Pride is the Key Ingredient to Personal Disaster

Pride shows the basic thinking “I am better than you are.”  Pride keeps us away from Jesus as it restricts the flow of His character in our lives.

There are consequences.

Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.

19 Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed
than to share plunder with the proud.

Proverbs 16:18-19

This was what Satan had done.  So prideful living looks more like Satan than Christlikeness.  Pride is giving yourself the credit for something God has accomplished.  Pride is taking the glory that belongs to God alone and keeping it for ourselves.  Pride is essentially self-worship.

It is easy to turn a Good thing against ourselves

Augustine said, “If the things of this world delight you, praise God for them but turn your love away from then and give it to their Maker, so that in the things that please you, you may not displease Him.”

There are a lot of great things to enjoy in life from people, places, and things. But those are always secondary lest they become idols. It’s so easy to turn a good thing against ourselves.

Take sports. Playing sports is good for us and teaches us teamwork and perseverance and sportsmanship. Watching sports is certainly entertaining and unifies people around a common team. At the same time, sports can fill so much time and take so much money that the church gets little time, energy, or money except leftovers.

Hear Augustine again, “The good things which you love are all from God, but they are good and sweet only as long as they are used to do His will. They will rightly turn bitter if God is spurned and the things that come from Him are wrongly loved.”

Our Worst Problem

“God, please help me with ______.”  We want God to solve our problems, but we don’t know what our worst problem is, the one responsible for all the others.  We don’t realize that distance from God is the most lethal problem we have.

As I read the Bible, relationship with God is ALWAYS the issue that trumps every other concern, and that relating to God will always, ALWAYS, be on God’s terms, not our’s.

God made a way for us to revolve our lives around Him, as our FIRST THING.  Everything else–our marriages, checkbooks, self-esteem, health issues–is a SECOND THING.  When the FIRST THING (God) is in first place, every SECOND THING will be ours to enjoy.

Hardships Provide an Opportunity to Experience God’s Presence and Receive God’s Comfort

We are so egotistical that we think we can be self-reliant. We think if we can just make enough money, buy enough insurance, and have enough savings, every future contingency will be covered and we won’t have to depend on God. If we can just get enough education, we’ll establish our own guidelines for right and wrong and we won’t need the Bible. If we can just belong to enough organizations and meet enough people and be popular.= enough, we’ll have plenty of relationships and we won’t need church.  If we can just invent the right medical procedures and the right kind of pills, we’ll be able to prevent diseases and pregnancies, and we won’t have to abide by God’s restrictions.  The whole philosophy of secular humanism, so prevalent today, is simply that people can rely on themselves.  But Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:9, “This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.”  God occasionally permits hardships in life to knock us to our knees to remind us that, in Jesus’ words, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

We all rem. our own thoughts and feelings on September 11, 2001.  I remember seeing President Bush and our other leaders praying for the country.  I even remember reading about Bill Gates and other billionaires praying.  These men and women all had money and power but they went to church to pray because there was no place else to go.  Regardless of your status or wealth or influence, there will be times when suffering comes into your life, and you’ll have no place else to go.  People need the Lord.

Not all troubles are God’s discipline of His people.  Many troubles that come in life are just the natural consequences of living in a sinful world.  Some people get AIDS because they disobey God’s commandments, but other people get AIDS from having a blood transfusion.  They haven’t been disobedient; they just live in a contaminated world.  We shouldn’t interpret every hardship that comes along as God’s disciplining us, but God can use any hardship as a means of developing maturity.

Hebrews 12:7-11, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children.  For what children are not disciplined by their father?  If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate children at all.  Moreover, we have all had parents who disciplined us and we respected them for it.  How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!  Our parents disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

When the hardships come, it’s important that we turn to God and not run from Him; we rely on God and not resent Him.

J. Vernon McGee tells what happened when he and some other boys got caught skipping school one day to go fishing.  The principal called them into the office and said, “Boys, I know you’ve skipped school and I’m going to whip every one of you.”

McGee was petrified. He had been a good boy; he’d never been whipped before. But an older, more experienced boy told him, “When he whips you, don’t run—he’ll wear you out.  When he whips you, as hard as it is, move a little closer to him, so he won’t have as much leverage and it won’t hurt as much.”  McGee said that was some of the best advice he had ever received in his life.  He was the first  to be whipped.  It stung like mad, but for the second blow he moved closer, then closer, and it didn’t hurt as much.

