Looking for Worth in All the Wrong Places

“Pride is the only disease known to man that makes everyone sick except the person who has it.”
– Buddy Robinson (traveling evangelist in the late 1800’s)

The year was 2012. I had been on staff with SBC for 10 years and had worked exclusively in youth ministry with middle school students. Driven by insecurity and a need for recognition, I had recently gone back to seminary to finally finish my master’s degree in Theology. Yes, I wanted to be biblically equipped to better communicate God’s Word. However, there was an embarrassingly larger part of my motivation driven solely by a need to hang a piece of paper in my office that would finally prove to others (and myself) that I was, indeed, an actual pastor.

Just a couple months after finishing seminary, I was promoted to be the Pastor of Children’s Ministry. This was a much bigger role, with a large team to lead, hundreds of volunteers to inspire, and thousands of parents to partner with in helping their kids know and follow Christ. With my degree hanging on the wall of my nice new office and employees seeking my approval for various ministry initiatives daily, I felt that I had finally arrived. I did it. I was finally a “real” respectable pastor.

With my degree hanging on the wall of my nice new office…I felt that I had finally arrived.

Then God had fun reminding me of just how petty, vain, and immature this little ego trip (that existed only in my mind) had become.

There was a new pastor on staff who was the same age as me; in fact, we had known each other back in middle school and high school from a different church youth group. Back then, he had been my better in every way. Better at guitar? Check. More athletic, better looking and more popular with the ladies? Check and double check. Now he was on staff, half the amount of time I had been, and was already getting ministry opportunities to lead and teach that I aspired to. The little insecure middle schooler inside of me was alive and well.

Fast forward to the fateful day when God crashed my ego down on me. On that particular Sunday, this other pastor was finally given the opportunity to teach from the worship center stage during a Sunday service. He would be given a platform to encourage and influence thousands of people for Christ. What a privilege.

What did God have me doing that very same day? Well, a few children’s ministry volunteers had called out sick at the last minute and I found myself in a room with about a dozen 2-year-olds. One child in particular made a very, how do I put this nicely, “objectionable mess” that had to be dealt with. My budget proposal for a hazmat suit had not yet been approved, so it was up to a volunteer and me to assist the child with simple rubber gloves and other supplies for such situations.

I remember thinking to myself, “Did I really go back to seminary to get a master’s degree in order to do THIS with my life?!” My self-pity party continued all afternoon as I considered the wildly different career paths my fellow pastor and I were on. The self-centered grumbling did not subside until the commute to work the next morning.

I remember thinking to myself, “Did I really go back to seminary to get a master’s degree in order to do THIS with my life?!”

This is when God reached down and spoke directly to my heart about what a prideful mess I had become. I remember seeing it in my mind’s eye and hearing this message. It was as if someone was standing directly in front of me. They were holding one hand about chin level and the other hand a few inches below it and saying, “This is you with your cute little degree having to step down to help a child in their mess.”

Then their first hand raises as far above their head as they can stretch it, saying, “And this is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, seated high above…” The second hand then drops as low as it will go, creating the largest gap possible between the two hands. “And this is how far He had to step down in order to deal with the far more vile mess of your sin and disobedience.”

And finally, the slowly delivered kicker, “Don’t…ever…think…that…YOU…are…above…anything.”

I was at once convicted of my prideful sin, and simultaneously, broke out in joyful praise and worship in my car. I remember it so vividly as I drove on Shea, about to turn onto a backstreet toward the south parking lot entrance at SBC. The Holy Spirit had made it abundantly clear to my heart that I was not above anything. If Jesus, who is lifted high above all creation, can lower Himself to serve us in the absolute depths of our depravity, how could I ever think that I was above anything that He called me to?

I was at once convicted of my prideful sin, and simultaneously, broke out in joyful praise and worship in my car.

How can any of us ever look down on anyone or anything as being beneath us? God has called us to love and serve others. Not just those who are like us. Not just those who the world considers impressive. God has called us to be willing to roll up our sleeves and enter into the messiness of others’ lives so that the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ can be brought. We live in a spiritually dark and broken world, desperately in need of Christians who are willing to bring Christ’s love to the most broken and lost among us.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! — Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV)