For as he thinks within himself, so he is

“For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” (Proverbs 23:7)

Portrait75cWhen I was a very small boy, I wanted to be “Davy Crockett”. I was so captivated by the person of Davy Crockett, that I would not only look forward to watching the Walt Disney television series about him with Fess Parker in the leading role, but I would also dress up like him and act out the role as a child.  I can also remember my Dad taking me down to our local record shop and buying me the hit single, the Ballad of Davy Crockett” “Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier.”

One day, my grandfather, who was a barber, asked me, “Billy, do you want me to cut your hair so that you look like Davy Crockett with a raccoon tail?”  Of course, he was only kidding, but I don’t know if at the time I thought he was kidding as I was only 5 or 6 years old, and very gullible. Everyone thought, I am sure, that that was adorable, but as we mature into adults, many of us today, because of dissatisfaction with who we are, also dwell on and cast ourselves in roles that are not particularly suited to us.

The notion that we are what we eat or that which we dwell on is portrayed humorously in the following conversation between Basil, a middle class English writer, and Zorba, a Greek peasant, from the book “Zorba the Greek”.   The phrase you are what you eat, however, is not to be taken literally herein, but rather connotes, what the mind ingests has a bearing on one’s state of mind.

(Zorba) “Tell me what you do with the food you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are. Some turn their food into fat and manure, some into work and good humor, and others, I’m told, into God. So there must be three sorts of men. I’m not one of the worst, boss, nor yet one of the best. I’m somewhere in between the two. What I eat I turn into work and good humor. That’s not too bad, after all!’

(Basil) He looked at me wickedly and started laughing.

(Zorba) As for you, boss, he said, ‘I think you do your level best to turn what you eat into God. But you can’t quite manage it, and that torments you. The same thing’s happening to you as happened to the crow.’

(Basil) ‘What happened to the crow, Zorba?’

(Zorba) ‘Well, you see, he used to walk respectably, properly – well, like a crow. But one day he got it into his head to try and strut about like a pigeon. And from that time on the poor fellow couldn’t for the life of him recall his own way of walking. He was all mixed up, don’t you see? He just hobbled about.”
Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

How many of us are dissatisfied with who we are and our circumstances, and also try our level best to change things but can’t quite manage it?  Because discontent lurks in every person’s heart, we oftentimes try to change who we are, our God given talents, brains and physical appearance, and also our situations, and sometimes it is at grave cost.  Unfortunately, many of us who look in the mirror and wish we were someone else, end up tormented like the crow, and hobble about, all mixed up.

But don’t misunderstand me.  There is nothing wrong with aspiring to be something or wanting to change our circumstances for the better, just as long as it is a realistic possibility and ordained of God for me as a person.  Regardless of who I am and my circumstances, the Bible teaches that I should be content.  In Philippians 4:12-13, Paul learned to be content in whatever his circumstances and even with his physical infirmity for he says “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”  Note: the secret of Paul’s strength was not in himself, but in knowing that Jesus Christ was the source of his strength.  Paul was content because Jesus was his all sufficiency.

Whatever your situation, whatever your dissatisfaction with life, whether it be self-esteem, your job, your spouse, etc., ratC.-S.-Lewis-Believe-Quotes-1her than begrudge these things and wish you were someone else, choose to look in the mirror and focus on “whatever is right, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is fair, whatever is pure, whatever is acceptable, whatever is commendable, if there is anything of excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—keep thinking about these things.” (Philippians 4:8, ISV).  The Bible teaches that we are changed by the things we behold or that which we dwell on. “We are what we believe we are” – C.S. Lewis.  Similarly, believers in Christ who behold in the mirror, or who “contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NIV).

Copyright 2016 by Bill Hutzel

Amazing Grace

Produced, arranged, recorded,
and mixed by John D’Elia
Musicians:
John D’Elia, guitars, bass, percussion
Beth D’Elia, vocals
Bill Hutzel, solo flute

How profound to think that blessings often cause us to divert our attention away from God, and that troubles almost always make us look to God. Such were the troubles of John Newton who wrote “Amazing Grace”.

Newton wrote the words to “Amazing Grace” from personal experience. He grew up without any particular religious conviction, but his path in life  would be formed by a variety of twists and coincidences that were “often put into motion by his willful and wanton disregard for all that is right and holy and which led him into a life plagued with despair, dangers at sea, abuse, public floggings, destitution, depression, near drownings and miraculous escapes. During those years Newton often entered into a state of spiritual awakening. Consequently those times were short-lived, and he invariably lapsed into a more wicked and loathsome direction.

One particular harrowing experience at sea was used of the Lord to cause young Newton to seriously consider his standing before a holy God. After being at sea for several months with a load of lumber, livestock and beeswax, the ship ran into a violent storm. So severe was the gale that the otherwise seaworthy vessel was in danger of sinking. When the livestock were washed overboard, the crew tied themselves to the ship to keep from being swept into the sea.

For four weeks, because of damage to the ship, the sailors despaired of life. Most of their waking hours were spent at the pumps to lighten the ship of water she had taken on. Rations were so low the men feared starvation. When they finally reached a port in Ireland, Newton began a sincere effort to become right with God.”[1]

John Newton, were it not for his troubles and despair, may never have come to write the song “Amazing Grace”.  The song “Amazing Grace” is Newton’s most famous hymn, and is the most popular spiritual song in the history of American music having been recorded more than 1000 times.

The song was first published in 1779, however, since then it has been associated with more than 20 different melodies including contemporary tunes such as from “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals composed in the early 1960’s. The hauntingly beautiful melody that we are most familiar with today, however, was published in 1835 from an early-American tune called “New Britain”, although you might not recognize it right-away unless you listen closely to the parts.  The second staff below is the melody that we are familiar with.

New_Britain_Southern_Harmony_Amazing_Grace

An 1847 publication of Southern Harmony, showing the title “New Britain” and shape note music. (Play song)

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear; and grace my fears relieved.

How precious did that grace appear; the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come.

‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.

Of the tens of thousands of times it has been performed, the instrumental style and expressive quality may change with each interpretation, but the message always remains the same; that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of the sins we have committed, and that our souls can be delivered from despair through God’s Amazing Grace.

When we find it difficult to spiritually concentrate on God, and although troubles almost certainly always make us look to God, remember also to look to Him when you are enjoying His blessings because blessings tend to divert our attention away from God. “Narrow all your interests until your mind, heart and body focus on Him.”[2] “Look to me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:22,WEB).

Copyright 2016 by Bill Hutzel

FOOTNOTES

[1] https://www.crossway.org/tracts/the-amazing-story-behind-amazing-grace-3033/

[2] Chambers, Oswald “My Utmost for His Highest”, January 27