Pride Yourself in Prayer

“ All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” – 1 Peter 5:5-6

In the Pray First – a Personal Prayer Guide, there is a section entitled Warfare Prayers – Pride Prayer. That is the subject of this devotional.

It is wise to periodically evaluate both strengths and weaknesses as a Jesus follower. It makes sense to sit down and reflect on what it takes to effectively live the Christian life. You can’t spend much time analyzing the Christian life before you come across the idea of humility. Humility is at the core of Christianity and paradoxical to society’s norms. We Christians basically admit we aren’t all that, that we tend to mess up all the time and we are in constant need of forgiveness.

The Bible agrees with us and thus has a lot to say about pride and humility: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)  When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2) “Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 18:12)

Commenting on the revival in Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1737, Jonathan Edwards said: “The first and worst cause of errors that abound in our day and age is spiritual pride. This is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of Christ. It is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit to darken the mind and mislead the judgment. Pride is the main handle by which he has hold of Christian persons and the chief source of all the mischief that he introduces to clog and hinder a work of God.  Spiritual pride is the main spring or at least the main support of all other errors. Until this disease is cured, medicines are applied in vain to heal all other diseases.”

Humility is more than a concept, it is a tool for every Christian. It increases our desire to study God’s word and opens our hearts to His Spirit. It leads to intimacy with God, who knows the proud from afar, but dwells “with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,” (Isaiah 57:15).

Developing the identity, attitude, and conduct of a humble servant does not happen over night. In fact, it takes a lifetime. It ‘s like peeling an onion: you cut away one layer only to find another beneath it. But it can happen. As we forsake pride and seek to humble ourselves by daily deliberate choices in dependence on the Holy Spirit, humility takes root and grows.

2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. There is a difference between God humbling you and you humbling yourself. What are some ways you can place yourself in a humble position with God, at home, at work, or with friends?
  2. Read Jeremiah 49:16 and Daniel 5:20. Read Proverbs 16:18, and 16:5. How do these verses warn us about pride?
  3. The reality is that everyone struggles with pride. What does surrendering to God look like? What are some ways a person could embrace humility and turn away from pride?
  4. Take some time to communicate with God and ask Him for help to grow humility in your life. If there is an attitude that needs changed, give that to Him and ask for Him to work in your life. 

Pride And Conflict

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant ? – 1 Corinthians 13:4.

Pride and conflict go hand in hand. Pride is, “I’m more important than you. What I’m doing is more important than you. So, whatever you want, whatever you think you need, whatever you’re doing, stop, because me and my situation, activities, and needs, they’re more important than yours. Don’t inconvenience me with you. You and I should both agree on how important I am. I’m more important than you.” Now that may seem both harsh and unrealistic, but is it? If we look closely we all probably have some degree of selfishness and pride manifesting itself in the relationship.

It is hard to remove ourselves and our emotions, self-interests and personal judgments from a conflict. And the stark fact is we hate to lose.

If you can’t stand to lose, if you have to be the victor at the expense of your spouse, you probably should not get married. Because every married person is going to have to lose on occasion. Sometimes you will lose because you are wrong and sometimes you will lose because you care more about the relationship than the argument. And you may lose because you are trying to be more like Jesus.

Jesus practiced mind-blowing, unfathomable humility. Philippians 2:5-8 tells us: ”Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[ being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Think about it for a second. God becomes a man. He goes from heaven to earth. He goes from a throne to a manger. He goes from riches to poverty. He goes from hearing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,” to “Crucify him, crucify him, crucify him.”  Jesus repeatedly teaches on humility. He says in Matthew 30:26, “…But whoever would be great among you must be your servant.”  You want to have a great marriage? Then be a great servant.

When in conflict or at any other time for that matter ask yourself: Do you consider your spouse and his or her needs above your own? Does it show up practically with how the money is spent, and time is spent, and what the holidays look like, and what vacations look like, and what date night looks like, and where you live, and how life is put together?

“But Marty, I’m mad.” 

“He offended me.”   

“She’s wrong.”

“He owes me an apology.”

I understand. But Jesus was wronged. You got what He clearly didn’t deserve. He could have done things differently, but He humbled Himself. We can mirror our Savior if we put our pride and our need to win aside. Attack the problem, but never the person, communicating about difficult topics, with humility and reconciliation as the goals. Don’t let your pride blow things out of proportion. Serving your spouse with humility communicates that you still care about the marriage. It protects each other’s heart.

Every conflict presents us with a choice. We can either stick with pride, and miss out on all God has in store for you and your marriage: or we can stick with God and find out all the adventures that He has in store for you and your marriage. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you struggle with pride? In what areas of your life.
  2. Do you struggle more with pride against God or with others?
  3. How is pride destructive to marriage or relationships?
  4. What can we do this week to eliminate pride in our lives? Pray and ask God to show you the areas of your life where pride has taken hold?

