Jettison Your Self-Esteem for a God-Esteem

Here’s a new website that’s called, “AwesomenessReminders.com.” It offers this service to subscribers: “How great would you feel if a real person called you every day to tell you, ‘You’re Awesome!’? With AwesomenessReminders, a real person will call you every day to tell you how much you rock. If you’re not around, we will leave you a voicemail.”

Why would anyone ever feel that they need something like that? I wonder how many people have signed up already. Pity the fool who, in any kind of way, thinks that would be of help to them in their quest to feel better about themselves. But even more, pity the fool who actually thinks that feeling better about themselves is what they actually need.

Our problem is NEVER a poor self-esteem. It’s ALWAYS a poor God-esteem. When we don’t esteem all that God is for us in Christ, all we’re ever left with is a poor, pitiful self.

Feelings of having a “poor self-esteem” usually surface during relational “storms” in our lives: conflict, loneliness, feelings of not really belonging, feeling disrespected by others, etc. And those times bring a sense of self-pity, anger, resentment, defensiveness while we cling to the notion of needing a better self-esteem. The better self-esteem quagmire never works. The answer is not feeling better about ourselves. We don’t need a better self-esteem. We need a better God-esteem.
Here’s what I mean (using the passage I preached on last Sunday): When the apostle Paul is encouraging the sailors of the doomed ship at sea in Acts 27:22–26, we gain a lot of insight into how WE can find courage in our own relational storms of life. Let’s remind ourselves what Paul said…
“But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me” (TNIV).
Let’s take an example true to our own relational storms common in life and apply the gospel truths of Paul’s words to it. Say you’re being treated disrespectfully by people whose opinion you care about. A family member (your teenage kids, your spouse, a parent, an adult brother or sister), a friend, or a colleague or boss at work, has treated you disrespectfully. All your “self-esteem” juices start kicking in.
Your initial reaction is to want to defend yourself either by attacking or to withdraw and stew on the conflict in your head. The more you think about it, the more upset you become. Perhaps what upsets you most is that you can’t stand the feeling of someone having negative thoughts and feelings toward you. You deserve better. You start to defend yourself, either in words actually spoken to them, or by words spoken against them to others. Or perhaps you are carrying out all this defending still merely inside your head. Your goal is to justify yourself. Your goal is to get them to acknowledge their sin against you and to apologize. And while that would be a great thing to happen, in reality it rarely does.
So now you have a conflict—a relational storm in your life. You’re stuck in a storm of inner emotions: anger, growing resentment, self-justification, and perhaps self-pity. You can’t move on. You’re in a storm that’s now affecting your relationship.
How do Paul’s words speak into that storm? How does the gospel enable you to respond in faith rather than react in anger, resentment, confusion, defensiveness, and self-pity? I believe it’s this—you need a much better God-esteem. And part of having a God-esteem means having a God-centered view of life’s relational storms.

A God-esteem means believing in the same promise of the gospel that Paul was clinging to on that ship that day in that dreadful storm. It’s clinging to “the God whose I am and whom I serve” who is always present “beside me” saying; “Do not be afraid.”

When someone says something or does something that causes you to feel mad at them and bad about yourself, God says to you, “Do not be afraid.” When you want to defend or attack or withdraw when someone disrespects you in some way, God says to you, “Do not be afraid.” This person’s disrespect is not really a threat to you. Because you are secure. Your future is secure. Do not give in to the fear that brings anger, resentment, defensiveness, and self-pity.
If you trust in who Christ really is for you and what he’s already done for you on the cross and by his resurrection, then because Christ has purchased you on the cross and is holding you and hiding you in him until your own glorious resurrection and restoration (see Col 3:3-4), you can know that who you WILL BE is actually who you ARE now (see Rom. 8:30-32). You don’t have to scratch and claw and fight for your honor. You already have it. All of it. Regardless of who else actually sees that now, God does. And you will surely see it, and others will surely see it, that day when you enter safely ashore on the “beach” of his kingdom (going with the imagery of Acts 27). Not because of who YOU are—not YOUR self-esteem—but because of who Christ is and what he’s done for you and what he WILL DO for you. “For I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me,” Paul said confidently.
So serve Christ selflessly because you already belong to him. Serve others who disrespect you because you’re serving the God whose you are.
You belong to God because of Christ. No one and nothing threatens that reality (See Rom 8:32-38). Your future glory is already secure in him. Your future restoration is already secure in him. Secure right NOW. So you don’t have to scratch out your redemption in the eyes of others. You have it completely, already, in Christ in the eyes of God. So “do not be afraid.” He will restore you forever because he has redeemed you in Christ.
So you’re now free to love and serve others, like Paul on that storm-tossed ship. Having a great God-esteem, like Paul, you’ll finally be freed up to climb out of anger and resentment and self-justification and self-pity and go forth encouraging and serving others—even those who may treat you disrespectfully. Because you’re not afraid anymore. You belong to Christ and you serve him rather than the approval/esteem of others.
That kind of freedom NEVER comes in trying to believe that “YOU’RE AWESOME!” It’s ALWAYS by believing the reality that “CHRIST IS AWESOME!” And so we say with Paul, because of “the God whose I am and whom I serve, …I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.”

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