How many of us have ever stubbed our toe while through a familiar room in the middle of the night? Self-inflicted wounds are a big part of life! I can’t count the number of times I have asked, “Why did I do that?” It’s easy to recognize the activities that result in pain or loss but what about those that simply result in nothing gained? I would like to propose defining self-inflicted wounds as “Sincere Effort Lacking Fruit.” This applies to many life choices both temporal and eternal.
To offer a sincere effort is to make a genuine attempt - to give it your best. I always appreciated the style of our daughter’s gymnastics coach. He believed that losing was always the result of one of two possibilities. Either, one, you were not properly prepared, or two, you were faced with a superior opponent. In his eyes there was no shame in losing if you gave it your all. But in most areas of life our best just never seems to be enough. While I am not denying the fact that we all make mistakes and likely could have done better, would our best truly have been enough? Sincere effort is admirable yet always leaves us empty.
Many who affirm some type of belief in an afterlife invoke this principle regarding entrance into heaven. “If I do my best surely a loving God will consider me worthy for heaven.” But there is none righteous, not even one. Any sincere effort to be good enough for heaven will fail. (For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.) Self-inflicted wounds are a two-sided coin. Sincere effort is found on the input side. The opposite side focuses on output.
Lacking fruit is the outcome of the effort. Sometimes our sincere efforts lack fruit because we water the soil with impatience. I’m not referring to the flower but rather the fiddling. I’m sure many of us have had a puppy that loved to dig in the garden. Some of us are puppies too! Another challenge has to do with the seeds we plant. Galatians 6:7-10 speaks to the issue of fruitfulness, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Attempting to attain to the perfect standard of Holy God results in a self-inflicted wound.
Self-effort will never address our true need – we need a new “heart-drive.” Allow me to illustrate from a recent experience. I have been using a computer as a part of my daily job for more than 25 years, yet I understand so little. About a month ago our home computer lost it’s way to the Internet. Suddenly we lost access to email and Facebook – it was a crisis! I tried some basic troubleshooting. So I took our troubled computer to a tech-savvy friend who tried several tricks with no success. He suggested that I restore the computer back to a restore point. Something I knew very little about and had never bothered to create.
So now my only choice was to start over. After creating a backup of my email and a few important files I started the recovery process. All was well for the first few minutes. Then a warning appeared on the screen, “The hard drive contains bad sectors.” Backup critical data then replace the hard drive. The failure on my computer was not the result of misuse or a virus. The problem was foundational – the hard drive – the heart of the computer was flawed.
I shared this story to offer a parallel. So many people today believe a lie. We have been told that deep inside we are all good. Our problems are simply the result of external influences. And we cannot be blamed for these things that are outside of ourselves and outside of our control. If we can find the key to unlock our hidden potential we will be free. But the true problem is a problem of the heart – we need a new heart drive. “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-24 NIV) Trust Christ and live.
Tim Walker is the pastor at Faith Assembly of God.