Three men are sitting at a table and a fourth man walks up to them. He had just come from a funeral. He sits down with the three men and he says, “Tell me, what would you want said over you when you are lying in your coffin and people are looking down at you?” The first man says, “Well, I’d like them to say that I was the greatest doctor they had ever known.” The second man says, “I would like them to say that I was a great husband and father and a great teacher and that I made a great impact in the lives of young people.” The third man sits there and he is thinking and he says, “What do I want them to say when they are looking at me down in my coffin?” He goes, “I want them to say, ‘Look! He’s moving!’”
Well, let me ask you a question. What would you like people to say over you when you are lying in your coffin? What is the greatest compliment? What is the greatest achievement that you could ever do? What is the greatest character quality you could ever have? Hint: It is greater than wealth. It is greater than health. It is something that is greater than a career. It is even something that is more valuable and greater than true love. It is not having great faith. It is not having a powerful anointing. It is not having a fruitful ministry. It is something deeper than that, and it is something that makes those things possible. You might be born with great intelligence or beauty. You might be born with a great talent, a physical ability, but this is something that anyone can have. It is available to anyone, and it is greater than all of those. It is the single greatest key that can open up any door in life. Do you know what it is? It is humility. Humility will enrich your life more than any other single thing.
Its opposite is pride. Now pride will hurt you. Pride is the most destructive thing that you can carry with you in life. Our third president, Thomas Jefferson said this: “Pride will hurt you more than hunger, thirst or cold.” Pride turned Lucifer, one of the 3 top angels, into Satan. Pride caused the angels that were with him to become demons and to lose heaven. Pride caused the religious leaders of Jesus’ time to miss Him. Pride almost caused Naaman, the leper, to miss his healing. And pride causes a lot of people today to go on without forgiveness and to miss out on heaven. You see, pride puts you on the wrong side of God.
But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”
Now understand it just doesn’t say God disapproves of pride. It doesn’t just say God is disappointed in pride. What does it say? It says that God opposes the proud. That means that if you are a proud person, your life is going to be like walking uphill against a very strong wind. On the other hand, it says that if you are humble, then God is for you. God will empower you and that instead what you will find is that there will be a breeze behind you filling your sail and pushing you forward. I want to tell you my definition of pride and humility. These are definitions that I came up with after decades of Bible study and pastorally counseling and walking through life with people. Here is my definition of pride.
Pride: The inclination to look to yourself rather than the One who made you.
What is pride? It is that inward inclination that causes you to look to yourself rather than looking and leaning upon God.
Humility: The willingness to recognize and defer to someone superior or more advanced.
It is only humility that allows you to learn from someone wiser and more experienced. It is only humility that allows you to receive guidance and protection from someone stronger than yourself. Here is the bad news. The bad news is that pride comes naturally but humility is something that you must pursue and lay hold of. Pride causes you to be focused inward on yourself. In other words, we can say that a person who is full of pride is a person who is full of himself. Now I want you to think about what that means. Do you know that there are some things that God cannot do? God cannot do things that are by definition impossible. For instance, God cannot make a square circle. How many of you know that? If it is a square, it is not a circle. If it is a circle, it is not a square. God cannot make a square circle, and God cannot fill something that is already full. The biggest problem with pride is that that person is full of himself. I often think this when I am sitting around and I’m mulling things and maybe I’m fretting and worrying and calculating, and I often have this thought. How stupid I am being to be caught up in my own thoughts and worries and calculations when I have available to me the greatest mind in the whole universe? I mean, how stupid is it for us to calculate and fret when we could just surrender our mind and our thoughts to God? And that we can be filled with the One whose peace passes all understanding. Do you ever think about this? The self-esteem message is the polar opposite of the gospel message because the self-esteem message is that you should turn inward. You should look inward to your own greatness. Now the Bible calls that pride. And so self-esteem turns us not toward success and happiness but it actually turns us away because we become full of ourselves and we are no longer a candidate to receive God’s help and grace.
Low self-esteem is as much a manifestation of pride as boastfulness.
Because one thing that both boasting and low self-esteem have in common is they are both a reflection of being absorbed with oneself; a preoccupation with self. One focuses on the positives, and the other focuses on the negatives. But they are both pride because pride focuses on the self. If you think your problem is low self-esteem, and you struggle with a low picture of yourself, you will never get out from under that, listen to me, I’m not trying to be mean, until you repent of being self-absorbed and put your focus on God and learn to rest in His promises and His love. After all, what does God say? God says, “You are made in My image, and I am with you, and you are forgiven, and you are complete in My love, and you can do all things through Me, and I’m going to do wonderful things through you.” It is nothing but pride for us to argue against that and say, “No, but I’m flawed.” “No, but I’m broken.” “No, but I’m unlovable. I’m unforgivable.”
