Leaders can often become their own biggest obstacle. When they start to see fruitfulness in their ministries, they may be tempted to make everything about themselves. This, of course, is pride.
Maybe you haven’t thought about how destructive pride can be in your life, but the Bible says it’s the root of every other sin.
Pride leads to conflict, prevents personal and ministry growth, leads to anxiety—and it angers God. The opposite of pride is humility. That’s the one characteristic I want to develop in my life more than any other. Leading a church is a heavy responsibility. It drives me to my knees. I cannot do it without God’s help. You can’t either.
Humility is a choice. It is something we do to ourselves.
So how do we develop it in our lives and ministry? Start with these five steps.
Admit your sins honestly.
We all sin, but the Bible is clear that God is ready to forgive us. Proverbs 28:13 says, “A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance” (TLB). I believe in the God of second chances. God gives second chances (and third, fourth, and hundredth chances) to the humble.
Evaluate your strengths realistically.
You’ve probably heard the saying—maybe from your own parents—that you can be anything you want to be. But it’s not true. If you don’t have the talent for a particular role, you won’t be able to do it. I could have never become a neuroscientist or an astronaut. I didn’t have the necessary skills. I could have never become an NBA all-star. I didn’t have the necessary hand-eye coordination.
To deal with pride in your life, you need to honestly evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. The Bible says, “Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you” (Romans 12:3 TLB). Pride is based on a false image of ourselves. Humility is based on a true and realistic image. Humility is being honest about both your strengths and weaknesses.
Enjoy your success gratefully.
Every day I remind myself of two pride-busting truths. First, everything we have is a gift from God. Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “What are you so puffed up about? What do you have that God hasn’t given you?” (TLB).
The truth is, we wouldn’t even have breath if God hadn’t given it to us. Anything God does through your ministry isn’t about you. It’s about him. Every church attendance barrier you break is about him. Every person who comes to faith in Jesus is about him. Every marriage restored is about him.
Second, one day we will give an account before God for what we did with what he gave us. It’s hard to be prideful when you realize that one day every one of your secrets will be exposed. It’s a humbling realization.
Serve others unselfishly.
The greatest antidote to pride is to give yourself away by helping others. It’s the only way to live more happily and humbly.
The Bible teaches: “Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing” (Philippians 2:3-4 TLB).
Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less. We need to get so busy serving others that we don’t have time for our own puny gripes and complaints.
Pastor, I realize you’re spending a lot of time focused on others. Service is at the core of your calling, but it’s always important to examine your motives. Are you serving others in order to build your ministry platform or to see people conformed to the image of Christ?
Depend on Jesus continually.
In essence, depending upon God is how we express humility. In fact, dependence is the heart of humility. God didn’t design us to be independent—but dependent on him. Stress often comes from taking upon ourselves what we were never intended to do.
The Bible promises great blessings when we are humble and depend on God. Proverbs 22:4 says, “Respecting the Lord and not being proud will bring you wealth, honor, and life” (NCV).
You’ll never get rid of all the stress in your life, but you can depend upon God for the ultimate outcome. Your circumstances don’t have to determine your response.
Pride isn’t always bad. There is godly pride and sinful pride. Regularly in the New Testament, Paul says, “I’m proud of you.” He was proud of the growth of the churches he had started. He was proud of their faithfulness. It’s a joy to see others succeed. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your family or your ministry.
But there is also selfish pride. Never forget, pride is the sin that got Satan kicked out of heaven. Selfish pride will wreak havoc on our lives and devastate our ministries.
Outwardly, you may be an extremely successful leader. But your success is not about you—it’s about what God will do through you. It’s about grace—and his grace will help you overcome stress.