Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. -Ephesians 3:8
The apostle Paul felt it a great privilege to be allowed to preach the gospel. He did not look upon his calling as a drudgery, but he entered upon it with intense delight. Yet while Paul was thus thankful for his office, his success in it greatly humbled him. The fuller a vessel becomes, the deeper it sinks in the water. Idlers may indulge a fond conceit of their abilities, because they are untried; but the earnest worker soon learns his own weakness.
If you seek humility, try hard work; if you would know your nothingness, attempt some great thing for Jesus. If you would feel how utterly powerless you are apart from the living God, attempt especially the great work of proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ, and you will know, as you never knew before, what a weak unworthy thing you are.
Although the apostle thus knew and confessed his weakness, he was never perplexed as to the subject of his ministry. From his first sermon to his last, Paul preached Christ, and nothing but Christ. He lifted up the cross, and extolled the Son of God who bled thereon. Follow his example in all your personal efforts to spread the glad tidings of salvation, and let “Christ and him crucified” be your ever recurring theme.
The Christian should be like those lovely spring flowers which, when the sun is shining, open their golden cups, as if saying, “Fill us with thy beams!” but when the sun is hidden behind a cloud, they close their cups and droop their heads. So should the Christian feel the sweet influence of Jesus; Jesus must be his sun, and he must be the flower which yields itself to the Sun of Righteousness. Oh! to speak of Christ alone, this is the subject which is both “seed for the sower, and bread for the eater.” This is the live coal for the lip of the speaker, and the master-key to the heart of the hearer.
Among the many general causes of decline in grace, we may assign a principal place to spiritual pride and self-admiration. If our attainments in knowledge and giftedness, and even in grace, seduce us into a good opinion of ourselves, as if we were wise and good, we are already ensnared, in danger of falling every step we take, of mistaking the right path, and proceeding from bad to worse, without a power of correcting or even of discovering our deviations! That is, unless and until the Lord mercifully interposes, by restoring us to a spirit of humility, and dependence upon Himself. For God, who gives more grace to the humble, resists the proud! He beholds them with abhorrence, in proportion to the degree in which they admire themselves! It is the invariable law of His kingdom, that everyone who exalts himself—shall be abased!
True Christians, through the remaining evil of their hearts, and the subtle temptations of their enemy, are liable, not only to the workings of that pride which is common to our fallen nature, but to a certain kind of pride, which, though the most absurd and intolerable in any person, can only be found among those who make profession of the gospel. We have nothing but what we have received, and therefore to be proud of our titles, wealth, knowledge, success, or any temporal advantages by which the providence of God has distinguished us, is downright sinful! For those who confess themselves to be ‘sinners’, and therefore deserving of nothing but misery and wrath, to be proud of those peculiar blessings which are derived from the gospel of God’s grace, is a wickedness of which even the demons are not capable of!
The apostle Paul was so aware of his danger of being exalted above measure, through the abundant revelations and peculiar favors which the Lord had afforded him, that he says, “There was given me a messenger of Satan to buffet me.” He speaks of this sharp trial as a great mercy, because he saw that it was necessary, and designed to keep him humble and attentive to his own weakness.
Ministers who are honored with singular abilities and success, have great need of watchfulness and prayer on this account! Simple-hearted hearers are apt to admire their favorite preacher, taking it for granted that he is deeply affected himself with the truths, which, with so much apparent liberty and power, he proposes to them. While, perhaps, the poor worm is secretly indulging self-applause, and pleasing himself with the numbers and attention of those who hang upon his words!
Perhaps such thoughts will occasionally rise in the minds of the best ministers; but, if they are allowed, if they become habitual, and enter strongly into the idea he forms of his own importance; and if, while he professes to preach Jesus Christ, he is preaching himself, and seeking his own glory, he is guilty of high treason against the Majesty of Him in whose name he speaks! And sooner or later, the effects of his pride will be visible and noticed. Doctrinal errors, gross misconduct, an abatement of zeal, of gifts, of influence, are evils, always to be dreaded, when spiritual pride has gained an ascendancy, whether in public or in private life.
For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it why do you boast as though you did not? 1 Corinthians 4:7
“Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them.” Luke 22:24
We see in this passage how firmly pride and love of preeminence can stick to the hearts of Christian men. The strife was one which had been rebuked by our Lord on a former occasion. The Lord’s Supper which the disciples had just been receiving, and the circumstances under which they were assembled–made the strife particularly inappropriate.
And yet at this very season, the last quiet time they could spend with their Master before His death, this little flock begins to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest!
Such is the heart of man–ever weak, ever prideful, ever ready, even at its best times, to turn aside to what is evil!
The sin before us is a very old one. Ambition, self-esteem, and self-conceit–lie deep at the bottom of all men’s hearts, and often in the hearts where they are least suspected! Thousands imagine that they are humble, who cannot bear to see an equal more honored and favored than themselves. Few indeed can be found who rejoice heartily in another’s promotion over themselves.
If we make any profession of serving Christ, then let us live on our guard against this great evil. The harm that it has done to the Church of Christ, is far beyond calculation. Let us learn to take pleasure in the prosperity of others, and to be content with the lowest place for ourselves. The rule given to the Philippians should be often before our eyes, “In lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.” The example of John the Baptist is a bright instance of the spirit at which we should aim. He said of our Lord, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Godliness with contentment is great gain! – 1 Timothy 6:6
True godliness produces and strengthens contentment; and contentment is the calm sunshine of a man’s life. We do not mean sitting down in idleness, feeling at home in filth, or indulging in negligence; this would be a disgrace to any creature, especially a professing Christian! But contentment is connected with honest industry, general purity, and a concern for the honor of God.
