A Conversation With My Self (A sermon on self-talk)

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation”  Psalm 42:5 ESV

“Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, my Help and my God.”  Psalm 42:5 AMP

Because of their share vocabulary, themes, and refrain, most biblical scholars think Psalm 42 and Psalm 43 were originally one unit. They open a collection of psalms (42-49), attributed to the Korahites, which opens the Second Book of the Psalms. The exact setting of this unit (42-43) is unknown, but it appears to be the prayer of an individual estranged from his home and the Temple. Some have suggested that Psalm 42-43 was written by David when he was driven from Jerusalem during Absalom’s (David’s son) rebellion. But whoever he is, the psalmist is being taunted by his enemies, he has been exiled or otherwise denied access to the Temple, and he is in despair. The unit can be divided into three sections: (1) 42:1-5, (2) 42:6-11, and (3) 43:1-5. The unit is held together by a recurring refrain in 42:5, 11, and 43:5: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great British Baptist preacher of the 17th century, known as; “The Prince of Preachers,” commented on this text: “As though he were two men, the psalmist talks to himself. His faith reasons with his fears, his hopes argues with his sorrows.” Yes! In this psalm, we have a record of a man who had a conversation with himself.

Now, before you think that strange, having a conversation with yourself is actually normal and natural behavior! In fact, research indicates that the average person talks to himself or herself about 50,000 times a day! The real strangeness is not in actually talking to yourself; it is when you constantly do it out loud! So, having a conversation with yourself is an occurrence that happens all of the time! The truth of the matter is that no one does anything without talking to themselves first! Before every decision; we have a conversation with our selves. After every compliment or complaint; we have a conversation with ourselves! But what kind of conversation is it? Researchers say that 80% of the conversations we have with ourselves are negative and disempowering, things like: “They don’t like me. . . I’m never going to be able to pull this off. . . I’ll never lose this weight.” And when we constantly have these types of conversations with ourselves, it is no wonder that we must constantly have battles of anxiety and depression because 95% of our emotions are determined by the way we talk to ourselves!

In the text, the psalmist seems to be battling with depression. But the thing I like about it is that, although, he is somewhat depressed, as a child of God, he knows better, and so, he has a conversation with himself! He asked his soul; his inner self: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” In other words: “Self, why are you so depressed?” Now, if and whenever we find ourselves feeling sad or depressed, the best place to start of the road to recovery is to ask the question: ‘Why?’ When we ask; why?, we just might discover our feelings really are not justified! The song writer asked her soul: “Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come? Why should my heart by lonely and lone for heaven and home? When Jesus is my portion, my constant friend is He, His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me!” Yes! The psalmist asked himself: “Why are you depressed and why are you filled with anxiety?” He tells himself, first of all, to hope in God. The Hebrew word for ‘hope’ in the text, means ‘to hope, to wait with hope, to have hope with a positive expectation.’ Oh! My brothers and sisters, there it is! When you’re feeling down and out, it might be because you have been saying the wrong things to yourself and not asking yourself the right questions!

No! No matter what going on, on the outside of you; it is never as important as what going on, on the inside of you! Even the conversations we have with others are not as important as the conversations we have with ourselves! You see, most of us never quite get a handle on our lives because we keep looking without, when the problem is actually within! The negative things other folks say to us and about us are not as powerful as the negative things we say about and to ourselves! In 1 John 4:4, we read: “for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (ESV) Now, we know that the ‘he who is in you’ in that text is God, and the ‘he that is in the world’ is Satan or his designated agent, but the truth of that verse is also applicable to our subject: The ‘inner-me’ is greater than my enemy! Unless by negative self-talk, I make my ‘inner-me’ my enemy! And that is the problem with most folks! The reason they are constantly depressed and not successful in life is because they have an internal conflict; they are fighting against their own self! Therefore, we must always remember; what we say about and to ourselves is always greater than what any other person might say to or about us!

