Those who cling to vain idols leave behind the gracious love that could have been theirs. –Jonah 2:8
“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” –1 Peter 5:5
Picture: God calls us all clay pots, so where is our reason for boasting.
WHEN GOD’S LESSONS COST US
Driving to work one morning, I zig-zagged through unexpected backed-up traffic. I thanked God for finally getting me to work as I conveniently parked behind a line of cars on a side street. I didn’t park in the parking lot, my usual spot, because it was difficult to get into because of a line of cars and I couldn’t afford to wait.
After work, while walking back to that side street, I noticed a long white slip under my windshield wiper.
“Oh, nooooo! No, no, no, no, no…”
Yup, I got a ticket that day for parking in a no-parking zone. Funny, people had parked there this morning and I followed their lead. Now, in the stark afternoon light, I was the only car parked in that section, with a white slip judging me for not having been more careful.
For some time now, I had been saving money any way I could for the next thing God had in store for me. Saving three dollars here, ten dollars there, saving on food costs, not eating out, saving on my mortgage payments by paying early–it all was becoming a strategic game for me.
And, now I had to pay on this parking ticket! (Well, there goes all the money I had already tried to save.)
God always gets my attention when money’s involved. What lessons did I have to learn here? What was He trying to tell me?
FULL OF OURSELVES OR FULL OF GOD?
He showed me I had been trying to save this money as if it all depended on me. Ironically, losing that money gave me a new perspective and set me free from the tight hold I had on everything!
My Heavenly Father let me know I couldn’t save enough pennies on my own, to let it go and that he could change my situation in a moment and pay for the whole thing (meaning the future things He had in store for me).
I got the message. But, as I drove home, every once in a while, I’d wince at the amount of money it took to teach me this lesson.
Instead of humbling myself and depending on God for my provision, I had put my trust in my own ability to save money and make it work. I forfeited the love, mercy and grace God wanted to give me by trusting in my own wisdom and efforts.
I may not have wanted to amass a fortune and buy all these material goods, but, in some small way, money had still become an idol in my life.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with responsibly saving money for what you want to buy and/or do, but I was taking it too far. It was starting to turn into fear, unnecessary restrictions, control and bondage. God wanted me to save money appropriately from a free heart.
Sometimes, God has to upset our sand castles, so He could give us something better.
OUR BOASTING CROWDS OUT GOD
In a similar way, boasting in ourselves blocks our capacity to express God’s image and to speak His words. When we’re so full of ourselves, we can’t be full of God! When we put our trust in ourselves, God steps back and says, “Okay, even though it grieves my heart, I will allow it. You do it then.”
As someone who likes to write, Paul’s testimony of not relying on wise and persuasive words challenges me. He didn’t want his words to rest on man’s wisdom, but on the Spirit’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5) When engaged in boasting, how much more do our words put a spotlight on us and our attributes rather than God?
Paul didn’t want anything of himself to obscure both Christ and His message. Paul was a brilliant man who not only had an extensive knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures, but he also was “caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.” (2 Corinthians 12:4) In other words, Paul not only had a history of information, but he also had revelation. If anyone had a right to boast, it was Paul. He even says as much in his testimony.
Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. –2 Corinthians 12:6-10
God had to send him “a thorn in his flesh” to keep him from being conceited, due to the abundance of revelation God had given him. God intervened in Paul’s case, just like he did in mine, so that Paul would rely upon God’s grace, instead of on himself.
ME, BOASTFUL?… NEVER!
Recently, somebody told me it seemed like I was boasting about myself in a certain area.
It wasn’t an accusation, but more of an observation she had made.
As she continued to speak, I felt like a dog with its hair slowly raising on its backside.
What, me? Boastful. I’m just trying to explain who I am. What’s wrong with that?
It took me a while, but a soberness came over me. I started reflecting… Am I boastful? Am I proud? Am I arrogant?
“Uh… maybe, you could be ri—ght.”
I never saw myself that way. But, my words in that area had betrayed my own perception of myself as a modest person.
BOASTING: PRIDE EXPRESSING ITSELF THROUGH OUR WORDS
In the simplest terms:
To boast means to praise oneself excessively.
Like in my story, boasting in ourselves is not something we’re always aware of, but through our words we may, with or without intending to, try to give others a high opinion of ourselves.
Bottom line: we’re either going to make our boast in God or our boast in ourselves. At any given time, I can give others a high opinion of God or myself.
I prefer to give people a high opinion of God, since I don’t have the power to save or redeem anyone. God can use me to bless others, but I don’t have any room to boast, since everything good I have comes from Him anyways.
JESUS, BE LIFTED HIGH
Jesus declared to the people, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32)
Yes, in this verse, Jesus foreshadows his death by crucifixion. But, I also see this verse metaphorically. Whenever we lift up Jesus, and give others a high opinion of Him, then people will be drawn to Him.
Otherwise, we can divert attention away from Jesus and draw people to ourselves through our own boasting.
GOD WILL UPEND OUR BOASTING
For this reason, God nullifies human boasting at every turn to bring glory to His Son, but also to keep us humble and dependent on our Father. (Based on 1 Corinthians 1:27-29)
- He’s chosen the foolish things to confound the wise.
- He’s chosen the weak things to confound the mighty.
- He’s chosen the despised things, and the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.
Why does God do all of this confounding?
…so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. –1 Corinthians 1:29
Paul goes so far as to write to the Corinthians who made their boast in people, in wise-sounding words and in their spiritual gifts:
Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. –1 Corinthians 3:18
Ouch! We, human beings, ever since the Garden of Eden, have that tendency to make ourselves out to be gods.
GOD SHINES THROUGH OUR WEAK AND BROKEN PLACES
As a result, God keeps us from pride and boasting by breaking us. The Great Potter loves us dearly, but sees us as cracked clay pots. Because of who He is, He’s still able to use us for noble purposes, despite our flaws and weaknesses.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 2 Corinthians 4:7-12
WHEN GOD LOVINGLY DEALS WITH YOU, PUT DOWN YOUR CLENCHED FIST
We want to have God’s strength and glory revealed in our weak humanity. To do otherwise is to try to appear more than human, but actually be less than human. Let me explain. To boast is to plaster over our human flaws and cracks to make them appear nonexistent. It’s fallen human nature to cover over the things in us we don’t like so as to appear stronger and better. When God rightfully came to judge His people for their sins, the destruction of their cities caused them to reinforce their own fleshly efforts. They boasted they’d come out even stronger, despite God coming against their pride to call them to repentance.
All the people will know it—
Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria—
who say with pride
and arrogance of heart,
“The bricks have fallen down,
but we will rebuild with dressed stone;
the fig trees have been felled,
but we will replace them with cedars.” –Isaiah 9:9-10
INSTEAD OF BOASTING, WE MUST HUMBLE OURSELVES BEFORE GOD
With our fallen natures, it’s inevitable we’ll be tempted towards pride, arrogance and boasting. What will we do when God tries to address those areas in our lives? Will we harden our hearts and make sure we reinforce our walls and the things we take pride in or will we agree with God and humble ourselves? We all potentially have things we take pride in. We must reflect upon ourselves in those areas and seek to go low.
Here’s a word of encouragement to all of us:
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. –Hebrews 12:4-11
This same subject of “Love does not Boast” will be addressed next week in Part 2.