I Cannot Do This: Trials vs. Pride

A couple weeks ago I wrote a blog post about how self-doubt is harmful. You might wonder why I wrote a title for this blog post that appears to be the definition of self-doubt. Why did I write this title?

There is a fine line between not having self-doubt because you have assurance in yourself, and not having self-doubt because you have assurance in God. To have self-doubt means I do not believe I am worth helping and worth being useful to God. To have assurance in God is to have faith that God will empower you because of the relationship you have with Christ. The absence of self-doubt should not be a "I can do all things because I am wonderful" mindset. Rather, it is an "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength" mindset. A healthy absence of self-doubt says that though I cannot do this, God can and will.

This week I was studying the first few chapters of Revelation which contain the letters of Christ to 6 of the churches that existed at the time of the writing of Revelation. The study was written by Beth Moore and is part of her devotional titled John: 90 Days with the Beloved Disciple. She explains how each letter has a different flavor. Some have all commendation from Christ, others have mainly correction, and most have a mixture of both. In addition, when you look into the historical accounts of each city, the way the city acted reflects the message Christ had for them. For example, the church of Laodicia, written about in Revelation 3:14-22, was known for being in between two cities. One city was notable for hot water springs, the other for cold water springs. Since it was in between the two cities, Laodicia had water that was lukewarm. This city had the notable "because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold-  I am about to spit you out of my mouth" verse written about it. I love learning about these things!

When I was doing the study, the differences between the letter to Laodicia and the letter to Smyrna stood out to me. Besides telling Laodicia that they were lukewarm, Christ had even more to say. He said, "You say 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked" (Rev. 3:17). Ouch. Pride is spiritually harmful and causes us to spiritually resemble a wretched person.

Interestingly enough, Beth Moore records show that Laodicia did not just do this with God. They did this with the Roman government. The city had accumulated enough wealth that when hit by a devastating earthquake, they did not accept Rome's help. They believed they were were self-sufficient. The church must have carried that mindset over to God, letting their city's culture affect them more than was healthy. God did not have good things to say about what their self-sufficiency looked like to Him.

In contrast was the city of Smyrna. Christ said of them in Revelation 2:9, "I know your afflictions and your poverty- yet you are  rich!" The Bible does not say much about why they are rich, but I believe it has something to do with the fact that God is near to the broken hearted (Ps. 34:18). And that when we are humbled God lifts us up (James 4:10). The city was known for being highly persecuted, yet Christ still described them as rich.

What I gather from both churches is that trials bring spiritual richness. In order to fix themselves, God instructed Laodicia to "buy gold refined by fire" (Rev. 3:18). This alludes to trials and faith. God knew Laodicia needed testing and difficulty in order to grow in their faith and to let that growing show them how insufficient they were.

Older believers always amaze me. They make me wonder at how joyful and spirit filled they are compared to younger believers. Why are they like that? They have gone through enough of life to have experienced countless trials. As a result, they are spiritually rich.It reminds me of the verses in Romans 5:3-5 which says:

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us

Trials are valuable. Though the world says hardships are to be dreaded, they actually are something to give thanks for. Why? They bring richness and growth to your Christian walk that could never happen another way. Who doesn't appreciate hope? Or character? I could use some hope. Hope helps in the next trials and gives assurance that God will come through and that He will equip. It gives an assurance that nothing will break you, because God is good. 

In our walk with Christ we can be in many places in regards to this. We could be the prideful citizens of Laodicia, or we could be currently going through a trial as a citizen of Smyrna. It is also possible to be on neutral ground experiencing neither pride nor trials. 

If you are on neutral ground, be careful to watch yourself for pride. 1 Corinthians 10:12 says, "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" In addition, do not loose heart if you experience trials without having a pride problem. It's been my experience that God protects me from having pride by bringing me though a trial before pride has an opportunity to come. He does it to prepare me for bigger things, or any time I might do something people will praise. Trust God's timing, He truly knows what's up.

If you are a citizen of Laodicia, keep in mind the full instruction Christ gave the citizens of Laodicia. He said in Rev. 3:18, " I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see." 

I take this to mean accept the trials and seek God's sufficiency through them. And while you're going through them, purify yourself by ridding yourself of what does not glorify God and renew your mind so you can see the world through the lenses of God's truth. When you see how in-sufficient you are compared to God's ability to equip and provide, the journey to rely on God is easier. 

Lastly, if you are a citizen of Smyrna take heart. The trial has a reason and God is near even if you do not feel Him. Although in the trial you often do not feel like working through it but just giving up, strive to do the next right thing. As you do the next right thing, trust God to equip you. You cannot make it through the trial, but you and God can. Though it may seem God does not equip in the moment of prayer, He will. 

It reminds me of the story of Peter walking on water. Peter didn't automatically walk on the water, he had to step out of the boat in faith. Then he had to focus on Christ ignoring the circumstances that caused doubt. Though he failed, the story was put there to encourage us to be different and succeed. Trust that God will hold you up, and continue to hold you up, until the trial is over. God is a Good Father, the giver of good gifts (Matthew 7:10-11), and our help (Psalm 33:20). God gives us all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). He is so faithful and will see you through.

I love the fact that Christ told Smyrna He saw their trials. God sees where you are. He is not unaware. He is lovingly shaping trials to teach and shape you to have your assurance rest on Him. Though you may feel poor, you are rich! And will be richer because of this trial.