True contentment springs from acknowledging and eyeing God’s providence, whose “tender mercies are over all His works.” It is a bowing to His will as the infinitely wise and invariably good; believing the promises He has given; expecting the provision He has made; and feeling satisfied to share in the common lot with His people.
Contented Christians prize spiritual blessings before temporal, and live sensible of their demerit and desert. They know that everything short of Hell is a favor and that the glories of Heaven will more than make amends for all the toils and privations of this world’s wilderness pilgrimage. They do not expect to find rest below, or a paradise in the desert of this world. They are persuaded, “that all things work together for good, to those who love God, and are the called according to His purpose.”
Pride is slain, and humility flourishes; for pride is the parent of discontent, ingratitude, peevishness, rebellion against God, and many other evils. While humility produces contentment, patience, gratitude, submission to the will of God, and many other virtues.
The godly who are contented are rich for they have a good fortune! They have inward peace and satisfaction of mind which are better than gold! They are filled with gratitude and thankfulness to God which are better than a large estate! They have love to God and delight in Him which are preferable to a splendid mansion! They have a joyful anticipation of eternal glory, of being acknowledged as the sons of God, and fellow-heirs of Jesus which is to be esteemed above all the titles and honors of this perishing world!
They contentedly live in the enjoyment of what they now have realizing that their glorious portion is yet to come! Their aspirations are on the same level as their earthly condition hence, they are strangers to fretfulness, murmuring, and the constant vexations which most men experience. They prove that, “Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.”
Reader, are you a godly person? Are you acquainted with God as your God, your Friend, your Father? Are you contented with your place, portion, and prospect in this perishing world! If so, you have a good fortune!
And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.-Judges 16:20.
No matter how we try to read the story of Samson, from a literary perspective, it is a tragedy, and like all tragedies, we must take heed. Israel again had done what was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord gave them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years (Judges 13:1). The Lord had brought chastisement on His people for their sins, but it was now time to set them free, so the Lord sets his plan in motion to send a man to be a deliverer. That man was Samson.
Samson was a promised child to his parents, a man set apart for God through the Nazarite vow, and even as a young man the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him (Judges 13:25). From there, we are all familiar with his great feats of strength. From pulling out the gates of Gaza, posts and all, and carrying them away to a hill in front of Hebron (Judges 16:3), to his defeat of 1000 Philistines with jawbone of a donkey (Judges 15:15), all of it was done because the Spirit of the Lord had rushed upon him.
Perhaps you can think of times the Lord has worked through you to accomplish something significant. Maybe you have been used in ministry or accomplished something meaningful at your job. You may also have seen Him move in your family, or use you to comfort someone who was hurting. Whatever it is, you know that the only reason it happened was that the Spirit of the Lord was upon you, and in it, you greatly rejoice for the favor God has shown you. Like Samson, you have every reason to take pleasure in the goodness of God in those situations.
However, great moments with God in the past do not guarantee we will not fall in the future. There can be no resting on our laurels because we have walked closely with Jesus up to this point. We have not yet entered our rest, and we still have an enemy prowling around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.
Though Samson kept his life pure in so many ways, he had a weakness involving lust, and worse than that, he seems to have let God’s work in his life stir his pride. Why else would he tell Delilah the secret of his strength if on three prior nights she had attempted to make him weak by taking advantage of what he told her; unless he thought that it would not make a difference if she cut his hair. Perhaps he was strong in his own strength. Maybe he didn’t need God to continue to be the great Samson.
As we now know, Samson was nothing without the Lord. He woke up, ready to shake off his bonds, but he was no longer the man he used to be. He didn’t even know the Lord had left him. The deception of Delilah, which Samson fell for because of his own self-deception, led to his subsequent humiliation, blindness, and the enemies of God rejoicing.
We all know how the story ends, one last shot at redemption, and the Spirit of God gives him the strength to take down the palace filled with 3000 Philistines, a feat which ended his life as well. It is here you might say, “See, it is not a tragedy because God gave him back his strength,” but that is looking at the situation with one eye closed.
Samson wasted his blessing, and he wasted his gift. His life was cut short. He could have done more for the Lord, and he never would have had to suffer the way he did. There is an extremely clear message here for all of us, and too often it is missed. We must continue to guard our hearts.
We must never rest in what the Lord has done through us in the past, or see them as an indication that we are something special. We should cherish those sweet moments we have spent with the Lord, but we should never begin to think that we no longer need them going forward.
Have you grown distracted from the things of God, is there some sin you continue to play with while you think, “God has always shown me favor in the past, and I will never fall like Samson.” Or have you already quenched the Spirit and you have failed to notice that His abiding presence with you has been missing for some time? If that is you, you may very well be playing into the hands of your own lusts and into the hands of the enemy. You are primed for tragedy.
Any inclination to begin to see ourselves as the champion, the great deliverer of Gods people, is a pride that is sure to lead to a fall. There is only one Promised Child who can truly set us free, and we are entirely dependant upon Him for everything; He is not dependant upon us. It is in Jesus, that we live, move, and have our being.
There is only one way we can avoid a similar tragedy in our own lives, and that is by clinging to our Savior daily. No matter how great a woman or man of God people think we are, every one of us should get down on our knees at this moment and say, “Lord, save me from myself. If you do not keep me, I have no hope.” Holding fast to Christ in contrition is the only place we are safe, and He has promised that He will give grace to the humble.
We must never forget, at the end of the day, we have all wasted blessings, and we have all wasted His gifts to us, but Jesus took our tragedies upon Himself on the cross, and then He rose for our justification. We have no reason to boast. This fact is all the more reason we should say, “Jesus, keep me near the cross.”