Category Archives: Wisdom

12 Signs Of Selfishness

We’ve been doing a series at The River called ‘Breaking Down The Walls’ – dealing with attitudes and issues that put walls between people and work against friendships and relationships.

So on Sunday I dealt with a particularly nasty wall-maker in our lives – one that makes others put up walls against us to protect themselves, and an area that can be particularly difficult for us to see in our own character… the wall of ‘Selfishness’.

Most people don’t think of themselves as particularly selfish, it’s usually an attribute that we’re quicker to label others with! But it’s something that we need to root out of our lives if we’re going to have good friendships and relationships.

So is selfishness at work in your life? I’ve compiled a quick 12-point checklist…

1) You have high expectations of what other people should do for you, and you feel angry or irritated when they don’t meet your expectations

Selfish people generally have high expectations of others and a clear idea of what others should be doing for them.

2) You think a lot about what you’re entitled to, and you feel angry or irritated when you don’t get what you feel you deserve

Selfish people are all about their rights, and they take full advantage of them. It’s not that it’s bad to know and use our rights, but truly selfish people would sooner end or endure a difficult relationship than have to budge on what they feel they’re entitled to.

3) You spend a lot of time thinking about why more people aren’t helping you

Everyone has problems going on in their life, but selfish people are consumed with why everyone else isn’t ‘doing what they should’ to help them.

4) You move people in and out of your life based on how useful they are to get you to where you want to go

It’s great to have a vision for life, but selfish people use others to get to their vision and dispense with them quickly once they lose their usefulness. This one can be a tough area for leaders – but in leadership it’s important that we remember that the vision is there to serve the people… not the other way around!

5) You often find yourself surrounded by selfish people

If the majority of people around your life seem to be quite selfish to you… the problem may not actually be with them!

6) If you’re asked to help with a need your primary concern is how helping out will affect you

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take into consideration our own time and energy levels – it’s good to think through what a commitment means to us before we make it. But there’s times when we just have to jump in and help someone… maybe it’s incovenient for us, but it’s the right thing to do at the time. Selfish people can’t see past their own priorities to the needs of others.

7) You find yourself on the end of conflict often, but it’s never your fault, and you don’t say sorry easily

Selfish people often find themselves in conflict, because the people around their life get tired of having to put up with their selfishness. But because of #1, #2, #3 and #5 – selfish people often don’t see that they’re the cause of the conflict! So they usually won’t apologise because they don’t feel like they’re the problem!

8) You find it hard to rejoice when others get blessed, or get the spotlight

Selfish people see the limelight and accolades as just rewards for their effort. They struggle when the spotlight is on someone else, because then people aren’t noticing the important contribution they feel like they’ve made which is connected to…

9) You want to make sure that you receive proper recognition for the things you do, and you get miffed if you don’t

Selfish people want to be noticed and want to receive what they believe is their ‘due entitlement’ (#2). So recognition by others (and especially by important people) is vital for them. Everyone finds it hard if they’re contribution is overlooked, but for a selfish person – they just can’t let it go… it eats away at them.

10) You like being in control of things and you find it very hard to compromise on what you want

Selfish people are usually uncompromising and have a very clear idea of what they want and how everyone needs to behave so that they can get it!

11) You keep a personal tally of what you’ve done for other people

Selfish people don’t GIVE… they TRADE. Even if they look like they’re giving, they’re still trading. They keep a personal tally of when and how they’ve served, given, blessed and done things for others. They want to make sure that the ‘balance’ of giving and serving and them receiving their rewards stacks up. Selfless people on the other hand, just give… because it’s all for God anyway.

12) You are the star or the centre in most of the stories, experiences and events that you share in conversation with other people

Selfish people don’t have conversations – they have monologues and soliloquies with an audience. Selfless people understand that conversations need to be two way, and endeavour to include others and bring out what’s inside them. Selfish people just want everyone to focus on them.
Naturally we’ve all got a bit of selfishness on the inside of us. If you took the test and none of it applies to you… I’d suggest that there’s a good chance that selfishness could be a bigger issue than you think!

