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Posts tagged ‘entitlement’

Two Traps to Avoid: “If Only” and “What If?”

SOURCE:   Susan Yates/Family Life

In each season of my life, I’ve found myself falling into two mental traps which are not helpful.

One is the “If only” syndrome, and the other is the “What if?” syndrome.

Here’s how “If only” might express itself:

  • “If only I had a husband.”
  • “If only I had more money.”
  • “If only my husband would act like…”
  • “If only my husband (or I) had a good job.”
  • “If only we had a different house.”
  • “If only my parents (or his) understood.”
  • “If only my child would sleep through the night.”
  • “If only I had a really close friend.”
  • “If only I didn’t come from such a wounded past.”
  • “If only I wasn’t stuck in this place.”
  • “If only I was free of this disease.”
  • “If only I knew how to handle my teen.”
  • “If only I didn’t have to do this.”
  • “If only I didn’t struggle with this.”

Can you identify?

You can probably add to this list yourself. Over the years I’ve realized that these thoughts merely lead me into a real case of self-pity. At the core of what I’m expressing is: “Life is about me and my happiness.” I have a bucket that needs to be filled.

But the reality is that even if the desire for one “If only” is met, I’ll just have another one to add to the list. Too often I get myself into this mindset without even realizing it. And it sinks me into a bad mood or a feeling of being depressed. The focus is on me, and I need to confess this selfishness and ask God to forgive me and to enable me to focus on Him and on others. And I need to ask Him to give me a grateful heart.

The other trap is “What if?”:

  • “What if I can’t get pregnant?”
  • “What if my husband leaves me?”
  • “What if I don’t get this raise?”
  • “What if I can’t complete this project?”
  • “What if we lose the election?”
  • “What if the medical tests bring bad news?”
  • “What if my child doesn’t make the team?”
  • “What if I fail?”

This mindset leads to fear. I am afraid of what will happen if the “What if” comes true. And this can be a paralyzing fear.

The “What if” syndrome is especially hard for those of us with an overactive imagination—we are often visionaries; we are creative. We tend to have this weakness, however: We can create the worst-case scenario in our imagination in three seconds flat! It can be terrifying.

What’s at the core of this attitude? I fail to believe that God is in control. My “What if” has become bigger than my God. I have temporarily forgotten that He is loving, He is kind, He is present, He is good, and He will never, ever forsake me.

I can give Him my “What if”—He can handle it. He will sustain me.

Underlying the “If only” and “What if” syndromes is an expectation that our lives should be completely satisfying. We may recognize that’s not realistic, but too often we live with that expectation in our thought life without even realizing it.

We need to remember that, in this life, our bucket will always have holes. Life will not be perfect until we get to heaven. Eternal life in heaven will be a perfect bucket with no holes completely filled with the love of Christ and satisfaction—no wants or fears, just sweet fellowship with Jesus and those who have gone before us.

Today, what is your “If only…”?  What is your “What if”?

Recognize the subtle danger of these thoughts, which produce self-pity and fear. Make a conscious decision to dump them someplace (down the garbage disposal, in the trash, or fireplace).

Begin to say His traits out loud: “You are my Father, You go before me. You prepare a way for me. You protect me. You bless me. You understand me. You forgive me. You know me better than I know myself and you love me totally, completely, perfectly. No matter what happens You are still in charge. You will never forsake me.”

This puts your focus on God, where it belongs.

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Do I Need Something MORE than GOD?

SOURCE:  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

[Envy is] wanting and sometimes craving what others have, instead of getting our joy from God and what He has given us. Envy is one of the traps Satan sets for us, using our pride, flesh, and satisfy-me-now mentality against us. Satan deceives us constantly. He actually distorts our lenses, so we believe that our fulfillment and joy in this life come from emotional, psychological, physical, or material answers. His goal is getting us to close down our spiritual radar, turn off our spiritual antennae, and ignore divine answers for our needs

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had a fantastic set up, a direct relationship with the perfect God in the perfect setting and no adversity. But they weren’t omniscient and they were gullible (like us). Satan tricked them into believing they needed something more. They thought or feared that something was missing from their life. He duped them into thinking they needed more power and more knowledge, and could get all that through a piece of fruit. I like to think I would have held out for a steak. Instead of staying in relationship with God and relying on Him, they were swindled by Satan, tricked into trading eternal life with God for separation from God and life on their own. Thankfully, God wasn’t vengeful against them and provided a way back into relationship with Him.

Here’s the trap.

