JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF YOUR WORTH
PAIN, PAIN, GO AWAY – RECONSTRUCTING YOUR
APRIL 24, 1994
The Bible says in Hebrews 2:7 the following words: “God has crowned us with glory and honor.” When I was a child, one of my favorite restaurants had to be Burger King. My mother would take my brother and I to Burger King. We liked to go, not only because it was the home of the Whopper, but also because they gave us those crowns. You know, those crowns, those paper, flimsy crowns? We would take the crowns and put them on our heads. I have a bucket-head, a huge head, and after a couple of hours of wearing my crown, my crown inevitably would break. Then Ben and I would fight over his crown. Even though wearing those flimsy crowns caused pain and remorse and bitterness and conflict, we still loved for mom to take us to the local Burger King.
I believe our search for a self-esteem, in fact, for the supreme self-esteem, is man’s blind desire to find his lost crown. We’re looking for our lost crown. We can’t seem to find it. Most of us are satisfied spending our entire lives trying on Burger King, flimsy, perishable, paper-like crowns, instead of God’s crown that He has tailor-made for you and for me. We try the crown of appearance on, don’t we? We’ve talked about that. If I can look good, if I can dress right, if I can have that physique, then that will surely give me a proper self-esteem.” It doesn’t work. Others try the achievement crown, and that leads to frustration. “If I can only achieve, if I can only climb the ladder.” Then we slip on the acquisition crown, which says that if I can gain these symbols of success, that will do it.
Today, however, I don’t want to talk to you about symbols. I want to talk to you about substance. I want to talk to those of you who are tired of trying on flimsy crowns. If we had the eyes of God, I believe in front of all of us would be piles and piles of littered, Burger-King-type temporary crowns. But God says, in fact His love blasts into your life and my life and proclaims, “I don’t want you to put on those flimsy crowns anymore. I don’t want you to go through the pain of trying this one on, of trying that one on. I want to show you how much I love you. I want to show you – instead of a damaged self-esteem, a self-esteem that is experiencing a lot of pain because the crowns don’t fit — I’m going to show you my supreme crown. I want to rebuild your self-esteem.” That’s what God is saying to you and me. “I want to rebuild it, to reconstruct it, to change it.” God tells us in His word that He wants to and He will.
Like most cures, God’s process of rebuilding a damaged self-esteem is not instantaneous, effortless, or easy. It takes work. Rebuilding your self-esteem to the supreme self-esteem is a three-step process. Each step is critical to the next. If someone says it’s easier than what we’re going to talk about, then I think they’re wrong.
The first step in rebuilding your self-esteem, the first step in truly finding God’s supreme crown for your life, is that we have to open up. If I am going to truly have the kind of self-esteem that God wants me to have, if I am going to say, “God, pain, pain, go away. I don’t want you to just dull the pain. I don’t want you to mask it. I really want to be cured,” God would tell you, God would tell me, “Ed, open up! People, open up!”
I have a two-year-old son named E. J. And every day E. J. watches his favorite television show, Barney the dinosaur. “I love you, you love me.” If you ask E. J. if he loves Barney, he says, “Yes.” E. J., in his little two-year-old brain, thinks Barney is real. He really does. He thinks Barney is a fact; I’m talking about reality. However, as he grows, as he begins to have some probing conversations with family members and friends, he will discover that Barney the dinosaur is not real. There’s no such thing as a giant purple talking dinosaur that takes his little playmates on trips around the world with just a wave of the wand. There’s no such thing as that. E. J. will reject the myth, and will begin to believe the truth, that Barney isn’t real. That’s la-la-land: that’s fairy tale stuff.
Last week we learned something about our self-esteem. We learned that we received our self-esteem primarily from our parents and our authority figures while we were growing up. We said if our parents and authority figures gave us words that honored us — words that tell you you matter, words that give you dignity and value — chances are we’ve come to the conclusion that we do matter and we have a healthy self-esteem, something money can’t buy. On the other hand, some of us grew up in homes where we were wounded by words from our parents or from another authority figure: “You’re a no-count. You’re an accident. You’re an afterthought.” We’ve come to the conclusion that we don’t matter, and we have a damaged and a wounded and a scarred self-esteem.