If you took the test and none of it applies to you… I’d suggest that there’s a good chance that selfishness could be a bigger issue than you think!

3 Quick Tips For Becoming More Self-Less

1) Have a huge view of the super-abundance of God

Selfish people generally have a scarcity mentality – they don’t believe there’s enough to go around, so they make sure that they get ‘their share’. The more we see that in God there’s an abundance for all that we need and more – the easier it is to hold lightly to stuff. We can rejoice in the blessing of others, because we know that it’s not taking away from our blessing! There’s more than enough!

2) Have a mindset of humility

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; – Philippians 2:3

To ‘regard one another as more important than ourselves’ means that we treat every person we come across the same way that we would treat someone that we highly esteem. We take into consideration their needs and do our best to serve in every situation.

3) Give generously

Give. Not trade!

Giving our time, energy and money to others with no desire or expectation for return is a great way for us to keep selfishness far from us. Maybe this is why Jesus said that when we give we should do it in secret. It’s hard to keep your eyes on the ‘payback’ when no-one knows that it was you who gave!


Finally, a very simple way for us to embrace a selfless life is to simply live ‘self…less’. Jesus didn’t call us to be ‘self-none’, just ‘self-less’. In every situation we find ourselves in, there’s an opportunity for us to take a little less for ourseves, so that others can have a little more. Ask one more question about the other person in conversation. Leave something on the buffet table for the one who’s coming after you. Take 5 minutes out of your day to do something that will really be a blessing to someone else.

How To Build A Life-Ruining Stronghold In 4 Easy Steps

When you come into the church, there’s often a whole new language to learn. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘Christianese’ – words like redeemed, sanctified, fellowship and altar call can be commonly used, which never get a hearing outside the church community.

To help with the culture-shock, Tim Stewart has gone to the trouble of setting up a whole website called The Dictionary Of Christianese – so now you can know the difference between a testimony and a bragimony, and where the 10/40 window actually is! There’s a few beauties on this site that really made me laugh.

But despite what some people say, it’s not wrong for us to use spiritual language in the church – in fact the apostle Paul said that we are ‘explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words’ – 1 Corinthians 2:13.

But what IS important is that we understand what the words we’re saying actually mean. Otherwise we end up saying them or singing them and they’ve lost all power for us.

The Location

I came across one of those words while I was reading the Bible this morning… the word STRONGHOLD! The church spent much time in the 80’s and 90’s ‘breaking strongholds’, and it became a common theme of many of the songs written during these years. For me, when I was praying for someone and asking God that ‘strongholds would be broken’ I would see in my mind a person being set free from a spiritual prison, or having spiritual chains removed from their lives.

But these days I’ve come to the realisation that although the sentiment and picture wasn’t wrong – maybe the LOCATION of the stronghold was something that I missed. Maybe it wasn’t so much around their body, as much as around their MIND.

The Progression

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretention [lofty thought] that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

This is an upside-down passage. What I mean by that that instead of starting with something small and zooming out to something big… it starts with the big thing, and zooms in to the root cause. When you look you see four things:

1) Strongholds ….which come from
2) Arguments ….which come from
3) Lofty thoughts against God’s knowledge …. which come from
4) Our thoughts

So we can see that strongholds are literally ‘strong holds’ on our life which have their origin in unchecked thoughts which don’t line up with what God is saying about Himself, the universe and our lives.

How To Make Your Own Stronghold At Home!

Let me show you how to make your very own stronghold at home, in four easy moves!

1) Have a thought
This part is pretty easy. In life, a few people ‘think’ but pretty much everyone has ‘thoughts’. But in order to make a really good stronghold, ensure that your thought is about something important – like what you are on earth for, who you are as a person, what your future is going to hold, or what God is like.

