’s Word counters the lie of Satan that our self-worth is based on who accepts and rejects us. In Matthew 11:19 Jesus confessed that people said of Him, “Behold, . . . a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Christ’s circle of friends was made up of fishermen like Peter and John, unpopular government officials like Matthew and Zacheus, a former harlot such as Mary Magdalene, and, of course, wealthy Bethany residents like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. But Christ’s best friend was God. “I and my Father are one,” He said (John 10:30).
Whoever your friends are or are not, know that God is your friend. He says, “You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.” He knows your name (Is. 43:1). The hairs of your head are numbered with Him (Mt. 10:30). He died for your sins (John 3:16). He rose from the dead to serve you. Why, right now His ears are tuned to your every prayer (1 Peter 5:7). He is a friend who “loves at all times”(Prov. 17:17). He sticks “closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). And He calls you His friend (John 15:15).
Who have you been listening to? Like both Paul and Mephibosheth, maybe you don’t have it all going for you as regards looks, clothing, housing and friends. And Satan is trying to tell you you’re nothing but a “dead dog” like Mephibosheth, while God is trying to tell you the truth, you are His son, much loved in His abiding grace! Whom have you heard and believed about yourself? God or Satan?
Perhaps there is a one of you here today who has suffered from dire feelings of inferiority. Your life is one of wishful comparisons, frustrations. Happiness is always just over the next hill. Your self-esteem is little more than Mephibosheth’s dead dog self-image. The fact is you have believed Satan’s lies and devoted your life to his untruth. So, I ask you today to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “You are precious in My sight, and honored and I love you.” Do you believe Christ? Will you turn to Him? Will you think of yourself as He thinks of you? Will you let Him give you moral beauty? Will you become His friend?
A woman in deep despair said to her friend, “I wish I’d never been made!” And her friend, a Christian, replied, “My dear, you’re not made yet. You are only being made, and this day is a part of the Maker’s process.” And so it is! So it is.
But Satan lies to us. He sneers, “You’re through! It’s all over. There’s just nothing left for you! You don’t have the right looks, the right friends, house or clothes. You’re finished! So you might as well quit!” But Satan’s word is all lies!
The Bible says, we “are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another” (II Cor. 3:18). Did you hear that good news? “We are being changed.” God’s not finished with you yet!
The next time Satan lies to you about your looks trying to bring you to despair, quote to him God’s Word in 1 John 3:2. “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him.”
The next time Satan tries to lower your self esteem because of the way you dress show him what’s written in Revelation 7:9 where it tells how God will clothe us all in the white robes of heaven.
The next time Satan makes you despair of your house, look to John 14:1 following. There Jesus promised, “In my Father’s house are many mansions . . . I go to prepare a place for you.”
And the next time he tempts you to lower your self-worth because you don’t have the correct friends, look to Hebrews 12:1 and the “great cloud of witnesses” that surrounds you. Look to Revelation 7:9 where the saints go marching in. And you in Christ are with them!
Now, let us pass on and consider other of Satan’s lies along with God’s truth.
Lie Number One: No Talent
The next big lie we’ll consider is the one, “You’re not talented enough. If you were only a leader. If you only had a more important job! But, look! You’ve got the personality of a dial tone. You’re not athletic, musical, nor witty. You’re just about as worthwhile as a dead dog,” Satan says.
It’s so easy for us to come up short here. So easy for us to suffer by wishful comparisons. Why, I read that Mozart was an accomplished pianist by age five playing before kings. At that age I was still wetting my pants!
Television does a number on us here, too. Have you ever watched “Charlie’s Angels?” It begins, “Three beautiful women— one a police secretary, one a meter maid, one a traffic cop, but I, Charlie, took them away from all that!” How would watching that make you feel about yourself if you were a cop, meter maid, and a secretary still on the job? The lie is there just beneath the surface: “If this is the best job you can get, why then you’re just a no talent dead dog!”
Now, compare Satan’s lie with God’s truth. Jesus Christ didn’t seem to be musical. He never played the piano or violin. There is no mention of Him being a witty, stand-up comedian, the life of every party. He didn’t turn pro his junior year in college. He held no high political office. Why, His work to the eye of flesh was not much to look at— twelve men, a few women, involved in an itinerate preaching, healing ministry in the countryside of an obscure mid-eastern nation. He built no building. He owned no sprawling retreat center, held no office, wrote no books, and was not successful with all of the few who followed Him. Yet, He was the most important person who ever lived!
We’ve got to get back to this in our society: any job, any talent, any task done to the glory of God is important. John Calvin used to say, “There is no work, however vile or sordid that does not glisten before God.” During World War II one of the most carefully guarded secrets in the states was the glue that went on the back of stamps. Why, a bit of poisonous tampering by the enemy there and millions could have died. An ignoble job guarding it? Never! Another seemingly dead-end job during the war was that of a garbage grinder down in the bottom of a ship. Yet submarines often located fleets by following the trail of trash left in the wake. Therefore, unground garbage could sink ships! Thus, an important job! Let me step out to your car in the parking lot, lift the hood and take out just one obscure hose pipe. How far do you think you’ll get? I tell you, each of us in our own special way complete the universe. Each of us with what we have and don’t have does what is necessary to make things happen!