There is a man in the Bible who is a perfect example and warning of what pride can cost us, and that is the man Saul. He was chosen to be the first king of Israel. In 1 Samuel 9, verses 1 and 2, we learn a little bit about this guy when we are first introduced to him, and here is what we learn about him. We learn that he was given every advantage. He had every advantage. He came from a noble and good family, a wealthy family. The Bible says that there was no one taller. He was the tallest man in Israel, and there was no one more handsome than he. The Bible also uses these words; it says he was choice. In other words, he was the people’s choice. He would have been the first guy to get picked for kickball in 5th grade. He would be the first one to be picked to be a boyfriend. He would be the first one that you would want to pick to be king. He was choice. In 1 Samuel 10:1 we learn even more because look what Samuel does to Saul when God indicates that Saul is His choice for king.
Then Samuel took the flask of oil, poured it on his head, kissed him and said, “Has not the LORD anointed you a ruler over His inheritance?
In other words, he kissed him, indicating God’s favor on Saul, and then he anointed him with a powerful anointing so that he could be king. He was powerfully anointed to accomplish that. And then finally there were strong prophetic words spoken over his life to launch him forward into his role. And then there was one more thing that happened when Saul turned to leave. Something profound happened to Saul when he turned to walk away. We read in verse 9…
Then it happened when he turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his (that is, God changed Saul’s) heart; and all those signs came about on that day.
And so there was a new fire in Saul. He was a new person. He had a new attitude. Now he thought like a king. How many of you know you can have an encounter with God that will change your life? Saul had that encounter. Saul had every possible natural and spiritual advantage that you could have. Now whatever you think you have going for you, Saul had that in spades plus so much more. He had it all. And so his early years were marked with great success. I mean how could it not be? He had every advantage. He was popular and he had everything going for him, including all the blessings and graces of God. And yet, Saul, as you know if you know the story, will end up a failure. He will be defeated before his enemies. He will die of suicide, and his 3 sons will die on the battlefield with him. Now Israel will be delivered. They will get victory over all their enemies, but it won’t come through Saul because God is going to choose another man. God found a better man. Was he taller? No. Was he more handsome? No. Was his family as noble? No. Did he come from as much wealth? No. Was he as popular? No. But he was a better man. Do you know why? In 1 Samuel 13:14 the prophet Samuel speaking for God says to Saul:
But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.
He was a man better than Saul because he was in pursuit of God’s heart. That is what made him better. Saul’s great failing was his pride, but David’s great virtue was his humility. He wrote this in Psalms 27:8…
When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.”
David pursued God. He was a worshiper. He wrote psalms. He was a prophet. He wrote prayers in the Bible. And therefore, he could say these words that Saul could never say.
For by You I can run upon a troop; And by my God I can leap over a wall.
He was strong because he humbled himself before God rather than being filled with his own thoughts and ambitions and worries. He was filled with the strength of God. Now Saul never grasped his need for God. You can search the Bible, there is no record in the Bible of Saul ever praying, of Saul ever leading his people in prayer. There is no record of Saul in any way pursuing God, and as a result he never knew anything more than his own strength in his own ability. He is like millions of American men today. They go to church with their wife to keep their wife happy. They take their children to church because they believe that the children need that kind of a foundation. And yet as for themselves, they don’t sense any personal need, and so they don’t invest in their own spiritual growth. They just go to church. Now, if we do a study of Saul’s life in 1 Samuel, we are going to find 5 inevitable outcomes of pride. These are 5 things that every person who lets pride be the guide of their lives will experience.
Five Inevitable Outcomes of Pride:
1. You will be ruled by what you see.
If you live a life of pride, you will be ruled by what you see. You will be driven by circumstances and threats, oftentimes to make terrible mistakes. All of Saul’s defeats, all of Saul’s disobedient acts came after he was overwhelmed by what he either saw or heard.
But Samuel said, “What have you done?” (when Saul had done something disobedient) And Saul said, “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash…
Therefore, he disobeyed the directions he had been given by the Lord to wait. You see, if you are living and all you know is your own resources and your own strength, when you come up against a situation that seems like it is going to require more than what you have, then you are going to be tempted to cheat, to lie, to steal, to disobey, to compromise.