2) Have a really good thought
The next step to building your own stronghold is to have an epiphany – a ‘Eureka’ moment. It’s a really good thought – a ‘lofty idea’ that stands out amongst the rest of your thoughts. The kind of thought you share with others when you’re sitting around the barbecue or hanging out with mates.

What is CRITICAL at this point though, in order to make a really good stronghold, is that you DO NOT check that thought against the Bible! Otherwise you’ll realise that it’s a lie, take it captive, and your stronghold will crumble.

3) Build an argument
Having now created the basis of your stronghold with a great idea, you now need to strengthen it with an argument. The Greek word used here is ‘logismos’ – you want to use logic and reasoning here to demonstrate why your idea stands up.

To get a solid stronghold, you also need to think about actions that go along with your arguments. If you’ve constructed the first part well, then the actions will come pretty naturally.

4) Complete the stronghold
Another word used in the Bible for stronghold is ‘fortress’. Having started with your great idea, and built your arguments and reasoning around it, you now need to protect the idea like a fortress against anyone who may see things differently. The Greek word used for ‘fortress’ is pretty close to the word used for ‘lots of people’, so you’ll want to find others who agree with you. Together you can stand strong and mock those who disagree with you.

Congratulations… your stronghold is now complete!

The Scary Reality

Maybe you’ve noticed something as you’ve been reading. Perhaps you can see actions that you’ve done yourself in the list above. The truth is that every single human has strongholds built around what they believe. This is why it’s a struggle sometimes for people to come to Christ… in order to receive Him they have to dismantle a lot of what they formerly built.

But what I hope will be a little more of an awakening is just how important it is that we do what Scripture says and ‘take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ’. If we allow stray thoughts that are at odds with what God says about Himself, the universe and our lives to start to take root and grow in our mind… the eventual destination is a stronghold.

The Good News

But the good news is this – we’ve been given divine power for the demolishing of strongholds! We can, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God together, set people free from strongholds of the mind that are ruining and wrecking their lives.

One of the most powerful ways we can experience life transformation is to be ‘transformed by the renewing of [our minds]’, – which means that as we start to think differently, we live differently.

So let the combined power of God’s Word and His Spirit into your thought process – and you’ll find that instead of ending up with strongholds in your life against God,you’ll be like the person who built their house on the rock. The storms will come and you won’t be shaken – standing firm in the promise and the knowledge of God!

A Heart After God!

Proverbs 3:1 – My son, don`t forget my teaching; But let your heart keep my commandments:

It takes time for God’s commandments to make their way from our head down to our heart. The way that we get our heart to keep God’s commandments is to not let our head forget God’s teachings!  When we continually remind ourselves of God’s word and turn it over in our heads, it will eventually reach our hearts, and we will find that we are changed from the inside out. 

Numbering Our Days Aright

Sarah lived one hundred twenty-seven years. These were the years of Sarah`s life. – Genesis 23:1

None of us know how long we’ve got here on earth.  Sarah’s lived 127 years – and it was the last 37 years of her life which were the most fruitful. 

Psalms 90:12 encourages us to “Number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom”.  Don’t waste the days that have been given to you!  Grab each one and live it to the max!  Spend your life on the important things, not on the things that will fade!

Convicted… but not completely

2 Chronicles 8:11 – Solomon brought up the daughter of Pharaoh out of the city of David to the house that he had built for her; for he said, My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because the places where the ark of Yahweh has come are holy.

Solomon is in a dilemma – he is living in Jerusalem near the Ark of the Covenant – where the very presence of God is dwelling.  He is also living with his wife, the daughter of Pharoah of Egypt.  These two will not dwell happily together – because the customs and practices of his wife are detestable to God, and the holiness of God is detestable to his wife. 

So Solomon makes a decision – he moves his wife out of the city, and thus brings about a temporary solution.  But it’s an indicator of a much bigger problem for Solomon – he had divided loyalties. 

