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Scripture Text: 2 Chronicles 26:4-21
Years ago while I was on a business trip, I found myself talking with a leader of a large Christian organization. We were together for a short period of time, and after a few minutes, he smiled and said, “Charles, we’re at the top of our game. No one is doing what we have done. We’re the leader, and I don’t think anyone can catch us.” Immediately my heart sank — not because I wanted to be number one, but because I could sense God saying, “Don’t ever let that idea cross your mind.”
At that moment, it felt as though the Lord had sent an arrow straight into my heart. I knew exactly what He was saying to me. Pride brings destruction, and it does not belong in the life of a believer. At least, not the kind of pride that lifts self up and fails to glorify and honor God. Perhaps this man did not recognize what he had said. Or it may have been that God wanted to send a word of caution to me. Regardless, pride can and does explode God’s plan for our lives.
Many times, we begin our Christian walk well. Our focus is set on God, and our hearts are fully committed to Him. Then without warning, pride begins to rise up, preventing us from being all God wants us to be by blinding us to His ways. It tempts us to believe that we know better than He does. If left unchecked, pride will alter our attitude toward God and the route He has chosen for us to take.
As believers, we need to be aware of Satan’s goal, which is to deeply wound and destroy the lives of God’s children. He never gives up on his quest to reach this goal and will wreak as much havoc as possible in the life of a believer.
Of all the struggles discussed in this book, pride is the one that has the most devastating results. Many of our problems result from pride’s work in our lives, but too many people fail to realize this. They become prideful over the good things God has given them — jobs, children, churches, pastors, education, neighborhoods and much more.
God is very specific. He hates pride. In fact, it is at the top of His list of sins that He despises: “Pride and arrogance and the evil way…And the perverted mouth, I hate” (Proverbs 8:13). The New International Version translates this bluntly: “I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.”
Each morning, the enemy lays out his landmines in our lives. If we are not discerning, we will fall prey to his tactics. The landmine of pride can tear a gaping hole in the life of the person who yields to its folly. It is one of Satan’s chief modes of operation and favorite weapons of warfare because it tempts us to take our eyes off God and place them on ourselves.
In his book Power through Prayer E. M. Bounds writes, “[Today] somehow, self, not God, rules in the holy of holies…Selfability in some wicked form has defamed and violated the temple which should be held sacred for God.” No matter how hard we try to cover it up, excuse it or justify it, pride produces the same result — arrogance and rebellion against God.
You may ask, “Isn’t it right to have pride in my ability? After all, I have talents and I’m smart. What possibly could be wrong with me taking pride in the talents God has given me?” There is nothing wrong with having a sense of pride in doing things well. God gives us talents and abilities to use for His glory, and He wants us to do our best. When we do, we honor Him and His life within us.
However, many people fail to honor the Lord with their attitudes. They believe Satan’s lies, which tell them they can accomplish whatever they want apart from God. This line of thinking always leads us away from God. And Satan wins the battle.
EXPOSING THE LANDMINE OF PRIDE
God called a young man to the mission field. From the beginning, one trial after another assailed him. Each time, according to him, the problem involved key leaders within his organization. Amazingly, he refused to admit that he was part of the problem — it always was someone else.
The young man began to tell others that those in authority over him could not do the work as well as he could do it. Soon, he became wrapped up in getting credit for his work, but no one would acknowledge what he had done. He was too prideful, and while his friends and coworkers realized this, he did not. A short time later, he became discouraged, disgruntled and disappointed.
Pride tempts us to believe we are better than someone else. Suddenly this young man felt as though he could no longer work with this organization. Without knowing it, his obedience to God was at stake. He was blinded by his pride and convinced that his only option was to leave the very work God had called him to do. Yet he overlooked one detail: God never rescinds His call. He may change our circumstances or location, but He will never ask us to abandon His will.
The first step this young man took toward defeat came when he did not submit himself to the authority over him. He mistakenly believed that he knew more than the leadership God had placed in his life.
That was Satan’s downfall. Because God created him with great beauty and ability, Satan believed he could reign over God and His creation. Once this man decided to follow the deceptive words of his heart, pride had fertile ground in which to grow.
The second step came when he was confronted over his actions and stood steadfast, thinking that he was right and everyone else was wrong. Pride never admits its failures. Instead, the prideful person continues to push forward, blindly seeking self-gratification.
After the first couple of steps, the pathway of pride quickly becomes a slippery slope. Once he convinced himself that he was doing what was best, the young man persisted until he reached a point where he was asked to step down from his post.
He never considered that God uses our circumstances to mold and shape us so we become a reflection of His love to others. He has a work for us to do, and no one can take our place. He may position us in a place of responsibility, which includes some type of difficulty, to accomplish His purpose.
