James 4:6: But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
The most basic sin is pride – someone believing himself or herself to be greater than they are and taking glory for themselves unjustly. It is the very sin that caused Lucifer, Adam, and Eve to all fall. Lucifer believed he was as great as God and his attempts to elevate himself were sinful. Adam and Even believed Satan’s lie that they could be as great as God. God hates pride. Pride is the easiest sin to fall in to and every other sin can be traced back to it in some way. Humility is the exact opposite. It is someone believing himself or herself to be either as great as they are or possibly even lesser than they actually are. It always results in the glory going elsewhere. Humility is the most basic virtue but also the hardest to master since it directly opposes pride. The ultimate goal of humility is that the glory would go to God in all situations instead of any human.
I just finished reading Is That Really You, God? a combination biography of Loren Cunningham and the YWAM organization. Examples of these two different attitudes are found in abundance. Continually throughout the story, God blesses humility and obedience to Him, but opposes the proud.
The clearest example of this was in 1973 when YWAM began pursuing the purchase of their first mercy ship; a ship that could travel and not only accomplish the goal of evangelism, but also of providing for the physical needs of the poor and underprivileged. They were pursuing the ship at what they felt was the height of their relationship with God. They were walking in humility in His word and hearing from Him daily. They felt strongly that He wanted them to pursue the ship. Everything went very well at the beginning of the process. Plenty of money was given for the purchase of the ship and all the negotiations went favorably. But suddenly right when things were going so well, it all fell apart. Money stopped coming in and it seemed like God no longer supported the vision of owning the ship. But through prayer and reading the Word, Loren and the rest of the YWAM leaders began to understand that it wasn’t the ship that God didn’t support, it was the attitude of the leaders. They had begun to be more focused on the ship than the One who was giving them the ship. They had pride over their position with God and were considering themselves better than other people. God quickly broke them down and took the ship away. He led them into a time of deep repentance for their sins and eventually provided YWAM with a mercy ship a number of years later.
There are two main lessons to be learned from this story. The first is that, just like James 4:6, God values humility and gives grace to those who are humble but He opposes the proud. There is no room for pride when following Christ. Jesus is Lord and He deserves to receive all glory in all situations. As Christians, we have no reason to give glory to ourselves but only to Christ who saves and empowers us. God will use us in incredibly powerful ways when we are humbly submitted to Him as Lord of our lives just as He has done with Loren Cunningham and YWAM. The second lesson is to flee idolatry. Any situation in which we value or focus on something more than God is an idolatrous situation. Just like they were focused more on the ship than on God, it’s very easy for us to get focused on a goal or object above God for a season (or even for a very long time). This is dangerous and wrong. God deserves our full attention at all times. He paid the ultimate price to save us and redeem us to Himself and so we ought to keep Him first always.