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The Day God Convicted Me of My Pride

A few summers ago, I woke up one morning greatly burdened. I opened my Bible and read it as I normally did each day. Though God’s Word often brings me peace, that day my mind was spinning. For some reason, there was a real sense of uneasiness in my heart. I was frustrated and angry, and I wanted to simply drop everything I was doing in ministry and move on to something else.

The initial discouragement grew over time and spiraled into despair, and the despair eventually turned into disdain. I started losing sleep and fell sick easily. I no longer knew what to expect at church or from life in general. This instability and insecurity eventually numbed me to the point where I just couldn’t feel emotions anymore. I was absolutely burned out. Finally, I realized that I needed to start seeing a counselor.

I was sitting in the counselor’s office one session when God suddenly convicted me of my pride. He opened my eyes to see that I was not off the hook simply because I didn’t have money or lust issues. I realized that there was something way bigger that I had to deal with—my pride.

Because of my pride, I trusted in my own abilities to accomplish works in ministry. When things didn’t go my way, however, I responded in anger because I felt like I was robbed of my rightful due. I was tired of the constant waves of threatening questions and the promises of leadership responsibility which seemed to have been forgotten. Over time, my pride led me to become a bitter Christian, husband, father, and pastor. Eventually, that resulted in a season of depression.

It took a year and a half of counseling before I slowly began to taste again the freedom we have in Christ. Pride, I believe, is a deadly sin we often neglect. Through the hard lesson of my depression, God showed me how to counter the pride that so often leads to anger and bitterness. I still haven’t mastered it perfectly, but here are some things that have helped whenever I felt tempted to succumb to pride.

Be Humble and Repent

As a pastor, there have been times when I couldn’t admit to others or myself that I was actually really angry. Instead, when I felt like my right to call the shots or take on leadership tasks was challenged, I would say things like, “I’m irritated by this. I’m frustrated by this. I’m discouraged by this.”

At the root of it all, I was saying, “I didn’t get it my way.” This is the pride that leads to anger. It is not righteous anger. It is sinful, selfish anger. And there is only one way to put to an end to sinful anger: humility.

It felt like God had smacked me with a big spiritual stick and said, “Jonathan, this life is not about you. Humble yourself and repent and turn away from that sin.” I’m not the center of the world. My life is about God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). Instead of covering up my sins, I needed to repent. I needed to admit that I have wronged God, and ask for His forgiveness.

C. S. Lewis put it this way in Mere Christianity, “Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. . . . This process of surrender…is what Christians call repentance. Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. . . . It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death.”

Repentance isn’t easy, but it is necessary if we are to find true freedom from our pride and anger. To do so, we must first expose our pseudo-righteous anger. This requires repenting not only of the anger itself, but also of our false justification of it in the name of “righteous” anger.

1 Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time”. My advancement in ministry and in this world is really not up to me. My pride demands instant gratification. “This is what I deserve,” it says.

If we allow ourselves to become disappointed when things don’t go our way, Satan invites us to curse God and die (Job 2:9). But when we look to God and trust in Him, He will exalt us in due time.

Trust and Rest in the Sovereignty of God

It is hard to fight sinful pride and anger. I realize too, that the older I get, the more I am prone to justify my own anger problems. As John Piper said so well in an article posted on his website, “One of the most difficult battles of the Christian life is not to be angry when you’re not supposed to be angry.”

In the past, I did not want to rely on God. I often turned away from Him and tried to handle the situation myself. But there’s no rest in that. Refusing to surrender our anger to Him, refusing to trust God, is a form of pride called self-reliance. By not trusting God, I welcomed the devil to wreak havoc in my heart and relationships.

This is a battle we cannot win on our own. As much as we try, we simply cannot overcome our own sin. But our struggles can point us to the Creator who sustains all things. God’s grace causes us to grow in humility as God strips away our pride.

We know that Christ is sovereign over the whole world and everything that happens in it (Psalm 135:6). He is never helpless, never frustrated, never at a loss. And there are no limits to God’s rule. This is part of what it means to be God. This reality should give us hope, for it declares to us that God is bigger than our temporary problems. There is no reason to be upset over not getting our way, because we know, ultimately, that God is still in control of this world and every aspect of our lives.