Many of us are still reading fairy-tale, Barney-the-dinosaur-type books, and we believe myths about who we are. What if a friend of yours walked up to you after this service and said, “Jack, have you read the latest book put out by Big Bird? It’s called “Big Bird Goes to Sesame Street.” Isn’t that Big Bird something else? What a genius. What a great guy. I gain so much from him.” You would look at your friend and say, “Is something wrong? Are you crazy? Big Bird is not real. He’s a phony. It’s time to take Big Bird’s book and close that and open up to reality.”
That’s what I want you to do today. It’s time to close the book of myths, close the fairy tale, close the Barney-the-dinosaur-type situation and open up to the reality of God’s word. Now surely, some of you did not think Barney was real, did you? I don’t want to crash your party or rain on your parade. We’re to open up and subject ourselves to the evidence found in God’s word concerning who we are. We need to make a decision on that evidence, and once we do, guess what? We will reject the myths from the past and begin to believe the truth about our condition.
What’s the truth? We matter to God more than we realize. Jesus emphasized this point in one of my favorite chapters of scripture. I call this the Matter Chapter, Luke 15. Don’t turn there, but I want you to remember this text and read this text this afternoon. Jesus, in rapid-fire succession, brings out three stories. He says, first, there is a shepherd. The shepherd lost a sheep and the shepherd went out to find the sheep. Once he found the sheep, he brought the sheep back into the sheepfold, he invited all the shepherds around and they had a huge party. The second story. He said a woman lost one of ten coins. She searched frantically for the coin, turned her little house inside and out. Finally she discovered and found the lost coin, and she celebrated, she rejoiced. Then he moved in to that famous account, that illustration of the Prodigal Son. A son said, “Dad, give me all the cash. All my inheritance.” He takes it, he squanders it, and as he comes back his father runs to meet him and his father holds a huge celebration and party because his son has returned, his son has been found.
Jesus was driving at this: Jesus was saying, “I am like the shepherd. I am like the woman. I am like the father. You are like the sheep, you are like the coin, you are like the son. Something that matters to me was lost, and now it’s found.” If you’re inside the family of God, if you’ve confessed your sins and you’ve been forgiven and received Jesus Christ into your life, one day, everything in Heaven stopped and there was a cosmic celebration because you were born again into the family of God. If you’re outside the family of God, there’s a giant banner with your name on it, and they’re waiting to throw this party. In fact, that’s why Jesus said in Luke 15:10, “I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
So, ladies and gentlemen, you have a choice to make. So do I. You either believe the truth about yourself from God’s word, or you believe the myth, the Barney-the-dinosaur, fairy-tale-type situation. Which one is it going to be? It’s said in a thousand different ways from Genesis to Revelation how much you matter, how valuable you are. It’s time to close one book and open up. That’s the first and most important step in this rebuilding process.
That brings us to the second step. Not only are we to open up, we’re also to look over. I am to look over, first, the horizon of my relationships. You are to look over the horizon of your relationships. Second, we’re to look over the horizons of our behavior. If I’m going to have a proper self-esteem, I have to look over the horizons of my relationships and the horizons of my behavior.
Take a quick right turn to the book of 1 Corinthians 15:33. I think this verse is one of the greatest verses on relationships in the entire Bible. 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Do not be misled,” and this word misled refers to all ages, at all levels. “Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character.” Folks, if you’re interested in reconstructing a damaged self-esteem, you have to be interested in choosing good company. There are people out there, and their divine mission, their focus, is to rebuild your self-esteem. It’s to affirm you, because they know Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, there are people out there whose mission is to Pac-Man your self-esteem. I’m talking about Pac-Man your self-concept. I call them self-esteem sabotage experts. They blow holes in your self-esteem by the comments, by the words, by the looks, by the reflections from their eyes, and it damages the reconstructive process. Here you’ve put the foundation down and you’re starting to frame your self-esteem, and then they Pac-Man it, eat it up.
