In fact, there have been times when I’ve had to stand up before the people I work with and repent and ask forgiveness because I publicly hurt one of them. I can easily slip. I can easily get the attitude, “I know who I am. I know how much I studied. I know my leadership. I know what I am doing.”
One incident while on a recent visit to India reminded me of the need to be on guard and continually asking the Lord to search my heart, that I would remain broken before Him.
As I stood beside a coconut tree outside of the library at our seminary, I was absolutely spellbound by the look and elegance of the building. I thought to myself, “I wish I were young again so I could study here. Look at all these books!”
And suddenly, as I was standing there, these words came to my mind: “Look at this huge, wonderful building,” as if I had made that place happen. Honestly, I had had nothing to do with the beautiful library. But if I had let my thoughts continue as they were going, I would have ended up like Nebuchadnezzar, saying, “Wow! I did something terribly wonderful and significant.”
I will never forget leaning against that coconut tree, all alone, looking at the library. I said to myself out loud, “As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more” (Psalm 103:15–16).
“Lord,” I said, “that is what I am. I am like the grass and the flower.” And I spoke to myself, “Look, flesh. Now you understand what it’s all about. You can do all these things and there will come a day when the very place where the things are done will remember you no more. Walk away from it. Don’t hold anything so tight. Even in the work of the Lord, it is worthless.”
I was 16 when the Lord first called me to serve Him. Now I am much older. In this journey, over the years I have met, lived with, taught and served so many whose lives have been destroyed by pride. They simply were not willing to give in. God did not come down and take away their lives, as happened in the Old Testament. Instead, because of their continual resistance, they were “shelved”—put aside from God’s work—while less able, younger but broken people went on with God.
We miss God’s greatest blessing when we harden our hearts. We become our greatest enemy when we allow our outward man to remain intact and never broken. Proverbs 29:1 (NIV) warns us, “A man who remains stiff-necked . . . will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.”
Again and again and again He reminds us, “Today, if you hear [My] voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7, NIV).