At no point are we more important than those around us. We may feel we know more, have more and can do more than someone else, but the bottom line is that God uses each one of us for His glory. We need to gain the right perspective when signing up to serve Him, and that perspective always includes a humble, contrite heart.
This young man decided not to return to the mission field, though he vowed to continue doing mission work in other arenas. Satan is overjoyed whenever we walk away from the very place God has put us. This is not limited to an office. We can walk away from relationships, responsibilities and church and community service based on what we mistakenly believe about ourselves.
Pride always overemphasizes self. Our hearts need to be God-focused and not self-focused. What we think, feel, have, want and desire is not what is important. If you are setting goals without God’s input, then you are on pride’s trail, and you are heading for trouble.
PRIDE FROM GOD’S PERSPECTIVE
Many times, people are unable to handle the wealth, position, blessing, skill or talent that God gives them. Uzziah was a perfect example. When he was 16, he became king of Judah. The Bible tells us he reigned for 52 years in Jerusalem. During that time, “he did right in the sight of the Lord… He continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding through the vision of God; and as long as he sought the LORD, God prospered him” (2 Chronicles 26:4-5). Yet a dangerous “however” was built into his life. It was a landmine that lay hidden for years. When the king drew near, it exploded.
Go back to this portion of verse 5, “as long as [the king] sought the LORD, God prospered him.” God helped this young man gain many victories. He gave him wisdom so that when Judah’s army went to war against the Philistines, who were known for their vicious and tenacious spirit, they won. The armies of the Ammonites and the Arabians were no match for Uzziah and his men because he followed the Lord. Therefore, the Lord granted him success on and off the battlefield.
He built towers in the wilderness, fortified the city of Jerusalem, and dug many cisterns to water his livestock and irrigate his vineyards. He owned a vast amount of land. The Bible also tells us “the total number of the heads of the households, of valiant warriors [under his command], was 2,600” (2 Chronicles 26:12). His elite army numbered more than 307,500 men, “who could wage war with great power, to help the king against the enemy … Hence his fame spread afar, for he was marvelously helped until he was strong” (2 Chronicles 26:13-15).
Believing all the good things people say about you will lead you to become prideful. Pride always precedes a fall, where humility goes a long way toward success. As Uzziah grew in popularity and strength, he began to think that he did not need God. The drift in his devotion to the Lord was subtle — almost undetectable — until one day, it broke out in open rebellion. The author of Proverbs reminded us, “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2). If we are not careful and discerning, the same attitude that prevailed in Uzziah’s life will prevail in our lives too.
When the king realized the strength and ability God had given him, he became proud and no longer relied on the wisdom of the Lord to guide him: “He acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God, for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense” (2 Chronicles 26:16).
Offering a sacrifice to God was one of the worst acts Uzziah could have committed. It is the same action that led to King Saul’s demise (1 Samuel 13:8-14). In both cases, these men did something that God had anointed the priest to do and no one else. In pride they assumed that no action was beyond their limits.
According to Jewish religious customs, the king was a servant of God and not in a position to intercede before the Lord’s throne in this way. All of us have been guilty of jumping ahead of God and doing something that was not ours to do. In this case, the priests were the only ones who could burn incense on the altar. Blinded by his pride, Uzziah stepped out of God’s will and did something he was not supposed to do, and the results were disastrous. He surmised that because he was the king, he was above the law and principles of God.
We may not openly refuse to do what God has given us to do, but deep inside this is what is going on when we decide to take a different route or a shortcut around His command to us. We can either obey or dismiss basic principles in His Word. A spirit of pride will always encourage us to turn away from God’s way and follow our own line of thinking.
FALLING VICTIM TO PRIDE
In Proverbs 29:23, Solomon wrote, “A man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor.” There is an end result to pride — one that we usually want to ignore:
Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling. It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly Than to divide the spoil with the proud (Proverbs 16:18-19).
Instead of praying and asking God to give us His wisdom for our circumstances, we move forward, believing we know what is best. We may think that we do not need anyone to help us. Perhaps, like King Uzziah, we do not even stop to think. We react with worldly boldness and move forward, never considering what consequences might befall us. Yet we fail to realize that we have stepped onto Satan’s landmine and are about to experience serious trouble.
When Uzziah was young, he openly admitted his need for help — especially God’s help. He listened to the priests and heeded godly advice. However, when he was older, he began to think he had wisdom and did not need anyone other than himself.
A person falls victim to pride for several reasons:
– Feelings of inadequacy
-Immaturity and an inability to handle responsibility
-Inability to handle wealth, position and the gifts God has given
Pride is an evil, dark snare. It shows no mercy and rarely, if ever, announces its coming. It is sinister and slides into our lives by whispering thoughts of arrogance, conceit and self-importance. Satan used it in the Garden of Eden, and he uses it today. Then, it was a matter of enticing Adam and Eve to believe they could be like God (Genesis 3:5).