The Bible gives us two suggestions about relationships if we’re serious about having a healthy self-esteem. If you’re not, pay no attention. But if you are, listen. First, limit your exposure to people who Pac-Man your self-esteem. You’re saying, “Ed, Ed, Ed, wait a minute. That means I might have to change jobs.” Well, if your self-esteem is systematically being sabotaged, change jobs. I would seriously advise you to pray about that. “Well, Ed, you’re talking about a family member.” If you’re in an intensive rebuilding process, don’t visit that family member as often. “Ed, even more serious than that, you’re talking about my husband or my wife! What am I going to do? They’re Pac-Manning my self-esteem.” The Bible says to go to them in love, and I would say these words: “God says I matter, but you act like I don’t matter. If I’m really going to see how much I matter in God’s word, you’re going to have to stop tearing apart my self-esteem. You’re destroying it. I want you to know about it, and I want to speak that to you in love.” The first suggestion in relationships: stay away from those Pac-Man people.
Number two: develop a huddle of brothers and sisters that say the same words to you that the Bible says about you. You see, we need to get together with people, to huddle together with brothers and sisters in Christ, who have the same reflections in their eyes that God has from Heaven. They give the same words about your condition and my condition that Jesus says about my condition. When I meet with them regularly, they will affirm my self-esteem. They will help to rebuild it. You see, Christianity is not a solo sport. It’s not a Pavarotti thing. It’s not. You’ve got to have a small group of people who love you, who you have real community with, to help you in this self-esteem process. There are many times in my life when I think, “You know, I really just don’t matter very much.” Because I have that huddle of brothers and sisters, in the nick of time, God will send them to me in my life. A call, a lunch – and they’ll say, “Ed, you matter.” If you’re in a group like this you’ll know what I’m talking about.
That’s why we suggest so strongly to you to get involved in our Bible Study program here. We don’t have it just to say it. We have it for a meaning and a purpose. If you’re going to worship, you’re just hitting a little sliver of the Fellowship of Las Colinas. Real ministry takes place in small groups, so go to a Bible Study class. Out of a Bible Study class we have Home Teams that meet regularly across the Metroplex. People you can share your life with, people who will affirm you, people who will give you the same words that God gives you: that you matter. So take that brief look right now in your spirit over the horizons of your relationships. Any of them tearing you down? Any of them corrupting good character? It’s your choice. How about your best friends. Do you have a significant group of people?
After we look at the horizons of our relationships, we need to look at the horizons of our behavior. That’s right, our behavior has a lot to do with our self-esteem. You see, I look into God’s eyes and God tells me, “Ed, you are a somebody.” I get involved in a huddle of Christian friends, and they say, “Ed, you are a somebody.” But there have been times in my life, and there will be times in your life, where you will look into the mirror and say, “God says I’m a somebody, my friends say I’m a somebody, but I’m acting like a nobody. I’m making mistakes, I’m failing, I’m messing up.” When you sin, when you make mistakes, not only are you an embarrassment to God, you’re also tearing up your self-esteem. You really are.
A couple of years ago I was in an athletic contest and I had to run through an obstacle course. How many of you have been through an obstacle course before? It’s pretty tough. This one had tires, it had ropes, it had things to crawl under. I remember when they fired the gun, “Boom!”, I was running and I tripped a little bit, then regained my balance. I crawled through, around some ropes, jumped over tires, and every time I got through a certain section of the obstacle course I would feel a certain amount of satisfaction, like, “Wow, I got through that part! Good! I got through that part! All right!” I’d fall down, and, “Finally I made it through that part; great!” I’d look back and when I finally crossed the finish line I really felt satisfaction. I really did.
