Until Bill. Bill had a very high ranking and severely criticized me for bringing out my queen way too early. [If you’re not a chess player, cheer up. My illustration will be done soon]. I knew he was right, but he didn’t have to be so snarky about it!
When all of a sudden, I took my next move — and checkmated him! It was purely by accident. No foresight had gone into my move. To charge me with well-thought-out strategy would be a gross overstatement. One move. And I had him. Snarkiness and all.
He texted me something like, “Of all the dumb luck!” with a few &%*$’s thrown in for good measure! And he never played me again.
I just stared at the board, cerebral pride growing in my head. I had success. Against a much more worthy opponent! And I couldn’t stop looking at the board. I wanted to take a picture of it, have it canvassed, and mounted on our living room wall among all the pictures of the grandchildren (the wife said “No!” to my idea). I was successful. I had won!
In our post this morning we want to think about SUCCESS. We’ve considered how SUFFERING (both self-inflicted as well as others-inflicted) can get our eyes off Jesus. But what about when things are going well? When we’ve closed that big deal, hit that home run, remembered our anniversary (trust me, guys — you’ll only forget your wedding anniversary once).
There are many aspects of SUCCESS that we could think about, but the one that gets our eyes off Jesus is . . . PRIDE. Many biblical texts warn against ungodly PRIDE (there is a godly kind), a focusing on self and one’s SUCCESSES. For example, we read —
Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
2 Chronicles 26:16 – “But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God, and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.”
Psalm 10:4 tells us that “In his pride the wicked man does not seek [God]; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
Proverbs 11:2 reminds us that “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
When we exalt ourselves instead of the Lord, Isaiah 2:11 tells us, there are consequences: “The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.”
James 4:6 warns us of opposition from God Himself: “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’”
In a sense, ungodly pride is robbing God. We read in Psalm 31:23 “Love the Lord, all his faithful people! The Lord preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full.”
When we find ourselves in what some have called “the terrible squirrel cage of self,” we would do well to remember Proverbs 16:19 which says, “Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.”
We read of Lucifer’s (the devil’s) fall in Ezekiel 28 – “In your heart you became proud 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.” (v. 17).
But we must also remember that there is a godly pride which we should cultivate. Romans 11:13 has Paul testifying, “I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry.” It is right to speak or write words of encouragement to others, as Paul does in 2 Corinthians 4 – “I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” And there is even a text that tells us we can take pride in ourselves! We read in Galatians 6:4 that “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,”
“What do you have that you did not receive?” (I Cor. 4:7). Any SUCCESSES that we experience — if they are honorable ones before the Lord — ought to drive us to thank Him. We do not, nor should we, strive to be failures, but we must refuse to let SUCCESS turn our vision from the Lord to ourselves.
It’s easy to criticize a quote like the following from Bob Dylan: “What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.” But if “what I want to do” is to become more like Jesus . . .