If you believe your happiness and contentment depend on your external circumstances, or some place or someone else other than God, you will always be lost, unhappy, and discontent. Those things weren’t meant to bring you what you desire, nor can they.

God designed us specifically to be immune to those external things. So regardless of our circumstances, or more importantly, the mistakes we make that damage our circumstances, we still have access to a peace, comfort, and joy that is independent of who or what is around us.

Look inside and identify some of your traps … fruit/apples … you have been tricked into believing. How were you tricked into believing they could deliver what you really desire, in the deepest places of your heart. It seems silly when we put it that way, but that shows the cunning of our Adversary in the war we are fighting.

Don’t mistake momentary relief for true fulfillment. That’s Satan’s trap! Whether you choose God to meet your needs or settle for the substitutes of this world is your decision, so choose well.

Dear God, You and only You are the source of my joy, peace, and comfort. I confess that my need to control life is the apple I frequently grab. Help me grow trust in Your control in my life instead of my inadequate abilities. Please grow in me eyes that see and ears that hear the traps Satan places in my path. Lord, help me choose the Stepping Stone You have for my movement forward to Christ-likeness. Strengthen me through Your Spirit to resist the temptations and impulses of my flesh so I don’t get trapped and have to ask for Your forgiveness yet again. Thanks for Your endless grace and forgiveness. In Jesus’ all providing death and resurrection I pray;  – AMEN!

The Truth
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Genesis 3:4-7

I want more and I WANT IT NOW!

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

When is Enough, Enough?

Walking through the store recently, I heard a young girl (about nine years old) whining loudly. She was following her mom with big crocodile tears flowing down her face. “Mom, I want it. Why won’t you buy it? Mom, pleeeease!”

As the mom ignored the youngster, her pleas escalated. Now sobbing, her daughter howled, “Mom, I want it. I WANT IT NOW.”

The mother valiantly tried not to lose her temper. Finally she turned to her daughter and said in a very firm voice, “Stop it. You are not getting it. You did not behave.”

My heart sank. Although this mother may have been correct in not rewarding her daughter’s misbehavior with a special treat from the store, she missed a larger opportunity to teach her child an important truth.

We live in a culture of “I want more” and believe “If I had more, I would be happier.” Even as adults we’ve bought into this lie. Who hasn’t said to themselves, “If only I had more ___________, then I’d be happy.”

If only you had more money, more time, a bigger house, a different spouse, a newer car, then you’d feel happier? Right? Not really. That kind of happiness only lasts for as long as it takes to start dreaming of the next thing you want.

This little girl in the shopping mall is growing up in a culture of entitlement where we not only want more, we think we NEED more and we deserve more. Every television commercial reminds us that we deserve more because we’re worth it.

Entitlement thinking enlarges the self as we become more and more self-centered and self-absorbed, but it diminishes the spirit and poisons the soul. Instead of feeling happy and grateful for what we have, we feel gypped and grumble and complain because we are not getting more of what we think we need and deserve. More isn’t better because more never satisfies. More just fuels our desire for more.

So how do we break free from the mindset of more? The apostle Paul tells us that if we want to grow we must retrain our mind to think in new ways. (Romans 12:2). We have to realize that the world’s way of thinking is not only incorrect, it leads to death.

Paul shares with us a secret that he learned that helped him reject the tyranny of more. He learned how to be content in every situation (Philippians 4:11).

We too can learn to be content, but it takes some discipline. Here are two practices you can begin and teach your children in order to learn contentment.

1.  Gratitude: The Bible says, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord (Psalm 92:1). Gratitude counters our entitlement mindset and helps us appreciate the things we do have. On the way home from the store, this mom could have invited her daughter to think of five things she is thankful for. As she turned her attention toward her blessings, her daughter’s grumbling attitude may have changed.

Even when it’s hard to see the good in a particular situation, God calls us to give thanks in all things (not necessarily for all things) (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Mom might have been tempted to grumble internally about her daughter’s misbehavior and immaturity, but retraining her own mind would have reminded her instead to give thanks. Although aggravating, that teachable moment was a gift from God to help her and her daughter see things in a new way. They don’t need more in order to be happy.

2.  Turn to Praise and Worship: When our entitlement mindset looms large, consciously turn your heart away from more and turn it toward God in praise. Praise thanks God for who he is and what he has given us. As we faithfully practice praising and thanking God, we learn to trust his character and his plan for our life even when we don’t understand or like it.