How do you feel as you live your life and you face this moral gate? When you face the moral gate and you persevere? Instead of being selfish with your finances, and cheating God out of a tithe, you give your tithe. You’re through a gate. You’re through a section of the moral obstacle course. You look back and say, “All right!” Then you see another one. You have a chance either to be ego-driven or spirit-driven, and you choose the spirit – “Oh, another one!” That’s a self-esteem boost, another self-esteem boost. But then you hit a section of the course, and instead of obeying the leading of the Holy Spirit, you chicken out. Instead of really thinking pure thoughts, you think lustful thoughts. Instead of being sacrificial and generous with your money, you’re selfish. You’re off the course. The sin systematically will tear apart your self-esteem. How about your behavior?
You see, God wants you, and God wants me, to act and live like a somebody, to live a holy lifestyle. We should take each little situation, each little section, each little moral gate and look at it as a slice of the pie. We should say, “I’m going to come through that one! I’m going to trust God!” Once we do, whoa. We’ve got a self-esteem boost, and we get higher and higher and higher. It’s a part of rebuilding our self-esteem. But if you’re living contrary to the word of God, it’s not going to happen. You’re shooting yourself in the foot. You’re smashing your crown. We’ve got to look over our relationships, look over our behavior.
The final step to rebuilding our self-esteem: we’ve got to come to the point where we dive in. I’m talking about dive in. All of us have unique vocations and unique gifts and unique abilities. God has called us into many different avenues in our lives. Some of us are attorneys, doctors, construction workers, professional athletes, homemakers, and the list keeps going and going and going. God says, “That’s good!” God’s word says that it doesn’t matter what you do, but God’s word does say we need to work like we matter. We need to work and live our lives in the marketplace like we have value. We have to commit ourselves to excellence, and we have to commit ourselves to doing the best we can possibly do wherever we work. Don’t you feel a real self-esteem boost after you’ve typed that perfect letter? Or after you’re really done a good job with your client? Or after the surgery? Or maybe you walk down the steps after a message that God has used in a great way? That surge of satisfaction is good; that’s a self-esteem boost.
But too many of us are living Sealy Posturepedic lives in the marketplace. We’re relaxing, we’re slothful, we’re lazy, and we’re missing out on the self-esteem boost. The Bible says we should work like we’re working, because we are, for the Lord. How’s your vocation? That’s a self-esteem boost. We’re to dive into it.
We’re also to dive into the mission that God has given us. Not only has God given us a vocation, He’s also entrusted to us a mission, a specific mission, a mission for somebodies. Remember, if we see we’re a somebody from God and others, we’re going to say, “Whoa. Somebodies have a mission.” What is your mission here in this life? Is your mission to put more zeros behind the decimal point? Is your mission to collect all these toys and things like that? You know what the Bible says about materialistic goods? The Bible says that one day we’ll be able to put a red tag on everything materialistically and write the word “temporary” on it. We could put a red tag on this suit, on this plexiglass lectern, on that beautiful grand piano, on those electronic drums, on this curtain, on this Arts Center, on our houses, boats, cars, vacation homes, everything. One day, when we face the judgement, it’ll go up in smoke. Gone, finished, over, seeya later.
What are you giving your life to, folks? You see, if you’re a Christian, and something causes your heart to beat faster other than the cause of Christ, something is wrong. It’s a mistress in your life and you’re committing adultery with it. You’ve got to break off the relationship and give yourself into God’s mission for your life. There’s only one thing that’s not temporary: that’s you and that’s me. We’re going to live forever, in one of two places: in heaven, or in hell. Are you really giving your life to the cause of Christ? It might be to work in our nursery. It could be to teach a Bible Study class. It could be to be a part of a praise team, a choir, a drama, to coach a little league athletic team. I don’t know what it is, but God has something unique for you.
Until you give and dive into something much bigger that yourself, which is the cause of Christ, the self-esteem is still going to be damaged. You’re still going to be trying on those Burger King-type, flimsy, paper-made crowns, and you will be frustrated. Your entire life will be “pain, pain, go away.” “Pain, pain, go away.” “Pain, pain, go away.” God says, “Stop it. I love you so much. Here is my crown.”
So, to wear God’s crown, three steps. Three steps. They’re easy steps, but they require constant maintenance. Open up. Look over. And dive in.