Bring Your Struggles to God in Prayer

A very practical method to combat anxiety and anger is to pray. At any time, under any circumstance, we can have a little talk with Jesus. Let Him know how we’re feeling. He is not surprised by our request. He already knows what we’re going through. In acknowledging this, I place my trust in the sovereignty of God. This helps ease and rest my mind.

I would not have been able to say this at the beginning of my struggle with depression. I simply wanted to get rid of my anger. I wanted to feel happy and have a temporary peace of mind, and I was desperate to do anything that would save me from dealing with the hardship of suffering.

But God had other plans. He used my anger to show me that my heart was too close to the world and too far from God. He showed me that I was thinking all about myself. Ultimately, God helped me to see that I could look to Christ and trust in Him alone, and not my own ability to overcome my sin.

Just several weeks ago, my four-year-old nephew had a stroke and the left side of his body went absolutely numb. This was a life and death situation. There was a lot of uncertainty. Nobody told me how hard it was going to be. I wasn’t even sure that I had enough compassion to continue holding up his mother. It would have been easy to slip into my old habit of self-reliance. Instead I was reminded by my past experiences that we can overcome worry by not giving into it but coming to the Lord in prayer.

How do you respond to anger? Do you rail against the person you’re angry at? Do you ignore or withdraw from the issue? Or do you allow God to search your heart and show you areas of weaknesses in your own life? Do you remind yourself to be humble and place your trust in God’s sovereignty?

Take heart, brothers and sisters. Be encouraged, my friend. God is able to walk with us in the struggles we face. In the midst of the storm, place your faith in the One who is Creator of all things and who sustains us by His irresistible grace.

A Quick Summary Of James 3:17-4:12

This week, we are reminded to pursue God and not the world. How do you intend to carry out these actions in your life?

(Once again, do note that no devotions will be sent over the weekend.)

 

When Pride Lingers After An Accident

There’s nothing innately wrong with being proud of something or someone. Pride can be a good thing. But we have to be careful with it because it can become very dangerous when it’s misplaced.

Well, I had been living dangerously and I didn’t even know it. I was placing pride in myself above anything else. On May 3, 2012, my self-pride took a big “hit,” and I mean that literally.

I was driving home after running a few errands in town when another driver ran a flashing red light, hitting my truck and pushing it into a concrete utility pole. My head then went through the driver’s side window and struck the pole, causing a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Though my life was spared, as a result of my TBI, I did “lose” much of what had made me me. So you would think my problem with self-pride would have been lost as well. It would be a thing of the past, taken care of once and for all. But it wasn’t. My self-pride may have been curbed somewhat but it never left completely. It would exit for awhile but never stay gone. It was always finding its way back. It wasn’t that long ago when my pride issue was starting to make one of its ugly returns. And the scary thing is I didn’t even know it was happening

During my most recent bout, I was focused on getting as many people as possible to hear the miraculous story God has written and is still writing for my life. I was spending a lot of my time and energy “promoting” myself on social media and other platforms. I was telling others about who I was, my story, my upcoming book, my speaking, and so on. I was becoming over-focused on myself.

As all of this self-absorption was taking place, I heard a very timely sermon where my pastor was teaching from the book of Ecclesiastes. That day, he focused on one particular verse: “Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise—why destroy yourself?” (Ecclesiastes 7:16)

I believe this warning also applies to self-pride and self-absorption, etc—the very attributes I was displaying.

I knew God was speaking directly to me. It wasn’t something I should take lightly, because it had the ability to destroy me. I was very grateful to be made aware of this, but now what? How was I supposed to combat overrighteousness and, thus, avoid being “destroyed”?

As I was sitting there pondering this question, our pastor led us to the New Testament and the book of Matthew. “But seek first his kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

 Now that was a very familiar verse to me. I had heard it many times before. But, as our pastor pointed out to us that day, there is a word tucked away within it that we tend to gloss over and overlook. But that single word was the answer to the question I was just asking myself. This one word, when taken to heart, gives us the ability to avoid being destroyed by our overrighteousness. This very powerful word is: His.

