Today I Heard God Tell Me, “You Dah Man”

Years ago I worked with a man who had an insatiable desire to impress. When he gave presentations, he never used a one-syllable word when a four-syllable word was at hand (or at least on the shelf). When he told me of his client visits, he eulogized his eloquence and waxed lyrical about his wisdom.

Self-acclaim obscured clarity; self-admiration overshadowed expression; and self-tribute was always the topic. When he did something well, he made sure you knew it.

You may know someone like him.

I’m not sure what got me thinking about him today, but my mind kept replaying past scenes of his self-praise.

Later on I read the story of the prophet Nathan addressing King David after David’s adultery. Nathan tells the story of a rich man with many flocks stealing a poor man’s deeply beloved and only lamb. David was enraged at the injustice. Then Nathan said,

Thou art the man” (2 Samuel 12:7, KJV).

As I thought of my impression-needy friend, I heard God say, “Sam, Thou art the man” It was an arrow in the heart. (You’ve got to hear it in King James English)

Who? Me?

Hearing, “Thou art the man,” made me gasp, “Who? Me? What had I done?”

Well, let me tell you.

About eight months ago, I felt God ask me to make a priority of two things: time to reflect with God on things he was speaking to me, and time to express it. That was it. Reflect on what God was speaking to me, and express it.

Over the next months God spoke to me about all kinds of things: hearing God, being a legalist, concerns about Sunday school, how we’re all addicts, and understanding God’s tests.

I wrote articles on my reflections and posted them. Some articles were well received and some were ignored.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article that created lots of buzz. Response to it was several times higher than anything previous. People emailed me, some phoned me, and many commented on reddit.com and on my blog.

I liked it!

As I sat down to write this article, I began to think of controversial issues or witty titles or clever rhetoric. I was thinking of how to impress.

Then God said to me, “Thou art the man.” I mean, he nailed me. I had moved from wanting to express (what he’d been given me) to wanting to impress. I was that man.

The pulpit and the word

My dad was a pastor. He told me there were two ways to prepare a sermon, “You can let the pulpit drive you to the word, or you can let the word drive you to the pulpit.”

He said, “You can let the need for affirmation motivate you, or you can simply let God’s word speak to you and let his fullness motivate you.” The first way speaks out of an inner emptiness trying to get filled, and the second way speaks out of an inner fullness simply offering what you’ve already been given.

What about you?

(Bear with me as I go off on a short digression. It will connect back. I promise.)

We are all made in God’s image; we are creators and artists. Some take the raw materials of soil and seed and create gardens, and some take the raw materials of pain and empathy and create encouragement.

God has given each one of us treasures to bring to the world: life, hope, clarity, peace, kindness, and food for the poor.

Let’s not be stingy in offering what he has given us. Let’s not say, “Who me? What do I have to offer?” He has given each one of us treasures to bring to the world.

But let’s not offer in order to impress. Offering means we are giving, giving out of our fullness. Impressing means we are taking, taking admiration and applause to fill our emptiness.

So why this article?

As I reflected on my miss-motivated desire to impress, I confessed it to God. I admitted, “I was looking for love in all the wrong places” (sorry, I couldn’t resist). And I felt God tell me to write out of my weakness.

Because my weakness (not my impressiveness!) is what God is speaking to me about. As I reflected on my weakness and how to express it, I heard God say,

Sam, You dah man.” It filled me with a fullness of his love.

Sam

So, what do you think?

  • Do you ever find yourself desperately trying to impress rather than offer?
  • Do you know the treasures God has uniquely given you to offer?
  • Are you willing to offer what God has given you—as an artist not as a leech?
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32 Responses to Today I Heard God Tell Me, “You Dah Man”

  1. Lyle Regan says:

    Sam, my wife asked me a similar question in regards to my, and others, work with some guys we have been mentoring, meeting with weekly. These are guys that have attended our True Pursuit weekends. “Am I doing it to give to others from a true heart or am I doing it to feel good?” Then she said “who’s putting into your heart?” I wonder if because of my early wounds, if I may have a warped pride unto myself. Her questions made me stop and think, and pray, “am I doing it because God called me,.. or am I doing it to look / feel good? More time needed on this one. Keep at it my friend. Lyle

    • Hi Lyle,

      You have a very wise wife (tell her I said so!).