The apostle Paul learned these lessons while sitting in a prison cell. Often it is in the hardest places where we are most teachable. Today when you are tempted to grumble and complain or just want more, stop; tell yourself “enough already” and turn your heart and mind toward all that you have and all God has done. See what a difference this small shift makes in your mood.

There’re Good Reasons Behind Those Godly “No’s” “Not Now’s” “Wait”

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by TIM KIMMEL

“The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you.” Deuteronomy 7:22

I wonder how often our prayers that ask God for bigger-than-life favor on our efforts (and sooner than later) actually come off as ranting and whining in His ears. We’ve made big plans for our marriage, our kids, our job or our dreams and we’re frustrated that things aren’t happening as fast as we’d prefer. For instance, you spent all that time getting a couple of degrees from college and figure that by thirty years old your salary ought to have at least six digits in front of the decimal point. This fast track quid pro quo attitude is why God prefers to run our lives rather than giving us our photo-shopped desires. We’re too naïve and preoccupied to see how stupid and dangerous our selfish hopes for our personal lives really are.

Speaking of grad school, the nation of Israel had spent 40 years getting a PhD in walking around in circles. The Promised Land now lies sprawled out as far as their eyes can see; just over the glistening waters of the Jordon River. There are some nasty nations with intimidating names occupying the land: Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizites, Hivites, Jebusites. These were people who had cut a deal with the devil centuries earlier. They chose to thumb their nose at the God who made them and instead bowed their knees to evil itself. The stench of their vile lifestyles had reached God’s nostrils. Their wholesale disregard for human life—even the precious lives of their own children—finally determined the dénouement of their existence. They had to go (Leviticus 18:24-25; Ezra 9:10-12). Israel was chosen to administrate their ultimate demise. In the process, she was also going to finally get to claim the land grant God had promised to her patriarch, Abraham, so many years earlier.

But God made an interesting passing statement to Moses as he was telling him how the land grab would ultimately come down. He said although the nations would fold like broken lawn chairs before them, the actual conquering of the land would be done methodically over a prolonged period of years.

Then God slipped this reason into the mix: so that the wild animals wouldn’t multiply so rapidly that they couldn’t keep them under control (my paraphrase of Deuteronomy 7:22; Exodus 23:29-30).

Literally, God is referring to wild boars, jackals, leopards, hyenas, mountain lions and bears. We know these types of animals existed in Israel (Judges 14:6, 1 Samuel 17:33-37, 1 Kings 13:23-25). But the presence of all of those challenging nations mentioned above kept these animals from over-populating. God promised to go before Israel and conquer these nations. The deal was simple: as long as Israel kept their trust in the Lord, He would fight their battles for them. None of these nations stood a chance. But there was a threat that lived in the shadows and crevices of the land they were conquering that God knew would be too much for them if Israel was allowed to get the upper hand too soon. He didn’t want the hunters to become the hunted.

These wild animals in the back story of Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land serve as a metaphor for our lives too.

They are the same reason God usually doesn’t grant us our prayer requests for jobs that come easy or payoff early, hassle free marriages, kids without selfish wills, and friends without issues. All of these things we’d prefer to have in our lives have something in common: they don’t require our daily dependence on God.

Having to develop wealth or achieve a certain level of prominence the old fashion way—by humble and hard work, living below our means on a budget and saving as we go puts us in a position to not only appreciate wealth and status when and if it finally comes, but know how to handle it. The struggles of love, goofy kids and unstable friends keep us in our Bibles and on our knees. But if everything came easily and quickly (the way too many people would prefer), we don’t realize how many predators would be waiting in the wings to take us out.

Blood feeders like pride, arrogance, entitlement, ease, idleness, self-sufficiency, close-mindedness and elitism love to slip in and devour the hearts of people who have life served to them on Wedgewood opportunities. I’ve seen too many who enjoyed beginners luck end up with winner’s remorse. I’ve also seen too many early retirements lead to divorces and too many silver-spooned kids self-destruct. There’s a reason why God usually allows success to be found at the end of a long and winding road. You’ve got to depend on Him to lead you, trust His maps when the path seems wrong, and keep your hand clenched tightly in His when liars bid you to take their shortcuts.

Trust Him when he says, “But I will not drive them (the hassles of your normal life: like work, love, family and friendships) out in a single year, because the land (your personal life) would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them (the hassles and challenges) out before you, until you have increased enough (matured in Christ) to take possession of the land.” Exodus 23:29-30 (parenthetical statements added).

The good life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Those glowing eyes blinking in its shadows are reason enough to let God decide how much and how soon you’re ready for more.

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