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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Pride vs. Humility

By Ken Horn
Sept. 15, 2013

In the green room at a large conference, a cup of coffee preached a message to me ... and to anyone else who noticed.

Several of the big-name speakers had gathered in the room, and refreshments were available. Speakers came and went based on their times of arrival, ministry and departure. Support personnel mingled with the speakers. When a well-known megachurch pastor arrived and took a seat, a quiet, unimposing man asked if he could get the minister something. Soon this man was serving coffee to the recent arrival.

What was important in this scenario was the identity of the man who acted as a servant. He was a pastor from a nation where Christians are severely persecuted for their faith. And his church’s 60,000 people in 38 locations dwarfed the size of the church of the pastor he had served.

This host pastor had clearly demonstrated the message of Matthew 23:11: “Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant” (The Message). Though I’m sure this man thought he had been unobserved, I certainly noticed.

Stepping down and becoming a servant is the gateway to satisfied humility. The very act of doing what you need to do to stand out from the crowd will cause you to no longer desire the recognition. If such service is offered with the hope of being seen, it is hypocrisy, a sin Jesus attacked vigorously.

I saw another example of humble service when I was in Afghanistan several years ago. I had the privilege of traveling with some missions leaders, including John Bueno, who was executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions at the time (he served from 1997-2011).

We were on the Shamali Plains in a village that had been bombed by the Taliban. Some youngsters were wheeling a large skin of water across the muddy terrain when their wheelbarrow tipped over and the heavy container hit the ground. The youngsters were wrestling it unsuccessfully in an attempt to get the heavy container back up onto the wheelbarrow when, suddenly, John was gone like a shot.

John grabbed the skin of water and successfully helped the youngsters lift it into the wheelbarrow. Then, he grabbed the handles and was off, pushing the wheelbarrow for them. He didn’t stop until he reached their intended destination a few hundred feet away.

Some leaders of large organizations specialize in flying in for photo ops. John’s servant spirit was evident in a remote Afghani village, and it certainly was not done to be seen.

The bottom line

James 4:10 is the bottom line: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (NKJV). You don’t humble yourself in order to be lifted up. Rather, it is a byproduct of your humility ... and if it is true humility, it will be enough that you do it “in the sight of the Lord,” so only He sees it.

The explosive Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, to which most Pentecostals trace their roots, provides another superb example of humility — demonstrated by the leader of that revival. It is noteworthy that the man most associated with the explosion of modern Pentecost did not conduct himself as many prominent Pentecostals have since that time.

William J. Seymour was a self-effacing leader, never interested in being given credit for anything. The Apostolic Faith revival paper didn’t even carry Seymour’s name or image. He did not guard his pulpit time jealously, but freely shared speaking duties with others.

Seymour’s salary and standard of living were modest. Offerings were faithfully directed to ministry rather than personal enrichment.

But every humble coin has a flip side.

The flip side

The Bible is clear about humility and its opposite, pride: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:3). Yes, you should feel good about yourself. You can do that when you’re in God’s will. Obedience works wonders. Our self-image should look more like Christ’s image every day (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The Bible tells us we are all unworthy, but at the same time exceedingly valuable — eternal souls made in the image of God. It frequently mentions pride, the fountainhead of all sin. It doesn’t teach self-condemnation, but neither does it teach unconditional self-acceptance.

A person should never be encouraged to come to a place of self-acceptance until he or she has been accepted by God. The unconditional love of God is given to all (Romans 5:8), but He does not accept sinners until they receive His Son, and He does not accept sin in the life of a believer.

Lording over others

What does God think of those who trample others on their way to the top? Such behavior even happens in the ministry. Pastors were warned against self-serving motives in the New Testament: “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2,3).

The kind of leader who ignores this warning cares about people only as they can be useful to him and tramples those who get in his way.

A leader who is constantly pointing out his own successes succeeds only at drawing attention to his proud spirit. “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2, NIV).

And the sin is just as great when the leader puts someone else up to it, using a “mouthpiece” to heap praise upon himself. These hollow victories have him puffing out his chest in public while in his innermost being he is a phony, a spiritual pipsqueak.

But the many examples of strong leaders who have resisted pride and remained humble, including those we have discussed, are pleasing to God.

“To whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48, NKJV).

Revival necessity

Even before the outbreak at Azusa Street in 1906, an evangelist’s prayer for humility during a meeting in South Wales helped spark the beginnings of a Welsh national revival. Seth Joshua was the evangelist who, at the close of a meeting, called people to the altar and spontaneously prayed, “Lord, bend us.” When the lean form of the young Evan Roberts knelt at the front, he prayed fervently, “Lord, bend me.” The newborn revival had its theme — “Bend the Church and save the world.”

The Welsh Revival of 1904 and 1905 is less known in our ranks than the Pentecostal outpourings at the beginning of the 20th century. But it accounted for an estimated 100,000 souls who came to Christ, the number Roberts had prayed for from the beginning of the revival.

An earlier revivalist, Jonathan Edwards, knew why revival has such a tendency to follow humility. “Nothing sets a person so much out of the devil’s reach as humility,” he said.

Andrew Murray put it this way: “Water always fills the lowest places first. The lower ... a man lies before God, the speedier and the fuller the inflow of the divine glory will be.”

God answered Evan Roberts’ prayer, “Lord, bend me,” because Roberts was willing to be bent. God also answered the nation’s cry, “Lord, bend us.”

Roberts put Christ first; he humbled himself throughout his public and private ministry. And he left revivalism a legacy that we must heed today: Humility is part and parcel of a genuine move of God.

It is safe to say that relatively few have followed the Evan Roberts model. Are we willing to be bent? Can we pray with sincerity, “Lord, bend us”? Whether or not we have genuine revival depends on the answer to that question.

Our choices

Two choices are clearly set before us in the words of Scripture:

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10).

Luke 14:11 puts both choices in one verse: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (NIV). The Bible’s message to the Christian is not to pursue humility in order to gain recognition. That’s not really an achievable goal. “I am the most humble of them all!” doesn’t sound quite right. “Climbing the ladder” is a foreign concept to the truly humble believer.

Being Christlike reorders one’s priorities, putting the welfare of others before one’s own. Ultimately, this means making the glory of God the overarching motivation for everything we do. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Do this, and you will have mastered pride and made humility part and parcel of your character. One does not strive after humility, but after God, and by doing so achieves a state that cannot be achieved by a program of self-improvement.

In all our striving for growth, success and maturity in life, the real prize is one all of us have had earlier in life: “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4).

KEN HORN is editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.


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