      The reality is that we will be always be facing this purity of heart issue. We are not living–yet–out of perfect purity.

      And I don’t think we should “wait” until we are perfect, or we’ll be waiting a long time. But it is helpful to stop and ask ourselves these motivation questions, and keep going to God in confession and repentance, and asking God to purify our hearts.

      Thanks as always,

      Sam

  2. Damon says:

    Good post Bro.

  3. Good post- thanks for being honest about this. I also have to sometimes really think about my motives- what is my purpose of writing something (facebook status, blog post, etc)- is it just to get a lot of pageviews? If no one comments on it, does that make me a failure?

    This also applies to bible studies I’ve lead at college- if I only get like 2 or 3 people, does that mean I’m a failure? Do I try to force people to come, without caring about them being busy or not interested or whatever, just so that I feel like I had a “successful bible study”?

    I kind of concluded that my job was to prepare/lead the study and let people know it was available to them. If I’ve done that, I’ve done a good job. If only 1 person comes, that’s fine- that’s out of my control.

    • Hi Perfect Number 628 (I keep trying to guess what that means!),

      Great point where you say, you just do what you are called to do, and leave the “success” or “numbers” to God.

      There is a time where God speaks to Ezekiel. God gives his word to Ezekiel to speak and then God says Ezekiel’s just is just to speak it, not to make it happen.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Sam

      • That reminds me of a lot of Old Testament prophets- God was like “hey go say this to the people. Also, no one will listen to you.” (Yeah that whole “here am I, send me!” thing in Isaiah 6… that’s where God sent him.)

        I wonder if the prophets wondered whether they were failures.

  4. John says:

    Sam, another great post. I’m gradually learning to let go of the desire to “knock it out of the park in the bottom of the 9th” and feel like a hero. I’m learning that my true value is somewhere else, it’s in being a beloved son who my Father is proud of, and to begin to treat my brothers and sister this way also. And with that, there is freedom to …just step up to the plate and swing away.

    • Hi John,

      Of course you know my temptation is to knock it out of the park as well.

      It’s funny (well, maybe ironic); when we TRY to hit it out of the park, we almost never do. When we relax and just do what God calls us to, then we actually tend to hit it out of the park more.

      If we try too hard, we don’t; and when we relax, we do!

      Everything about the gospel is upside down to our human nature. And I love it!

      Sam

  5. Mark Wilby says:

    Sam, I always want to comment on your posts, but sometimes there’s not enough time — too much to think and write about. We have so much in us that needs the “fire”. As you know we can do a lot to kill the weeds, but the layers below the surface need a supernatural weed eater — more love poured in by the Holy Spirit. Unless and until that happens we aren’t gone have much of a garden. But when Jesus walks in our garden, flowers really start to bloom.

    • Mark, you are a poet!

      I love your images, “a supernatural week eater,” “love poured in by the Holy Spirit,” “when Jesus walks in our garden,” and “flowers really start to bloom.”

      Thanks. Yup, I need that supernatural weed eater, destroying my weed-need for self-affirmation.

      Thanks for all you do.

      Sam

  6. Guy says:

    …no fine feelings just ugly faces…

    Sorry, I had to wax lyrical with you on that one Sam 😉 This post made me laugh AND packed a good punch…Thanks for sharing your heart again and for helping lead the way back to being vulnerable. I feel like my own desire to impress is a very primitive tool to cover all my unhealed shame. It hurts my ego when I come off looking on the less intelligent side of things or just completely naive. It’s in those moments that I either perform a brilliant monologue in my head before hundreds of people clearly awestruck by my brilliance or, if I’m being very courageous that day, I allow myself to simply become ‘the one whom Jesus loves’.

