Archives For Pride

The Pride Fight

February 25, 2015 — Leave a comment

It can creep up on you without notice.

And yet sometimes it smacks you right in the face.

It can convince you that everyone feels this way.

And it can tempt you to think in your case, it is o.k.

It can seem like a pebble, barely worth paying attention to.

Then it can become a boulder that brings you down.

Pride.

It is such a sneaky sin. Just when you think you have a handle at staying humble, the reality of your self-concern is brought to the forefront, making you understand that even in thinking that you have a grasp on humility, you are really just exercising the same haughty muscle in a new way.

Whether its the fact that your inner self objects when someone else receives a compliment you don’t think they’ve quite earned, or your quick to add your own child’s accomplishments to the one-up-manship game, the tendency to be self-concerned can not be ignored. And as justifiable as we might think it is, God makes it clear –  Pride is antithetical to a relationship with Him (Ja. 4:6). If we are so busy thinking about our desires, skills, and plans, we certainly do not have our focus on Him.

And that’s the real problem with pride. It takes my eyes off of the Savior, and puts them on the sinner. It shifts my attention from things that are eternal to what is temporal. It prevents me from looking heavenward, because I am too busy looking at myself.

Which is why I must fight it. Every day.  Although my victory may be incomplete this side of Heaven, the fight must wage on. Sure, over time, my punches may land a little more squarely in its face. I may learn how to bob and weave more deftly to avoid its attacks. But it will always seek to gain the upper hand. I want my hands, however, to be lifted in daily surrender to my Lord. So I fight. I fight to think of myself less, and to think of Him more.

True-humility-is-not

Study to Obey

June 25, 2012 — Leave a comment

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In many parts of Christendom, serious study of God’s Word has been given a renewed focus. It is commonplace to read articles deriding the “Christianity lite” that was popularized in many youth groups and that began infiltrating the American church at large.  Studious ingestion of Scripture, and the commentaries that explain it, has become the “cool thing” to do. Careful exegesis of passages, contextual understanding and deliberate meditation on Scripture have gained in popularity.   People recognize that serious understanding of God’s Word requires serious study of it.

This is a good thing. Scripture makes it clear that studying and dwelling on God’s Word is commendable. However, the Bible also makes it clear that there is a reason for it. We shouldn’t study Scripture merely as a means of increasing our knowledge or in delighting in our own understanding. Our pretense for acquisition of biblical knowledge isn’t so that we can glory in our own obtainment of it. Instead, as Joshua 1:8 indicates, the reason we are to study Scripture is so that we may increasingly obey it. Studying God’s Word should effect our heads, and our hearts. Our lives should increasingly conform to the pattern that Scripture articulates. If not, if we are studying merely as a means to win debates or to make erudite points in discussions, if in other words,  our study is mostly about us, and not about God, than we have missed entirely the point of Scripture to begin with. After all, God’s Word is mostly (and rightly) about Him. We should study in to know Him more, and as a result, our lives should increasingly look as He desires.

Our study of Scripture should increasingly lead to more obedient lives. And as it does, our lives should increasingly bring glory to the One in Whom Scripture delights.

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The Women’s BIble Study that I am in has been going through the book of Proverbs. As a book of wisdom, it has a lot to say about relationships. Since relationships are central to living a life that is glorifying to God and are integral to life on this planet, it is not surprising that in providing instructions for how to live wisely, relationships would be a central topic.

Because of their importance and their fragility, relationships require a lot of care and wisdom. One of the most damaging things to our relationships is our pride. If I am focused on “me,” it is difficult to be simultaneously focused on someone else.  

Yet at some point a choice has to be made; we must decide whether our pride or our relationship with another is more important. Perhaps there is no greater battlefield for this decision than in our marriages. Our familiarity with one another makes it less likely that we will feel the social pressure to defer to the other. Our history increases the chances that there have been sins against us in the past that the Enemy uses to tempt us to “stick up for ourselves” this time. Our expectation of a future together will entice us to make sure that we “get what we’re due” now, otherwise we might set a precedent for the years to come. The prideful temptations are everywhere and a choice must be made. Is our pride or our relationship what matters most? Are we willing to sacrifice “me” for the sake of “us”?

