SURVIVING THE GLORY
If you aspire to the next level, humility is your greatest asset. This is true for two reasons. First, nothing draws the blessing of God into your life like humility. James 4:6 tells us, “He gives more grace. Therefore, He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” If you need more grace from God in your life, walk in humility. It’s humility that draws God’s favor and blessing upon us. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” Nothing will take you to the next level like humility.
The second reason why humility is essential is this: The more successful you become, the harder it is to remain humble. It’s true: As your influence grows—as God sees your humility and “lifts you up,” as you become established, experienced, successful, and respected—the harder it is to stay humble. This is the subtle danger that resides within going to the next level—it’s the tendency to think that because I have been promoted, because I have succeeded, I am more important than those who are “under me.”
A classic example of this is found in an Old Testament king name Uzziah.
Uzziah became king at 16 years old. Because he did “what was right in the sight of the Lord,” God caused him to prosper. He became exceedingly strong and defeated all his enemies. He conducted great building projects and developed the nation’s infrastructure. He raised an army of three hundred thousand warriors and designed technologically advanced weapons. It was all because of God’s blessing and his fame spread far and wide.
Unfortunately, as he became successful and famous—as he went to the next level—something happened. 2 Chronicles 26:16 says, “But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God by entering the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.”
When Uzziah went to the next level, his heart changed. He succumbed to a sense of self-importance and pride. He believed himself superior to those around him—even the priests. He reasoned: “I am king. God has favored me above all other men. Thousands of souls bow before me. Why must I defer to some cleric to offer incense for me? I can burn my own incense—I have a ‘special’ relationship with God and need not submit to a lowly priest.”
With this attitude, Uzziah entered the sanctuary and offered incense to God—a blatant violation of mosaic protocol. Immediately, the high priest along with eighty others confronted the king and said, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the Lord God” (2 Chronicles 26:18). As a result, God judged Uzziah by striking him with leprosy—a sign of God’s rejection and public humiliation. King Uzziah was unable to resist the pride that came with his promotion and it ruined him.
Pride is a feeling of exaggerated importance; it’s the belief that “I am more important than those around me.” Pride is an attitude of self-exaltation that God hates. James 4:6 warns us, “God resists the proud.”
When Uzziah went to the “next level,” it ruined him. In the beginning, he was a humble man. He sought God and submitted to others. But after he was crowned with authority and achieved success, he started to change. The power he had over others, the control he had over the kingdom, inflated his ego with a perverted sense of importance. This is the danger that is insidious to the success. It’s the tendency to think our success makes us more valuable and more important than the people around us. If left unchallenged, this pride can evolve into an attitude of presumption.
Presumption is the assumption that “because I am so important, I should be regarded with a certain level of esteem.” In other words, because one has achieved a certain level of success, he expects to receive a certain level of respect.
Uzziah assumed that because he was king and had achieved so much for the kingdom, people would naturally defer to him. He believed that his authority gave him a certain advantage—a special seat that should be automatically respected by everyone around him.
This was the exact attitude that James and John had in Mark 10. They said to Jesus, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” To them, going to the next level was about gaining an advantage for themselves. It was about respect and admiration and being held in high esteem by others. An attitude that Jesus quickly dispelled.
Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you…whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant and whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.”
Jesus confronted this presumption. He made it clear to James and John that any advancement we receive, any success we enjoy, is not for our benefit. It’s for the benefit of those around us. If we go to the next level, it’s not to enlarge ourselves but to use our position to enlarge others and advance the cause of God.
Unfortunately, if this presumption is not put in check, it will escalate into a sense of entitlement. Entitlement is a belief that “because of my value, I am ‘entitled’ to certain privileges and special treatment.” It’s when people who have achieved certain levels expect to receive certain “perks,” benefits or special treatment.
According to Mosaic law, no one burned incense on an altar, except the priests. But Uzziah believed that, because he was king, and such a great man with such importance, that he was entitled to special rights and privileges. It’s a sense of entitlement. There is nothing wrong with receiving honor for your success, or if you’re a leader, but never let it become an entitlement. Never allow yourself to believe that because you’re the leader, or because of your special accomplishments or special giftings, that you deserve special privileges or special treatment. We are cautioned “not to think of (ourselves) more highly than (we) ought to think,” “giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10).
If we go to the next level, there will be perks (benefits). Be we must manage those perks with humility. The perks are a blessing, not an entitlement. Don’t let it go to your head. Don’t allow your ego to inflate, lest you pick a fight with God. In fact, sometimes your humility will be tested. In fact, sometimes you will not be honored because God is provoking you—He is pulling on your pride to see what is really in your heart. He wants to know, “Do you really want to be a big shot? Are you trying to become some revered personality or respected authority?” If so, your character is fractured and is unable to support your promotion.
If this sense of entitlement is not defeated, it will putrefy into a feeling of exaltation. Exaltation is the condition of elevating, promoting and glorifying one’s self. It’s the tendency to overestimate one’s significance, overstep one’s boundaries and exceed the limits of one’s authority.
Uzziah thought that because he was the great leader—the successful achiever—because he was so smart, so talented and so accomplished, no one could tell him what to do, or what not to do. He went into the sanctuary and offered incense when Mosaic law made it very clear, only the priest was to offer incense. But Uzziah likely imagined, “Who does this lowly priest think he is? I’m the king! I’m smarter, I’m older, I’m more experienced and I don’t need him telling me what to do.”
It’s an act of self-exaltation. It’s a demonstration of arrogance. He became haughty and conceited. He had a sense of superiority about himself that was demonstrated in his behavior and attitude. Uzziah was unable to be corrected. He was unteachable, unaccountable, and could not submit. Sadly, leaders start to fall when they can no longer be led, taught, corrected, or criticized.
Uzziah shows us the tragedy of lacking a firm foundation when going to the next level. We fall to pride. It will all be waiting for you at that place of promotion: pride, presumption, entitlement, and exaltation. These are part of the strategy used by those “higher devils at higher levels.” God is looking for humility. However, He’s not interested in shallow expressions—He’s looking for the real thing.
What is “true humility?” We’ll look at that in the next blog.
For more information on surviving your enlargement, check out my latest book, UPWARD: Taking Your Life to the Next Level now available on Amazon.