I have learned some hard lessons in my walk with the Lord. One of the hardest for me, personally, was letting go of pride.
Some of my family may be reading this, shaking their heads wondering, “When did this happen?”
I am a trumpet player, after all, and trumpet players, especially lead trumpet players, are known for their egos. We like to play high and loud. There is no instrument more important than trumpet; all other instruments are there to support it. Let’s face it, no one follows a clarinet into battle. It’s always the sound of the trumpet that leads the charge.
You see what I mean about trumpet players and ego?
Plus, I was a pretty good student when I was in school. I learned the secret to acing every test: Give the teacher the correct answer to the questions asked. You’re guaranteed to make a 100.
Combine this with the fact I wasn’t a bad kid. About the only time I got in trouble was fighting with my brother. We shared a room, but seldom got along.
My perception of myself was I was right, or maybe I should say correct, in most of the things I did.
Fast forward to my decision to walk with the Lord in the mid ‘80s.
I never perceived myself as a bad person, so what did I need to do differently?
One of my first recalibrations came with Isaiah’s declaration, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6a).
No matter how good I thought I was, compared to the glory of the Lord, my righteousness was as menstrual rags (as the Common English Bible puts it).
I wonder if God is as offended at us offering Him our righteousness as we would be if some lady offered us her used tampon? I apologize for the graphic nature of the question, but I believe Isaiah wrote it that way to make a point. Nothing we do, in our flesh, will ever measure up to God’s standard.
The beauty of it is, we don’t have to. We can receive His righteousness through the substitutionary act of Jesus death, burial, and resurrection. If our pride will allow it.
It was challenging to realize: God is not impressed with whatever works I perform in the flesh.
Quite often, my opinions, attitudes, and sometimes actions are wrong. As I said, I don’t like being wrong. When I am, I can sense a spirit of offense trying to get ahold of me.
For example, when someone corrects an error you made. Hopefully, they will have the discretion to come to you privately and point out your fault, so you can fix it without the world knowing about it.
But what do you do when your error is in front of a group? Do you get defensive? Do you place blame or point the finger at someone else? Or do you simply “own up” to whatever mistake you made and move on?
We are admonished to, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
If you really want to test your spiritual maturity, see how you respond when the pastor of the church corrects you in front of the congregation. I’m not talking about sin; I’m talking about simply obeying those God has positioned over you spiritually.
One example that comes to mind, which I’ve seen repeated numerous times: A pastor may ask someone to sing a hymn for the assembly and, as they take the microphone, they begin with, “Before I sing my song, I want to testify to the goodness of the Lord,” and they proceed to speak, some of which may be testimony and some of which sounds like preaching.
But the pastor didn’t ask them to speak; he asked them to sing. And should the pastor point that out to the individual, how will they respond? Will they be offended and leave the church? Will they acknowledge their error and accept their correction (and next time, just sing!)?
“Brother Tim, the pastor didn’t have to correct them in front of everybody!”
Sometimes leaders must take charge. Sometimes correction needs to happen immediately, so everyone understands what the Apostle Paul wrote, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40).
I’ve heard stories of Kenneth Hagin, a full gospel, faith teacher, who would correct folks in the middle of a service. Charismatics believe in the gifts of the spirit and have no problem with someone giving a word in tongues.
However, Brother Hagin would allow no more than three people to give a word, because the scriptures explicitly say, “If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret” (1 Corinthians 14:27).
Imagine having the Spirit moving on you so strongly that you are compelled to speak a word in an unknown tongue only to be sat down by the one in charge of the service. Your response will indicate your level of maturity.
I’ve been in a similar situation where I had to swallow my pride and humble myself, taking consolation in what the Apostle Peter wrote:
“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you’ (1 Peter 5:5-7 (NKJV]).
Tim Hughes is a lay minister and elder at Ascension Life Church in Athens. He can be reached at email@example.com