Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"How Can I Make God Proud of Me?"

Jimmy thinks he’s let God down. He’s repented and confessed to God, and to some friends. But he’s still feeling like a disappointment. “I just want God to be proud of me. How can I make God proud of me?”

Don’t let the English language rob you. God has better for us than that. I see nowhere in scripture where God is “proud of” people. Besides, your real desire is not to make God proud of you. You really want to “delight” Him. And God already does “delight in” you, Jimmy. When we turn to Christ, we are like the prodigal son whom God sees returning from afar. With great joy, He runs out to embrace us! We come to Him in our sin-stained rags, and He robes us with His good name, and Christ’s righteousness. If you’ve believed and trusted in Christ, you have been born into God's family. God delights in His children.

If you do a Bible word search on being “proud of” anything, you quickly come to the realization that it is not even a good thing. “The Lord detests all the proud of heart,” it says in Proverbs 16:5.

“Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud,
but humility comes before honor.”

Proverbs 18:12

While most folk admit that pride itself is wrong they mistakenly value taking pride in their relationships. I’m going to use the parent-child relationship as an example, but the same goes for any relationship. We have nothing to be proud of.

Why are we proud of our country, proud of our school, proud of our job, proud of our spouse, siblings, friends, children, and etc? Did we earn these? Weren’t they gifts from God? Yet if I said that I wasn't proud of my children, people today would call the DSS on me! The question is, should I be “proud of” my children, or should I “delight in” them? There is a difference. God is not proud of His children! He delights in us!

“For the Lord takes delight in his people,
He crowns the humble with salvation.”

Psalm 149:4

King David knew God’s delight:

“He brought me out into a spacious place;
He rescued me because He delighted in me.”

2 Samuel 22:20 / Psalm 18:19

The Father delights in the Son. Isaiah prophesied it, and Matthew reminds:

“Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight.”

Matthew 12:18

When Jesus was baptized, the Father spoke,

“And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Mark 1:11

I’m not just being picky here. Right wording helps our faith. Don’t let culture sanctify pride. Being proud of someone, robs God of glory! It used to be that being proud of yourself was considered sick. Some people can only enjoy others, if others perform as they'd hoped. But that isn’t God’s way.

Some people are hard to please. Instead of just being pleased, they reserve “pleasure in” others for when those others meet their standards. That is not the kind of relationship God wants for His children. Do a word search of “delighting in,” and you’ll find that that is overwhelmingly what God wants us to have for Him too.

“Delight yourself in the Lord
and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalm 37:4

To hear some parents’ shameless boasting, you’d think passing on their DNA was due to some self-sacrificial feat of great daring, done solely for the good of mankind. Think back people! My wife is a gift to me from God. Didn’t we ask for children? According to Psalm 127, “Children are a gift from the Lord.” Didn’t God preserve my wife through childbirth, despite having a truly lame labor coach? And doesn’t God instruct us in raising them? Doesn’t He call them?

We can make pride look so good! But Paul writes, concerning the hidden “motives of men’s hearts,”

“Do not go beyond what is written. Then you will not take pride in one man over against another. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”
1 Corinthians 4:6,7

If I gloat over my children without turning to God in humble thanksgiving, I’ve missed the point. They are a gift from God! I didn’t earn them. Love never fails. People will. We must stop boasting and start delighting in our loved ones, however high they are able to jump!

If I truly believe that my relationships are gifts from the Lord, then it is absurd of me to take pride in them “taking after me,” or for their successes in life after taking my advice. Who gave me these relationships? Who instructs me how to conduct myself in them? We can enjoy our loved ones, even when they fail. And when they do well, rejoicing with them is good! But that pride exposes only our arrogance.

“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”

Peter 5:5 / James 4:6

Children don’t want their parents to be proud of them. It’s parents who want to be proud of their children. Get over it! Children want their parents to delight in them! But something gets twisted along the way. Trying to equip their children to survive and thrive in this hard world, many parents start putting conditions upon their “delight.” If their child listens and heeds their advice, they are pleased for now. Instead of delighting in their children, while diligently training them in the ways of the Lord, these parents enter the task fearfully, only enjoying their children when they advance. “You listen to me kid, and you’ll do okay in life.” Oh really? How did that work for you?

When will we no longer need God? When will our kids no longer need God? Get it vertical folks! It isn’t about others taking our advice.

Train a child in the way he should go
And when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Proverbs 22:6

Feeling pride is easy. I first felt pride in my kids when the meconium squirted out; and I proudly announced each one’s very first solid stool. (New parents are easy to please.) At that point, I should have looked up to God in thanksgiving that they were healthy. What was I proud of? We feel pride so much before they can walk and get into trouble! That’s when parental panic turns their delight into a conditional thing. (This is so of any relationship). Instead of delighting in them, and trusting and thanking God for them, we start worrying that we might somehow lose them. God help us to trust Him, and just enjoy the relationships He has given us! There is peace in knowing our relationships are gifts from God.

Note: (If there is abuse in a relationship, that abuse is not of God. Those folk need to step back from that relationship and get help immediately).

You know, both pride and delight can cause people to smile. Delight is godly. Pride is not. The scriptures say that God delights in those who have chosen to become His children, through Christ. Maybe you never knew your parents’ delight. Receive your Heavenly Father’s delight through Christ now!

Parting seas do not impress God. Moses just held out his staff. It was God who parted the sea. The only thing that ever seemed to impress Jesus was finding faith in unexpected places. Two people in scripture seemed to impress Jesus; the Roman Centurion in Luke 7, and the Syrophoenician woman in Matthew 15. See Jesus’ reaction to the Roman Centurion’s faith expressed:

“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following Him, He said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’”
Luke 7:9

One would expect to see faith in Israel, when the One Whom the prophets foretold had come. But for two foreigners to trust so strongly in His ability and goodness delighted the Lord.

Therefore, to impress God, exhibit more faith in Him than ever. Ask God to lead you into something bigger than you are capable of. Then wherever He leads you, step out and into it smiling, trusting as you step, that He Who is your Guide, will also provide. He already delights in you. You can trust Him! When you do trust Him so obviously, you will then know His pleasure.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that he exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
Hebrews 11:6

Therefore, with faith, it is possible to please God. He already delights in you! Making a mess doesn’t take that away. Yet if you’ll now do what He says, even if you think you cannot, you’ll know your Father’s pleasure.