For many years I have observed and been involved in one of the worse addictions in Christianity to date. It is running rampant through every denomination, independent, and networked ministry on the earth. It is causing division, confusion and isolation even in the lives of the non-church going lone rangers. What is this addiction that is destroying the kingdom on a daily basis and is spreading like wild fire? It is the only addiction that appears to be competitive. People who are addicted to alcohol so often drink together as do people who do drugs. It is common place for pot smokers to have pot parties and socialize around a noncompetitive addiction, but this addiction I’m talking about will not let you do this. The addiction I’m referring to is pride. Proverbs 16:18 clearly states that pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Please note that is does not say that pride follows destruction. On the contrary this addiction precedes your destruction, and causes a haughty spirit which precedes your fall.
In 1995 I received a devastating blow from the enemy and lost all that I had worked for fifteen years. There was nothing left that was salvageable in my ministry. Broken and humiliated, (now would be a good time to remind you that humility and humiliation is not the same thing) I began to go into the withdrawals from pride. No, it’s not the DT’s; it’s called bitterness and resentment. Almost anyone that has ever experienced withdrawals will affirm the withdrawals are sometimes harder on you than the addiction. When I finally began to cease from my withdrawals, I asked the Lord why this had happened. His response was “Hal, why did this happen?” There are two truths I would like to impart to you at this point. First, when God asks you a question, He is not looking for information. The second truth is that the person who is addicted is usually the last person to admit they are addicted. It was not easy for me to stand up in God’s AA meeting and say “Sir, I am addicted to pride.”
The word of God says, “let a man examine himself.” Here is what I found when I began to take a look in my heart where this addiction had taken root. Pride was not just something I had, it had actually become a part me. Therefore in examining myself, I could not do anything other that closely examine pride itself.
The “P” in pride meant:
Perceiving that I should have more than what I do: I should have more of everything because I was doing the Lord’s work. I’m going to refer to this as the “I deserve because I serve attitude.” For some prideful reason we think that the more we do for God, the more he has to do for us. We need to remind ourselves that God is in charge of breathing and be careful when trying to command Him to do anything. I had not yet suffered yet blood. I had not done anything to deserve the blood of God that was shed for me on Calvary. If I could open blinded eyes, heal the sick or even raise the dead, that would still not give me just cause to have an I deserve because I serve mentality. The Apostle Paul said it so beautifully while boosting in humility. Philippians 3: 7-8 But what things were gain for me, I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ.
Here was a man whom God had to knock off his prideful high horse, strike him blind and humble him before Ananias to receive his sight once again. Here was a man who after pontificating at Mars Hill was rejected and had to have another pride adjustment. But finally we read about the rock fights this Apostle was in, and have you ever noticed he was the only one who didn’t have any rocks. Did you ever wonder why Paul didn’t have a pocket full of rocks? Have you ever asked yourself why Stephen didn’t cry out as stones were being hurled at him, “hey wait a minute, I deserve because I Serve.” Thank God for grace.
The “R” in pride meant:
Reaching the lost had become secondary and reaching for fame had become primary: I’m going to call this the “I want to be known syndrome.” It is too easy to be caught in this trap and almost impossible to escape once its addiction has ensnared you. I look back over the years at so many ministers and laymen who were sold out to reaching souls and making disciples who have gone by the wayside because of fame. These were people who burned with the flame of God for the lost, but somehow lost the “L” and flame became fame. It doesn’t matter if you came from the ghetto or from grandeur; the addiction of fame is after you and will destroy you. The writer of Hebrews ask, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation.” Let us not forget the words Paul in Romans 10: 13ff, “For whosoever shall call upon the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher. The great commission does not call us become famous; it sends us out to a lost and dying world. The only way this can truly happen is for the world to see Christ in us, not just see us. Colossians 3:1-3 has a directive about where our attention should be directed and will help us overcome the “I want to be known syndrome.” It reads, If you be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. It should be our prime directive to desire to know Him and the power of His resurrection rather than seek to be known. The Apostle Paul didn’t conquer Rome from an ivory tower, but he did conquer it; and he did it from his jail cell ministry. Thank God for those who are going to be famous in His Kingdom.
