For several weeks now we have been focusing our attention on the enemy of humility: PRIDE. If we can identify the various manifestations of pride in our lives and deal with them quickly, then the humility needed to draw near to God will come more naturally. We have already covered five of those manifestations and so I would encourage you to re-connect with the previous two sermons and review those areas we covered:
- Pride is self-satisfaction
- Pride is self-sufficiency and self-reliance
- Pride considers itself above instruction
- Pride is insubordinate
- Pride takes credit for what God alone does
Let’s now move on to the next one …
> Pride exalts in being made much of
This area is closely linked to the last one, but I believe it deserves special mention as it has some unique characteristics. I find it fascinating to look at the life and ministry of Jesus and examine what He spent His time doing and saying in those few short years of ministry. Who did He share His precious time with and what were the themes of His teaching?
When I look at the amount of time, effort and money spent today by some Church leaders as they embark upon moral crusades against abortion, homosexuality, gambling, and other social problems, I confess I am puzzled to know where they got that agenda from, for I find that such crusades are not seen in the ministry of Jesus. All those problems were present in the society back then, plus some and yet we do not see Jesus on His soapbox preaching against such things.
What we do see, however, is that the few times Jesus did get hot under the collar and speak very strongly against the sins of His day, it was usually addressed to the senior Pastors and religious leaders of the day (the Pharisees) and the subject, more often than not, was pride.
In Matthew 23 we have one of the hardest messages our Lord ever preached as Jesus laid it on the line powerfully with the religious leaders.
Matthew 23:6 “And they love the place of honour at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the marketplaces, and being called by men, Rabbi.”
One of the ugliest, but most common manifestations of pride can be seen in people who exalt themselves above their position. This is particularly applicable to people in leadership or people who aspire to be in leadership.
Having an ‘up-front’ role in any ministry carries this risk of self-exaltation. The danger is there all the time that people see you and not Jesus. They can see your personal gifts, rather than His gifts – given to the Church, through you. Some of this is unavoidable and has more to do with other people’s views of you. However, much of the danger emerges from the attitude of the person in leadership.
Let me comment first about those in leadership positions already – the ones who currently have up-front roles in the Church. Perhaps you lead a ministry or a small group; perhaps you are a Deacon or Elder or worship leader; or you may teach or preach. Regardless of the actual role, you are a prime target for the enemy in this area of self-exaltation and unless you are alert to the dangers, you will find yourself falling into his trap.
Those in leadership must never forget that leadership in the Body of Christ is always servant-leadership. It is functional leadership. It is Christ-like leadership. As servant-leaders, therefore, we are called to serve others’ needs above our own at all times and we need to have their well-being upper-most in our minds.
Functional leadership means we are appointed to do a job, achieve an outcome, or fulfil a task. We are not appointed to hold an office or serve in a position of status. The ‘title’ or office is merely a designation of our specific responsibility – nothing more.
Christ-like leadership, as the name suggests, means that ultimately we follow the example of Jesus – which means we lay our whole life on the line for those we lead. If we always keep these things in mind, they will be a safeguard against pride of self-exaltation.
There are many gifted people in leadership in the Church and the risk is always present that they will begin to think that they ‘possess’ certain gifts and abilities and are in some way responsible for them. There is no doubt that we have a vital role in the development of the gifts we are given, but we must never forget that God gives gifts to the Church – not to individuals.
In Romans 12:6, Paul tells us that we have different gifts according to the grace given to us by God. These are not gifts which we pick and choose – and he reminds us that even the level of faith and grace we enjoy is measured out by God.
Paul makes this even clearer in his letter to the Ephesians:
Ephesians 4:7,11-13 “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it … It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Our measure of grace and the gifts we have are determined by the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ and the desired effect of that grace and the purpose of those gifts is not to exalt us. The purpose is to bless the Church and build up the body of Christ.
Those of us in leadership positions need to always keep these truths in the front of our minds and be alert to the enemy’s schemes in trying to push us into the spotlight all the time and rob God of the glory that is due to Him alone.
Now there is a much wider implication to this manifestation of pride than just current leaders. This warning applies to all of us and particularly to those who struggle with their role in the Church and may be seeking a more up-front ministry.
This is a good springboard for me to talk about a common problem I see in the Body of Christ – one in which pride can play a major role. There is this cancerous lie which eats away at the heart of the Church which tries to convince people that the important ministries are the visible ministries. If we can be seen in our service of God then it is a more important position. That is why up-front positions and leadership roles are more highly coveted and sought-after than the less visible roles.
This lie can have some disastrous effects in the Church. The most common thing that happens when people believe this lie is that those whom God has gifted in such vital areas as service, pastoral care, prayer and other foundational ministries, start to get restless because they are not being noticed or appreciated as much as those who are more visible. If this restlessness is not identified and dealt with early, it leads these people out of their area of gifting in search of more visible ministries. They neglect the gift God has given them and start pursuing other areas of ministry which seem more important but for which God has not gifted them.
The reason this happens so often is that these people are not aware of most of what is happening. They are not intentionally being prideful or arrogant. They are deceived and they have allowed the enemy to down-play the vital importance of their gifts and ministry and lead them to seek fulfilment in an area to which God has not called them. God’s bidding is God’s enabling and He will never call someone into a ministry without giving them the necessary gifts and skills. Yet there are thousands of people all over the world who are Pastors, Elders, Deacons and ministry leaders who should never have taken on such a role. They are people who are operating outside their calling … beyond their ‘spiritual turf’.
They are well-meaning and probably genuine in their desire to serve God, but they are not being true to the gifts God has given the Church through them. Their motivation for moving into a more up-front ministry is not correct and so the Church is robbed of their true gifting until they recognise it and operate within the boundaries God has set for them.