It may seem easy in concept, but it’s a difficult choice in practice. Not because the believer doesn’t know what choice they should make, but because any type of sacrifice is hard. Yet Proverbs 19:11 gives us hope. It states, “Good sense makes one slow to anger,and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” In other words, when we choose to set aside our pride and not fly off the handle, we are exercising wisdom. When we don’t demand what’s “ours” in order to overlook an offense, we are acting honorably. Choosing the good of a relationship over fueling our pride is hard, but God’s Word says it’s worth it. And because He will be the final arbitrator, if He says it’s worth it, we know that it is.

Predicating Factor

December 2, 2011 — Leave a comment

Human beings don’t have a hard time thinking about themselves.  Children often learn “mine” as one of their first words, and using that word frequently, whether verbally or just mentally, usually continues throughout adulthood. It must be why Scripture is replete with the command to “humble yourselves.” After all, if we are thinking of ourselves too highly, we aren’t thinking of God highly enough.

One of the things that we don’t often consider is how much thinking highly of ourselves, pride, is a predicating factor for worry. I Peter 5:6-7 helps makes this so clear. In verse 6 is the oft-repeated command to humble ourselves. The very next verse tells us outcome of doing so – we cast all our anxieties upon Him. The opposite is true then as well. When we don’t humble ourselves, when we are prideful, we keep our cares under our own control. Essentially, we worry.

This is a hard truth to swallow. After all, in today’s culture worry is considered the right and privilege of doting parents, concerned teachers, and a thousand of other roles that we think have the “right” to feel anxious about the future. However, God’s Word says that this is wrong. None of God’s children have been given the right to worry. Instead, we have all been given the privilege of reliance on Him.

Therefore, next time we are prone to worry, we must first recognize that the likely culprit is that we are thinking too highly of ourselves. We think that we are the ones in control, when the truth is that we are far from it. Instead, we need to cast our cares on the One who has the cosmos in His hands. To do so, we must start with humility.

 

Now it’s your turn….

How have you seen pride turn to worry? How can we practically humble ourselves so that we are relying on God and not our own abilities?

All or Nothing

November 23, 2010 — Leave a comment

All of us are probably familiar with tales of athletes who didn’t leave it all out on the field. Just this past weekend, Vince Young of the Tennessee Titans was criticized by his coach, Jeff Fisher, because he didn’t “dig deep and fight” after a disappointing injury and season collapse.  But Young is only the latest in a string of superstar athletes who appear to hold something back  – who are seemingly unwilling to give it all in order to win the game.

We often behave similarly as Christians. We keep parts of our lives for ourselves, telling God that He can have everything except that one thing that we treasure most. It’s the common occurrence of someone saying “God, I will go anywhere you want me to go, as long as it’s not a missionary in Africa.” (BTW – I have a friend who is a missionary in Africa who gets to be a part of amazing work that God is doing so we all might want to reconsider that reservation.) We know we’re supposed to give God everything, just like the athlete knows they are supposed to play full force into the whistle is blown, but we don’t, because we’re afraid of how that might cost us personally.

However, what I’ve learned is that if we aren’t willing to give Christ our all, we really aren’t willing to really give Christ anything. When I wrote recently about some painful circumstances, a friend asked me why I shared them with the world when I hadn’t even told close friends. It was because I realized that if I wasn’t willing to let God use those things to minister to others, than I really wasn’t willing to give Him everything. If we only give that which is easy for us, than we haven’t learn what it means to take up our cross to follow Him. And being a Christian means following Him. Everything must be on the line. Our pain, our joys, our family, our friends – we must be willing to give Christ it all so that He may use it for His glory.

Vince Young was criticized by his coach because he held back and when things didn’t go his way, he was not willing to sacrifice his ego for the team. When our Coach talks about us, may He not say the same.

Character Centered

October 14, 2009 — Leave a comment


Warren Wiersbe once stated that the difference between Saul and David was that Saul was concerned about reputation, while David was concerned about character (qtd. by Ronnie Stevens). It’s a point easily validated by the Scriptures. After all, Saul was the people’s king, the one that was chosen based on their perceptions of what royalty should be. Therefore he had to be focused on maintaining that reputation. David, however, was the man after God’s own heart (see I Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22). David’s concern then was not about maintaining man’s perception of him, but God’s.

