“The Power of Pride.” So proclaimed the bumper stickers that popped up around the United States after the September 11 attacks and stuck around for years since. Adorned with an American flag, they appealed to the patriotic fervor that swept the nation. “We are the best,” they seemed to say. “Believe in ourselves, and we will come out on top.”
This concept is prevalent in the world, not only on a national scale but also on a personal level. Whether running for political office, climbing the corporate ladder, or reaching for fame in the show business, many people promote themselves in the pursuit of power. Popular thinking is that pride is the key to success. Look out for number one because nobody else will. Prove yourself superior and be somebody. Pride is power.
But the light of God’s Word turns this idea on its head. Pride brings demotion, not promotion. The original and ultimate expression of pride was Lucifer’s: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” But rather than empowering him, pride brought his downfall. His desire for the highest possible place, “above the stars of God,” doomed him to the lowest possible place, “down to hell, to the sides of the pit.”
The downfall of Lucifer stands as an eternal warning that “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” All pride is sure to fall because it seeks power for self, which is an affront to the all-powerful One. Only He has the right to claim power for Himself; all rightful power is derived from Him. Any personal pursuit of power, like Lucifer’s, is in opposition to the Almighty and cannot stand.
The power to demote the proud is uniquely God’s. “Look on every one that is proud, and bring him low,” He challenged Job. “Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee.” When we but glimpse God’s power and recognize that no power against Him can stand, we must see ourselves as powerless.
Not only does the Word teach us the weakness of pride; it also teaches us the power of humility. This power is completely different from the power that pride seeks.
The supreme example of humility is our Lord Jesus Christ. Though Lord of all, He became a lowly servant in human flesh. Despised and rejected by men, He humbled Himself even to the death of the cross. What greater humility has ever been, or ever could be?
In His great humility we see complete surrender of power. What could be more powerful than the Creator and Sustainer of the universe? What could be weaker than a dying man on a cross? Who could give up more power than He did?
Through His surrender of power, He redeemed the human race from sin and death, an act arguably greater than creation itself. For which takes more power—to make something very good out of nothing, or to make something very good out of something very bad? Thus the greatest surrender of power in history accomplished the most powerful act in history.
How can this be? It is because the Almighty God delights in working through a humble human, as He perfectly exemplified in His lowly Son. And He desires to manifest His power through every one of His children. “For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you.”
There is power in humility because the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity chooses to dwell in the humble and contrite heart. The power of Christ “tents upon” those who recognize their weakness. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect [complete] in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest [tent] upon me.”
Humility is power because the same God who is known for abasing the proud is also known for exalting the humble. “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace [divine power] unto the humble.”
Again, the highest example of this is Jesus Christ. Extremely opposite of Lucifer, He willingly descended to the lowest possible place, and as a result God exalted Him to the highest possible place. “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.” He was raised from absolute weakness to absolute power, “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion.”
As Lucifer’s demotion stands as a warning to the proud, Christ’s promotion stands as an encouragement to the humble. God presents His promise of grace and exaltation as an incentive to humility before Him and others. “Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”
Why would the promise of power and exaltation motivate the humble? Could they desire such rewards and still be humble?
Here is the beauty of godly humility: it desires only to be a channel for His power. Its greatest pleasure is His greatest pleasure, so the power it desires is not self-power but His power. The increase it desires is to let more of His blessings flow to others, to bring more glory to Him.
In such a heart He delights. Through such a channel He chooses to work. This is the power of humility.
Jesus, fill now with Thy Spirit
Hearts that full surrender know;
That the streams of living water
From our inner man may flow.
Channels only, blessed Master,
But with all Thy wondrous pow’r
Flowing thro’ us, Thou canst use us
Every day and every hour.