The psalmist had a conversation himself to encourage himself! Be careful of how you talk to yourself! Be kind to yourself! Never put yourself down, it’s really not needed because there are enough people in the world, standing in line, waiting to do that for you! Don’t make yourself your enemy! Yes! I like the fact that the psalmist said to himself, and I am ‘Millerizing it;’ “Self, why are you depressed and filled with anxiety? It doesn’t matter what the enemy is doing because greater is he that is within you than he that is in the world! Look to the Lord! I don’t believe He brought us this far to leave us now! If the Lord brought us to it; He’s going to bring us through it! Just sit tight, wait on the Lord and remember the good times! This is not the first time we’ve ever been in trouble! Do you remember when? The Lord did it then and He’s going to do it again! Besides, trouble don’t last always! It can’t rain forever, and even while it’s raining, up above the clouds; the sun is still shining!” That was what the psalmist said to himself! No! Things are rarely as bad as we tell ourselves they are! But, if we keep on telling ourselves how bad they are; they will get worst! Most people don’t realize it, but our words influence the way we feel and the way we feel influences the actions we take, and the consistent actions we take, have a cumulative effect of shaping our character and determining our destiny! Wherever we are right now is because of the consistent conversations we have had with ourselves in the past! If you don’t like where you are! If you want to change your destination; the change will begin when you change what you consistently say to yourself!

Now, the Bible says in KJV style: “faith cometh by hearing.” In plain language, faith is developed from what we hear. But the hearing is not just from what other folks say, it also comes from hearing what we say to ourselves! In fact, as we said earlier, what we say to ourselves is much more powerful, for good or bad, than what others say to us and here’s why: We can choose to disagree with and reject what others say to us and about us, but we always accept as truth what we say to and about ourselves, whether it is actually true or not! Now, most of the time, what we say to and about ourselves did not originate with us, but rather with some authority we believed (had faith in), from childhood, such as; our parents, teachers, and other adults. That’s why, we should be ever so careful how we talk to our children! Most messed-up adults were messed up children who accepted the bad and negative judgement and labels from parents and other adult who were messed up themselves because as children, they accepted the bad judgement of parents who were messed up because, as children. . . . you get the picture? The root of some of present-day inter-personal issues can be traced back through generations!

But, the key to changing your situation is not to be angry with your parents or any of your ancestors! When you were born, there was no manual or an instruction book sent home with you from the hospital. So, your parents did the best they could with what they knew! But since you are listening to this word today; you now have access to knowledge that could change, not only your life, but the lives of generations to come! All that is possible because now you know, you need to go home, sit down, and have a heart-to-heart honest, positive and open conversation with yourself!

Now, someone at this point might be asking; ‘Well, what should I say to myself?’ Well first of all, you need to quit telling yourself what you think about yourself and start telling yourself what God says about yourself! Quit telling yourself you are a chump because the word of God says you are a champ! Tell yourself: “Romans 8:37 says, ‘Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Quit telling yourself that you are a victim because the word of God says that you are a victor! Tell yourself: “1 John 5:4-5 says: ‘For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world– our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?’ Tell yourself: “Self, since I have been born of God and I believe Jesus is the Son of God, then that means I am an overcomer; I am a victor and not a victim!” Yes! You’ve got to discipline yourself to believe and accept; not what other people say and think, not even what you say and think, but rather what the Word of God (the Bible) says about you!

Now, you need to remember, I said you’ve got to discipline yourself in this area! That means, it’s not going to happen without consistent, intentional, attention and effort on your part! We’ve been talking to ourselves wrong for so long that when we start talking to ourselves right, it will not feel right, at first! We’ve been having bad conversations with ourselves for so long that having a good conversation with ourselves will seem unnatural and fake, at first! But as you stick with the program, surely, gradually, and eventually, your world and your life will be transformed by the renewal of your mind and your positive faith-affirming self-conversations. Because, when you change your conversation; you will change your thinking, and when you change your thinking; you will change your life! The Bible says: Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus! That means we should think and speak like Jesus, even when we are having a conversation with ourselves!

Well, I need to quit here, but even when we change our conversation with ourselves; life won’t always be easy! Sometimes, it will seem like more than we can bear! But when the tough days come, remember the words of an old familiar song I heard them singing the other day: “Like a ship that’s tossed and driven; battered by an angry sea! When the storms of life are raging and their fury falls on me! I wonder what I have done, to make this race so hard to run, then I say to my soul; (I have a conversation with myself!) Yes, then I say to my soul: ‘Take courage! The Lord will make a way somehow!”

