James 4:6: “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.””
Men want and need to feel good about themselves. What could be more natural and more beneficial
than to feel good about yourself—to have a good self-image? But when does being proud of our position or accomplishments become a sin? Is anything wrong when our chest swells in pride at the home run our son hits?
Pride is a sin of comparison in which we compare our strengths to the other fellow’s weaknesses. In order to make ourselves feel better we put other people down, sometimes verbally and sometimes just mentally. The easiest way to look down on others is to pick out people of less stature and accomplishment. And it’s particularly easy to pick out other people’s weaknesses to compare to our strengths.
The subtle sin of pride beguiles every Christian man. The most invisible of sins, pride seeps into the Christian life like water oozes into the moat around a sand castle on the beach. It requires no effort on our part to get, but all of the strength to keep out.
The Bible talks of two kinds of pride. The first is found in Galatians 6:4: “But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.”
The key to this proper type of pride is to not compare ourselves to others. Rather than testing our self-worth by comparison to others, we are encouraged to self-examination. The Bible stands as the yardstick we measure ourselves against. And when we score well, we congratulate ourselves, but not at the expense of someone else.
The second kind of pride is the one that has a superiority feeling. C.S. Lewis put it this way: “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see something that’s above you.”
Jesus tells a parable to just such people, men “who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else” (Luke 18:9). A religious leader prayed to God and thanked Him that he was not like all other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers, and a nearby tax collector, but that he was a good man. And remember who went away justified by God?
Why didn’t he compare himself to Moses, Abraham, or King David? We pick out the weaknesses in others because pride is a sin of comparison in which I compare my strengths to another man’s weaknesses.
What is the answer? Humility! It is described in Romans 12:3: “For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
A cliché puts it this way: “Humility is not thinking little of yourself, rather it’s simply not thinking of yourself.”
The problem of fear
What are you afraid of? Do you have the job jitters—you think a pink slip may be in a wind? Maybe you work under the constant tension of a boss who seeks to govern via intimidation. Some men sense no direction for their lives, and they fear God has abandoned them. Some fear an uncertain future. Some do not have an assurance that when they die they will be in the presence of God.
Fear ad courage are opposites. Courage is defined as the state of mind that enables one to face hardship or disaster with confidence and resolution. Fear is the agitated state of mind that cripples us from looking any further than the hardship itself.
The Bible repeatedly encourages us not to be afraid: Matthew 14:27: “But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.””
2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”
1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”
1 Peter 5:7: “…casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.”
To be afraid is to not fully trust God. He instructs us not to be afraid., promising that if we cast our anxiety upon Him, He will take care of us. The Bible promises that if we trust God with our lives He will meet all of our needs and direct all of our paths.
What do we need in order to fully trust God? Faith! Faith is always oriented toward the future…we don’t need courage to face what we already know. It is an uncertain future that gives birth to doubts and fears. An old saying sums it up: “We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.”
The following cycle of fear is suggested from the story of Jesus and Peter (Matthew 14):
- Reality: We see the wind
- Response: We become afraid
- Result: We begin to sink
- Return: “Lord, save me!”
- Recovery: Jesus reaches out His hand.
Proverbs 29:25: “The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.”
Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
The Desire to be Independent
William Ernest Henley: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”
Jeremiah 10:23: “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.”
We are raised to be independent. From their earliest homilies, mom and dad taught us to be independent with our lives and to make our own place. Most men are taught to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. “Life is what you make of it!” we’re told.
We learn early that we can author our own destiny; we can be the captain of our soul, the master of our own fate–or so it seems.
Men want to control their own lives. Even if we were not taught to seek independence, which most of us were, our own human nature would pull us in that direction. We want the freedom to chart our own course. We want the power to shape the events of our lives. These are the hallmarks of our desire to be independent. But, in our effort to be self-reliant, we often break ranks with God and go our own independent way.
There is an abrupt difference between taking responsibility for our lives and trying to live independently from God. We are to take responsibility for our lives–no one will go to work in our place, no one will pay our bills on our behalf. The difference is this: Responsibility recognizes our part and God’s part. Our part is to trust God and faithfully fulfill our duties. God’s part is to provide for all of our needs and well-being. Independence rebels against the influence of God, thinking it can meet its own needs.
The independent man thinks, “I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it, wherever I want to do it, with whomever I want to do it. I want to be in control. I want to satisfy my ambitions. I don’t want to be dependent on anyone. People let me down. God will let me down. I can make it on my own.
“If I can be independent then I will not need to rely upon anyone else. I will not have to trust anyone else, and I will be able to avoid the pain of being disappointed and disillusioned. If I can be independent then I can be in control of my own life. I will have the power, whether through money or influence, to get my own way; I will have the freedom to come and go as I please.”
This desire to be independent, more often than not, disguises itself. By all external appearances our mate and friends think we are on the right track, but we often practice a passive sort of self-reliance. Not open rebellion, but we don’t really seek the counsel of God and often shun His advice–we do our own thing.
The opposite of desiring to be independent from God is to trust Him. The man who does not trust God trusts in himself and the philosophies of this world, which is the epitome of indepenence!