As we read the verses in Genesis recounting the fall of humanity, we find ourselves wanting to shout to Adam and Eve, “Don’t do it. Don’t take the enemy’s bait!” But they did, and we quickly see the results of their failure and pride’s emergence in their lives as they cave in to Satan’s temptation.
Adam and Eve had to leave their home, their place of safety and blessing, because they believed the enemy’s lie that told them they could become like God. Instead of rushing to the Lord for help and understanding, they did what King Uzziah did years later. They allowed their hearts’ devotion to be swayed by thoughts of prideful temptation.
Azariah the priest entered the temple, saw what Uzziah was about to do, and opposed him, saying, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful and will have no honor from the LORD God” (2 Chronicles 26:18). Sorrow and sadness are pride’s only rewards.
Even after hearing this rebuke, the king remained unrepentant and headstrong. “Uzziah, with a censer in his hand for burning incense, was enraged; and while he was enraged with the priests, the leprosy broke out on his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the altar of incense” (2 Chronicles 26:19).
The priests immediately left Uzziah’s presence, and once he realized what he had done, Uzziah fled the house of the Lord, the same thing Adam and Eve did after sinning against God. In their case, however, God had a greater plan in store. He used their failure as an entrance-way to proclaim the coming of the Messiah — the One who would overthrow Satan and his evil entrapment of sin and death.
As far as we know, Uzziah never turned back to the Lord in humility. He spent the rest of his life living as a leper in a separate house, cut off from God’s presence and His goodness (2 Chronicles 26:21). What a sorrowful fate for someone who had such a promising beginning — a man who had spent most of his life living in devotion to God. In the prime of his life, fame became a stumbling block to him. His pride had turned him away from God.
This account of King Uzziah’s life should be a strong warning to us. Whenever we begin to believe that we are so important that we do not have to be held accountable for what we do or say, then we can be sure we are headed for a fall. Or when we refuse to obey God in a given area, we can expect to experience His discipline in our lives.
The reason is simple: pride isolates us from God. It prevents us from becoming people with hearts devoted solely to Him. This is the reason He hates it. He knows it is a stumbling block, and if left unchecked, it will wreak havoc in our lives. But more than this, pride exalts self and not God. Instead of God receiving the glory for our lives, we seek praise and glory for ourselves.
OVERCOMING PRIDE WITH TRUST
Our sole goal should be to be the best right where God has placed us. We can pray and ask Him to bless us with new challenges, but we need to focus on His plan and timing for our lives. The apostle Peter captured this thought perfectly when he wrote, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6).
There are times when each one of us can sense God drawing near, warning us not to continue along a certain path. For one reason or another, we continue to walk in a direction that is not God’s best. Sooner or later, He turns up the pressure to get our attention. Life becomes difficult, and the more we fight against His discipline, the more we will suffer — emotionally, mentally and physically. Adam and Eve had everything they could hope for, but they wanted more. What they gained at the hands of the enemy were sorrow, separation from the One who loved them unconditionally and disappointment.
Specific signs tell us we are struggling with pride. While the list is long, it certainly includes the following:
– Lack of giving to God and others
– A selfish attitude
– Refusal to listen to the advice of others
– Lack of submission to those in authority
– A spirit of rebellion
– Lack of humble regard for God and others
-The inability to receive a compliment or gift
Pride has many faces. For this reason God cautions us to be vigilant in our stand against it. If we open a door to it, even a small one, the enemy will take advantage of the opening and rush into our hearts with thoughts that deceive us into thinking much better of ourselves than God desires. He wants you to have a healthy self-esteem, but He also wants you to learn how to handle pride so you will not miss His blessings for you.
Here is Satan’s trick: he tells us that we must reach certain levels in life to have a sense of worthiness. He also wants us to believe that we do not need anyone else. In other words, we begin to attack life the way he did. To the person who has never accepted Christ as his Savior, the enemy whispers, “You don’t need a Savior. Don’t bow your knee to anyone. After all, you’re the boss of your life.”
Believers are not exempt from this type of temptation. It just comes from a different angle: “Don’t ask for help. You can do it apart from God.Why tell your friends you are struggling? After all, they will make fun of you and think you are weak.” The truth is, each one of us needs the Savior.We need God’s wisdom and, most of all, His loving care. We need to know that we are loved just because God is a God of love and He cares for us, no matter what status we hold. Pride often surfaces because a person feels inferior and thinks she needs to be more than what she is.
Don’t fall for Satan’s tactics. You may think you need to push your way through life, but you don’t. Through Jesus Christ you are all you could ever hope to be. Ask God to teach you how to rest in His infinite care. When you learn to do this, you will not only gain a sense of hope, but you will also come to realize how valuable you are in Christ.
Charles F. Stanley is Senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta, GA.