By Mike Ratliff
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:1-10 ESV)
Over the last several days, perhaps even the last several weeks, I have been overwhelmed at work and in much of my personal life with pressure. As many of you know, I have a daytime job as a Database Administrator for a Hospital Group. I have worked at this job since 2001 and all has gone quite well, but it seems that something has changed. First, we have suddenly experienced some very strange system failures, which has made for some very long days in order to bring them back online with no data loss. Just as I completed this, a very vicious virus that has kept me working around the clock over the weekend and today has attacked our entire network. We are concerned that this attack is only preliminary to an even worse one on April 1.
My reaction to these things along with seemingly ever increasing situations designed to frustrate me has caused me to wonder what is going on. In the past I would have reacted to all of this with self-protection motivated anger coupled with a bit of despair with the words, “Why me?” on my lips. However, God has been moving me over the last several months into a much more reflective mode of thinking, seeking His truth, and applying it to my walk before His face, my coram Deo. On Sunday, I had found a period in which I was “caught up” and so spent some time in Twitter and Facebook. One of the things I like to do in Facebook is to fill in the top box each time I connect with “What is on my mind” or “What I am doing.” I typed in what I believed God was leading me to do, not just now and not just because of the pressure. In response to the prompt, “What are you doing?” I typed, “Mind renewal, crucifying the flesh, living at peace with others as God leads…” These are building blocks of a life that weakens pride and cultivates humility.
Contrary to what the world teaches, God’s standard for His people is that they be humble instead of proud. This is the opposite of what the natural man believes. Yesterday I read a post titled If you Truly “Love” Jesus There are No Boundaries For The “Christ-Followers.” In this post, we find that there are some “Christian” leaders who are actually teaching that for the professing believer there are no off-limit fleshly pursuits. As I reflected on this I found myself in great sorrow for the great insult this is to our Lord who died on the Cross in agony and pain in order to redeem His people from the penalty for the very things these “Christian” leaders are saying are no problem for anyone who professes faith in Christ. Then I compared this mindset with that of the one that is in total surrender to God’s standard of weakening pride and cultivating humility. You see, to take on this mindset as a way of life requires a realignment of ones values and priorities and many things must go, such as pursuing things simply to gratify the flesh. One must learn to love what God loves and hate what God hates.
I am convinced that no one can make any progress in weakening their pride and cultivating their humility without beginning at the Cross. As we reflect on the wonder of the Cross we will find our pride mortified. None of us are in any way worthy of this salvation. We deserve quite the opposite and we should all be honest and admit this as we survey what was actually purchased for us at the Cross and what that cost our Lord. If we will walk through each day filling our affections with the Cross of Christ then we will crowd out sin and pride. Why? Only the unregenerate can look upon the Cross and remain arrogant. If a believer is struggling with pride and continually finds himself or herself in the midst of attitudes, expressions, and actions that are the antithesis of humility then the answer is not to try to be more humble, but to come to the Cross and spend time lining up their priorities in light of it. To kill pride we must become Cross-centered.
I try to spend time at the beginning of each day in prayer, worship, and thanksgiving. I have found that I pray much better if my focus is on how grateful I am toward God. My worship is also more vibrant and real if it comes from a grateful heart. When we are thankful towards God it breaks up the hardness in our hearts, which pride loves. Humility grows in the fertile soil of the heart that is broken towards God and is cognizant of how undeserving the believer is of the gift of faith and eternal life.
I have found that if I am consistent with the time spent each day in prayer, worship, and thanksgiving along with Bible Study that I find myself not only broken towards God, I am also dependent upon Him for my all. My consistency in doing this may have begun from the motivation of learning the truth and seeking wisdom from God, but I have learned that I am also in this declaring to Him my total dependence on Him and my need for Him. I learn from Him in this and am lead into paths of obedience that always lead to me being even more dependent upon Him and His grace in order to live this Christian life for His glory alone. The arrogant believer is so because he or she is neglecting these things within this framework. If we pursue God like this, He will change us as He actually assists us in weakening our pride and cultivating our humility by crushing the broken soil in our hearts even more.
When we start each day like this, we will also see how imperative it is to let go of our cares as we cast them upon God. He wants us to do this. This is actually an act of humility to give up our control of what is putting us under pressure. We give this up to Him as we humble ourselves under His mighty hand by casting all our anxieties on Him (1 Peter 5:6-7). We can do this because He cares for us. This realization is humbling. When we see our great need in this and that to not do so is destructive to our walk, then we are indeed foolish and stubborn to hang onto our petty abilities to control these things. I have found over the last several weeks through this that the pressure is indeed there, but the more I give these cares over to Him, the smaller it seems.
We must start our days like this, but to stay consistent throughout the day completes the package. We do this by remaining prayerful all through the day. If we retain our petty control of our circumstances then we will find the pressure doing its destructive work in us by hardening our hearts and driving us to prideful despair. How silly is this my brethren? A prayerful attitude as we walk through each day is imperative if we are to make any ground at all in weakening our pride and cultivating humility. Notice that I did not say that by doing all these things the pressure will go away. No, it may not at all, but if we neglect these things because we are under such pressure then we are giving up the very things that God has given to us that will enable us to grow and mature in Christlikeness. God is allowing our circumstances in order to sanctify us. This burns away what is not of Him and replaces it with Christlikeness. Humility is the goal for God gives grace to the Humble, but He opposes the proud. Which are you?
Soli Deo Gloria!