Uzziah was only 16 when he took the throne as king over Judah. In the beginning, this young ruler “continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah and as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him” (2 Chronicles 26:5). As God blessed him, Uzziah’s fame increased throughout the land. And then this happened.
But when he [King Uzziah] became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God, for he entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense (2 Chron. 26:16)
A few verses later we are told the fate of Uzziah. His pride prevented him from heeding the correction of the priests and rather than humble himself he grew angry with them. The Lord struck him with leprosy, and this once obedient, God-fearing king who could do no wrong died a leper, “excluded from the house of the Lord.”
Pride is not just ugly, it’s deadly. It’s no wonder God hates it so much, and it’s no wonder all of Scripture seems to shout in various ways and means “Stay Humble!”
The number one reason people relapse back into their old sinful habits and addictions is because they fall prey to the lie that they are doing great. They may in fact be “doing great,” at least in the eyes of the casual observer, but the moment they see themselves as well and in control, look out. A fall is coming.
After reminding the church in Corinth (and us today) that Israel’s blunders and missteps were recorded to serve as warnings to us (like Uzziah above), he writes,
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Cor. 10:12).
Satan is waiting with outstretched arms and chains made of re-enforced steel to welcome back the one God had prospered and blessed who now thinks they can take the wheel. Friends, whenever pride whispers it’s seductive lie that you can take it from here you need to crank up some Carrie Underwood or something, anything that will help ensure Jesus takes, and keeps, the wheel!
I have found in my own life that freedom is a daily choice and the choice is this: Will I live in my own strength and power and might, or will I turn my will and my desire over to God. I must daily die to my self so that His strength, His grace, His power, His mercy, His spirit can manifest itself in me. Left to myself, on my own, I am a mess.
So how do we do that? What are some practical ways you can keep from taking the wheel back and do battle with this most deadly enemy called PRIDE?
1. Pray, pray pray. There is no other way. Print out the Mercy Prayer which is HERE and keep it in your back pocket or purse and read it and pray it every day, all the time. Pray it over others, yourself, your wife, your children, those who offend you, those you lust after, those you despise and those you cherish. Praying mercy for others kills the root of bitterness and strife within us which pride thrives upon.
2. Pray for humility. Pray not just for humility, but pray that you would love to be humbled. Andrew Murray, in his excellent book “Humility” (which you must read), taught me that I needed to pray for this queen of virtues. It does not come naturally to any of us, and must be sought. Jesus said we should seek the kingdom and his righteousness, and that blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Humility is to live rightly before God and neighbor. Do you hunger for this? Pray that you will.
3. Read. In addition to staying in God’s word daily, read books about pride and humility. Murray’s book mentioned above is a great one. The book I’m re-reading now, Irresistible to God, is another. Going through Fenelon’s Seeking Heart as a daily devotional is another excellent practice.
4. Seek out ways to go low. “Going low” is the opposite or “rising up” in pride. Throughout the day there will be numerous opportunities where you can go low. When someone says something that offends you, you can choose to ignore it and pray for them. When you really want to ensure you get in line in time to get one of the few pieces of cake left, choose instead to hold the door open for others. When your spouse has sinned against you and you just know you didn’t do anything wrong, be the first one to say you are sorry. The more you practice going low the more this virtue will grow within you and become part of you. Every fiber of your being will resist it at first (and throughout your life, most likely), but press on by repeating # 1 above.
5. Consider Jesus. I have probably preached or mentioned Hebrews 12:1-3 more than anything else this past year apart from 2 Cor. 5:17. It reads,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Whenever you feel like rising up inside (or presently are doing just that!), consider Jesus who, like a silent lamb who did nothing wrong, went to the cross for your sins and mine. I’ve yet to be faced with a situation where just one glimpse of Jesus suffering on a cross for me hasn’t helped to diffuse. It makes all my prideful assertions over my “rights” seem petty and cheap and gives me the strength I need to be obedient in humility. Does it sometimes hurt? Of course! But count it joy that we get to share in the sufferings of Christ! (Rom. 8:17)
Practice these 5 things on a regular, if not daily, basis and avoid the trap into which Uzziah and so many before and after him have fallen. Pride is not just serious, it’s deadly.
I’ll leave you with these words I have written in the front cover flap of my bible given to me by a great teacher on humility. Feel free to put them in yours, too:
Chad, you leave your first love and lose the filling of the Spirit by a judging, critical heart which refuses to pass on to all others the mercy by which you alone live. The love of lowliness and mercy defeats and destroys that spirit of emulation which is the love of achievement or place or plans.