You see, our righteousness isn’t ours. It’s His. It belongs to Jesus. Every little bit of it. We haven’t anything to do with it. The only reason we can be called righteous is because of what Jesus has done for us. So anytime I start thinking too highly of myself or believing that I am in any way responsible for my righteousness, I need to remember the One who truly is.

Moving forward from here, I know I will need to promote my story, my upcoming book, my speaking, etc. I understand this is necessary if I want to people to hear the story God has written and is still writing in my life.  But when doing so, I have to remember that none of what I am claiming ownership over is actually mine. Not one bit of it. Because just like my righteousness, it all belongs to Jesus.

Should We Give Help but Not Receive it?

Written By Kim Cheung, China, originally in Simplified Chinese

During dinner some days ago, my father lamented about how times have changed. It used to be that bosses care about their workers even outside of work. When my grandfather worked at an architecture company, his manager would always visit the family every Lunar New Year, bringing some money along and asking if our family needed any form of help.

There was one time our family needed help building a house, and the manager sent some workers to help out. My grandfather initially refused this help. My dad shared that people back then often thought that accepting help would cause one to “lose face”.

I cannot help but think that nothing has changed today. Many people are willing to help others but unwilling to accept help.

Most of us have been brought up to give selflessly. A willing heart that gives selflessly, without expecting anything in return, is exceedingly noble. I used to think like that.  When I was in school, I would gladly help my classmates. However, it was very difficult for me to ask for help from others. This persisted even after I graduated. Many times, deep down inside me, I knew that I needed help. Yet I was unwilling to ask for it. In fact, when others actively lent a helping hand, I found it difficult to accept.

Should we encourage this behavior? Does God desire us to give help but not receive it?

God teaches us that we should carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). The Bible also reminds us that in Christ, we are all members of one body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Helping each other involves two parties. If everyone refuses to accept help, who can we then help? How can we then live as a body of Christ?

 

Pride lies behind the refusal for help

God wants us to joyfully give and joyfully receive. So why is it that people find it so difficult to receive? If you ask me, the reason behind this difficulty is pride. Yes, you read that right.

We are often unwilling to admit our own weaknesses, and we are afraid that others may see them. In order to protect this fragile ego of ours, we refuse to accept help. I realized this around three years ago when I started thinking more deeply about the topic of giving and receiving. Looking back, I realized that my pride was my Achilles’ heel and the underlying reason I was unwilling to seek or accept help.

Trusting God is difficult when you refuse help

Giving without receiving makes it difficult to trust in God. God wants us to admit our utter brokenness so that we can completely cast our burdens on Him and trust in Him. The Apostle Paul said, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) How can we surrender and trust in God fully if we deny help and rely on ourselves completely? We cannot know God genuinely if we do not admit our brokenness.

I remember one time when I showed up for a fellowship gathering burdened with conflicted emotions. At the time, I was deeply fatigued and though I could hardly bear it, I put up a strong façade. When it was time to share, I planned on talking about minor things that did not matter. However, an inner voice reminded me that I needed to come before God in truth. Just like that, my defense was demolished. I cried my heart out in the presence of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I confessed that I needed help. I confessed that I was not the least bit strong.

I am deeply thankful that God broke me, allowed me to see the dangers of pride, and allowed me to be built up again in His truth through His community of believers. Now, I often come before God in my helpless state, crying for His help. I know that I have nothing. I can do nothing. If not for God’s strength, every step I take would be difficult.

I also seek help from fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Whenever I am feeling troubled by life, I not only ask them to pray for me, but also seek their advice. The love and help my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ have blessed me with has helped me to feel the faithfulness of God. I also deeply feel the close connections I have with other members of the body of Christ.

 

Joyful acceptance sets us free

When I lay down my pride, I can finally be free of my struggles. When I joyfully accept help, I experience brand new freedom. I admit that I have weaknesses and I am inadequate. It is only when I completely surrender that God can have full control over my life. When I obey His will, God can demonstrate His strength in my weakness.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God wants you to have this freedom as well. Are you willing to lay down your pride that God may take control of your life?