by Matt Steltenpohl, Resonate Pocatello staff
About a year ago, I joined staff in Cheney, WA as a missionary on the campus of Eastern Washington University. Around the same time, I started to suffer from severe social anxiety. I never knew what severe anxiety was like and quite honestly, I had always loved speaking in front of people and leading groups. But one day, I went up to present something to a group in our church and my brain completely froze. I walked up with complete confidence in myself and walked down shocked that not a word seemed to form in my head. Over the course of a year I slowly began to realize that my problem wasn’t anxiety or even fear. My problem was my sinful pride.
Pride may seem like a weird diagnosis for anxiety, but pride shows its ugly face in many ways. At its root, pride is putting confidence in self and finding self more significant than others. Pride affects major parts of our hearts and keeps us from flourishing in community or with God. When we exalt ourselves higher than others, we put ourselves on the throne of our lives at the expense of others. Sitting on the throne means we must bear the weight of our expectations and the expectations of others including God. We become lovers of self and put down others in our hearts to maintain our self proclaimed status. Pride is the venom that kills our love for God and our neighbors that Jesus called the greatest of all commandments (Matthew 22:34-40).
The answer seems obvious right? “Just be humble.” But true humility is evasive when we try to be humble, because the more we celebrate our humility, the more prideful we seem to be (we all know that guy). Many even hit the other guard rail and begin to see humility as valuing self less. So what do we do? How do we combat pride when it seems like humility is demanded to genuinely love Jesus and others? To answer this, let’s pick apart the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the church of Philippi.
1. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” -Philippians 2:3-4
C.S. Lewis once said that “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less.” I would argue that God has an even higher expectation for Christlike humility. We not only think of ourselves less often, but we have confidence in God and because of this, find others as more significant than ourselves. Christ-like humility is interested in the eternal and temporary interests of others for God’s glory and their good.
2. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” -Philippians 2:5-8
Paul seems to make a transition here. His initial command for us to “count others more significant” is supplemented with the ultimate example that Christ gave. God had every right to enter the earth in His fullness, boasting in His glory, and destroy all that opposed Him. Yet in love for even those that were far off, Jesus humbled Himself to be born a man. Leaving His throne to enter the brokenness of humanity, He submitted to the Father’s will dying for sinners (that’s you and me) and giving them His own righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Our boast (or our confidence) can never be on our own efforts when this truth is known. How can we count ourselves more significant than others when God humbled Himself til death on our behalf? How can we compare ourselves to others when the God of the universe was made less than angels so that we wouldn’t taste death (Hebrews 2:9)? If you need help remembering humility, look to Jesus who modeled humility in His incarnation (becoming a man), servant life (washing the feet of man), willful death on the cross, and gift of new life to those that deserved anything but.
3. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. -Philippians 2:9-11
Jesus sits as King and Lord over all the earth. His humility and submission to the Father has granted us access to God and because of Jesus, we are called sons and daughters. When we understand who we are as citizens of the Kingdom, we celebrate what God has done in Jesus and we become like Jesus in humility. Jesus loved those that seemed less significant and so we love others and count them as more significant. Jesus submitted to the Father’s will, even to death and so we submit to Jesus, putting our confidence in him.
My problem is the fear that I can’t maintain the status I lay on myself. And the truth is, I can’t. I forget my ultimate identity in Christ and believe lies that I must earn status instead of resting in the status that I inherit in Christ. The irony is that the status that we claim in our highest pride is still so much lower than the status that we are given as sons and daughters of the King. Humility gives us the freedom to point to Christ’s strength and claim His perfection because our imperfection was nailed to the cross of Christ on Calvary (Colossians 2:13-14).
1. Repent: Personally evaluate yourself. Where do you feel most threatened by others? Where do you hope that others will fail so that you will have the best position or status? Where do you trust in your own abilities more than God’s and others? Acknowledge your pride and turn.
2. Confess: The hardest part for me was telling people about my pride. Talk to people you trust and admit that you are prideful. Ask for their wisdom, go to the person you covet and admit your sin against them. Bring all your works to the light so that they may be seen and carried out in God (John 3:21).
3. Believe: Build and disciple others in places where you are monopolized. Do you resist building up people to take your place? Take action in complimenting others and lifting them up when they do a good job. Take personal responsibility for your family on mission and the struggles others have. Ask for help often and welcome feedback. Take your job seriously and not yourself.