Maintaining this distinction is not easily done in our own lives. After all, we are more often aware of our reputation then God’s perception of our character. We hear whispers in the hall, see a comment on Facebook, or receive an unsolicited piece of feedback and our reputation is quickly revealed. Character, however, is something that’s easier to mask, and therefore we often sacrifice it in order to maintain our reputation. After all, if our heart is not in the right place who’s going to know but us?

The truth is we know that there is One who does know when are heart is askew. We also know that sooner or later our reputation will be affected by our character. After all, “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45) and “a man’s heart reflects the man” (Proverbs 27:19). If our character is not right, sooner or later we will mess up our reputation.

The challenge then is to put our focus on where it should rightly be – not on maintaining our reputation but on maintaining our character. As David’s life can attest this commitment to character will not be without its challenges, or failures, but in the end, a life focused on maintaining a heart after God’s own, will earn the rewards that reputation alone can never achieve, rewards that last long after our reputation fades away.

Humble Strength

September 25, 2009 — Leave a comment


I like helping people. It’s a weird thing to say (or to write), I know, but it’s true. I get more joy out of helping someone else accomplish their goals then reaching some milestone on my own. It’s probably one of the reasons I entered the teaching profession. And why I was never that good at competitive sports.

The thing with being a helper is that its sometimes hard to know when you are helping too much. I face this with my students all the time. It’s easy to tell them the answer when they ask a question, but much more beneficial to them if I make them think it through and come up with a response. Sometimes helping someone well means helping them figure it out on their own.

However, despite the fact that I like helping, I find that sometimes my desire to help is overwhelmed by my desire not to. There is a great tendency to make excuses for not wanting to help. It’s easy to justify our non-involvement in other’s lives in a variety of ways; we don’t have the time, resources, or ability. We aren’t sure how to best provide help. We don’t know how beneficial our help will really be. Or a thousand other excuses that enable our inaction.

The truth, however, is far from any of these seemingly justified responses. The truth, I’m afraid, is that often we don’t get involved simply because we don’t want to. In our pride, we want to to make others do things on their own – just like we fancy we did. In our arrogance, we think we know better, and so should everyone else. The reason we don’t help isn’t we can’t. We don’t help because in truth, we don’t care.

However, one of the great things about God is that He has already considered these lame justifications and countered them. Feel like you don’t know how to help, then great, because God already given you the first (and the only step) – to love as He did (John 15:12) Feel like you are too good to help, even better, because God says he will exalt that which is humble, and humble that which exalted, which sound like the perfect predicate to helping someone you view as “less” than you (Matthew 23:12). Feel like you don’t have enough strength to help, wonderful, because God says His strength is made perfect in your weakness (I Corinthians 12:9), and it’s hard to imagine anything being more helpful than God’s perfect strength.

Which brings me to the point of this discourse. When we think about helping and then decide not to its often because our helping exposes our soft spots, our vulnerabilities. Helping requires that we take a risk and we are sure that we are courageous to do that for another. And yet, we know that being humble is the mark of true strength. For when we are humble enough to serve, we demonstrate that we are strong enough to trust in God’s ways. When we are humble enough to serve, we remind ourselves, and those we help, that He is strong enough to save.

No Offense

June 17, 2009 — Leave a comment

Sometimes God uses the simple, seemingly insignificant things in life to teach us big lessons. Or to remind us of lessons that we once learned, but haven’t been readily applying. For me, it was the gas line at Costco. And the seemingly huge injustice of being cut in front of as another driver impatiently waited for her line to move.

