Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Battle of Pride

I was out of commission for a few days with illness, but now we return to the topic of Obsession. We are reminded by Francis Chan, "A person who is obsessed with Jesus knows that the sin of pride is always a battle. Obsessed people know that you can never be "humble enough" and so they seek to make themselves less known and Christ more known.". Wow this one is hard. In my lifetime I have grown up in a society which rewarded those who make themselves known. Humanity has always fallen prey to the allure of the superstar, and the church has tragically not been an exception to that.

There is a need to elevate people in the church to a superstar status. Billy Graham, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, just to name a few. In each of the church circles on travels there will be the "superstar' of those circles. In fact by using the quotes of Francis Chan I run the risk of elevating him to a place reserved only for Christ. I have not had opportunity to talk one-on-one with any of these men I have listed, in fact I am not sure I have ever spoken one-on-one with any of those that would be considered church world superstars. Yet, I have a hunch they walk the tightrope. Having read and heard Billy Graham, I know he recognizes the places God has taken him, yet he knows it is not about him, rather the God whom he serves. I would wager a guess that most of these superstars would say the same thing. However, I am also hoping the battle wages.

The reason I hope the battle wages for them is selfish in and of itself. I know the battle wages with in me. I dream of being a pastor God could use on a national scale to aid in the transformation of the church. In my good moments my ambition is for the kingdom of God. In the moments when I struggle and begin to lose the battle, my ambition is for my own greatness. The reality is, anything targeted at my own greatness has one name, pride. I believe it was Paul who said it is not longer I that live, rather it is Christ who lives in me. This means our lives are not our own. Any opportunity we have is given by God. The fact that those ready these words are stationed all around the globe, is nothing that I can accomplish.

Another stark reality is in earthly terms, I am an overweight, average pastor, in a small obscure community in Central New York. Like many I struggle to get by and make the proverbial ends meet. My faith journey is a constant battle of faithfulness and struggle, often more on the struggle side. Again in terms of earthly clout, not even really a blip on the radar screen. Now before anyone sends me a message about my self esteem, realize that I know that I have value, and matchless value at that, it is just not measured in earthly terms. I get the awesome privilege to impact eternity on a weekly basis, possibly more often than that. God gives me opportunity to speak, teach, and live in community with others. None of that is about me, it is about the God who beacons me, and leads me. When I lose sight of that, enter pride.

Those who are obsessed with Jesus know that life is not about them. Our primary identifier is not our status, or our prestige. We are identified as followers of Christ. This means all things go back to Christ. While the battle is constant, victory can be won, but only through losing. We must lose ourselves. Not diminishing what God is doing with and through our lives, just not elevating ourselves. Not deceiving ourselves into thinking it is us who is at work. I will close with the words of Howard Hendricks, "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less." May we all radically pursue humility.