We can only be wholehearted about something when our whole heart is united.  Hosting the presence of God in our lives will start to bring about a reaction from everything in our lives that is opposed to His presence.  Solomon tried to deal with this the quick and easy way – by separating the two.  Many Christians try the same thing – compartmentalising their lives into what is holy, and what is not.  But it ended up being the ruin of Solomon, and it will ruin us too. In our heart, our love of God must surpass every other love that we have.  Any time another love starts to take His place, we risk idolatry. 

Some would ask – what about those who are married to people who aren’t Christians?  It’s a difficult road for sure, and for that reason Paul’s advice on the subject was ‘don’t marry unbelievers’.  But if you’re already married, and you’ve got saved and your husband/wife isn’t – then you have to walk out a careful balance of continuing your ongoing commitment to your spouse, while making sure that in all things, your love for God comes first.  Don’t be discouraged – many non-Christian spouses have eventually been won over to the faith by the demonstration of love for God and love for others that their husband or wife shows. 

One thing is true – there is only one TOP place in our heart’s love.  Don’t try to share the balance – but put the One who is worthy of that place first!

Casting Off Restraint

Proverbs 29:18 – Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but one who keeps the law is blessed.

This verse is also translated ‘where there is no vision, the people perish’. 

Revelation & vision ‘restrain’ us.  They hold us on track.  When we get revelation on what God is saying – it brings blessing into our lives – hence ‘the one who keeps the law is blessed’. 

Without revelation, many of the parts of the Christian faith could seem like overkill.  When we can’t see or understand why we do particular things as Christians, then we are in danger of shedding vital parts of the faith because we can’t see the use for them.  We break restraints. 

This is what happened to Israel when Moses was delayed coming back and Aaron was left in charge.  He lacked the revelation that was required to keep God’s people together, so let them run loose. 

But when we ‘keep the law’ because we start getting revelation about God’s commandments – then we’re blessed.  The man of God is one who willingly takes on restraints because he understands that those restraints lead to a blessing. 

The Inheritance Of Sons And Servants

Ezekiel 46:16-18 – “Thus says the Lord: If the prince give a gift to any of his sons, it is his inheritance, it shall belong to his sons; it is their possession by inheritance.  But if he give of his inheritance a gift to one of his servants, it shall be his to the year of liberty; then it shall return to the prince [..] Moreover the prince shall not take of the people’s inheritance, to thrust them out of their possession…”

God is a giver of great gifts!  But just as important as the gift given, is how we receive the gift that has been given. 

This passage shows us that if we receive the gift as a son – then the gift is ours to keep and remains an inheritance for our families.  But if we receive the gift as a servant – then the gift is returned to the Lord when our service ends. 

The difference between a son and a servant, is that one receives as a right of a member of the household – the other receives as payment of services rendered.  The servant must work to retain his gift, but the son does not need to work to retain his.  

It all comes down to how we receive from God.  We must endeavour to receive His goodness as sons, and not as servants.  Then what we have will never be taken from us. 

This sheds some new light on what Jesus was referring to in Luke 10:42 – with Mary and Martha.  Jesus said of Mary that what she had would ‘not be taken from her’. 

It also connects with the temporary nature of some of the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).  If our identity is completely wrapped up in these things, then we are servants and not sons. 

When Walls Break Down

Psalms 89:40-41 – You have broken down all his hedges. You have brought his strongholds to ruin.  All who pass by the way rob him.

When our hedges come down, our strongholds get destroyed. 

Our hedges are the walls that surround our life – the decisions, the habits, the disciplines that guard us and keep us in Christ.  Our stronghold is our walk and relationship with God – which is like the ‘strong tower’ that we run into in times of trouble to find safety. 

What this means for us is that decisions, habits and disciplines are important.  They don’t make us righteous by themselves, but they are vital to KEEPING US. 

When we lose those hedges, our strongholds get put at risk, and then all who pass by ‘rob us’ (Psalms 89:41).

Make sure your hedges are strong!