Do You Know Yourself?
Charles Naylor, 1920
Everyone desires success — but not every one succeeds. In every line, there are certain things on which success depends. Success can be built only on a properly and carefully laid foundation. Those who desire to be Christians, desire to be successful in the Christian life. Those who are called to work for God, desire to be successful workers. Jesus said to Martha, "Only one thing is needful." There is generally one basic principle on which all else must be built. If this is overlooked or neglected — then partial or complete failure is certain.
Many attempts are failures because of being begun at the wrong place — upon the wrong foundation. In mathematics we must master the rudiments, before we can compute the orbits of the planets. In music we must learn tones and relations of tones, before we can produce the exquisite harmonies of the master. In astronomy we must know something of our little home-planet, before we can launch out into the heart-stirring immensities of space. In the same way, before we can rightly know God, we must know ourselves.
Every animal instinctively knows that the gnawing pain in its stomach is a hunger for food, and immediately seeks to satisfy it. But the man who does not know himself, who does not stop to consider and analyze himself — feels an unrest, a yearning, a hungering within his soul, and knows not why or what it is.
He tries worldly pleasures — but they only partially satisfy, and at last render the case more serious than before. He tries all the remedies that he can find for his soul-hunger — but performs no cure — simply because he has not properly diagnosed his case. It is only when he knows that the cause of his unrest is soul-hunger for God and the bread of life, that he begins to try to satisfy himself properly.
Women, and many of them Christian professors, try to satisfy this craving by decking themselves with gold and gems and fine array, with the plumage of birds and the skins of beasts.
Men try to satisfy it in the tavern, by plunging into the muddy waters of the political sea, or by accumulating money and by the follies of life.
As food is the only thing that properly satisfies the hunger of the body — so God is the only thing that satisfies the hunger of the soul. When people come to know that this hunger is for God, they begin to search for him if perhaps they may find him. The trouble is, that people look at Christianity in the abstract, as a something apart from themselves — whereas it is a vital part of every spiritually normal man or woman. The saying of the old philosopher, "Know yourself," proves his wisdom. True wisdom comes only by first understanding ourselves, so as to know our relation to other things.
One of the things that must constantly be preached to the sisters is proper modesty and plainness of apparel. How often do we meet with those who once were plain — who now dress almost as the world! Why is it that these things are put on? Because there is a longing in the heart. They do not understand what this longing really is — nor what will satisfy it. They interpret the unrest of soul as being a desire for these things — yet when put on they do not satisfy.
No, sister, it is not the flowers on your hat nor the feathers nor fine dresses — which you are really desiring. You may think it is — but only because you cannot rightly interpret your soul-cry. No, brother, it is not that fine team nor that other eighty acres that your soul really desires.
Your souls are crying for more of God. Give them a chance to get what they are hungering for, and you will be surprised to find out that you did not really want these other things after all. If you find in you a desire, or what seems to be a desire, for anything not in accord with spiritual health, there is a real desire in your soul which you do not realize.
Sister, if you pass the millinery-store and see a display of worldly hats and something seems to say, "Just to be honest, I would like to have one of those," your soul is hungry. Go home and feed it. Go to your closet, fall upon your knees, and get a good feast of the "bread from Heaven" and "water of life" — and then go back and look in that window again and see if there is any hunger. There is not a bit, is there? Do you not see that you were mistaken? Your soul wanted more of God, and you did not know yourself any better than to think it was a fine hat you desired.
Or you, brother, if you feel as if you wanted people to notice you more and say nice things about you and tell how talented you are, you are hungry. Go and give your soul a feast of heavenly manna — not just a taste; eat plenty, feast on it. Now come back in the crowd, and when that man goes to praising you, it makes you feel ashamed. You did not really know what you did want, did you?
And you who desire to be a big preacher and stir the world and be like a mighty man of war among the people. You are getting real hungry. It will take a lot to fill you up — but God has plenty, and you had better get to the table quickly. When you get full, though, you will find you do not really want to be a big preacher at all, and have not the least desire to be. Why, you will feel so small, just as if you wanted to hide behind the cross where nobody would see you at all.
After we have a good, square meal on divine food — any sort of worldliness will go against our stomachs, and we cannot bear it, sight or smell.
And you there — you want to have your own way in everything, do you not? Your judgment is so good that all the brethren must accept it and act upon it — or all the sweetness in your soul turns to vinegar right away. Go and eat some of the "honey out of the rock." Do not come back until you get enough. When you get filled up once, you will wake up in the night and catch yourself saying, "Not my will — but may your will be done."
God is what you want. Everything else is husks. You can eat husks all you please, and not get satisfied. You may get a bad case of spiritual dyspepsia or die altogether. Better find out what you really do want — and then "eat in plenty and be satisfied." Do not try fine dresses and rings and flowers and feathers and houses and lands and honors — for your soul's nutriment. "Eat that which is good." Get acquainted with yourself enough to know that all the real desire of your heart is for godliness, and that these longings for other things are only symptoms of your need of more of God — and that they will disappear at once when the soul is filled with the "bread of life."