Now, you are probably wondering, “what lesson could be learned from this trivial act?” Well, as I railed in my head against the gall of this other driver and privately wished that justice would be done and I would in fact get to the pump quicker (which did happen!) I realized how silly it was that I was getting bent out of shape over “my” place in line. My reaction to the other person’s action had the potential to determine my entire attitude for the rest of the day. And I was reminded, this wasn’t something to take offense at. One, because it was ridiculous to let something as benign as that ruin my day, but more importantly, because in comparison against my offense to God, this was ridiculously trivial, as trivial as an ant’s problems seem to me. My offense against Holiness was far greater than a simple inability to take one’s turn, and yet that offense had been forgiven by a holy, yet gracious God. If I was going to be offended, I should be offended by the magnitude of my sin, and amazed at the magnanimity of His forgiveness. This small, Earthly offense should prompt my heart to be filled with thankfulness, humility and awe, not frustration.

Long-time readers will know that this lesson isn’t a new one for me. After all, I’ve written about it in part here and here. However, along with my gratitude for the lesson, I’m thankful that He choose to use the Costco gas line to remind me of it. And that despite all my offense, He longs for a relationship with me and to shower me with the abundance of His grace. The least I can do is wish well those that offend me.

The Cult of Celebrity

November 11, 2008 — Leave a comment

Social networks have become so proliferate that its no longer “cool” and “hip” to be a part of them. They are now part of the social fabric and one can find their teachers from high school, pastors, and a lot of other more “conventional” personalities online. The curious thing about social networks is that once you are someone’s “friend” you can track what’s going on in their life without ever actually talking to them. Want to know what the Homecoming King is up to 20 years later? Become their Facebook friend and you can see pictures of their family, find out what’s happening in their day, and know where the work, where they went to school, and what their daily status is, without ever having a conversation. In fact “facebook stalking” has become a common term – the process of tracking the nature of status updates to see who’s doing what, with whom, and when.

This abundance of information about ordinary people’s daily lives helps create celebrities out of “regular joe’s” (not to be confused with Joe the Plumber – he became a celebrity all on his own.) At first the paparazzi tracked only A-List stars, then they began hunting after people who’s only claim to be fame was the fact that they were famous. Now, everyone has the opportunity to broadcast their personal business and get “fans” and “friends” alike to follow them.

While this cult of celebrity is an interesting social phenomenon, it’s also a scary one. Christians especially should be wary of the pride it can create. It’s human nature to desire attention, but that’s not what God has required of us. He has asked us to be humble (James 4:6), a servant (John 13:12-17), and to seek Him above the acclaim of others (Matt 6:33). Sure, its rewarding to gather as many “friends” as possible, and to try to capture the attention of those who surround us, but how much greater to attract the attention of our Creator, and to get a “well done” comment from the One who’s opinion really matters. After all, even those who have long-standing relationship with the paparazzi in this world see their fame slipping away. Why not be celebrated in the kingdom that will last forever instead?

What Pleases God

June 30, 2008 — Leave a comment

I’m a pretty compliant person. Given a set of rules, as long as there is nothing “immoral, unbiblical, or unethical” about them, I’ll probably follow them. If someone says we should do something as long as it follows the same guidelines, I’ll probably go along (despite the stress that sometimes achieving the goals of others sometimes causes.) At the heart of it, the reasons for my compliance are probably a mix of desiring to do the right thing and wanting to make others happy. The first one is right, I’m not so sure about the latter.

The reason living your life to please others is so challenging is because, just like our own desires, what others want keeps changing. Change your behavior to accommodate one set of demands, and you’ll probably find that the contentment with that change along is short-lived. Maybe our shifting desires comes from the “God-shaped hole” we each have – trying to find something, anything to fill it. Maybe they come from the fact that a lot of us are driven to achieve, and sometimes that drive carries over to those we love. I don’t know. I do know that living to try to make other people happy is the short trip to a stressed life. It’s a goal that can never fully be achieved.

Thankfully, God’s desires are not so fluid. He simply delights in “those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.” (Psalm 147:11) In other words, God’s pleasure is manifest when His creation acknowledge Who He is, and trust in Him for their salvation. That which pleases the Father’s heart doesn’t change with the shifting winds. He rejoices when we rightly recognize Him.

The sad truth is that while pleasing God through humility may at times be challenging, its still quite simple. And yet most of us will spend far more effort trying to figure out how to please those we aspire to be, then we ever will pursuing the delight of our Creator.