 

Looks Can Be Decieving!

wolf ramThe average person does not function according to reality, but rather according to their perception of reality. Let me show you what I am talking about. Suppose that one day you are walking alone in the woods and suddenly you find yourself face-to-face with a bear! Most likely, your first and immediate response would be to quickly put as much distance between you and the “bear” as possible! However, you later discover that what you encountered was not actually a bear, but rather an actor impersonating a bear in a bear suit! At that point, you would probably feel a little foolish. However, the point is; you did not respond to reality, you responded to your perception of reality and your perception became your reality! Looks can be deceiving!

Most people are too preoccupied with images and perceptions! I have found in my experiences, that often many of the people who appear to be wealthy are not and some of the people who don’t appear to be wealthy actually are! Because of low self-esteem, many people will go to extreme measures to present an “appearance” of wealth! (The young people call this; “perpetrating”) The tragic irony is that often it takes less effort (but more discipline) obtain real wealth than it does to put on a façade! Don’t judge a book by its cover; looks can be deceiving!

That is what Jesus was talking about when he said, “Do not judge according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment!” He knew that looks can be deceiving and that what you see is not always what you get! Many of the people that you may look up to; the ones that you think, “got it going on,” are actually struggling just like you are! It just looks like they have it together! The point of this word to you, my friend, is that you must learn to live your life by faith (in God) and not by sight! Stop living your life according to what it looks like! Many times, it may look like you are not going to make it! But that doesn’t necessarily mean that defeat is your reality: It just looks that way! However, if you respond according to how it looks, you make what “it just looks like” your reality! No matter how it looks, have faith and don’t give up! Remember; looks can be and many times are deceiving!

The Matter of Respect

Respect imageSome people kill or engage in other illegal activities; trying to get it! Others do things they normally wouldn’t do; trying to get it! Still others buy things they can’t afford, to impress people they don’t even like; trying to get it! What are they trying to get? Respect! By definition, respect is the state or quality of being highly esteemed. We all want respect and we all want to be respected! We all want to be regarded and have a sense of worth and importance.

But think about it for a minute! Why does a person have to “do” something in order to gain or earn respect? Why can’t a person be respected simply because they are? In other words, why can’t respect simply be a given? Shouldn’t the very fact that a person “is” be enough for them to be respected? I want to encourage you to quit jumping through hoops, quit standing on your head, and quit turning backward flips trying to earn the respect of people! The very fact that you are is enough! And if they don’t respect you for that; that’s their problem not yours!

The bottom line is that many times people fail to exhibit respect toward others because they don’t respect themselves! Before you can respect others; you must first respect yourself! And in order to respect yourself; you must like and love yourself! Now, I’m not talking about the type of self-love that some people have where they are so in love with themselves that no one else in the world matters. (A prime example of this is a commercial I saw once where a man said to a young lady: “I’m tired of talking about myself; so I’m going to give you a chance to talk about me!”) No! I’m talking about having a healthy regard for yourself that promotes healthy self-esteem and self-confidence. If you don’t like yourself; why should other people like you? The first step in having the respect of others is to have respect for yourself!

And the first step in respecting others is understanding that every person is in a sense, an expression of the Divine! The Bible says that humanity was created in the image and likeness of God! Although that image has been tarnished by sin, faults, and failures, nevertheless, the image is still there! Therefore, the street-walker, the pimp, the prostitute, the gang-banger, the drug-addict, the homeless, and others that many in society do not highly esteem are indeed expressions of God! Every person is worthy of respect, not for what they do; but simply because they are! To disrespect them is to disrespect the God who created them! To disrespect them is to disrespect yourself, for at some level you and they are inseparably connected!

So, the next time you feel down because you think no one respects you, perhaps because of the mistakes you may have made in the past, remember the only people who have never made mistakes are the people who have never lived! Ask for God’s forgiveness and be sure to forgive yourself. Then, ask those you have offended for their forgiveness. And if those you have offended refuse to forgive you; don’t lose any sleep over it! Let it go and move on! The next time you are tempted to disrespect another person; remember that person is a creation of God! To disrespect them is to disrespect the God who made them and the God who made you! To disrespect them is to disrespect yourself! You can’t have one without the other! You can’t have respect for yourself without having respect for others! And you can’t have respect for others without having respect for yourself! Remember: People shouldn’t have to earn your respect and neither should you have to earn their respect! Respect should be mutually given! And respect should not be given because of what someone does; but merely because someone is! Our very existence is reason enough for respect!