2. You will be ruled by the fear of man
The second fact of a person who is ruled by pride is you will be ruled by the fear of man. The second failure of King Saul was he didn’t fully carry out the Lord’s command when it came to King Agag and the Amalekites. This is the excuse that he gave to Samuel when Samuel came to call him to account.
Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice.
Saul believed that his success and that his security rested on the acceptance and the approval of the people. If you believe that, then you will cave in order to win that approval. Here is a definition of the fear of man.
Fear of Man: You believe your wellbeing depends on the approval and favor of people.
How many of you know a lot of people live that way? It might be friends. It might be society at large. But they believe that their security and well-being depends upon the approval of people. And if you believe that, then you are a slave to that approval.
3. You will deal with insecurity in your life.
A person who lives in pride will deal with insecurity in their life. Now get this, insecurity is not the opposite of pride. They are, in fact, 2 sides to the same coin. As a matter of fact, pride inevitably brings forth insecurity. Why is that? Because we already found out that the essence of pride is to look to yourself rather than God, and that the essence of pride is to be filled with yourself, and to be focused on your abilities and your wisdom and your knowledge. But the other side of that means you are also focused on your inabilities and your lack and, listen to me, the things that you cannot control. So, you will always be insecure. Even if you think you are a person who really has a lot going on, it won’t be long before the day comes when you know you don’t have what it takes. How many of you know everybody faces those days? Everybody does and not just once or twice but often many times.
There is an interesting incident when Samuel is about to publically name Saul as God’s choice for king. There is a big gathering of all the tribes, and Samuel is about to anoint and call forth Saul as the next king. So, they go looking for Saul. They look everywhere. They call out for him and they can’t find him. And finally they find him hiding among the baggage. In other words, all the people that had traveled to this gathering, where their wagons were and all their baggage, he was hiding amongst it. Now listen, don’t miss this. That wasn’t a result of humility. That was a result of pride. Because Saul was focused on his own inabilities and his own weakness before the challenges rather than being focused on the call and the prophecy and the anointing of God. How many of you know that is the definition of pride? A lot of times people think that it is humility or low self-esteem, but really it is pride because they won’t trust God. Isaiah wasn’t a proud man. He was a humble man. Isaiah said, “Here I am Lord. Send me.” David volunteered to go up against the great giant, but Saul was hiding among the baggage. Pride inevitably results in insecurity at some level because no matter who you are, you don’t have everything you need.
4. You will attempt to bully, threaten or manipulate others.
If you are a person who let’s pride dominate your life, then you will attempt to bully, threaten, or manipulate others. Because you are insecure through your pride, you are going to try to control everybody and everything because you are afraid of the outcome. You cannot control it. You are not able to release it to the Lord. And the Lord is the only One who can control it. There are so many things in life we cannot control: other people, illnesses, hurricanes. And unless you are a person who can just release it into the Lord’s hands, then you are always trying to bully, intimidate, or manipulate people. Saul deceived his son. He lied to him then he killed 80 priests, including the high priest. He tried 3 different times to murder David. He attempted to murder his own son. He used guilt and threats to try and manipulate his generals, all trying to hold on and succeed and not lose it.
5. You will blame others for your problems.
The fifth thing a prideful person can be sure to do is blame others for their problems. Saul could not admit his failures. He couldn’t face his weaknesses. It was too scary, and he couldn’t deal with the guilt and shame. So, what did he do? He blamed everybody else. If you read the story in 1 Samuel, first he blamed Samuel. He said, “Because you didn’t come quickly, I was forced to do this.” Twice he blamed the people. “The people made me do it.” “I feared the people.” One time he blamed David. Another time he blamed Jonathan. He was always blaming somebody. Now listen friends, pride is not our friend. Pride will bring us down.
A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.
In our pride, we want to put ourselves ahead, but inevitably what happens is, it brings us down. You see, your employer will pass you over because if you are a prideful person, you will be seen as obstinate and divisive, and you will cause problems.
When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.