Paul put it so well in I Corinthians 12:18 following; “But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’”… The simple fact of God’s truth is, there are no untalented Christians. Each of us is made to fit in some place and to do a work with God.
Did you hear about the dog with a big bone that felt rich? He was walking across a log over a creek when he saw his reflection in the water. And he thought he saw another dog with a bigger bone than his. So he dropped his to go after the other dog’s bone. Naturally, he was left with nothing. And there are many people who lose their talents, their own sense of being and worth, by looking at what others have.
Lie Number Two: Intelligence
Another lie the devil sends our way is this: “You’re not smart enough!”
Years ago, I used to think that if I were God and wanted to make me a preacher, I’d give me the voice of Orson Wells, the looks of Robert Redford, the mind of C.S. Lewis, the music of Itzack Pearlman, the compassion of Mother Tereasa, and the sensitivity of Helen Keller. Yes, if I were going to make me that’s how I’d do it. But I never got a chance to put in an application. None of us do! God simply doesn’t give us a chance to put in an application to be ourselves.
Life is rather like a card game. Each of us is dealt a hand we must accept. Our faithfulness will depend on playing our hand as well as it can be played.
The facts of Scripture here are plain and simple. God has given each of us the intelligence He felt we should have to carry out His will. And when you stand before the Lord some day, He will not ask yo why you weren’t Moses, Keller, Wells, Tereasa or Lewis. He will ask you why you weren’t you! He will ask you why you didn’t play the hand He dealt you!
Listen to the truth in 1 Corinthians 1:26 and thereafter. “For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose”. . . Hear that? “God chose!” He dealt the cards! “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.” Believe it or not, dear one, a child with an IQ of 90 who knows Jesus Christ and reads the Bible is more intelligent than a doctor of philosophy with a 180 IQ who doesn’t know Christ or His word. The psalm writer backs this up. He said, “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Thy testimonies are my mediation” (Ps. 119:99). And it is true of you, too, when you accept what you have and give it to the service of Christ!
Lie Three: Money!
Passing on, another lie Satan uses to lower one’s self-esteem is the one, “You don’t make enough money! Why can’t you get a job and make some real bucks?” This lie ties your self-worth to your net worth. “How big is your house? How sophisticated is your stereo? How expensive a bottle of wine can you afford? How many credit cards can you wield?”
This lie believed opens up to so much woe. I Timothy 6:10 warns, “For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.”
We have a saying about all of this. “The grass is always greener.” Erma Bombeck provides further truth when she adds, “The grass is always greener over the septic tank.” When you find out what so many have to do to be rich you’ll find out it’s just not worth it. There are many who have lots of money but in no sense of the truth can it be called rich. Oh, they are not down-and-outers. Just up-and-outers! Malcontents. Robert W. Service’s poem, “The Spell of the Yukon” has this in it . . .
“I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy— I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold and I got it—
Came out with a fortune last fall—
Yet somehow life’s not what I though it,
And somehow the gold isn’t all.”
How much money did Jesus carry around in His pocket? How much credit could He command? How sophisticated was His stereo? The Bible says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that thought He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich” (II Cor. 8:9). In other words, Jesus laid His money, His riches, aside to serve you and me! And the Bible goes on to say that God who gave us His own Son, “Will He not also give us all things with Him?” (Romans 8:2).
How much are you worth? You are worth Jesus Christ. In Him God lays the wealth of all worlds at your feet!
I used to get tired of hearing that the human body was worth only around $3.00. Why, a turkey in the grocery store sells for more than that! That’s why it was good to read about a Yale University biophysicist who recently determined that the human body is really worth millions. Over six million dollars to be exact! Counting the cost of hormones, proteins, enzymes and te intricate work of fashioning these materials into human cells and then a working body— why each human being is a priceless creation!
Jesus Christ said, “Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). You are rich because you are made in God’s image, because you belong to Jesus, because you know Him and serve Him. God says, “You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.”
Fourth Lie: Age
Another lie Satan keeps in constant circulation is the one about age. “You’re too young or too old!” or “You were born at the wrong time of history.”
Believing this a lie, one is forever confused about his age. We can’t wait to be 16, then 21, then 27, then we want to hold it steady at 39. Others wish they were born into the Roman Empire or “Gay Nineties” or heroism of some great war. We can literally wish our life away here like Edward Arlington Robinson’s drunken character in the poem “Miniver Cheevy.”
“Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;
He wept that he was ever born,
And he had reasons.
Miniver loved the days of old
When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
Would set him dancing.
Miniver sighed for what was not,
And dreamed, and rested from his labors;
He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,
And Priam’s neighbors.
Miniver mourned the ripe renown
That made so many a name so fragrant;
He mourned romance, now on the town,
And art, a vagrant.
