Girlfriends in God - Sept. 18, 2008

September 18, 2008
The Spiritual Cancer
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth
"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."  James 4:6

Friend to Friend
I was born and raised in Texas, a proud native through and through.  Texans are commonly known for their boisterous pride in their state, and I am no exception.  I especially enjoy the constant barrage of jokes I receive because of my heritage and delight in their part truth and part lore humor at the expense of myself and every other Texan.  One story goes something like this: 

Two Texans were trying to impress each other with the size of their ranches.  One asked the other, “What’s the name of your ranch?”  The rancher replied, “The Rocking R, ABC, Flying W Circle C, Bar U, Staple Four, Box D, Rolling M, Rainbow’s End, and Silver Spur Ranch.” Duly impressed, the questioner exclaimed, “Wow” That’s sure some name!  How many head of cattle do you run?”  With a sad shake of his head, the rancher answered, “Not many.  Very few survive the branding.”  Very few survive the deadly disease of pride, either.

C.S. Lewis called pride a “spiritual cancer” that devours love and contentment.  Pride is a sign of our own insecurity and feelings of inferiority.  Pride and inferiority are actually opposite sides of the same coin and are both sin, a preoccupation with self that leaves little room for God’s spirit of humility.  Spurgeon poetically warned us not to be proud of “race, face, or place”.

We all struggle with pride and must constantly battle the tendency to measure every circumstance and relationship against the narcissistic viewpoint of “What’s in it for me?”  Pride has no place in the life of a Christian because pride steps between God and us.  To think that God stands in opposition against prideful people is a strong and sobering statement that should send us all running to the place of humility.  Because He is a loving Father, God opposes pride, in part, for what it does to His children.  “Pride will destroy a person; a proud attitude leads to ruin.  It is better to be humble and be with those who suffer than to share stolen property with the proud.” (Proverbs 16:18-19)  Learning to deal with pride is an important and essential part of spiritual growth.

Pride will prevent us from seeing others as God sees them.  Pride will hold us back from laying down our expectations and rights in order to reach out to those who cross our path.  Pride will slowly erode the humble spirit God so wants to see in His people and in their relationships.  I suspect that a good dose of humility would cure many of our failing marriages, broken family relationships and struggling friendships.  Then the question becomes, how can we rid our lives of pride and prevent it from carving out a destructive stronghold from which relationship problems arise.  The answer is found in a passage of scripture written by the apostle Paul and directed to the church in Rome.

Romans 12:3 -6;10 “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.  Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

Paul certainly understood what it meant to struggle with pride.  Before his encounter with Christ, Paul had been a man of great arrogance.  After all, he was a power broker in the Roman government as well as a highly regarded and chief persecutor of anyone following Jesus Christ.  Little did Paul know what the road to Damascus held for him that day when God interrupted Paul’s life with His blinding love and unparalleled power.  Everything changed.  Paul became a humble man, the walking definition of a servant, delighting in his new role of striving to be last among the least.  Paul understood that he was a trophy of grace; that his heart had been captured by grace and his life completely transformed in the process.  God’s grace was Paul’s starting place and finish line and the very reason Paul was so humble and so powerful.  It is such a paradox in God’s economy of life that in order to be strong we must choose weakness and in order to be first we must be content with last.

The amazing truth is that grace is ours for the asking.  God stands ready to pour His priceless grace into every heart and soul while watching grace work to generate an unexplainable peace, eternal life, unending joy, and freedom from sin through unconditional love. Grace offers us the riches of God, at the expense of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross.   

Pride’s goal is to make us independent of God, duping us into believing that we are in control of our own fate and are able to call our own shots. What audacity we possess as humans to think we can live life on our own when, whether we admit it or not, we are totally dependent on God and even our very next breath is a gift from His hand. Pride convinces us that we can play God, worshipping ourselves while erecting false idols shrouded in rebellion and sin.  Pride is the universal religion of hell and a deadly poison. 

A friend recently told me about a new product she found listed online.  “Disposable Guilt Bags” first appeared in a few select stores to test the market.  I could have told the creator that guilt exists in abundance and that people will go to any lengths to assuage their guilt.  My friend explained that you could buy a set of Disposable Guilt Bags, ten ordinary brown bags on which were printed the following instructions:  "Place the bag securely over your mouth then take a deep breath and blow out all of your guilt. Close the bag and dispose of immediately.”  The amazing part of this story is that the Associated Press reported that over 2500 kits had sold immediately at $2.50 per kit. 

Nothing on this earth is powerful enough to erase guilt.  We try to “fix” ourselves but fail. The only power that makes it possible to be forgiven is God’s grace.  “In Christ we are set free by the blood of his death. And so we have forgiveness of sins because of God's rich grace.”  (Ephesians 1:7)  When our lives are lived against the backdrop of grace, pride will die from a lack of attention.

Let’s Pray
Lord, please forgive my arrogant heart.  I am so sorry for the pride I see in my life.  Today, I ask You to search my heart and destroy the strongholds of pride and ego.  Help me to recognize prideful thoughts and actions in my life.  Give me the discernment to be honest and transparent before You and before others.  I, too, am a trophy of grace.  Help me to live like one.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Now It’s Your Turn
Read the following verses and answer each question:

• Psalm 10:4  “In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”  (NIV)  How does pride affect our relationship with God?  Is this true in your life?

• Proverbs 16:5  “The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.”  (NIV)  What is God’s attitude toward those who are proud? 

• Psalm 40:4  “Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.” (NIV)  How does pride encourage idolatry?  Do you have any idols in your life?  Name them and eliminate them. 

What decision do you need to make today in order to choose grace over pride?  What would that look like in your daily life?

More from the Girls
I have the honor and privilege of working with two precious friends who are godly women, seeking His heart and plan every step of the way.  Gwen Smith’s new book, “Broken Into Beautiful,” is a beautiful illustration of God’s grace at work in a woman’s heart.  Sharon Jaynes’ book, “Your Scars Are Beautiful to God” will lead you to the place of discovering just how much God loves you.  I encourage you to visit their online stores today and pick up these two life-changing resources.  Why not pick up a copy for a special girlfriend?

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Originally published Thursday, 18 September 2008.