    Thanks Sam!

    Guy

    • Hi guy,

      Great line, “my own desire to impress is a very primitive tool to cover all my unhealed shame.”

      That is it. Our desire to “impress” is a primitive tool. And, it never really works, it never satisfies for long.

      We need to keep reminding each other, “to simply become ‘the one whom Jesus loves’.”

      Thanks,

      Sam

  7. Randy says:

    Wow! Thanks for listening when God speaks. Your writing (God given and Holy Spirit delivered) speaks to so many hearts… I feel like when HIS love is overflowing in me, it spills all over the place and that’s when people really listen! Not when my words are just my words… It seems that words are not enough. It’s the HOLY SPIRIT not only speaking but filling the air with HIS sweet fragrance. Allow HIM to fill you and HE will take care of the rest… Living water quenches thirsty hearts!

    • HI Randy,

      Thanks for your reminder, “when HIS love is overflowing in me, it spills all over the place.”

      That is really it. Like the Samaritan woman at the well, we need something welling up inside us that fully satisfies and that spills out all over the place.

      Thanks,

      Sam

  8. Yes I was one of those men, all of my life, until a couplle of years ago, everything changed whit a lot of confussion and judgement. Thank you Sam for your honest words from your heart.This is the theme on my heart for almost a couple of weeks. First it felt as an accusation, then uncomfortable, then God brought clarity through words to it from honnest men, you are one of them. This is so helpfull and healing to me. I need examples of real men ho walk with God because I know how not to walk right with God. These words are life to me, thank you.

    • Hello Henk,

      I am encouraged. It seems that God is speaking to you–in the middle of the accusations, discomfort, and the clarity.

      It is GREAT when God speaks to us, and I am always encouraged to hear God speaking to others.

      You encourage me,

      Sam

  9. Sam, you have stirred my heart. To be aware of our true motives (as best we can) as we live out of our true selves (redeemed and weighty and a gift to the world) is the core issue. I want to offer what God has give me simply because I can’t help it, rather than because I need to make a place in the world for myself. Thank you for this.

    • Hi Gary,

      I love the way you said that, “I want to offer what God has give me simply because I can’t help it, rather than because I need to make a place in the world for myself.”

      I like two parts of it. First, “I want to offer simply because I can’t help it.” Exactly. God puts something in our hearts that is so compelling, so strong, such a powerful desire that we couldn’t stop even if we wanted to.

      Which we don’t!

      Second, it’s not “because I need to make a place in the world for myself.”

      When we are filled with the Calling God has given, we no longer need to make a pace for our selves. We aren’t drive by the fickle applause of men and women. We are driven by an internal compelling.

      Thanks,

      Sam

  10. Christopher Coxe says:

    Sam
    Thank you for your post today, it really hit home. And Gary as always you bring EXTRA clarity to discussion.
    This too hit me between the eyes because I find myself deciding what to give of myself based on what I think the acceptance will be instead of just offering it like an artist.
    I think this one thing is equal to nuclear energy!!!
    Thanks

    • Hi Chris,

      I got the idea of “living like an artist” from Gary (who probably got it from someone else, who got it from someone else…).

      it is a freeing concept, isn’t it?

      Thanks for your comment,

      Sam

  11. Martha says:

    I was wondering why there were no female commenters so far… and that led to wondering whether some difference between men and women (on overlapping bell curves, of course) applies.

    I don’t know for sure, but I do know that I absolutely identify with your experience of doing something that makes a big splash and then finding that that was the beginning of my getting way off the path. The thing that makes it hard to discern, though, is my default setting of “modesty.” I have a conflicted relationship with encouragement, and I tend to deflect praise because of the same aversion you described at the beginning of your post.

    But the reality is that that kind of modesty a symptom of exactly the same thing. I am the man (well, woman). When something I do goes down that well, I get tempted by my ‘favorite’ idol, The Approval of Man (or, even better, of Authority Figures). Normally, I tend to fight it in my usual way, downplaying and deflecting, but internally I’m reliving the experience over and over because something in me is insatiable for the approval.