Miniver loved the Medici,
Albeit he had never seen one.
He would have sinned incessantly
Could he have been one.
Miniver cursed the commonplace
And eyed a Khaki suit with loathing;
He missed the Medieval grace
Of iron clothing.
Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
But sore annoyed was he without it;
Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
And thought about it.
Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
And kept on drinking.
And so it is with the many of us. We sit daydreaming and wish our lives away! But the Bible says, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Ps. 118:24). Each of us is like a player sent into a game by a coach who believes we’ve got what it takes to get the job done at this particular time! God put you here now. This is the day. This is the place. You are the one! As Mordecai said to Esther so God says to you and me, “And who knows whether you have not come to the Kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
Fifth Lie: Scars
A final lie of the dozens Satan sends our way which we shall take time to consider is the one, “You are deformed. You’re a dead dog.” Into so many of our lives comes retardation, scars, birth defects, amputations, disfigurements and the likes. And my, my! But aren’t we clumsy in handling such givings? Why, a limp or lisp or inability to have a baby, or a scar can make us feel like a dead dog like Mephibosheth!
Some years ago I traveled to Russia as a student. A cab driver met my flight and drove me into Moscow. He was a rough looking man in his mid-fifties who spoke no English. And, as I spoke no Russian, we groped for some method of communication. I tried to ask him if he was married and had children, but I got nowhere. He tried to ask me God-knows-what, and, likewise, met with my incomprehensible stare. Finally I asked him if he fought Hitler during the siege of Moscow. And right away he was with me. Knowing the word “Hitler” he pulled up his pants leg to show me an ugly scar. Then pointing to it he said, “Aye, Hitler here!” Next he unbuttoned his shirt and proudly pointed to several bullet scars. “Hitler here!” he smiled. Finally he turned the other side of his face to me pointing to other scar tissue. “Hitler here!” he beamed proudly. Why, the man had fought the devil himself and come away torn and bloody but so healed that he saw his disfigurements as war medals, scars of honor. And from that perspective his self-esteem soared right there in the front seat of a taxi.
In our text Mephibosheth saw his crippled feet and felt useless as a dead dog. Paul, on the other hand, short, poor-sighted, a weak preacher and writer, disfigured by whip lashes and stonings, looked at his body and saw the grace of God. In Galatians 6:17 he says, “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” Like my Russian friend, Paul’s permanent earthly defects were war wounds to be shown off as badges, medals of honor. And instead of dragging him down, they built him up! And we can see our own disfigurements in the same light, as well! Through God’s grace our “nail scars” can become badges of honor!
Who have you been listening to with regards to your self-esteem? Has Satan lied to you? Have you believed him? Is your self-worth reduced to that of Mephibosheth’s dead-dog level? Or like Paul, can you stand tall and straight and affirm, “By the grace of God I am what I am?”
It’s not how you look. It’s not who you know. It’s not where you live or how much money you make. It’s not in your job or age or clothes or intelligence. Your self-esteem comes from God who made you in His image, to fit into His plan.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “It is difficult to make a man miserable while he feels worthy of himself and claims kindred to the great God who made him.” Can you claim that kindred relationship with God by faith in Jesus Christ?
May I close now with a personal testimony? Thirty years ago it used to really bother me when someone else could sing better than me or out-preach me or was better-looking or more successful. Why, I would stay in a constant state of agitation. Fearful of being out-done, overshadowed, whatever.
And I recall one week when God really ministered to my needs here. I was on a college campus working with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. And I was really getting “shown up”. Why, there was a Rhodes Scholar on staff. There were all-American athletes present from the Air Force Academy, fascinating speakers, men of sterling character, witty, fashionable and wise. And studying myself in comparison I felt as if I were nothing more than a dead dog. So, late one night I took a long walk to think, to pray, and to agonize with my lot in life. “God”, I prayed, “I want to serve you. But I am no star, no pro, no scholar. Do you know I’m here? Is there not something a fellow like me can do with You?” Then out of the deep vexation of my heart I wept. Stumbling along in tearful prayer and low self-esteem I decided it was time to go home, but first I decided to wash my face in a fountain nearby. And to the Lord I said. “God, let’s make a covenant. As I wash my face let it be a pact between us: You wash my sins away and quench my thirst for serving You, and I’ll use my life to do what I can with You.”
Then as I stooped to sprinkle water on my face, something hit me on the elbow. I turned and looked up to discover a sudden cloud burst. And in a moment I was drenched to the skin by a rain squall that went as quickly as it came. Why, there was not another cloud in the sky! God was showing me that He hadn’t forgotten me. That He was well able to quench my thirst and wash my sins away!
And since that time I’ve relaxed. Now I enjoy others for what they can do. And I even enjoy myself for what I can and even cannot do. You see, with Paul I’ve learned that “By the grace of God I am who I am!” And that is enough. And it will be for you. too!
A special benediction from God in Jude 1:24-25 just for you …
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you without blemish before the presence of His glory with rejoicing. to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”