You see, pride will cause you to act in such a way that people will not respect you. Pride blinds us. Pride dulls us and so people begin to lose respect. And if we are a prideful person, then we pay a heavy price with our spouse and our children and our coworkers, and we are always having to change jobs and change churches because pride always brings division. Pride keeps us from growing spiritually because it keeps us from admitting those things in our lives that God needs to change so that we can grow. A man ruled by pride is a slave, and he will be defeated. But a humble man, a humble person, is free. They are free because they know who they are in Christ. They are secure, and so a humble person can be a peace maker because they don’t feel the need to defend themselves and their reputation. A humble person is free to praise other people’s success and build them up because they are comfortable in who God made them and what God has given them and what God has promised to do in their life in the future. A humble person never wallows in despair, and they never give up because they know that the riches of God are available to them and that their God is faithful.
I want to share something that I learned after 40 years of ministry and of working with thousands of people. This is what I have come to learn. I have come to learn that it doesn’t matter how much talent you have or how much intelligence you have or how beautiful or how attractive you are or how funny or how popular, if you don’t have humility, in the end you will fail where it really counts. You will fail at what really matters. At the end of your life, you won’t feel like a success. You may be rich, but you won’t have peace. Your relationships will be shattered. Most of the time you will lose whatever you gain because pride has a way of charging you and costing you everything. You see, pride makes you deny the things in your life that you really need to change. Pride makes us pretend to be something we are not. We put on the face. We put out the image. We pretend to be something that we are not. We pretend to have arrived at a place spiritually maybe that we haven’t. I will tell you one thing is for sure, you will never become something that you are already pretending to be. The only way to be what you want to be is admit that you aren’t there and be willing to grow.
3 Simple Questions
I want to give you a simple test. Three simple questions for you to ask yourself and rate yourself 1 to 10. These 3 questions are on the app. You might write them down on a piece of paper because it would be worth your while to think about them later. Three simple questions to find out how much pride there is in your life.
1. Do I love to worship or am I indifferent?
Do I worship in private or only at church when there is a worship band? Do I tend to come in late to worship and then leave after the sermon or do I really seek to worship? Because the answer to that question and how you rate yourself 1-10 will determine what is your focus. Is it on God or is it on yourself? Are you a person who is focused on self-esteem or are you a person who is focused on Christ-esteem, which means that you are not full of yourself, which means all the blessings and riches of God can flow into your life.
2. Do I read and study my Bible regularly?
Do you consult it for direction? Do you take notes on a sermon so that you can reflect on it later and get the full benefit of it? Because you see the answer to this question and how you rate yourself 1-10 will reveal where your confidence is. Is your confidence in your own thinking, in your own calculations, in your own ideas, in which case, you don’t really need to search the mind of the Lord? Or is your confidence in His wisdom and His ways, in which you need to know the Word, and you need to seek out the Word when you have a question?
3. Do I tend to justify my wrong actions or repent of them?
When I do something and in all honesty I have to admit it wasn’t really the right thing to do, it wasn’t the God-honoring thing, it wasn’t the thing maybe that I wish I had done, do I immediately justify myself or do I repent? Because that will reveal whose standard you are living under. Your own or God’s? Who is at the center? Who is the boss?
If you find as you look at those 3 questions that there is pride, I mean there is some pride in all of us, but if you find on that scale of 1-10 it is not nearly as far up to the one side as it should be, how do you deal with it? How do you deal with pride? If the key to life is humility, how do you gain humility instead of pride? Well, King David gave us the answer. He said, “When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.” So how do you seek the Lord? How do you put Him at the center? Pride means you’re at the center, humility means God is at the center, so you take counsel, take advice. Your priority is not to be proved right but to grow. So how do you do that? Well, it is simple things.
First of all, you want to put God at the center, pray. Second, just worship. Get to church on time and say to yourself, “Bless the Lord, oh my soul.” Just take yourself in hand and say, “I’m going to worship the Lord because He is worthy to be worshiped.” It doesn’t matter what somebody said or how I feel. Nothing that happened or how I feel has anything to do with whether or not the Lord is worthy to be praised or whether I have the capacity to praise Him. So, I will take myself in hand and I will say, “Bless the Lord, oh my soul.” And I will worship Him not only in church but at home because the more I do that, the more I replace self at the center.
Then you search the Scriptures because in the Scriptures there is life. In the Scriptures God’s will is revealed to us. We need to be in the Scriptures because we are on our phones, we are reading Facebook and ideas and stuff is coming at us from co-workers, and it is not God’s truth. To know God’s truth and to walk in God’s truth, we have to be immersed in it.
Finally, you need to be involved in what I call “body life,” the life of the body. The communal life that we have where we encourage one another, hold each other accountable, give one another the opportunities to serve.