The Giant That Felled David

“If you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?’ The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with every one else’s pride…Pride is essentially competitive – is competitive by its very nature – while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.”– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

When you think of the life of David, one of two events probably come to your mind. You either remember the time young David slew Goliath; or you remember when David committed adultery with Bathsheba. Both events were monumental moments in the life of David. In the first, David demonstrated his humility. In the second, David revealed his humanity. When David met a giant named Goliath, we are privileged to witness his greatest victory. When David met Bathsheba, we are forced to watch his greatest defeat.

Up until this moment, David had never lost a battle. But then he was soundly defeated by a giant far more powerful than Goliath could have ever hoped to have been. It wasn’t the giant of health problems, death, financial crisis, relationships, or any other problem or trial that you would list as the greatest troubles in your life today. This giant resides in the heart. This giant is pride.

When we look at David and his life we will see what happens when pride rules. As we have noted before, David had great men of honor and ability following him and one of them was Uriah the Hittite. He had a beautiful wife named Bathsheba. Uriah had only this one wife and David on the other hand had many wives. He was king and could choose whomever he wanted. Yet, because of his pride he desired something that was not lawful for him to have. He saw this woman as something that he had not conquered. He wasn’t thinking of the trouble it would cause him and his nation, he simply did what came natural to him. He saw an opportunity and he took it. Uriah was in battle fighting for his king and his country, David committed adultery with her and thought the matter was closed. In time, however, she sent word to him that she was with child and David went into full pride mode.

David then made a decision to ultimately cover up his sins and he sent Uriah back to the battlefield with a sealed note. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” 2 Samuel 11:15

A widow was made by the intentional decision of a man filled with his pride. Judgment came to David and even more people died because of this tragic event. Was it worth it? Of course the answer is NO. When David was confronted, we see him come to a place of genuine repentance and sorrow. David quickly understood the situation and asked God for forgiveness.  His life had changed when he encountered God’s judgment first and then God’s grace.

There is just one way to be free from pride and it’s destructive ways. Humility crushes the wall of pride in our lives. There is nothing more deadly than pride and the only cure is humility and brokenness. As Christians, we must do whatever it takes to see pride rooted out of our life. We do that by getting down on our knees, pray, and believe that God is bigger than our struggles, our needs and wants. The worst is that it keeps us from God. It keeps us from repentance because pride makes excuses for sin rather than owning up and confessing. That is our barrier. Pride keeps us from triumphing over sin.There is only One that has the power to remove, and cancel sin. The only way to draw close to him is through a humble spirit. “Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” – Isaiah 66:2

Discussion Question:

  1. What are some of the destructive elements of pride?
  2. In your own words describe how pride brings someone low and humility brings someone up.
  3. What are some good areas of pride?
  4. Does our emphasis on ourselves reduce our emphasis on God?
  5. Being open and honest, have you ever gone through a season when you struggled with pride? How did it affect your relationships with others? With God? How did God address that issue in your life?
  6. Pray and ask God to help you in any area of pride.

What Price Success

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11.

When Florida Marlins owner Jeff Loria and General Manager Dan Jennings signed slugger Giancarlo Stanton to a record 13-year, $325 million contract, the Marlins were telling their 25 year old slugger that they had plans for him. They had plans to prosper him and give him a future.

In Sunday’s message, I talked about our purpose being our creator, not our career. I said everything that you would expect to hear. Yes, you ought to set goals. By all means, work hard. And, please, never give up. But if you only set goals, work hard, and never give up in terms of career and success, then you will ultimately be a failure.

The people who put their careers and work above all else in life tend to fall prey to some poor thinking. They elevate their projects higher than those whom they love. They are stressed. They have no margin. They are often befriended by those who benefit from the fame and achievement that they sought so hard to reach. They find that all they have achieved is temporary.

The prophet Jeremiah says a few other things around verse 11. Here is what he says in verse 10-14: “This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Jeremiah says that there will be a time when the Lord will give the exiles a great hope and a great future. When is it? Is it when they do these things? No. They do these things while they wait on the Lord. But the Lord turns to them because of verse 12. “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, and I will restore your fortunes.” How do the exiles get a great future and a hope? It is not by SAT scores or six figure salaries. It is not by having a large house or expensive cars. It is not by working more hours than anyone else. Those things are not bad in of themselves. But, higher than those things, Jeremiah says to the exiles: Seek the Lord. Jesus said it as well. Seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness. THEN all these things (food, clothes, etc.) will be added unto you.

