How Not TO Be Your Own Worst Enemy – PAY ATTENTION!

How Not TO Be Your Own Worst Enemy – PAY ATTENTION!

Have you ever made really bad choices, that lead to really bad habits, that lead to really bad results? Of course, you have. We all have. At some point in all of our lives, none of us want to admit this, we have been our own worst enemy.

Sometimes we have done it up big. Maybe you have sabotaged your own career or finances resulting in great loss, harmed a relationship with a friend or a family member, damaged your marriage, or undermined your own abilities or worth. Maybe you’ve watch others just slowly unravel their lives one step at a time, and think, “I would never do that.” Yet it’s so much easier to see from the outside in, to notice when someone else is doing it. But it takes courage and boldness to actually look in the mirror and notice that you too certainly have the potential to be your very own worst enemy at any time.

The reason I know this about all of you and about me is because everyone of us have participated 100% in all of our bad decisions. In fact, we were the masterminds behind our own bad decisions. A single bad decision is always the first step toward becoming your own worst enemy. It’s not like it happens all at once. It’s a slow unraveling. It starts with small things; one simple decision. Every habit begins with the first time. Every pattern begins with the first line. And every journey begins with a first step.

We all have the potential to become our own worst enemy if we’re not careful. So, in this new series, we’re going to discuss three things you can do to ensure you don’t become your own worst enemy. Three things you can begin doing today that will help ensure that you don’t wreck, ruin or cause whole seasons of your life to be wasted, then wish you could go back and do your 20s or 30s, or first marriage, or first career over again.

Now, Jesus didn’t necessarily use this terminology, “Don’t be your own worst enemy.” But what He said was clear. Those who heard it and refused to put it into practice would ultimately undermine their own lives. In fact, in one of His most famous parables Jesus says, “Anyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a man who builds his own house on the sand.” And when the storm came, the man recognized he has no one to blame but himself because it was he who built his home on a poor foundation. No one else. The material was there and available to build on a solid foundation, but the man chose the sand.

So in this series, I want to suggest three habits that really serve as preventive measures to ensure that you and I don’t become our own worst enemy. Today, I’m going to give you the first habit and then the others over the next two weeks.

1. Pay Attention to the Tension.

The first thing we need to do to ensure that we don’t become our own worst enemy is, “Pay attention to the tension.”

When considering an option, an invitation, or a choice that causes even the littlest bit of inner hesitance—stop and pay attention to that tension. Don’t start selling yourself on it; instead start listening to it. Because here’s what happens. As soon as you see something you want, as soon as you get invited to something you’re interested in, as soon as you see someone that you want, as soon as there is an option that kind of inflames an appetite, what do you do? You do the same thing I do. You start selling yourself on the idea.

What’s interesting is we lie to ourselves, and then we believe our own lies. I’m pretty sure only human beings are capable of this. We make things up, and then choose to believe the things that we just made up. Here’s how I know this is true. If a salesperson in an actual retail environment used the same sales pitch on you that you use on yourself, you would be so offended. You would walk out of that establishment so fast.

Imagine, you’re in the department store thinking about purchasing a blouse and the salesperson says, “Hey, if you get home and decide you don’t like it, just donate it.” You’d think, that’s a waste of money. But how many times has that run through your mind as you’re about to purchase something online since it’s a pain to return?

Or how about this one: “I see that you already have one that does everything this one does, but this one is a newer and shinier.” You would look at the person like they have three heads and say, “That’s your pitch. That’s it.” But that’s the kind of stuff we tell ourselves all the time.

Or what about this one: “Yeah sure, it’s wrong to do this. So just don’t tell anyone.”

Let’s go a little deeper. “Sure your husband would be hurt and offended if he found out, but your husband isn’t bright enough to find out.” I mean, how offended would you be ladies, if someone said that about your husband?

What do you tell yourself when you start trying to sell yourself on a bad idea? “Well, he’ll never know; she’ll never know.” Listen to the narrative you create. We’re going to talk a lot about the narratives next week. But if someone actually said to us, the things that we say to ourselves to sell ourselves on a bad idea that sets us up to become our own worst enemy, we would be so extremely offended. This is why you and I can’t afford to start selling ourselves; instead we need to pay attention to the tension.

The moment you start selling yourself, you need to hit pause. The moment you start creating an internal narrative as to why something is okay, or something’s justifiable, in that very moment, we need to hit pause and say, “Wait a minute. I’m doing that thing that Pastor Trish said only humans do. I am making things up and choosing to believe them in order to do something when something in me is telling me maybe I should hit pause.”

Remember this, if you don’t hear anything else I say today, this is what I want you to remember. We rarely, rarely have to sell ourselves on any good idea. You rarely have to talk yourself into knowing when something is the right thing, the wise thing, the sensible thing to do.

There’s a fascinating narrative in the Old Testament in 1 Samuel 24 that illustrates and illuminates this dynamic. If you’ve been with us awhile, you’ve heard this story before. If not, you’re in for a treat because this is one of the most interesting detailed stories in the entire Old Testament. And it brings great insight into this whole idea of paying attention to the tension. The story revolves around King David, before he became Israel’s second king.

