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“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.” (Proverbs 16:18-19)
In the last chapter Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, he writes vividly about the spiritual battle that we are in and our need to be clothed in the armor of God, supported by the prayers of God’s people. Every once in a while, there are weeks where being a pastor feels like running a marathon while simultaneously trying not to get taken out by the flaming arrows of the evil one, while you watch some of your running partners get knocked out of the race. This is one of those weeks.
A couple of weeks ago, a well-known Christian author and former megachurch pastor announced his separation from his wife, and last week he followed that up by declaring that he no longer considered himself a Christian. A couple of days later, I heard the news of another beloved pastor who was removed from his position due to an affair. I grieve for both of these men, for their families, and for their churches. Life is hard, marriage is hard, ministry is hard, and the enemy is a roaring lion always seeking to devour God’s people, especially those who are in spiritual leadership (1 Peter 5:8).
I want more than anything to bring Jesus glory through my life. I don’t ever want to bring His great name into disrepute through my actions or words. When things are going well and I experience “success” (whatever that means), I want to point to Him as the giver of all good things (James 1:17). When I fail, or when things are not going well, I want to point to Him as the God of extravagant grace and mercy, whose blood covers my sins and who works all things together for good (Romans 8:28). Please pray for me, that my foremost desire would continue to be bringing Jesus glory, and that God would grant me this desire of my heart. As John the Baptist said, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30).
I thank God that in His wisdom He has kept me from worldly success. In the Christian life, it can be easy to see church growth or other markers of worldly success as proof that we are in some special class of Christian, a real superstar in the kingdom of God. I see signs of pride all over in God’s kingdom, and I saw it in myself early on in my time at NewLife, when the church was growing. I remember believing that I was surely God’s special, chosen instrument, and that therefore anyone who questioned or criticized me was working against God. I remember as a 31 year-old, with only one year of pastoral ministry under my belt, reaching out to a colleague of mine who was also a young, local pastor, and suggesting that we put on a conference for the next generation of church leaders – a “Church Next” conference. After all, we surely knew where the church needed to go, much better than those old pastors using outdated methods and out of touch with emerging generations. Looking back now, of course, I can see that idea for what it really was – an ego trip, a desire to bring more glory to my own name, not God’s.
Lord, save us from pride! Save us from entitlement, from the mindset that believes that we are something special, that we know better than you what is best, and that we deserve more than you have graciously given to us. Help us to depend upon you every moment, to not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to (Romans 12:3), but to recognize that every good thing in us is a gracious, undeserved gift from you. Thank you for the ways you humble us into recognizing how desperately we need your grace, and thank you for giving us your forgiving and cleansing grace so freely when we turn to you (1 John 1:9). Lord, may we become less, and you become greater, that the world might experience your extravagant, saving love and give you the honor you deserve. Amen.
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