Rick Warren puts it this way: “Success is discovering what God wants me to do and then doing it.” Set goals, yes. Work hard. Absolutely. But always follow Jesus first, because your identity is in Him. If you do that first and above all else, there is no other secret to success, for in Him you have all that you will ever need. For no matter how hard you try, you will not find your identity in the size of your house or the nameplate outside your office door. Instead, I pray that you will remember the great prize you have in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So whether you are a teacher, a coach, a pastor, a carpenter, or a businessperson in a normal neighborhood with a normal life, remember this: If you’ve sought Jesus first, you’ve got the greatest reward of all.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some ways the American view of success has filtered into your everyday life? How can you fight this? Is it wrong to seek to be successful in our jobs? How do motives fit in?
  2. How can we sort out whether our motives to succeed are selfish or for God’s glory?
  3. God’s blessing is not necessarily related to favorable circumstances. Agree or disagree?
  4. Pray and ask God to give you the courage to trust Him in everything.

The Gift Of Humility

“If you plan to build a tall house of virtues, you must first lay deep foundations of humility.” – Augustine

Pride is defined as a “feeling of deep pleasure derived from ones own achievements or from qualities and possessions greatly desired.” In a nutshell, pride is all about me. We know it is there. We also know it can do real damage to our relationships. And add to that the fact that God hates pride and you have ample reason to subdue, and even better, eradicate pride from our hearts. But how? It is not all that easy. And it certainly can’t be done quickly or by reading the daily devotional. But having said all that, let me give you a few points to consider as we work to remove pride from our lives.

It starts with humility. Humility requires change and change requires that we have “the fear of the Lord” in our hearts. Proverbs 8:13 says, “To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” According to this verse, every heart that fears the Lord will not entertain any prideful thought or attitude. Whereas pride teaches one to take glory for himself, the fear of the Lord instructs us to give all honor to God. Concentrating on God, in awe and fear of what He has done for us, will help us avoid pride and the behavior that results from pride in our lives. Start this week by giving glory to God for every progress and achievement in our lives.

The next step is to actively pursue humility in our hearts. Pride, in Proverbs, is seen as directly opposed or contrasted to humility. Proverbs 18:12 says, “Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.” To be “haughty” is to be proud because a haughty person thinks that he or she is better than others, and tries to show off their abilities for personal recognition. On the other hand, a humble person will shy away from self-glory and be submissive to God and others. When a person is not self-centered and focused on humility, it is hard for pride to take root in their heart.

Lastly, cultivate friendships with humble people. Doing life with those who understand humility will help deflect pride. Proverbs 16:19 says, “Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.” When your friends are humble people, you will learn to emulate them. But if your close friends are arrogant, you may emulate them my adjusting your attitudes and actions to suit theirs.

Curing ourselves of our pride will most likely be a painful process. Losing our selfish pride means learning to live only for the glory of God. Losing our selfish pride means learning to live without being in control of our lives. Losing our selfish pride means means becoming more like Him.

All I know is that I cannot overcome this sin on my own, and I will not overcome it quickly. Even in my pride, I recognize the fact that I am too weak to overcome sin on my own, I need to trust in the power of God’s Holy Spirit to strengthen me for this battle.

Discussion Questions:
1. How do you define pride? How does pride show up in a relationship? What are some of the destructive results of pride?
2. Humility is the cure for pride. What is your definition of humility? Why is humility so important in our relationships? How do you know if you are humble?
3. Read the following verses: Proverbs 11:2, 18:12, 22:4; Micah 6:8 and James 3:13. From these passages, what does the Bible say about humility?
4. Read 1 Peter 5:5-7. In this passage, the Bible says to “clothe” yourself with humility. What does that look like? How do you clothe yourself with humility?
5. Pray and ask God for His help in identifying and working on the areas of pride in our lives and relationships.

Pride Goes Before A Fall

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” – Daniel 4:37

Maybe you have heard the stories of Nebuchadnezzar, but in case you have not, Daniel, Chapter 4 details the story of Nebuchadnezzar, king in the land of Babylonia. He invaded and defeated Judah, including the city of Jerusalem, ruthlessly killed the inhabitants and took thousands of people captive back to Babylonia including Daniel. Daniel records a few of the king’s activities, including the building of a golden image. After building the golden image, Nebuchadnezzar issues a decree that his all his people were to bow down to it. The golden image symbolized his invincibility. No other king or kingdom could overpower him.

But this “invincible” king was about to learn a valuable lesson that God is sovereign, a lesson he would learn the hard way.

Nebuchadnezzar, proud of his splendor and majesty, aspired to surpass his God-given position of honor, and decided go beyond it. The king had a dream. His wise men were unable to interpret the team so Daniel, who was successful in the past of revealing the dream as well as the what the dream meant, was called.

