“Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair.” –Blaise Pascal
I am convinced that pride is the root of all sin.
I also know and confess that pride is my biggest struggle and my biggest downfall.
I like to think I am right. Always. I like to think that my opinions, my perceptions and my thoughts are greater than they really are. I like to think that I know more than I really do. I like to think that I am more awesome than I truly am.
I am also incredibly grateful that pride is destroyed in the presence of The Almighty God.
He has shown me over and over again that I am – and always will be – learning more of who He is and who I am as a result. He is right. He is Truth. His opinions, perceptions and thoughts are greater than my own. He knows more than I ever will. He sees all that I am – all of my sinful, broken and selfish ways – and yet He loves me still.
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:6-8
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” – 1 John 4:9-10
He loves me.
Not by my own merit, not by my own “awesomeness” but simply because He does. I know it doesn’t make sense, but since when has love ever made any sense?
I continue to lose myself in this relentless Love. It is so incredibly wonderful that He continually invites me back into His presence even when I continue to be prideful toward Him. He longs that we “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” Hebrews 4:16. And we can do this because Jesus gets us. He knows what it is like to be human. Thank God!
May all that I have to say be in light of this Truth. I am humbled before Him through His love. I leave my pride at Abba’s feet as He opens His loving arms and welcomes me to climb up into His lap to sit and talk with Him.
I think the hardest part about pride is admitting I have been wrong, especially when it comes to my beliefs about who God is and how He operates.
So what were my wrong beliefs regarding God about Chicago?
- When He gives you something unbelievably impossible, He doesn’t want you to give it up
- He really doesn’t want good things for me
- In order to follow Him, I must choose suffering (ie whatever is harder or less tolerable is the right choice)
In retrospect, these thoughts seem so incredibly absurd. In fact, they’re not biblical. They’re downright lies. It’s good to write them out so that I am able to physically see the false beliefs.
Allow me to expound.
1. I spent the last quarter studying the Old Testament, both in a Hebrew class and in my church. Time and time again God provided things to Israel only to ask that they be given back to Him, or He just took them away so that Israel would acknowledge God for His power, authority and rightful place as their Lord
The best personal example of this in the OT would be with Abraham and Issac. The story goes a little something like this: God told Abraham he would make him the father of nations and that his descendants would outnumber the stars, yet Abraham and his wife Sarah remained barren until they were 100 and 90 years old! God then provided Issac, their only son, and then asked Abraham to sacrifice him as an offering. Crazy! (Genesis 15, 21, 22).
The best example of this is in the New Testament with the sacrifice of God’s only son, Jesus. God showed us that even He is willing to give up that which is of Himself, so that we no longer have to pay in death for the payment of our sins, but receive Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as the propitiation for our sins and be made right with God. (John 3:16-17)
So yeah, God does provide incredibly wonderful things – like an internship – and can then ask that you to give it back to Him. And sometimes His reasons are unknown, but that doesn’t mean you hold on to whatever He is asking you to let go. I think that letting go sometimes means you were holding on to the wrong things. For me, I held too tightly to job security and the hope that a future employer had to offer me. When I was able to release that from my hands I was then able to receive His hand so that I could follow Him.
2. In light of the last point, it may seem like God doesn’t want good things for me; however, perception is not reality when it comes to YHWH.
I have come to realize that my viewpoint is very, very small compared to God’s and therefore I can have absolutely no idea what “good” is from His vantage point nor can I comprehend the big picture that He sees and knows. I may think I know what is good for me or what I might want, but He actually knows and provides abundantly more than I can even imagine.
Jeremiah was a prophet in the Old Testament who tried to warn Israel they would eventually be exiled and disciplined by God for not following and honoring Him as their one and only God. He had brought them out of slavery in Egypt, provided for the Israelites in the desert and then eventually delivered them into the Promised Land – all good things. God wanted the Israelites to acknowledge Him as the one who gave them all of these good things and they ended up turning from Him and creating other gods of their own.
So God allowed Israel to be exiled. All of the good things that they had come into, all of the wonderful things that God had done for them seemed to be nullified during this time and yet in the midst of Jeremiah, God says the following:
‘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 a hope and a future. Then you will call upon 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.’ (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
He does want good things for you and me but those good things do not come before Him. The God of the universe desires that I come to Him, seeking Him with all that I am and putting Him above any good thing that He might offer me. He wants me to want Him. The Giver is far greater than the gifts that He gives.
In a sense, I had idolized my internship. I wrongfully placed that above God, putting a greater worth on the job than it deserved instead of acknowledging my Father in heaven who provided it for me. By asking me to give it up, He created a situation where I had no other option but to seek Him with my whole heart (which I wasn’t doing previously) and acknowledge Him as the One who plans my life.
Through this, God showed me a greater part of His Father’s heart for me. He knew that I would need to make money this summer; that I would not be able to live as a college student without some source of income for the next year.
And so as He changed my heart and my mind with regards to my summer plans, He also showed me that He longs for me to ask for good things – both things that I need and I want. I need to make money. I want to be involved in ministry and a strong Christian community. The old internship offered the former but lacked the latter. Chicago, at the time, only offered the latter.
By surrendering my old internship to Him, and offering up my desires to Him, He was able to give me both. He provided abundantly more than I could have asked or imagined and His plans were better than I originally thought – better than any plans I could have attempted to make on my own.
3. Even though I have attempted to break each of these down into separate points, I realize they are very inter-connected and so each one builds upon the preceding. This last one is not only a continuation of the aforementioned but also is a bit trickier in deciphering what is true and what is false.
If you have read any of the New Testament, you have most likely read something that Paul wrote and Paul was all about suffering for Jesus’ sake. In no way am I saying that this is a false belief. I strongly agree that suffering is a direct result of following Jesus and I would further emphasize that it is a natural consequence, not a choice.
When Paul addressed the church in Philippi, he talked a lot about finding joy in the midst of suffering and used Christ as their example to follow. The historical context is a noteworthy and crucial part of this book: Christians were being persecuted. Period. Paul was imprisoned for His faith in Jesus Christ – he didn’t willingly imprison himself for the sake of suffering; He was imprisoned and suffering because of His faith.
So it is somewhat true that following Jesus involves suffering at times, and suffering does not proceed following Christ. The order may seem to simply be a semantics problem but God has shown me that it is a crucial difference that I must understand in my walk with the Lord.
I do not have to choose the harder path or the option that will produce more suffering. I cannot even predict that at all, so I’m not sure what makes me think I could make a decision forecasting it. By choosing to follow Jesus – wherever He leads me- I choose Him first and foremost and above anything else.
Perhaps I am the only one who has these problems or false beliefs as a Christian and if that is the case, then may it be my confession and my learning experience to draw closer to God. But if I am not the only one who struggles with these false beliefs, my prayer is that God would reveal Himself to you in this more clearly than I can attempt to communicate through my feeble words.