Bob Russell1From  Written on November 27, 2016

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall”  (Proverbs 16:18).

“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.”  (Joshua 1:6)

Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards admitted to committing adultery with a campaign worker in 2006. He said, “I made a serious error in judgment. In the course of several campaigns I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic.”

That can happen to ministers also. We start believing we are someone special. We think we’re above the rules and become easy targets for the enemy. The apostle Paul warned about preaching to others and then becoming disqualified for the prize ourselves. (See 1 Corinthians 9:27.) We can all list well-known preachers who fell victim to an affair, pornography, embezzlement, drugs or alcoholism primarily because of arrogance. A haughty spirit went before a fall.

     One way to avoid arrogance is to embrace the humbling experiences God brings into your life. Instead of resenting embarrassing moments, welcome them as God-given reminders of your humanity and laugh at yourself. Years ago I preached a one-week revival meeting in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, an hour and a half drive upriver from Louisville. I drove up each night, preached and then drove home.

There was an eight-year old boy in that church who thought I was the greatest. His parents told me he just idolized me. He wanted to be a preacher just like me someday, so after each service he would come and stand by me and look at me with an admiration that, frankly, was a little embarrassing. He was really excited because on Thursday night I wasn’t going to drive back to Louisville, I was staying at his house and sleeping in his room. He couldn’t wait.

I tried not to let him down. Before we went to sleep we had prayer together and we talked for a few minutes. He was in the upper bunk; I was in the lower bunk. Then all of a sudden after a few minutes of silence I heard him whimpering, almost sobbing. I asked, ”Timmy, what’s wrong?” He barked, “You sound like a pig!” I realized I had fallen asleep and had started snoring. I laughed and tried to calm him down a little, but he would have none of it. He grabbed his pillow and scurried to his parents’ bedroom and spent the rest of the night with them. On Friday night of the meeting he would have nothing to do with me…the little wimp!

That was humbling. I went from being the next best thing since the apostle Paul to being an old snoring hog in a few seconds. God will bring people and experiences into your life that will keep you humble. Instead of resenting those people, welcome them, laugh about them—or, better still, listen to them. They may be just what you need to keep you from becoming arrogant and self-centered.

     More importantly, stay close to Christ. The Scripture records that every time someone saw the Lord in His glory, their first reaction was fear and self-loathing. “Depart from me for I am a sinful man, O Lord,” said Simon Peter. “I am a man of unclean lips and dwell in the midst of people with unclean lips,” Isaiah cried.

The closer you are to Christ, the more aware you are of your own sinfulness and inadequacy. That’s why the Apostle Paul wrote, “I am the chief of sinners” and, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of Jesus Christ.”

However, there’s a balance that’s needed here. Some go to the extreme and don’t take advantage of the leadership role God has given. God commanded Joshua, “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” (Joshua 1:6)  A wimpy, insecure leader isn’t going to be effective. Successful leaders have to be confident of their call and be willing to be distinctive.

When Joseph was promoted from the prison to the palace in Egypt, he accepted the perks that came with the position and used them to lead effectively. He wore Pharaoh’s signet ring, linen robe and gold necklace. He rode in Pharaoh’s impressive chariot with its security personnel. He didn’t confuse humility with reluctance. He recognized that God had gifted him and equipped him to lead.

When Esther was selected as the Queen she didn’t refuse to reign or take advantage of her lofty position. She acknowledged that God had brought her into the kingdom “for such a time as this,” and used her influence to save her people.

A general needs to wear additional stars. The orchestra director needs to be the only one with a baton. The President needs to be surrounded by the Secret Service. There’s a place for proper dignity, authority symbols, and leadership perks. The High Priest in the Old Testament days was to wear distinctive clothing. The Bible does say we are to respect those who are over us in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:12). A local preacher needs to be esteemed and loved. The idea of leading from behind is mostly a myth.

Spiritual leaders are most effective when they feel comfortable in their own skin and yet lead with a servant’s heart. The great stage and film star Sir Laurence Olivier was once asked what it took to be a great actor. He responded: “Humility enough to prepare and confidence enough to perform.” That’s the balance that’s needed in ministry. Enough holy fear to remain dependent on God every day; yet enough confidence in our Divine call that we remain strong and courageous no matter how challenging the assignment.

“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:5–7).

* Adapted from ‘After 50 Years Of Ministry’ – Bob Russell