Another level of being nothing

1 Corinthians 1:29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.

1 Corinthians 1:31 …..He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.

Innate in fallen human nature is the desire to be great. The desire to be admired. The desire to be applauded. We learn to excel at many things to gain the accolades we desire. They become our life’s fuel.

And then….Jesus. When we meet Him it changes everything. In the fervor of first love we would willingly become less than nothing that He might be all. But then we gain spiritual knowledge and step out into some ministry or other…and well meaning people praise us. It is at this point that those old prideful desires make an appearance, and sometimes they become the driving force of our spiritual life.

We want to write the best blog, record the best video, create the most spiritually relevant posts. Our adrenaline level mirrors our “likes”. We begin to live for the praise of men, although we would never admit it (and possibly may not even be aware of it).

Until eventually we find that everything we’ve been giving our life to is wood, hay and stubble and Jesus is in none of it.

It is time to come to another level of being nothing, that Christ may be all.

Is that you, Haman?

The name Haman means “magnificent” and Haman certainly seemed to want to live up to his name. The first mention of Haman is when he was elevated to a position of prominence by King Ahasuerus. In fact, he was elevated above all the other princes in the kingdom and the king commanded that everyone bow and pay homage to Haman. That seems pretty magnificent. But it wasn’t enough for Haman, because there was one man who refused to honor him – Mordecai (whose name means “little man”). Mordecai was no noble personage or prominent dignitary, but Haman was infuriated at Mordecai’s refusal to venerate him. His wrath was so great that he not only wanted to destroy Mordecai, but every single one of the Jews in the kingdom. And so the plotting began.

He formulated and finalized his plan.  The date was set for the extermination of the Jews and the elimination of Mordecai.  And now he waited.

The plot thickens – what Haman didn’t know was that Queen Esther was also a Jew, and when she was made aware of Haman’s plans she began seeking a way to undo what Haman had done.  It started with a private dinner party for the king and Haman, with neither of them yet knowing the purpose, except that Queen Esther asked them to return to another private dinner party the next day.  Haman returned to his house that evening and his response to the day is in classic Haman style:

Esther 5:11-13 Then Haman told them of his great riches, the multitude of his children, everything in which the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and servants of the king. Moreover Haman said, “Besides, Queen Esther invited no one but me to come in with the king to the banquet that she prepared; and tomorrow I am again invited by her, along with the king. Yet all this avails me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.”

His desire to be honored by every single person overshadowed all else.  He couldn’t rejoice in any good that came to him because there was ONE person in the entire kingdom that didn’t honor him appropriately.

The next day all his plotting was exposed, Haman was hanged on the gallows that he had built to execute Mordecai and the book of Esther ends with the magnificent one being disgraced and the little man being elevated.

Beloved, pride is an ugly beast that will turn on you and tear you to pieces. If we are honest, we have all experienced a little bit (or maybe a lot) of Haman rising up in us at times.   We want to be noticed.  We want to be important.  We want people to think we are special.  But Jesus told us this: 

But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”  Mark 10:31

…but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.  Matthew 20:26

The servant of Jesus Chris does not seek his own honor and the building of his own kingdom. If everyone else is exalted and given a place of prominence, and you continue to be unnoticed, be assured that your Lord sees and knows. Any rewards, any reputation, any status we receive on earth will pass away. Heaven is the place for real and lasting rewards. You may feel like a “little man” but you are “magnificent” in Jesus. Maybe nobody else sees it. He does. That has to be enough.

Be Proud…..and Flee

It happened after this that Nahash the king of the people of Ammon died, and his son reigned in his place.  Then David said, “I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, because his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent messengers to comfort him concerning his father. And David’s servants came to Hanun in the land of the people of Ammon to comfort him.  And the princes of the people of Ammon said to Hanun, “Do you think that David really honors your father because he has sent comforters to you? Did his servants not come to you to search and to overthrow and to spy out the land?”  Therefore Hanun took David’s servants, shaved them, and cut off their garments in the middle, at their buttocks, and sent them away.  1 Chronicles 19:1-4  

Hanun was an inexperienced leader who followed the recommendation of unwise advisors.   When he realized that his treatment of David’s envoys had offended David, rather than sending a humble apology to the King of Israel for his error in judgment, Hanun instead employs the services of Syria to assist him in battle against David – a battle that David had not even commenced.  Hanun’s expectation of retaliation demonstrates that he knew he was wrong and had offended a king who had previously been an ally.  So he prepares for battle.

This is the strategy of pride.  It will not bow, so it must fight, oftentimes drawing others into the battle.  For not only is Ammon forced to flee in battle, but Syria suffers losses as they flee as well.  Needless losses, as the whole thing could possibly have been avoided by an admission of fault by Hanun.

What is more humbling than to admit you were wrong?   This is a thing hard enough to admit to ourselves in the secrecy of our own heart, much less to expose our error before the onlooking eyes of others.  We fear the loss of respect, the criticism, the perception of ourselves as being weak.  So we draw our shoulders back, with chin firmly lifted in defiance, and map out our battle plan….only to end up fleeing.

The Word of God has much to say about pride; none of it good.  While we live in an age that promotes self-esteem, self-pride and self-reliance, the Bible still says “without me you can do nothing”.  Nothing.  How’s that for an ego crusher?  But the Lord God does have a way of getting to the heart of the matter. 

To eliminate the stronghold of pride in our lives is no easy task, but it is a necessary one.  The struggle to be free of it will put us at odds with a society that cannot understand the blessing of a life of brokenness and humility. 

For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation. Psalm 149:4

When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom . Proverbs 11:2

The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. Psalm 34:18