Pride is a problem for every “son of Adam.” But lets be frank: it is a peculiar peril for preachers. Not only are we ‘leaders’, with all the potential kudos that entails; but we are ‘preachers’, in some cases standing quite literally above the congregation in preaching God’s Word.
Even in a small church, our life is lived under a kind of spotlight. In some cases people may hang on the very words we say. The potential for this inflating our readily-proud hearts is enormous. If a pastor appears “successful”, the potential for inflated pride increases even further. Equally, but more subtly, a pastor’s pride can be “wounded” in a difficult or discouraging ministry.
So how can we battle against our own pride? What follows are some “briefing notes” on pride that I’ve recently developed for my own soul.
Understand The Main Inducers To Pride
Inducer #1 – The Flesh. Pride springs from my own sinful nature. This means I am quite capable of feeling proud with no external coercion, manipulation or temptation. “From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits” (Psalm 73:7). Therefore, CS Lewis was correct when he wrote:
“If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.”
Inducer #2 – The World. The Apostle John tells us that the world is a proud place: “For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16). We can still see the proof of John’s words two millenia later. Successful sportsman, business people, politicians and entertainers all unashamedly talk up their own greatness. It is hard to stay humble in a world that is dripping with the honey of pride.
Inducer #3 – The Devil. Even as Christ is the trailblazer of humility, so Satan is the trailblazer of pride. The devil is full of himself. Paul warns against elevating a young convert too quickly, in case he fall into the same pride and punishment as the devil (1 Tim 3:6).
Observe Some Common Evidences of Pride
I assume that I will battle with pride until the day I am called heavenward. But the following symptoms are usually indicative that pride is ‘in the ascendancy’ in my heart:
- I feel pleased with myself when I receive good comments about my ministry.
- I fish for compliments, even using feigned humility to draw them out.
- I feel crushed at any form of criticism.
- I begin to harbor a critical spirit towards other pastors, or members of my congregation.
- I no longer feel my own need for the Word of God. God’s Word is always for someone else.
- I do not allow anyone else to minister to me.
- I feel capable and sufficient for the work I have to do.
- I talk often to people about my successes in ministry; I hide the failures.
- I never say sorry.
- I stop thanking God for everything.
Adopt Powerful Remedies For Pride
1. Consider the attributes of God, especially His holiness, and become undone (Isaiah 6).
2. Remind yourself daily, and especially on the Lord’s Day, that the Lord hates pride (Prov 6:16-17).
3. Ponder regularly the promise that the Lord gives grace to the humble (Prov 3:34).
4. Meditate long and hard on the humility of Christ and his death for you (Philippians 2:1-11).
5. Remember that all you have is a gift of grace (Eph 2:8, 2 Tim 4:6). “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Cor 4:7).
6. Decide as a matter of principle that you will never seek the high places in life – “Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among the great men. It is better for him to say ‘come up here, than for him to humiliate you before a noble man.” (Proverbs 25:6-7) Also very quotable is Archbishop Leighton: “Be ambitious to be unknown.”
7. Stop being a self-publicist – “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else and not your own lips” (Prov 27:2).
8. Be accountable, especially to your family, friends and elders – “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure” (Prov 11:14).
9. Periodically give time to self examination (2 Cor 13:5, James 1:23-25, Romans 12:3). Ask yourself hard questions about sinful actions, thoughts, words and motives. Ask the Holy Spirit to convict you of unconfessed sin and then drag your sin to the foot of the cross.
10. Make it a constant practice to boast about Christ and His cross. “May I never boast about anything, except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14).