That same principle applies to the Christian life. When there’s pain, there’s a real temptation for us to withdraw from God, blame God, and get angry at God, but this only intensifies the pain. As tough as it is, if we move closer to God, it hurts less. One of the most tender moments in the life of a parent comes just after a child has been disciplined, and the child curls up on the parent’s lap to have her tears wiped away and her parent’s love reaffirmed. That’s the way it ought to be in our relationship with God.

Hardships are part of every life

The 2 greatest human needs met by God are forgiveness and comfort. Everyone is a sinner and needs God’s grace; everyone is a sufferer and needs God’s peace. Suffering is a normal part of every Christian life, just as sin is. 2 Corinthians 1:5, “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives…” Jesus said that in the world we are going to have trouble just as He had trouble.

Our culture today is trying to convince us that we should never have to hurt. Overindulgent parents try to exempt their children from every unpleasant experience. “I don’t want my children to have it as rough as I had it as a child,” they say. “I don’t want them to hurt.” So children don’t know the pain of discipline, the unpleasantness of hard work, or the disappointment of denial. They grow up thinking that all of life is supposed to be peaches and cream. When life gets difficult, they want to bail out. One of the reasons we have such a drug and alcohol problem in our society is that people are trying to escape suffering. They say, “I have so much pressure in my marriage and so much pressure on my job that I’ve got to find a way out. When I take these chemicals, I feel at peace; I feel better.”

Now we have an accommodating theology to support the philosophy that life can and should be free from pain. It’s called the “health and wealth gospel.” Some TV preachers will tell you that if you really confess all of your sins and dedicate your life to God, you will always be happy, healthy and prosperous.

The Bible teaches us from the very beginning that suffering is a natural part of every life lived in this contaminated world. Just after Adam and Eve disobeyed God and had eaten the forbidden fruit, God said to Eve, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.”

Maybe you’ve heard about the husband who was encouraging his wife throughout her intense 24 hours of labor. When she finally gave birth to a 10 pound healthy son, he said to his wife, “That wasn’t so bad was it?” She then proceeded to punch him in the face, knocking him out. The nurse needed smelling salts to awaken him.

Every one of us is here today because a woman suffered to bring us into the world. We’ve tried to reduce that suffering by anesthesia & by the natural childbirth procedure, but it’s still there.

The man was supposed to suffer, too. God told Adam that, because he had eaten of the tree, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns & thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food.” Every time we sit down to a meal, we’re eating because somebody has suffered to provide that food. All the automation in the world has not eliminated the pain of farming. It’s one of the most difficult jobs in the world to clear the field and plow and plant and cultivate and finally harvest the crop.

Working in a slaughterhouse is one of the worst jobs in the world. There’s the squealing of the animals, the flashing of knives, frequent injuries, terrible stench, and low pay. The meat & veggies we eat are on the table because somebody has suffered to provide them.

Paul used two examples in 2 Corinthians 1 to illustrate that no one is exempt from suffering. The first example was Jesus. Verse 5, “The sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives.” From the beginning of His life, Jesus was lonely and rejected, a victim of criticism, and acquainted with grief. If Jesus was perfect and He suffered, how can we expect to be exempt? God had one Son without sin, but He had no sons without suffering.

The 2nd example was Paul himself. Vs. 8, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.”

We think that pressure is a 21st century experience only, because we are under a lot of stress. But we probably don’t experience the kind of pressure that Paul faced. He had to work part time in order to pay for his missionary trips. He had physical problems that kept dragging him down. He was lonely. He endured the tension of constant travel and the disappointment of people who rejected the gospel. His enemies even had a contract out on his life. That’s suffering.

If Jesus suffered (and He was perfect), and if Paul suffered (and he was the most zealous Christian there ever was), then so will we. It happens to everybody. We’re no different.

A Confession Built out of Brokenness and Restoration

Sometimes I’ve heard Christians share their testimony how God saved them from their sins and they get real specific, graphic and shocking in their description of what they’ve done. It sounded as if they were boasting more about what they did than what God delivered them from.

Augustine’s Confessions aren’t like that. He writes, “I must now carry my thoughts back to the abominable things I did in those days, the sins of the flesh which defiled my soul. I do this, my God, not because I love those sins, but so I may love you. For love of your love I shall retrace my wicked ways. The memory is bitter, but it will help me to savour your sweetness, the sweetness that does not deceive but brings real joy and never fails.”

Augustine’s confession of sin is built out of brokenness and restoration. He tells of his sin not to enjoy them but to show the depths out of which God has delivered him.

That I may look back with sober reflection at my sin in order to rejoice in my Savior’s work! If we cannot see our sin as it really is, a black eye on God Himself, we’ll have no need to turn to a Savior.