understand yourself?” Yes, without much prior thought, many people assume that
they do, and are in full control of themselves. But it is these people who are
often heard to say, “Why did I do that?”
struggles to come to terms with himself. This view is endorsed by Paul in his
disclosure on the double nature of man (Rom 7). We try to live within the
standards laid down by God but often find it difficult to keep within them as
our emotions govern us to do otherwise. Paul calls the opposing elements in
this human dichotomy the carnal and the spiritual man. To appreciate this
dichotomy in oneself and to begin to nurture the spiritual side is the key to
Bible we read of men who lacked in self-understanding, many meeting with
failure. Two of them provide interesting points for thought:
envious of his brother Abel, whose offering God accepted. Though God advised,
he persisted in his anger and later killed Abel. In letting the carnal man
dominate, he, as an animal, destroyed what he saw to be a threat, even his own
brother (Gen 3:1-16).
understand the dual nature in himself made Cain deaf
to the spiritual man in him. Unheeding advice from others, he thought he knew
what was best for himself. He did not realise that it was only half of him speaking, and being
the worse half, it would not do him any good. It is the same with us - wrong
decisions are made because many times we only listen to the weaker side of us,
the carnal man. A Christian should, however, not be a totally passionless
creature. The difference between the carnal man and the spiritual man is not a
simple demarcation between passion and reason as the worldly philosopher would
have us believe. Instead, it is the difference between decisions made within
the law of God and decisions made solely through human impulse and reason.
of Job provides another angle on understanding oneself. Job was blameless and
upright, feared God and turned away from evil. Then calamity befell him, his
children and wealth were taken away, and he was afflicted with sores all over
his body. Still, he held fast to his faith, saying that if he had accepted
happiness from God, he must also accept sorrow. Such was his attitude,
initially. But he became confused when his three friends came to see him. They
reasoned with him, saying that God would not punish a good man. Job argued that
he was innocent and could not understand why he was being punished. So he asked
God to tell him why (Job ).
He felt ready to prove himself if only God would give him a fair trial.
is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt. Who can understand it?”
(Jer 17:9). We cannot understand ourselves without help, for even if we realise the existence of a dual nature within us, we still
need to determine which part is speaking within us. We often deceive ourselves,
thinking that our conscience is always at hand. Job could find no fault in
himself and so reasoned that he was perfect, thinking that he had arrived at
this conclusion based on God’s words.
ready to challenge the Author of the Word Himself. It needed God to expose his
self-righteousness and pride. God answered him out of a whirlwind (Job 38 &
39), questioning him about the majestic and mysterious workings of the
universe. Fortunately, Job humbled himself and admitted his sin. The same
cannot be said for Satan, who thought he knew better than God. His sad end is a
constant reminder to those who think they know everything. Understanding
oneself requires the acknowledgement that God understands you better. As such,
the man who tries to understand himself also leaves his life to God.
humiliation in the face of God’s might shows the
imperfection of man. We cannot for a moment imagine that we can be “like God,
knowing good and evil”, as whispered by the serpent to lure Adam and Eve.
understand the basic nature of man - that we have a double nature,
that we are imperfect and that God, the Creator knows us best - is the
basis of a true understanding of oneself. From here we progress to understand
ourselves as individuals.
knowing ourselves can we correct and improve our ways. Not realising
our faults, we may be unrealistically self-confident. Self-knowledge is
therefore a condition to progress. To enable us to live well and progress
spiritually, we must pray that God will help us to really understand ourselves,
and not be deceived by our own hearts. Here are three things in which we ask
us to know our own ignorance, that we may always be
willing to learn. In this, we can emulate the Ethiopian eunuch recorded in Acts
8, a well-read man of great authority. Yet he readily admitted that he did not
understand what he was reading, even when asked by a stranger, Philip. Because
of his humility, he received God’s grace. As the Word of God is good for
reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness (2 Tim ), it is suitable for all Christians.
us to know our own weaknesses, that we may always be aware of temptations,
which can easily overcome us (I Pet 5:8). From the beginning, the devil has
been trying to make man fall. The Lord Jesus has saved us from the bondage of
sin, but the evil one tries to lure us back. Preaching to a friend, we are
trying to save and snatch a soul from Satan’s itches, but the Christian is
always at war in his life. His is a spiritual warfare. From the scriptures we
can learn how the struggle between the spirit and the flesh persists, and how
believers have coped with them. From those who overcame, we take their
qualities, and from those who fail, we learn from their mistakes and try to get
rid of any wicked traits we have similar to theirs. Relaying on our own
efforts, we cannot withstand Satan’s wiles. Paul warned the Ephesians that they
were not wrestling with flesh and blood, but confronting powers of darkness and
spiritual wickedness. To be a victorious Christian soldier, we must put on the
whole armour of God as described in Eph. 6:13-16.
us to know our own strength, that we may fully use the gifts and talents that
God has given us. Many of us excel in certain areas, some in music, some
literature, etc. But we have not come this far by our own effort and
intelligence (Dan ).
Rather, everything is from God. God gives talents, not only in learning but
also in handicraft (Ex 31:2). In the Bible, God gave Joshua the spirit of
wisdom to succeed Moses; Solomon’s wisdom was granted through his prayer. As
God told Zerubbabel, “Not by might, nor by power, but
by my spirit”; it is only proper that we request for the fullness of the Spirit of God
and His gifts, so that we may use them to serve the Lord.
understanding ourselves we can progress spiritually, and come close to the goal
of perfection. Let us try our best to live a life of a true believer. When the
Lord comes again, we will meet Him with glad, joyful hearts. Amen.