by Rick Bezet
It’s not uncommon for a pastor to ask, “If you could address one thing in my ministry, what would it be?” Well, we could talk about growing a congregation from 22 to 80, 300 or more. We could cover choosing a great building location, hiring staff, keeping expenses low or developing a solid small group ministry.
I could discuss any number of issues, and I might have a few good ideas about some. But if I had to choose only one thing, it would always be around the subject of pride. Pride is the greatest hindrance to effective ministry, and yet very seldom will someone ask me to pray for them about it.
Though I have many examples of people who started strong but ended tragically (and you do, too) around the issue of pride, what I can do is call King Uzziah out on it, because he’s dead! As you probably know, Uzziah started strong because he was humble. 2 Chronicles 26:4-5 says, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.”
That chapter then documents his achievements, including success in battle, building towers and fortifying cities. He was a military inventor, as this chapter describes something like a catapult. We’re not sure exactly what those inventions looked like or how they worked, but Uzziah is credited with inventing them.
There are a few good takeaways I notice about King Uzziah in the first half of this chapter.
Get some real friends.
During the first several years, Uzziah sought wise counsel, staying humble and teachable before both God and a wiser man. He had someone in his life who was willing to be truthful with him. It takes humility to admit you don’t know everything. In fact, if you can’t do that, there’s a big clue that you may have a pride issue, which reminds me of a story about Boudreaux and Thibodeaux.
My friend Thibodeaux was struggling with being honest about who he was—well, maybe it was about how smart he wasn’t! Boudreaux and Thibodeaux were applying for the same job, and the interviewer said, “I can only hire one of you, and whoever scores highest on this test gets the job.” After thirty minutes they handed in the test. The interviewer examined them and replied, “You guys scored the exact same on the test. Boudreaux, you get the job.” Thibodeaux was furious and demanded to know why his friend got the job if the scores were exactly the same. The interviewer answered, “Because on question number 11, Boudreaux answered, ‘I don’t know,’ and you wrote, ‘Me neither.’”
Ok, I just thought that was funny, but if you want real friends, you have to be willing to be honest—totally honest about your struggles, doubts, and failures. I don’t just need people in my life who tell me I’m doing well all the time. No. I need friends who are honest with me.
As time went on, Uzziah got some success under his belt. It almost goes without saying that just as he sought God during the days of his wise counselor, he didn’t seek God when his trusted counsel was no longer around.
In verse 16, look at what happened years later: “…his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God;” That’s abou he strutted into the Temple, thinking he was invincible. He was famous; he was powerful. His focus was on himself. He was proud, and he was deceived.
As soon as he did the work set aside for the priests, he contracted leprosy. Boom. He was immediately driven from there and died several years later, alone with leprosy.
Uzziah’s pride created a blind spot; he couldn’t see that he was making a huge mistake. Pride does that; it produces deceiving mistakes. What’s the biggest problem with being deceived? It’s that you’re deceived! Someone who is deceived doesn’t say, “Oh, I didn’t know that.” No, that’s someone who is no longer deceived.
A chronic mistake is usually caused by a blind spot. Some say, “If you keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results, that’s insanity.” It’s really not insanity, because we all do that, and you aren’t insane. What it really is, is pride.
Look at Proverbs 27:17 – “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Is that sweet, warm and cuddly? No! That’s violent! It may be painful to have a blind spot illuminated, but it’s worth the zinger. Get some real friends
Be Thankful for God’s Grace
It wasn’t too terribly long ago that you were as lost as you could be. I was in Baton Rouge recently, and while there I drove by a former bar where I had spent time in my youth. I remembered my thought patterns when I was lost and what things were important to me back then.
It is healthy to remember the time when you had no revelation from His Spirit, no vision from Him and no real understanding of what the Cross is about. Humility works to remember the self from God’s perspective.
One of the most confident things that you will ever know is that God didn’t have to have you. To be a strong leader in God’s Kingdom, you have to be one who’s willing to be last, even willing to die. In fact, I’ll go even further: the Spirit of God wants you to die! Not the physical you, but the flesh in you.
So, never have overconfidence in God’s decision to pick you; you aren’t even the best at what He is calling you to. That being said, even though you don’t understand why He picked you, you still have to be 100% confident that He picked you! Just because He didn’t have to have you doesn’t mean that He doesn’t want you. Be confident in that.
Pay attention to the needs around you.
When you have pride, you have a need to be noticed. When you’re humble, you notice the needs. Ephesians 5:8 says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” And verse 15 ends it this way: “Be very careful then how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
The word “opportunity” is from the Greek word kairos, which means “favorable moments.” Favorable moments come and go, like windows of opportunity that flash before you.
Have you ever had a favorable moment where the Lord dropped someone’s name on your heart and you called them? Can you recall when you didn’t, and you remembered much later? You can still call them, but it wouldn’t be the same. Favorable moments come and go, just like in sports. If you’re going to be a good athlete, the right move at the wrong moment looks like you didn’t have the right move.
Pay attention to the needs around you, to the favorable moments God puts in your time and space. None of us are going to ace this all the time. I’m horrible at it. I think about my needs more than I think about others, but when I ace this, when I’m humble, it’s a place of confidence.
Stay on your face.
When I was about to move to Arkansas to plant New Life Church, I asked Brother Roy Stockstill, the founder of Bethany Church, if he had any advice. He said, “A man who is on his face before God will never fall from that position. Stay on your face.” That’s some of the best advice I’ve ever received!
My pastor taught me many years ago, “it’s not how long you pray; you just pray in the Spirit until joy hits your spirit. Then live there that day.” I try to make time every day to pray this way.
King Uzziah ended up not as the king that everybody studied all over the world for his remarkable inventions and military prowess. No, he was remembered as the king who died alone with leprosy. You see, you’re not remembered by your entrance, but by your exit.
So let me ask you some questions:
Do you have real friends willing to speak truth into your life, who can show you your blind spots? (Because you know, you do have blind spots; you just can’t see them. That’s why they’re called “blind spots”!)
Has any deception creeped into your life in any area? Be honest! Do you believe you’re the best at something? It could be anything!
What does your schedule reflect about your priorities? Do you let God interrupt your schedule? Are you listening to His prompting on favorable moments, or are you tuning Him out?
Do you humble yourself before the Lord daily, even first thing in the morning, before you do anything else, before you let your schedule start rolling? Are you on your face before Him?
If you do this thing right, if you stay humble before the Lord, if you stay real with someone you trust, you’ll hand your ministry off healthy, holy, and squeaky clean to the next generation. Don’t fight for the accolades, but for more of the Spirit of God in your life. He can work with that.
Rick Bezet is the Founder and Lead Pastor of New Life Church and author of his life message on authentic relationships, Be Real: Because Fake Is Exhausting, released April 2014. Rick is a founding board member and overseer of the Association of Related Churches (ARC), dedicated to planting life-giving churches across the nation. Rick also helps lead Relate Churches, a coaching program that helps pastors define practical strategies for accomplishing the vision God has given them.
Rick speaks all over the world, inspiring and training church planters and leaders; but his heart is always to reach the next one. It is this passion that evoked the development of the Arkansas Dream Center, which serves thousands of individuals and families daily in the local communities. Follow Rick on Twitter @rick_bezet.