Then there are the people who deep down really do know their gifts and their calling and yet they are not satisfied to stay within the boundaries of that gifting. They are the people who are not faithful with the small things and patient in waiting for God to reveal more. They run ahead of God in their impatience and unbridled enthusiasm and make deliberate choices to take on tasks and ministries which are beyond them because they are not satisfied with their current lot.
Such people will often aspire to leadership roles for which they are not gifted and to which God has not called them. Such people may find themselves involved in overseas mission work without first being tested and proven faithful in a local mission context. This is being addressed more and more by mission organisations, but it is still a problem. Too many sincere believers end up serving in short-term and long-term overseas mission work who have not had those gifts or that calling really tested and proven in a local ministry context. Many of these people may have a genuine passion for overseas mission, but many more are attracted to the importance of such work in contrast to the less glamorous hard work on the local scene.
Yet the Bible reminds us of the importance of being faithful in the small things and proving faithful with what we have already been given before we seek after something more. Perhaps the most powerful passage is the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 which is summed up in the concluding verse:
Matthew 25:21 “Well done! Good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”
There are many believers who are not faithful with a few things … they actually ignore them and even despise the lesser things in favour of those things which they determine to be more important, more interesting, or more noticeable. Paul warns us strongly to not make such judgments about that which God ordains.
1 Corinthians 12:18-27 “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
God arranges the parts of the body. God distributes the gifts and skills. God calls people into their various ministries and determines where they should bear the most fruit. That is why we must identify and affirm the gifts of God in each other and encourage people in that gifting and discourage and stop people from operating outside their gifting – for that is not what God has apportioned to them and God will not be exalted unless they submit to His plan and purpose for them at every stage in their lives.
There are countless well-meaning believers who have been severely beaten up by the enemy and have inflicted major damage in the Church because they fail to understand this basic, but vital truth. Please make sure you are not one of them!
Pride aspires to the place of God
The story of Herod is one of many we could quote here:
Acts 12: 21-23 “And on an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. And the people kept crying out, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.”
This one act did not bring the wrath of God on its own – but a whole life devoted to playing God resulted in Herod’s demise. Pride can have disastrous effects if not exposed.
> Pride opposes the very existence of God
Psalm 10:4 “In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”
Pride knows that the simplest solution for its own survival would be that there be no God at all. That would be, as the Nazi’s might say, “The Final Solution” for the survival of pride. It doesn’t come as any surprise then that:
Pride refuses to trust in God
Pride cannot trust God. The posture of trust is too weak. Too dependent. It calls too much attention to the strength and wisdom of another. Trusting God is the heartbeat of humility, trusting God is the opposite of pride. When pride keeps us from trusting God to take care of us there are two possibilities: one is that we feel a false security based on our own imagined power and ability and the other is that we realize that we cannot guarantee our security, and so we feel anxious and fearful. Either way – pride is at work.
I believe that a lack of trust in God lies at the heart of so many of our woes today. The Bible is full of the promises of God to His people and every one of those promises can be a reality to those who trust God to be true to His word.
He has promised to care for us and protect us and yet we are anxious and fearful, and we go to incredible lengths to pray special prayers of protection and create all kinds of spiritual formulae in order to ‘feel’ like we are protected. That is pride. That is human effort to achieve something only God can do. God said He will protect His children. We either accept that and trust Him to be true to His promise or we don’t.
As believers we can find ourselves in all kinds of financial difficulties. Again, God has asked us to trust Him in this area too. He wants us to be wise and frugal and sensible in managing our money … but He wants us to trust Him to guide us in that pursuit. Let’s not expect God to undo our bad financial decisions – He can’t do that – but trusting Him to help us make better choices and then believing He will supply all our needs, is another sign of submission and humility.
The bottom line for most of us comes down to a simple question: “How big is our God?” When we look at how much we worry and fret about some things, we must confess that our level of trust makes God pretty small. We need to study the promises of God more and stand on those promises more and allow the Spirit of God to release trust in us. That process of relying on someone else to care for us and protect us and provide for our needs will, in itself, release humility in us before God and those around us. Truly humble people have a high level of trust in God – the two go hand-in-hand.
This all leads to our final manifestation of pride which I covered in a previous message – so I will just touch on it here.
Pride is anxious about the future
God says to anxious Israel that their problem is pride:
Isaiah 51:12-13 “I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, and of the son of man who is made like grass; that you have forgotten the Lord your Maker?”
What a confronting word from God for today! Who do you think you are to be afraid? Sounds strange doesn’t it? But that’s how subtle pride is. Pride is the root of our anxiety. Now we can see clearly and feel the force of Peter’s words here:
1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time …” How? In what way shall you humble yourselves? Answer (v. 7): by, “casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.”
In other words, the most humble thing in the world we can do is trust God with everything in every way. Casting your anxieties on God means trusting the promise that He cares for you and has the power and the wisdom to put that care to work in the most glorious way.
As has already been stated, that kind of trust is the opposite of pride. It’s the essence of humility. It’s the confidence that the mighty hand of God is not over you to crush you but to care for you just like the promise says.
We have spent a lot of time on this issue of humility and pride and rightly so. For as I have stated many times now, we cannot proceed in our study of 2 Chronicles 7:14 with any degree of confidence unless we understand the foundational necessity of humility in the whole process of seeking the face of God and believing for Him to heal our land.
It is in our weakness that His strength will be revealed; it is our broken, contrite, humble posture before God on a day-to-day basis which serves as the key to the Throne-room and the secret to the abundant fruitful life He has planned for each of us.