Last week we looked at five ways the pursuit of self-glory shapes your ministry. Here are five more warning signs for you to consider in an effort to pursue wisdom and holiness. May God use these additional signs to expose your heart and to redirect your ministry.
Self-glory will also cause you to:
6. Care too little about what people think about you.
If you think you’ve arrived, you are so self-assured that you simply don’t think others should evaluate your thoughts, ideas, actions, words, plans, goals, attitudes, or initiatives. You really don’t think you need help. You do alone what should be done in a group. And if you work with a group, you will tend to surround yourself with people who are all too impressed with you, all too excited to be included by you, and who will find it hard to say anything but “yes” to you. You have forgotten who you are and what your Savior says you daily need. You live in a place of both personal and also ministry danger.
7. Resist facing and admitting your sins, weaknesses, and failures.
Why do any of us get upset or tense when we are being confronted? Why do any of us activate our inner lawyer and rise to our defense? Why do any of us turn the tables and remind the other person that we are not the only sinner in the room? Why do we argue about the facts or dispute the other person’s interpretation? We do all of these things because we are convinced that we are more righteous than the other person. Proud people don’t welcome loving warning, rebuke, confrontation, criticism, or accountability. And when they fail, they are very good at erecting plausible reasons for what they said or did given the stresses of the situation or relationship.
Are you quick to admit weakness? Are you ready to own your failures before God and others? Are you ready to face your weaknesses with humility? Remember, if the eyes or ears of a ministry partner ever see or hear your sin, weakness, or failure, it is never a hassle, never a ministry interruption, and it should never be viewed as an affront. It is always grace. God loves you, he has put you in this community of faith, and he will reveal your spiritual needs to those around you so they may be his tools of conviction, rescue, and transformation.
8. Struggle with the blessings of others.
Self-glory is always at the base of envy. You envy others’ blessings because you see them as less deserving than you. And because you see yourself as more deserving, it is hard for you not to be mad that they get what you deserve, and it is nearly impossible for you not to crave and covet what they wrongfully enjoy. In you envious self-glory, you are actually charging God with being unjust and unfair. In ways you may not be aware, you begin to be comfortable with doubting God’s wisdom, justice, and goodness. You don’t think he has been kind to you in the way you deserve. This begins to rob you of motivation to do what is right, because it doesn’t seem to make any difference. It is important to recognize that there is a short step between envy and bitterness. That’s why envious Asaph cries in Psalm 73:13, “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.” He’s saying, “I’ve obeyed, and this is what I get?” Then he writes, “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast before you.” What a word picture—a bitter beast!
I have met many bitter pastors; men convinced they have endured hardships they really didn’t deserve. I have met many bitter pastors, envious of others’ ministries, who have lost their motivation and joy. I have met many pastors who have come to doubt the goodness of God. And you don’t tend to run for help, in your time of need, to someone you have come to doubt.
9. Be more position oriented than submission oriented.
Self-glory will always make you more oriented to place, power, and position than in submission to the will of the King. You see this in the lives of the disciples. Jesus hadn’t called them to himself to make their little kingdom purposes come true, but to welcome them as recipients and instruments of a better kingdom. Yet in their pride, they missed the whole point. They were all too oriented to the question of who would be greatest in the kingdom.
You can never fulfill your ambassadorial calling and want the power and position of a king. Position orientation will cause you to be political when you should be pastoral. It will cause you to require service when you should be willing to serve. It will cause you to demand of others what you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself. It will cause you to ask for privilege when you should be willing to give up your rights. It will cause you to think too much about how things will affect you, rather than thinking of how things will reflect on Christ. It will cause you to want to set the agenda, rather than finding joy in submitting to the agenda of Another. Self-glory turns those who have been chosen and called to be ambassadors into self-appointed kings.
10. Control ministry rather than delegate ministry.
When you are full of yourself, when you are too self-assured, you will tend to think you’re the most capable person in the circle of your ministry. You will find it hard to recognize and esteem the God-given gifts of others, and because you do, you will find it hard to make ministry a community process. Thinking of yourself more highly than you ought always leads to looking down on others.
Personal humility and neediness will cause you to seek out and esteem the gifts and contributions of others. Pastors who think they have arrived tend to see delegation as a waste of time. In their hearts they think, Why should I give to another what I could do better myself? Pastoral pride will crush shared ministry and the essential ministry of the body of Christ.
Personal Grief and Remorse
It is important for me to say that I have written these cautions with personal grief and remorse. In shocking self-glory I have fallen, at some time in my ministry, into all of these traps. I have dominated when I should have listened. I have controlled what I should have given to others. I have been defensive when I desperately needed rebuke. I have resisted help when I should have been crying out for it. I have been too full of my own opinions and too dismissive of the perspective of others.
I am saddened as I reflect on my many years of ministry, but I am not depressed. Because in all my weakness, the God of amazing grace has rescued and restored me again and again. He has progressively delivered me from me (a work that is ongoing). And in being torn between the kingdom of self and the kingdom of God, he has miraculously used me in the lives of many others. In love, he has worked to dent and deface my glory so that his glory would be my delight. He has plundered my kingdom so that his kingdom would be my joy. And he has crushed my crown under his feet so that I would quest to be an ambassador and not crave to be a king.
In this violent mercy there is hope for everyone. Your Lord is not just after the success of your ministry; he is working to dethrone you as well. Only when his throne is more important than yours will you find joy in the hard and humbling task of gospel ministry. And his grace will not relent until our hearts have been fully captured by his glory. That’s good news!