Today’s blog will probably make you laugh. More importantly, God may use it to help you avoid a common pitfall.

I had been aware of a certain verse of scripture, but God brought a series of events about to ensure it would make a deeper impression on me:

As your spiritual teacher, I give this piece of advice to each one of you. Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimation of your capabilities. (Romans 12:3, J.B. Phillips New Testament)

You guessed it. I overestimated my capabilities at an event and within minutes God let me know I wasn’t nearly as good as I thought I was. To that end, I can testify:

It’s better to follow the apostle Paul’s advice in Romans 12:3 from the get go than it is to learn it the hard way!

With humor, my goal is to reinforce the blessing of knowing and taking this Bible verse to heart.

So, let’s go!

(Clippity clop…)

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During my freshman year of high school, I unexpectedly found myself with a well-trained, little firecracker of a horse named Java. We had a blast—pun intended—covering ground in all kinds of weather. After a year and a half, my riding skills increased to the point where I could comfortably ride bareback (without a saddle) whether in the open, in town, or along irrigation canals. The gentleman who sold her to us was impressed.

My friend Michelle invited me to a horse “Play Day” at the local fairgrounds. The event was supposedly just for fun with a variety of classes and competitive games to choose from. I wasn’t all that interested but ended up agreeing to go. The first event I signed up for was called a Dollar Bill Ride.

I rode Java the mile and a half from where she was boarded to the fairgrounds. Everyone there seemed to know each other and what Play Days were all about. While my horse was fully capable of performing well, I began thinking I had no business being there. The fact that I showed up wearing tennis shoes (which I learned was a no-no) and had to ride half a mile to Michelle’s house to borrow a pair of boots reinforced my misgivings. But I returned in time to unsaddle my trusty steed, hop back on, and make the class.

Each contestant was given a slip of white paper about the size of a dollar, which was placed between the horse’s back and rider’s right leg, just above the knee.  Whoever could ride the longest without falling off or having the piece of paper end up on the ground was the winner.

One by one, riders were eliminated from the game as they lost enough leg contact with their horses to send their pretend dollars fluttering. I was riding well and was pleased to see my paper still in place. Soon there were only four of us left. The announcer called for increasingly difficult maneuvers in order to speed things along. Java moved through the added demands easily and our teamwork was enjoyable. My slip of paper remained between us and then it was down to me and one other rider.

Wow, I’m really good! I thought.

The boy I was riding against finally lost his paper slip and I was awarded the first place ribbon. Not bad for my first horse competition, I thought. I was all smiles and quite proud of myself.

Until I left the arena and dismounted Java, that is. The paper didn’t fall to the ground; it was stuck to my jeans like glue!

In dismay, I realized what had happened. I had been riding Java prior to the start of the class and, during the arena workout, a trace of sweat formed on her back, just under my legs. It dampened my jeans to the point where the paper wouldn’t slide, giving me an unfair advantage over the other riders.

As a consequence, my first place win was as legit as a fake dollar bill!

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My bigheadedness about my undeserved “win” illustrates how believers may become proud of their capabilities when, in fact, those natural and spiritual prowesses originate from God (rather than ourselves).

When we think more highly of ourselves than we should, it never goes well for us or those with whom we interface. On the other hand, we can swing too far the other way—thinking we have little or nothing to offer.  Such thoughts run contrary to the truth of God’s beautiful, creative works in us.

It isn’t that one extreme is worse than the other, but that neither is the result of clear (or sane) reasoning.

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While Paul wrote the above portion of scripture within the context of spiritual gifting (Romans 1:1-21), I also find Romans 12:3 serving as a reasonable, stand-alone guide for a Christ follower’s regular self-assessments. It invites reflection: In what other things do I cherish exaggerated ideas of myself? Do I have a sane estimation of my capabilities?

How about you?

Please consider reading the full context of Romans 12:1-21 today and writing down all the (arguably crazy) things believers in Christ are called to pursue!

They’re more of a cultural oddity than a horseback rider in tennis shoes at a Western Play Day.

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What God reveals through His Word as reasonable and right will often—if not always—challenge our thinking. And when we are in our right minds, our hearts will overflow in gratitude: it is kind and merciful of God to help us think straight.

We are loved!



People Lover. Author. Blogger. Speaker. Forgiven Much & Wild About God. Learn about June's latest book on her website.

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