David steps onto the pages of history as a young shepherd boy and almost overnight became legendary when he heard the giant Philistine taunting not just the army of Israel, but the armies of God. So since God was looking for just one bold volunteer. David said, “I’ll do it” and killed the giant with just a rock and a sling shot.

King Saul, who was the king at the time, Israel’s first king, keeps David close and gives him high ranking in the military. He eventually marries David off to one of his own daughters, so now the king is David’s father-in-law.

But then, as time goes by David becomes so popular and Saul realizes that David is a threat to his dynasty because people are going to want him to be the next king. In fact, the rumor was that David had already been anointed as the next King of Israel as a little boy, because in fact he had. So suddenly, Saul is not so fond of David even though he’s married him off to his daughter. In fact, Saul decides to use his daughter to manipulate David, and then Saul decides to kill David by continuing to send him out to fight the Philistines thinking that eventually the odds will likely be that the Philistines will take care of him.

But none of Saul’s tactics worked. And David becomes more and more popular. So then one afternoon, Saul loses his temper and he tries to kill David himself, but David escapes and leaves the city. And he knows he can’t go back or his life would be in danger. So he leaves and makes several really bad decisions, becomes an outlaw, and as a result of him being so famous, all the other fugitives around that region started following him. And the next thing you know, David’s got his own band of merry men. And eventually it becomes like a small army who see David as their leader.

Meanwhile, Saul’s running the kingdom, but he can’t get David out of his mind. He sent spies everywhere looking for David because his life goal became eliminating David before he dies so that his son Jonathan could become the next king rather than David becoming the next king of Israel.

So one afternoon, Saul gets a report that David and his merry men have been spotted in the desert. So the text says, that Saul took 3,000 men, which was way more than he needed to fight David. But David is a valiant warrior who’s famous for his ability to fight out in the open. So he takes 3,000 able young men. They’re gone for several days and eventually they come to some sheepfolds where there was a cave. In this region of Israel, there are caves everywhere. Saul decides he needs to relieve himself and enters a cave.

Fun fact, maybe. I think this is the only reference in the whole bible of someone actually going to the bathroom, but I could be wrong. We don’t need to know the details do we, however this is a strategic part of the story which is why the author included it.

So here’s the picture: 3,000 men, that’s a lot of soldiers, a long caravan with more people who are running the wagons with food and supplies. This is a big ordeal. Saul’s just a short way from the front of the caravan, and Saul has to go to the bathroom. Now, if you’re just a regular guy in the army and you had to go to the bathroom, you just dealt with it. But when you’re the king, you can stop the entire caravan, get off your mule and make your way up to the cave by himself to use the bathroom while everyone else waits. And here’s where the story takes the most interesting twist.

While Saul had his spies out looking for David, David had his spies out making sure that Saul wasn’t anywhere close to them. And when David’s spies found out that Saul was not too far behind them, David said to his men, “Scatter and hide in the caves. We’ll wait for Saul and his men to go through; then we’ll reconvene and go the other way.”

David and his men were actually in the very same cave that King Saul chose to stop and uses as his private bathroom. Now, they’re far back in the cave, but what are the odds? Talk about the stars lining up, talk about God smiling on you, this is a best-case scenario. This was an answer to prayer because it just so happened when King Saul and his caravan got right into the area where David and his men had dispersed to hide, that’s when he had to go to the bathroom, and he happened to choose the very same cave that David was hiding in.

David’s eyes have adjusted; he’s been in the cave awhile. Saul walks in, he can’t see a thing, and he walks just far enough in to do his business. David and his men in the back of the cave see Saul, and they look at each other and they just cannot believe this. At this point, what’s running through David’s mind? If you had been an outlaw, which we really don’t know at this point how long David had been an outlaw living out in the hills, but clearly God had just delivered David’s enemy literally into his hands.

David had already been anointed king. Everybody knows he’s the next king. The only thing standing in the way of David becoming the next king is Saul, and here he is. And if we don’t think that’s what was running through David’s mind, we do know that’s what was running through David’s men’s mind because the text says this is what his men whispered to him

1 Samuel 24:4
4 The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’”
This is what David had told his men over and over as they sat around the campfire at night. He would say to them, “Look, guys, just a little bit longer, stay with me just a little bit longer. Eventually, I’ll be the king, and when I become the king, I’m going to reward those of you who were loyal to me during these difficult times.”

So the men are looking at David saying, “You’re right, this is exactly what you told us would happen. This is the very thing God promised you. The waiting is over. Kill the king and let’s go home.”

Imagine the emotion and adrenaline in that cave, and the pressure David felt to act so he and his men could finally go home? This had to be God’s will, right? God had already declared David would be king. This can’t be a coincidence. Three thousand soldiers watch King Saul enter the cave. If David steps out holding Saul’s head, he would immediately be proclaimed king. There would be no civil war, and many lives would be spared. Sounds perfect, right?

