In today’s episode, I had planned to return in one way or another to the “Beyond Belief” series on Christian apologetics, but then over the course of the day, I became convinced that there was another topic I needed to cover before I do that. First, before church this morning, my wife and I got into a bit of a spat that I think I can attribute largely to me letting my pride cloud my judgment about our interactions. Next, for the sermon at church, Pastor Andrew Arndt’s message on prayer included the challenge to remain hungry for God even when things are going well, not just when our life is a mess. Finally, I’m rereading C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and today I came to Book 3, Chapter 8, which is entitled, “The Great Sin”. You’ll never guess what that sin is–oh wait, you probably will. You’re right, it’s pride.
So I figured that if God, my wife, and C.S. Lewis all conspire to cause me to grapple with something, I really should pay attention!
OK, so let’s go back to the beginning and journey together to the point where I reach the assertion that this choice we make every day in this new year has eternal consequences. Regarding the situation with my wife this morning, I don’t need to write a lengthy explanation about whether I was right or wrong, or anything silly like that. Why? Because it doesn’t matter whether I was right or wrong. Here are my biblical marching orders as a husband:
Pretty simple, right? Not easy, for sure, but simple. Now let’s look at how much Christ has loved the church, as described by the Apostle Paul:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV), borrow from YouVersion
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
What this means is that, if I am to love my wife the way Christ loved the church, then I need to relate to her out of a place of humility, not pride. That’s why it doesn’t matter if I’m right or wrong–that’s my pride doing my thinking for me. Humility puts my wife above my need to be right. Again, not always easy, but very simple.
Moving on to Pastor Andrew’s challenge to remain hungry for God regardless of the circumstances of our lives. Whenever things are not going well, especially in times of desperation, as followers of Christ, it’s natural for us to turn to God in prayer. And, of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Then what’s the problem?
The problem comes when we drift away from God in times of plenty, when life is going well. The reason this is a problem is because God wants to be in a relationship with us–He doesn’t want us to treat Him like a genie in a bottle. That’s not a relationship, it’s a good luck charm. When I have a difficult request for someone I love, I will ask for that favor because of the trust we have established through our relationship. That’s like a prayer. But if I really wanted a red Ferari, and if I were superstitious, I might toss a coin in a fountain whenever I encountered one. That’s a wish, and it’s meaningless.
And yet we all have that tendency. When life is good, we are inclined to think, Look what I did! There’s even an odd little Bible story in Daniel:
All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. 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?”Daniel 4:289-32 (NIV), borrowed from YouVersion
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.”
Although I don’t believe that every time any one of us feels as prideful as King Nebuchadnezzar, God will take everything away from us and turn us into vegetarians, I can’t help but wonder if God doesn’t occasionally allow challenges to come our way simply as a reminder or instigator to turn back toward Him. But whatever the case, if we take a moment to reflect on our tendency to lose our hunger for God when life is good, I think we will realize that the root cause of this is pride. We want to take the credit, not give it to God. Or, maybe worse, we just don’t even give God another thought, now that we have gotten our “wish”.
There’s another, even more frightening story in the Bible about the outcome for someone who was too prideful. Ezekiel 28 tells about how Lucifer, a beautiful and powerful angel, became so enthralled with himself that God threw him out of heaven, saying:
Your heart became proudEzekiel 28:17 (NIV), borrowed from YouVersion
on account of your beauty,
and you corrupted your wisdom
because of your splendor.
So I threw you to the earth;
I made a spectacle of you before kings.
Yikes! I definitely don’t want to be like that guy!
And yet, every time we say to God (whether we mean to or not), “I’ve got it from here,” our pride is directing us away from God and into the waiting arms of the evil one. Whenever people in our modern culture pity us for our outdated (so they say) belief in God, their pride is allowing them to believe man-made notions about God over God himself–another detour directly into Satan’s cold embrace.
This is why our decision between God and our pride has such eternal consequences for each of us. C.S. Lewis summed it up quite starkly:
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, borrowed from GoodReads
The Way Out
This being a blog meant to encourage others, I can’t in good conscience end this episode on such a bleak note. Thankfully, God is always eager to shine light into the darkness for us.
So the question is, How do we avoid the pitfall of pride, which has sucked in the likes of angels and kings?
Well, one simple way to get started on the path around this dark pit is gratitude. When things around you are going well, thank God for your blessings! Do this every day in 2022 and your heart will be in a much lighter condition on this date next year than it is now.
As I mentioned in my article near the Thanksgiving holiday, there is really no point in expressing gratitude to “the universe” since it doesn’t care whether you live or die, let alone what kind of blessings you may receive. Expressing gratitude means acknowledging that someone apart from yourself–someone you are in a relationship with–is responsible for one or more of the good things in your life. And thanking God for the blessings He gives you is never a bad way to start a conversation with Him.
I have some shirts I really like that say “Life is good” on them. As much as I enjoy them, though, I wish I could modify them to say, “Life is good–THANK YOU, GOD!” instead!