The dream is a large strong tree that had leaves and fruit but it was cut down and all that was left was the stump. Daniel interpreted the dream and told the king the tree represented him and for seven years he would have the heart of an animal and would behave as an animal for those years. His kingdom would not be taken away from him, although he would be too incapacitated to govern. Daniel appeals to the king in verse 27: “Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”

For a period of twelve months, nothing happened. But in verses 29-30 we read the following: “Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”

Verse 31-33 tells us what happens next. “Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.”

Only when he returned to humbling himself before God and acknowledging God’s sovereignty over his life, was he restored back to the kingdom. And he admitted at the end of verse 36 that “… those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” Even the most powerful person. Even kings.

A study of history will reveal any number of great people who fell victim to their pride. Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin and others will go down as major history lessons for all of us to see what pride, arrogance, and a haughty spirit can do to a person and his life.

But what about us? We are not great people or kings. Pride can affect us and our relationships just as easily as the more visible examples in history. We need to ask ourselves if we have blind spots that have been created because we did not recognize pride in my life. And what has been the impact of that pride in our relationships?

My prayer is that God will teach us in the Sabotage series the truth of Proverbs 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

Tomorrow we will take about the antidote for pride; humility.

Discussion Questions.
1. Read Daniel 4. How would you entitle this chapter?
2. In Verse 4, the king said he was contented and prosperous. When things are going well in your own life, does this make you more vulnerable to pride?
3. Thinking of yourself as a tree, have you ever been cut down to size? What were the circumstances? Do you think that God was involved? How did you feel afterward?
4. Why do you suppose that God allowed a year to pass before fulfilling the dream?
5. If someone were to give you advice as Daniel did to Nebuchadnezzar in Verse 27, what would it be?
6. Pray that God will teach you to listen to his direction in your life.

Me, Myself and Pride

“A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see something that’s above you.” – C.S. Lewis

Pride is one of those things that we don’t like to talk about. Pride is dangerous. Like blood pressure, pride can lurk below the surface, undetected, causing all kinds of damage. But unlike high blood pressure, pride is a spiritual disease that we all have in one degree or another. Often, we don’t even realize it’s there, and by the time we head down that slope, we don’t even know how to get back up.

It was C.S. Lewis who once said that the source of all vice is pride. Other sins are birthed out of pride. The reason why we lie is because we want to keep a good image, make a great showing. That is pride. The reason why we gossip is because we want you to know that we know; pride. I decided not to wait on God because I believe I can get this done; pride. Sin was introduced into the world when Adam and Eve acted independently of God, believing that they could become like him; pride. The Scriptures, C.S. Lewis, and my experience shows me that pride is one of the main catalysts for every sin. Jonathan Edwards said that “pride is the worst viper that is in the heart, the greatest disturber of the soul’s peace and sweet communion with Christ. It is the most difficult sin to root out, and the most hidden, secret and deceitful of all lusts.”

Pride can appear in the most innocuous ways, even in church. We started Northstar in a funeral home with a few dozen people. And now we have five locations, 8 services, not counting online, and several thousand people. I am completely awed by God. We haven’t just made history here, we’ve made eternity. It would be easy for the staff to take some of the the credit. “We worked really hard on our environments.” “We had some good ideas when you look at our success.” The truth is we have a great staff and I would never minimize their contributions, but if we take the credit for what God has clearly accomplished, that is pride. For the record,  the Northstar leadership team knows that God is the reason for our success. There is no other plausible explanation.

Pride affects our relationships with people regardless of what type of relationship we are in: pride makes a husband refuse to admit his faults, but is quick to blame his wife; pride makes a daughter unwilling to change, and is always right; pride makes an employee unteachable and refusing to be open to genuine instruction; pride makes a brother blame others and always has a plan for how it should be done; pride convinces a church member that all his theological beliefs are correct and other people are wrong; pride drives a mom to say that her children will never act like those other kids: pride motivates a neighbor to want more possessions, power, and prestige.

Pride can appear in every facet of our life and is one of those areas where many people struggle. We are always right, always first, always in control, and always the most important. We want everything to revolve around us and to be for us.

For the remainder of this week, we will delve into the subject of pride in more detail and address the most important question: How do we root out the pride that threatens our relationships, including our relationship with God?

Discussion Questions:
1. Do you crave attention, honor, recognition, or reward? Do you become jealous or critical of people who succeed? Do you always have to win? Do you lack ambition for fear of failing?
2. Do you have a pattern of lying about or hiding your failures? Do you have a hard time fully acknowledging you were wrong?
3. Do you struggle more with pride against God or others?
4. Pray and ask God to help identify and help you with the areas of pride this week.