But the text tells us that David felt something else as well. There was a tension, a hesitation. A tension that didn’t make any sense, so at first he ignored it.

1 Samuel 24:4
4 Then David crept up unnoticed….

David took out his knife, and he slowly crept up behind King Saul, but as he got closer and closer that tension intensified. And suddenly, somewhere between the back of that cave and King Saul’s back, his decision to kill and to murder King Saul was completely reframed. Suddenly, the hesitation that made no sense made perfect sense.

1 Samuel 24:4-5
4 Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. 5 But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe.

Somehow with all this adrenaline and all this testosterone in that cave, David was able to stop long enough and pay attention to this irrational tension, and it saved him from becoming his own worst enemy.

Because in that moment, he would have become the man who murdered Israel’s first king. He would have become the man who murdered his own father-in-law, the man who allowed him to rise to prominence after he killed Goliath. This would be his story of how he became king. So somewhere between the back of the cave and King Saul’s back, he was conscience-stricken and everything changed. He snuck up behind King Saul, cut off the corner of his robe, and went back into the cave.

And his men hiding in the cave, they can’t believe what they just saw. This was the perfect opportunity. They could finally go home. There would no longer be a price on their heads. But David missed it! So the men say, “Fine, we’ll do it. We’ll take him out. If you don’t want to have blood on your hands, we understand that, just let us do it.”

1 Samuel 24:7-
6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this to my lord the king. I shouldn’t attack the Lord’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him.” 7 With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.

So close. Let me ask you a question, and then we’ll get back to a story. Are you close? Are you contemplating something and selling it to yourself so well that you’re almost there? Is there an internal hesitation and internal tension and you just kind of pushed right by it?

Are you selling yourself on an idea or a decision that’s going to follow you around for the rest of your life? That’s going to make you a liar for life because you’re never going to want to tell this part of your story. And one day when you have children or one day when you have grandchildren and tell your story, you’re going to have to skip over this part. Are you on the verge of becoming your own worst enemy?

If so, may I make a suggestion? I’m not the boss of you. I can’t tell you what to do, but can I make a suggestion? Would you at least hit pause, just stop for a moment. Stop selling yourself and just listen to the wiser voices around you and perhaps listen to that still small voice on the inside of you that’s saying, “I don’t think that’s the best thing.” It may just be the whisper of God who loves you and is doing everything He can to keep you from becoming your own worst enemy.

So Saul exited the cave and has no clue as to how close he came to joining all of his dead ancestors. He goes back, gets on his mule, and as he gets on his mule, he hears a familiar voice coming from the direction of the cave he just exited. And everyone in the caravan’s head quickly turns to see standing at the mouth of the cave is David surrounded by his men.

And David does what many think is unthinkable to do. He humbly bows low in honor of the king. Then he stands up and he holds up the corner of Saul’s robe. And in that moment… here’s the moment I don’t want you to miss in your life. Here’s the moment I want you to be able to tell your kids or grandkids about someday…In that moment, everyone there knew who the better man was.

It was David. David gives a little speech. I’m not going to read the whole thing, but at the end of the speech here’s how he concludes.

1 Samuel 24:12
12 “May the Lord judge between us. Perhaps the Lord will punish you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you.”

In other words, I’m going to do the right thing. I will not take matters into my own hands. And because David listened to that still, small hesitation, that tension, that little ding of his conscience in a moment when most people would just have paid no attention to it, David decided not to use Saul’s bad behavior as an excuse for more bad behavior.

So how about you? As you think about the option you’re considering, that big life change you’re considering, that thing you’ve pretty much talked yourself into already, are you considering behaving badly based on someone else’s bad behavior because of what they did to you, because of what they’re trying to do to you, because of what everyone else around you does?

Come on, are you considering becoming like someone you don’t even like? Are you selling yourself? Because remember, we rarely ever have to ever sell our on the right thing to do.

All eyes turned from David to Saul, and he is completely humiliated by David. But here’s the thing, he’s not humiliated by David’s military skill. He’s humiliated by David’s character. He’s humiliated by David’s self-control and humility. And Saul has no choice, but to turn his army around and head back to Jerusalem. That’s the power of paying attention to that tension.

What are you going to do with that tension? Is there something that you are wrestling with that you just can’t quite put your finger on? Something seems off? You can’t get it off your mind or heart, it’s bothering you. Here’s my advice, let it bother you. Don’t rush by it. That tension may be God’s way of protecting you from becoming your own worst enemy.

Ask the question. I know it’s painful, but I’m telling you, for some of you this is like a curtain going to open up and you’re going to have clarity; you’re going to hate the clarity, but you’re going to look back and be so grateful for the clarity.

Ask the question, “Is there a tension that deserves my attention?” This is a preventive question to keep you from becoming your own worst enemy because after all, every habit begins with the first time, and every pattern begins with the first line, and every journey begins with the first step.

Pay attention and be willing to explore what’s bothering you. Explore rather than ignore your conscience. Because if you do, that’s a decision you will never regret. In fact, that’s a decision that will lead to fewer regrets. That’s a decision that will ensure that you don’t become your own worst enemy.