The “I” in pride meant:
Identifying more with the world than identifying with Christ: I John 2:15 -17 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of the Father abideth forever. If we could just walk in this, we would be home free. Sometimes it’s just not that easy. I’m going to call this the, “if you’re smart, you’ll look the part trap.” This is where pride really becomes competitive with the rest of the body of Christ. We think we must have the biggest and the best of everything in order to be accomplishing the great commission. How sad it is to think that God is impressed with our material things, our conferences and our programs when so little of it identifies with Christ. I remember when I first made Jesus Christ Lord of my life; He was the last thing on my mind as I fell to sleep at night and the first thing on my lips when I woke up in the morning. All that changed, but I was smart because I looked the part. This addiction of pride will slowly allow you to embrace the world and the things of the world. You can slowly swap love for lust, ministry for money and Godly power for more people. This competitive spirit will cause you to think that you aren’t successful unless you have plenty of people following you – unless you dress and confess how prosperous your ministry is – unless you have a web page and your mailing list reaches a certain amount of followers. We reach out and lay hold of worldly things which we feel will make our ministry look even bigger and better. We slowly begin to worship our worship and praise our praise and in so doing have allowed Babylon to capture Judah. The world has captured our music, so we have to embrace the world to hear it. Sorry, I’ve used the word “we” on several occasion, but I’m not talking about you. Surely this only applied to me. Success doesn’t come from the world. Real success comes only by doing the will of the Father. God was not saying having the largest church in our area was wrong, because the size of the ministry isn’t what concerns Him. What He is concerned with is the heart of the ministry. The heart of any ministry will fall in one of two categories. It is either done in the flesh or it’s done in the spirit, and when we are addicted to pride, we don’t want to know which one it is, as long as it’s working. Pastor Moses had three million followers and Jesus had twelve and neither one had to “look the part,” they just did the will of the Father. The addiction to pride will cause you to identify incorrectly. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians tells us our identity as well as our heritage when he pens: Therefore be imitators of God – copy Him and follow His example as well-behaved children imitate their father. Ephesians 5:1 Amplified
The “D” in pride meant:
Defending my actions, rather than defending the faith: Defending my actions started out slowly and picked speed at a blinding pace. My actions were now worldly and not in line with the way a man of God must present himself. I began to judge others by there actions, but I judged myself by my intentions. I wonder how many times I said “well God knows my heart” and used this as a loophole for my actions. I would lose my temper at the drop of a hat and even used profanity and call it righteous indignation. People should realize that I was the top dog Pastor in our area and should give me some elasticity to go to extremes. I’ve since learned that extremes are dysfunctional and that made me dysfunctional. I read somewhere that dysfunctional people are mostly unaware of their disability. My son, Jeremy, told me one day; Dad your light is on, but you don’t you see it do you. He went on to say that when you turn on a light, the light is not aware that it’s on, but everyone in the room is aware that it’s burning brightly. By this time my light switch was stuck in the “on” position, and there was no turning it off. That’s why I refer to this as “your light is on and everybody knows it but you.” When your light of defense is on you can’t understand 1 John 3:20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. I knew what this scripture meant. If my heart was saying what I was doing was wrong, then God was saying the same thing. And if my heart wasn’t condemning me then neither was God. But there is a big difference in listening to your head and your heart. At this phase of the addiction of pride you stop listening to your heart, and all you hear is your head. The head is saying nobody knows your light is on and you’re doing great.
The “E” in pride meant:
Everything in this ministry should revolve around ME: I had become a law unto myself and with my strong personality and hardheadedness, no one dared to oppose me. This is none other than the “King Me Mentality” and there is always something or someone that can and will dethrone you. In this facet of the addiction to pride all of your ministry team and workers stop being ministers to you and they become “employees only.” Even when someone has overextended themselves and has given all for the ministry, your favorite expression is, “that’s what they get paid to do.” In the early years of ministry, my wife, Mollie, and I shed a lot of blood to accomplish what God desired for this ministry and this King ME mentality was making sure everyone else had to bleed also. I didn’t care if I caused everyone around me to be uncomfortable and on edge; they couldn’t and wouldn’t do anything without me, their King. People who knew me before success and really loved me tried to tell me “you’re not the same person you used to be, but the addiction to pride would not let me see how drastically I had changed. It had to be them, surely it wasn’t me. They were just out of order. If I’d only known how the King would fall, and how many people I would wound and how many people would be overjoyed when I fell, maybe I would have changed, but probably not. You see, I was addicted to pride.