It’s so easy in our culture to get noticed. We can become famous within days by simply joining a contest. Our faces can appear on Internet, TV screens, and Facebook, whether we’ve won the contest or not. We can go from obscurity to fame because our gifts and talents are suddenly made known to the world. A never-ending list of opportunities lies before us, promising to make us as glamorous as the latest star in Hollywood.
We may not desire to go on Dancing with the Stars. American Idol may hold no temptation for us. Even if we can’t hold a tune or put on an eye-catching performance on stage, we still have an ingrained desire to let our gifts and talents show. We may have a writing or speaking gift. We may hold the ability to design houses, manage money, or lead people. Whatever the case, none of us are exempt from the potential desire to be noticed. We can become convinced that gaining a list of followers and receiving accolades is the greatest goal. Unfortunately, as we pursue “stardom,” our focus often turns to ourselves and our abilities. This is now our gift, and we created it.
When we get this mindset, we don’t realize how foolish we appear next to the One who made us. God designed us, gifts and all, whether or not we want to admit it: “Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture . . .” (Psalm 100:3)
While we stand waving and smiling for the cameras, behind our façade is an image of a “made” being – a sheep. Sheep or not, we have difficulty admitting that we need anyone. We ignore the truth that our talents came from somewhere besides our own brains. We move ahead as if no Shepherd ever existed.
Sadly, we are oblivious to how deceived we are. Even Jesus, as the Son of God walking the earth, could do nothing by Himself. Every miracle He performed and every word He said came from a power beyond Himself.
“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” (Acts 10:38)
“For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.” (John 12:49b)
“But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:28)
If Jesus could not perform without the ability of the Holy Spirit, then we certainly could not. Our gifts and abilities have been given to us just the same. They are precisely that – a gift. Just like the story of the talents in Matthew 25, they are something that it given. We are the recipients, while God is the giver. Without His creating power, we would not exist. Without His generous nature, we would have no gift to give.
The catastrophe of gloating in our accomplishments shows up in several ways. It first reveals pride in our hearts. Pride puts us on the devil’s turf, shutting off the flow of God’s blessings. This is exactly what the devil wants. He is the King of Pride, and knows well what the end result will be: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) He’s experienced in the “falling” part as he was kicked out of heaven by rebelling against God’s Lordship. He knows that if we follow his example, we will fall as well . . . and falling never ends well.
It also estranges us from our Heavenly Father. It’s a form of turning our backs on Him. Maybe we haven’t rejected Him as Savior. Maybe we haven’t stopped loving Him completely, but we have certainly taken a step away from serving Him with all our lives. Like any creator, it saddens His heart to be dishonored, even rejected, by the life that He created.
Other people are also impacted by our pride. When we focus on ourselves and our dream of success, we become selfish. God desires that many benefit from our gift. However, when we are following our own plans, many people will never come into contact with the help and encouragement they need. We may be tempted to use our gift in an arena that will not advance the Kingdom of God, further isolating us from God’s intended recipients.
Obviously, we can follow another path besides pride. Choice number two is humility. Instead of being a stubborn “sheep,” we can choose to humble ourselves under the authority of our Shepherd and let Him lead. We can lay down our selfish desires to be promoted our way, and seek to glorify God with our gifts. This keeps us off the devil’s turf and close to the Shepherd. It maintains our ability to reach others for the Kingdom, and fills us with a fulfillment that only comes from serving Him.
Surrendering our pride to God doesn’t come without its perqs. Like any form of obedience, it has a reward: “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12) “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10) This is what the world fails to see: true humility equals true honor. When God sees our pure heart of humility, He knows He has found someone He can trust. He knows He can entrust yet more gifts to us without us falling into pride. In His eyes, that is the greatest form of honor.
Our ultimate example of humility is Jesus. He was quick to give God the credit, and quick to use it for the Gospel. As a result, each time He stepped out to perform a miracle, preach a sermon, or encourage a person, it was backed by the anointing. It accomplished greatness, not because He had ability on His own, but because He was willing to be a tool for God to use. He didn’t leave His gifts to grow stagnant in a backroom; but neither did He take the credit by broadcasting His gifts His own way. He gave God the glory and became a vessel of honor for the world to see. (I Timothy 2:20) As we follow His example, we, too, can change the world . . . with one humble gift at a time!