    One time when it was particularly bad, God showed me the missing piece: HIS approval (pleasure). Maybe we long for approval because we were made in the hope that we will hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Only God’s genuine pleasure brings deep relief to the anxious soul.

    When I turned my eyes to the Lord, I saw that he was really digging all the good things people were getting out of my service. A longing of HIS heart was being satisfied. When I accessed that, it fed the hunger of my heart to see God pleased, and suddenly I found that ‘all things are clean,’ including the approval and encouragement that people gave me.

    • Oh hi! I am a female commenter. ^_^

      • Martha says:

        Excellent! (I’m wondering what perfect number 628 means, too!)

        • Okay, since there is so much interest:
          A perfect number is an integer that is equal to the sum of its proper factors. (Proper means the ones that are less than it- so you include 1 but you don’t include the number itself.)

          The first perfect number is 6, because 6 = 1 + 2 + 3.
          The second perfect number is 28, because 28 = 1 + 2 + 4 + 7 + 14.

          They’re actually really rare- the next one is 496, the next one after that is 8128, the next one after that is 33550336.

          So, there you go. ^_^ Perfect numbers are an actual thing in number theory, not something I made up. I used to be really obsessed with them (okay, “used to”- who am I kidding… I just named the first 5 from memory…).

          • Thanks Perfect Number!!!

            Your enthusiasm is contagious. I love it. I had heard it before … and forgot.

            here is a huge difference between us: I not only forgot the perfect numbers, I forgot the concept. You not only remember the concept, you remember the first five numbers.

            I love it.

          • Martha says:

            You remind me of my math-major daughter… You two blow the boys-have-a-monopoly-on-math-aptitude thing right out of the water.

            So maybe my thought that there might be a difference between men and women on this subject doesn’t have a leg to stand on either…

    • Martha,

      You make an excellent point (as always!) when you say, “The thing that makes it hard to discern, though, is my default setting of “modesty.” ”

      Yes, that is a great enemy of actually battling the self centered nature of wanting to impress. Like you, I also, “tend to deflect praise.”

      I think your solution of having ‘a heart which genuinely delights in pleasing God” is the answer. As you say, “it fed the hunger of my heart to see God pleased, and suddenly I found that ‘all things are clean,’ including the approval and encouragement that people gave me.”

      Thanks. You make a great observation … and better yet, you give a great answer.

  12. Lou says:

    Sam, this is yet another of your deep, meaningful, 100% applicable posts! I used to dislike listening to preachers that seemed to be trying to convict me of what they thought was wrong with me, whether they were correct or not. Then I started to meet a few of those pastors and realized they were telling me what most if not all of them KNEW was wrong with THEM. As you said, they spoke out of conviction of their own state. When I started realizing that, I heard the sermons totally differently. I no longer saw things as one man elevated spiritually over another. Then finally God started to use those messages to really change me. Much like your posts do.

    • Hi Lou,

      I think I learn more from someone who admits their weakness; and I learn less from someone who focuses on their successes.

      Admitting weakness is simply another way of saying, “we’re in this together.” It opens us up to be real with each other, rather than phony or plastic (like so much of church).

      Being “real” becomes contagious, just as you were in your comment.

      Thanks,

      Sam

  13. kenstewart says:

    Jesus was telling his disciples and listeners something very similar in the Sermon on the Mount: When you pray or fast or whatever to impress, what you get in “admiration” at that moment is ALL you get. Better to give freely and let the Giver decide on the final rewards and outcome. His evaluations matter most, and matter eternally.

    • Ken,

      That’s a really good insight.

      It brings us back to “What fills our hearts?” If we are filled with a sense of His love, we can give freely and generously; because we are filled.

      To the degree we keep trying to self-fill (through getting the admiration of others), to that degree it is a sign to us that we have more learn of–and be filled by–the love of Christ.

      Thanks,

      Sam

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