Down to go up

UCAN sharing: Down to go up

Scripture: James 4:10

And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Matt. 23:12

Humility: modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc. (dictionary.com)

Exalt: to raise in rank, honor, power, character, quality, etc.; elevate. (dictionary.com)

Doing something that goes against how we normally think is difficult to do. It requires that we learn a new way of seeing things and that we put this in to practice. Take playing an instrument like the drums or piano, to do so well one has to develop the ability to use your left and right hands independently. At first this is not easy and it may not seem possible but without this ability one can’t master the instrument. In our spiritual life much of the change that comes about does so not because we are smart and work it out but because God works in our lives often in ways we don’t even see to bring about a deep change that last. It is God’s desire to change us to prepare us to be with Him but often we think our way through the issues in our lives and we miss what God has for us. It is those who seek Him for the necessary power to change that really experience him as he lifts us. Only God can change us but we need to be willing to go down in our view of ourselves so that he can bring us up.

Recently two airplanes crashed due to several factors. The pilots of these crafts might have been able to save their planes had they acted completely opposite to what they would normally do. The idea of doing what looks totally wrong to us keeps us from considering that possibility. Doing something that feels or seems wrong is hard because our minds tell us differently. When Peter walked on water how difficult it must have been to take that first step and get out of a good boat in a storm at night. To our minds this seems unreasonable because we all know that man can’t walk on water. Here lies the problem with Christians walking in an overcoming life, we deny God because we trust in ourselves. We are prideful.

Our faith in our own ability to judge life gets in the way of receiving from God what he asks of us. Gideon had a fight on his hands against a larger, tough opponent. It was going to be a hard fight no matter what. God tells Gideon he has too many men and leaves Gideon with 300 hundred men facing about 165,000 men. This doesn’t make any sense and to our natural eyes it seems like poor judgment. We would think having more men is good so why let the others go home? We would want to try to make the odds as even as possible to make the outcome more favorable. Here again we see our pride because we would be relying on our own strength.

We need to understand that God is not working for us to do what we think is best. He is God and his purposes are His (Isa. 55:8-9). God tells Gideon that this is why he reduced the number of men for Israel so that no one could boast that it was by their power that they had conquered the enemy (Judges 7:2). Samson is another example of one who had pride. He took the power he had been given for good and abused it till he betrayed the vow he had made. God had done his part but Samson, confident in himself failed to do what God had asked and he suffered for it. Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall. Prov.16:18

So how does a person learn to overcome their own pride so that God can lead them to true victory? One’s own pride is hard to see so we need new eyes to see ourselves as we really are. Those eyes develop only as we go through trials and learn to trust God and his word at work in us. We can begin to see how weak and corrupt we are and how God is truth. We begin to see how great He is and how powerful His word is in doing what can’t be done. This means that God has to push against us and that life at times will seem bumpy and without power. This is just God’s way of getting us to a far better position spiritually than we are now. Note that God’s focus is not on our physical comfort here but more on what is inside us because He knows that this is what is most important (Jn 6:63). We are going to struggle and it is in the struggle that we learn the most. And what we need to learn is that God is God and we are not. We must gain a true perspective that God is far above us and we are fallen. This is called humility and today it is almost a bad word.

Our world tells us that to be successful we have to perform. We must excel above others. In excelling we must rise above others to show that we are better. In this process, we learn to rely on our own strength and reasoning since the reward is for ourselves. We are focused on self and defend it. With success comes the belief that we are good and able. We begin to believe we are better than others and deserve more. Stop and look at modern society and how it functions. From an early age, children are taught to win and get the best scores, do good to get approval, win the most metals etc. By the time we leave school we have learned that only those who are the best get to enjoy the good stuff of life. This environment fosters pride which is a natural characteristic of man. Consider the Tower of Babel (Gen.11). Man had reached a place where his pride gave him the motivation to reach higher and further. Man wanted to make a name for themselves (V4). The tower was to be tall so they used the latest technology (bricks and tar). Man had already learned that he has the ability to find answers and develop ideas apart from God. Man acts out of his faith in himself but it often leads to paths that cause more harm than good (nuclear weapons, banking, plastic bags). Here we see man expressing the spirit of independence from God. Today this spirit is alive and thriving. As Christians we must be aware of this and learn to contend against it.

The pride of man serves his kingdom. Men love to build their little kingdoms believing they will last but they don’t. Only God’s kingdom is eternal, holy and righteous and within it God is Lord of all. When man choose to turn from God he is expressing a pride that he can go it without the presence of the Lord of Creation. There are only two kingdoms, Light and darkness. We must choose where we go but if we choose God’s kingdom God must be Lord. Only God’s will last and gives true life that brings man to the place he was created to be. This message God has shared from the beginning of time. Yet man from the beginning has rejected it.

James writes in chapter 4 that we must learn to see that what we do is who we are and this reflects the kingdom we belong to. Throughout the chapter our love for the world is shown to be harmful yet pride, our belief in ourselves, lead us to this. To this end the author says that we are to turn to God and get cleansed and convicted. We are to allow God to speak and we are to listen as He through the Holy Spirit points out our sin. Our pride will deny and resist this to our loss because only the humble are given grace (V6). Grace is the power man needs to overcome his sin. So there must be a regular breaking of our prideful spirit done in love through the Holy Spirit. Only then can we qualify for God’s lifting. But is God’s lifting worth living for His kingdom?

No one can deny life’s hardship. When we least expect it difficulties arise. We may walk through them on our own but even small trials take a toll. Slowly the spirit of man hardens and finds life burdensome so we look for a way out but never find it. To this God sends His love message calling us to acknowledge that He alone is Lord and we need Him daily to be so in our lives. He then promises that those who seek Him and bow the knee He will lift with His power. This lifting is not the removal of troubles but rather the ability to go through them and remain standing. While others try and suffer loss we can walk through even valleys of darkness and overcome (See Ps 23). His strength becomes our joy. We all need this though some may deny it. Sometime in our lives we can’t go on and we need someone to lift us up.

God gives us an open invitation with only one condition, we move towards Him, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”(V8). Repent and I will cleanse you. It is all about the heart. Take time to meditate on who is running your life. We all have pride and look on others as lesser. Can you truly love if you have this in you? Ask God to show you where the pride is. Then decide to do what seems out of place, bow down and confess your need for God to heal you of your pride. Go down that you may be lifted up. There is no greater place then at the feet of Jesus.