By Basilea Schlink
"God opposes the proud" (1 Pet. 5: 5). This verse shows God's sharp verdict against the proud, for there can scarcely be anything worse than having God not only withdraw His grace from us but even flatly oppose us. Perhaps we complain that we are so spiritually dead, that we have difficulties praying, that God does not answer our prayers. This may be the reason. Because of our pride God opposes us and refuses to answer. Or perhaps we seem to be pursued by misfortune. We cannot succeed in anything we undertake no matter how hard we try. Why? God cannot bless us, because our pride has closed the door to Him.
The enemy tries to make every effort to keep us from recognizing this. For every time we do not bring our sin into the light and repent of it, he gets us in his hands. So in many cases he has covered up our pride. This hidden pride is the most dangerous sin. For instance, we cannot stand it, when people pay little attention to us and do not honour us, but pay honour to someone else. We cannot stand it, when we are not worth anything to others, because we do not have many talents or shining qualities or a charming personality. We cannot stand it, if someone reproaches us and humiliates us in the eyes of others. We cannot stand it, if we do not have a position of leadership and cannot set the pace. We do not realize that all of this stems from our pride.
On the contrary, we often feel sorry for ourselves, because people do not give us what our talents, education and capabilities deserve, or because we have to do work that is "beneath us". We feel sorry for ourselves, because we have not received the education or training necessary to carry out our job. Or we cannot bear the fact that our parents are uneducated, that we ourselves have not reached a prominent position. All these things oppress us and make us unhappy. We blame the external conditions, and we deceive ourselves about our real motives.
We cannot digest any criticism. We shut ourselves off from other people and may even think it is humility when we persist in this attitude, "I have to deal with this somehow myself". But in our hidden pride we are so mixed up that we cannot find the next step to ask for help and release. Our desire to have others think that we are especially humble and modest can also be hidden pride. We are too concerned about what others think of us. Pride can appear in many different forms. Only the Spirit of God can give us light about them.
Our hidden pride is like hidden poison, which threatens our spiritual life with death and will ruin everything in our lives. We have to make every effort to recognize our pride. By searching our consciences we have to let ourselves be shown the dangerous symptoms. We have to get to the bottom of this and ascertain which situation was difficult for us, because we were humiliated, embarrassed or overlooked.
Some Bible verses can help us get the proper attitude towards our pride:
"Every one who is arrogant is an abomination to the Lord.. ." (Prov. 16: 5).
"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Prov. 16: 18)
"The Lord abundantly requites him who acts haughtily" (Ps. 31: 24).
"What is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16: 15).
It is a dreadful verdict that Jesus pronounces in the last verse over the proud and haughty. They are an abomination to God. That is why there will be dreadful judgment against the proud and lofty in the last days (Isa. 2: 12) and the Lord "Will put an end to the pride of the arrogant, and lay low the haughtiness of the ruthless" (Isa. 13: 11), when He comes again to judge mankind. The proud can await destruction. No matter how high the price, we have to experience redemption from our pride. Otherwise a terrible judgment will await us. We have to be horrified by our sin of pride, which is one of the most satanic sins, because Satan is pride personified. The proud belong to his kingdom. Through their pride they are tilling the ground for many other sins. If we are not determined to make a radical break with our pride and to strive for humility, we will never be free from Satan's nets.
The Word of God gives us clear directives. First, "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God" (1 Pet. 5: 6). In practical life it can look like this: If we are denied an honour, an office, a position of leadership, something that our pride has been striving for, we must humble ourselves beneath the mighty hand of God. We must surrender our will to God; we must yield to everything that humiliates us. We must say, "Yes, Father", to the flaws in our personality, to our insufficient education and talents, to our family situation, to being a sinner again and again, to our own faults reflected in the behaviour of our children, etc. Let us say, "I thank You, Father, for taking pains with me and thinking up this way of humiliation for me so that I can be freed from my pride." If we call to the Lord in this way, we will find that God will answer this prayer.
Then the second thing that Jesus advises us to do: We should humble ourselves as Jesus did, the Son of God, the Lord Most High, at whose feet the angels fall, bringing Him homage. It is written; "Taking the form of a servant . . . he humbled himself" (Phil. 2: 7, 8). Now He is calling to us sinful men, who actually deserve nothing more than the place of lowliness, "Whoever humbles himself will be exalted" (Matt. 23: 12). Let us respond to Jesus' challenge by voluntarily humbling ourselves. That will help us to become humble, for when we go Jesus' way of lowliness, some of our pride will crumble. Let us choose freely a lowly position that will humble us. Whenever possible, we should not accept any titles or honours; we should not try to stand out in any group, or strive for positions of honour. On the contrary, let us take advantage of the opportunities to step back and let others receive the honour that we may deserve. Let us be quiet when we have the opportunity to draw attention to ourselves. Above all, let us admit our mistakes and sins to a counsellor, or to others when it is necessary, because that often humiliates us the most. Only true humiliations can really make us humble and free us from pride. Whoever becomes a "friend" of humiliations will find that they have great power. When they are accepted in love for Jesus, they are like a hammer that smashes our pride to pieces.
But it is also necessary to wage an intensive battle of faith against the sinful power of pride, behind which Satan stands, in order to be freed from it. We must act according to the advice of the Holy Scriptures and accept humiliations, but at the same time bring the bondage of pride daily under the blood of the Lamb, who has released us from this spirit of pride. We have to fight a battle of faith against "principalities and powers" without becoming tired and discouraged. We must fight in the knowledge that Jesus will be victorious, for He was victorious on the cross and redeemed us to humility. Then we will experience the fulfilment of God's promise to come and dwell with the humble (Isa. 57: 15).
Jesus could say that He was "lowly in heart" (Matt. 11: 29). What radiance there is in the life of a truly humble person: the majesty of Jesus Christ shone forth in Him, the humble and lowly Lord, on His bitter way to Calvary. Could it be that He who was "lowly in heart" would not do everything possible to clothe His disciples with this virtue also? He has the power to make us humble men who bear His radiance and majesty. For this He offered His sacrifice on Calvary. On the cross He trod the head of the serpent under His feet-the serpent who personifies pride. He is Victor over sin and the power of pride. If we call upon the Lamb of God, who overcame our pride, He will make us overcomers too.