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                           "SPIRITUAL GROWTH"

                    Spiritual Growth And Self-Esteem

INTRODUCTION

1. In our previous lesson we saw that "Spiritual Growth Is A Choice"...
   a. Commanded by God - cf. 2Pe 3:18
   b. Requiring diligent effort - cf. Php 2:12
   c. Assisted by God - cf. Php 2:13
   d. Blessed by God - cf. 2Pe 1:8-11

2. Yet many Christians do not reach their potential for spiritual
   growth...
   a. Character development is minimal, abilities likewise
      underdeveloped
   b. Years pass by with little progress

3. I am persuaded a major reason is poor self-esteem...
   a. Causing Christians to underestimate their true potential
   b. Hindering their efforts to grow

[What is self-esteem?  How does it affect our spiritual growth?  Let's
begin by taking a look at...]

I. SELF-ESTEEM AND THE CHRISTIAN

   A. UNDERSTANDING SELF-ESTEEM...
      1. Self-esteem is our internal feelings and evaluation of
         ourselves based on our "perceived" self-image
         a. How we feel about ourselves
         b. Based on how we view ourselves
      2. Self-esteem and self-image are closely related, based mostly on
         feedback during childhood
         a. Feedback may come first from others (parents, peers, other
            important figures)
         b. But then reinforced by our own self-talk (what we tell
            ourselves)
      3. Healthy self-esteem is enhanced by childhood experiences that
         include:
         a. Being praised
         b. Being listened to, being spoken to respectfully
         c. Getting attention and hugs
         d. Experiencing success in sports or school
         e. Having trustworthy friends
      4. Childhood experiences that lead to low self-esteem include:
         a. Being harshly criticized, yelled at, or beaten
         b. Being ignored, ridiculed or teased
         c. Being expected to be "perfect" all the time
         d. Experiencing failures in sports or school
         -- People with low self-esteem were often given messages that
            failed experiences (losing a game, getting a poor grade,
            etc.) were failures of their whole self
      5. The consequences of poor self-esteem:
         a. Can create anxiety, stress, loneliness and increased
            likelihood for depression
         b. Can cause problems with friendships and relationships
         c. Can seriously impair academic and job performance
         d. Can lead to underachievement and increased vulnerability to
            drug and alcohol abuse
         -- These negative consequences themselves reinforce the
            negative self-image and can take a person into a downward
            spiral of lower and lower self-esteem and increasingly
            nonproductive or even actively self-destructive behavior

   B. THE CHRISTIAN'S BASIS FOR SELF-ESTEEM...
      1. The Christian has two primary reasons for having a healthy
         self-image:
         a. Dignity by virtue of divine generation
            1) We were created in God's image - cf. Gen 1:26-27
            2) We were created to exercise dominion - cf. Gen 1:28
            -- God has further demonstrated His high estimation of
               mankind by His love - cf. Jn 3:16; 1Jn 4:10; Ro 5:8
         b. Dignity by virtue of spiritual regeneration
            1) Yes, we are sinners, but we have been regenerated
               - Tit 3:5
            2) We are now loved as His children - cf. 1Jn 3:1
      2. Christians have other reasons for having a good self-esteem
         a. The blessing of continued forgiveness when we sin - 1Jn 
            1:9-2:2
         b. The blessing of God's Spirit to help us overcome sin - Ga
            4:6; Ro 8:12; Ep 3:16
         c. The blessing of God's family (the church) to help us - He
            3:12; 10:25
         d. The blessing of God's own assurance never to forsake us - He
            13:5-6

[There is much that could be added to the fact that God highly esteems
His children.  While we are sinners, He wants us to have the proper
estimation of ourselves.  But now let's address more directly the
subject of...]

II. SELF-ESTEEM AND SPIRITUAL GROWTH

   A. POOR SELF-ESTEEM HINDERS SPIRITUAL GROWTH...
      1. Not believing they are capable of growing, some tell
         themselves:
         a. "I could never do that (teach a class, preach a sermon,
            etc.)..."
         b. "I will make too many mistakes..."
      2. Prone to giving up too soon, some tell themselves:
         a. "I just don't have the ability..."
         b. "I am only a one talent individual..."
      3. Poor self-esteem on an individual basis can easily carry over
         to how the group feels
         a. "We are too small as a church to do..."
         b. "We are too poor..."
      -- All such excuses are indications of poor self-esteem, and
         prevent spiritual growth from occurring!

   B. PROPER SELF-ESTEEM ENHANCES SPIRITUAL GROWTH...
      1. Consider the healthy self-esteem the apostle Paul had:
         a. For himself - cf. Php 4:13
         b. For others - cf. Php 1:6; 2:12-13
      2. We should have a similar estimation of ourselves
         a. We can do whatever God wants us to do, because Christ
            strengthens us!
         b. We may not all do the same, but we can contribute much to
            the glory of God! - cf. Ro 12:3-8; 1Pe 4:10-11
      -- Instead of making excuses, tell yourself:  "I can do all things
         through Christ who strengthens me"! - Php 4:13

   C. PRACTICAL STEPS FOR IMPROVING SELF-ESTEEM...
      1. Identify and accept your strengths, weaknesses--everyone has
         them, no one is perfect
      2. Take an "I can" attitude and offer yourself encouragement along
         the way
      3. Set realistic goals, and then take joy in your achievements
         (giving God the glory!)
      4. Don't try to be someone else, but be thankful of who you are
      5. Explore your own talents, learn to love and appreciate the
         unique person you are (God loves you, your brethren love you,
         shouldn't you?)
      6. Eliminate negative self-talk; consider the following:
         a. It takes about 20 positive statements about ourselves (the
            foundation of our self-estee,) to counteract even just 1
            negative personal statement!
         b. It doesn't take a continual repetition of negative
            statements from our parents, peers, and others throughout
            our childhood to cause low self-esteem
         c. Once we get a couple in our head, we can use them over and
            over again; again and again we take those false negatives
            and repeat them unconsciously (completely unaware) - it's
            like having a constant heckler with you

CONCLUSION

1. Poor self-esteem is a major hindrance to spiritual growth...
   a. We make excuses for not trying
   b. We often give up before we make progress

2. On the other hand, spiritual growth greatly enhances self-esteem...
   a. As we grow, our achievements encourage us to do more
   b. As we grow, we gain confidence that we are on the right track
      - cf. 1Jn 3:18-19

3. Rather than let a mistaken estimation of self to hinder our service
   to God...
   a. Allow God's estimation of us to enhance our self-image and self-
      esteem
   b. Allow God's estimation of us to encourage the spiritual growth He
      desires
   -- We will feel better about ourselves when we do!

Some resources on self-esteem I found helpful in preparing this lesson:

http://www.christiancourier.com/archives/self_esteem.htm
http://www.utexas.edu/student/cmhc/booklets/selfesteem/selfest.html
http://www.allaboutcounseling.com/self-talk_and_self-esteem.htm
http://usfweb.usf.edu/counsel/self-hlp/self-est.htm
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