I’ll admit it: I love winning. When I lose in sports, I lose sleep also. I stay up thinking about what I could have done differently.
I hate losing. When I lose an argument, I think of things I should have said. It’s a great feeling to say something that silences your opponent.
One of the first arguments Lisa and I had was about miniature golf. We were talking on the phone and trying to figure out what to do on Friday night. We were going out with two other couples, and she suggested that we play miniature golf. I told her that wouldn’t be the best because they will not let six people play together. We would have to split into two groups. To which she answered, “Well, that’s stupid. Are you sure? That doesn’t make any sense.”
A wise man would have just left it alone, but I went on to explain why it did make sense that a group of six would move more slowly than two groups of three. She made it clear that she didn’t understand what I was saying and that I was wrong.
Once again, a wise man would have left it alone. A humble man wouldn’t care about winning. I chose the foolish, arrogant route. I proceeded to send a fax over to her workplace diagramming the pace of a group of six versus the pace of two groups of three. I was immature. I made matters worse, but I won the argument.
Through the years, we’ve had arguments over Monopoly, Scrabble, Taboo, Settlers of Catan, the size of my brain, Mariah Carey, Santa Claus—you name it. We’ve also had more serious arguments about how to discipline our children, spend our money, and spend our time. We don’t fight a ton, but we do fight. We are human, and we both love winning. I’m guessing we’re not the only ones.
One verse that keeps us more grounded in this area than any other is James 4:6: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
For those of us who nurture a win-at-any-cost mentality, this verse should shake us to the core. Only a fool would sacrifice this much for any victory. Let this sink into your brain: God actively fights against the proud person.
Can you imagine anything worse than fighting God? God fights for the humble. He pours out His grace upon the humble. We all love to win, but are we ready to give up the grace of God and take on His opposition? And once that happens, have you really won? Nothing is better than having God’s grace lavished upon you, and nothing could be worse than facing God’s opposition.
Who died and made you Jesus?
Every day, the world bombards you with messages of power, independence, and control. Jesus tells you the opposite: Die to yourself. As Galatians 2:20 tells us, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
This isn’t upper level, extra credit, AP Christianity. It’s what we sign up for—to die to ourselves and become like Christ. In an effort to gain “converts,” Christians often refrain from telling the full story. We want people to follow so, like cheap salesmen, we share the benefits without explaining the cost.
We tell them about Jesus’ promises of life and forgiveness, but we don’t mention His calls for repentance and obedience. We avoid His promise that we will experience persecution. When we do this, we cheapen the gospel. The beauty of the gospel is that Christ is of such supreme worth that we would gladly sacrifice all to have Him. He is so beautiful that we would be fools to resist becoming like Him.
Baptism is meant to convey our death and burial with Christ. A Christian rises from the water in a picture of resurrection—brought up from the grave with a new life, a new identity (see Romans 6:1-10). Your problem could be that you’re not dead. You have never truly died to yourself.
Picture your body hanging lifelessly on a cross. Paul states matter-of-factly that is what happens to those who belong to Christ—”our old self was crucified with him” (Romans 6:6). That is what we signed up for. We have told God that we no longer want to live for ourselves. We want Him to take over. We actually desire a Master. Unlike Adam and Eve in the garden, we want to submit to God’s rule. We are happy to surrender. We are happy to see our life become His. As Colossians 3:3-4 says, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (emphasis added).
LISA: Marriage and humility
Humility is so beautiful, isn’t it? And yet so elusive. Because we love ourselves so very much, it’s a struggle to consider others more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).
One day I decided to pay attention to all those times I felt “fighting feelings” rising up inside. You know the feeling you get when someone offends you, cuts you off, takes too long, doesn’t say “excuse me” or “thank you,” short changes you, or is rude in some other way. I kept track of how many times these feelings flared up inside, and it was eye opening. It is a fight to choose humility, to actually be clothed in humility (1 Peter 5:5).
This is radically different than what we’ve ever felt like doing. This is radically different from the world’s way of thinking. You’re not going to find any magazines on the newsstands with articles encouraging you to show humility. Instead, we are saturated with messages about power, independence, and control. We are bombarded with advice telling us to listen to our own hearts, to do whatever we feel like doing.
The constant affirmation of the world and the pull of our own hearts make it so easy to believe that we deserve to be treated in a certain way. We should not have to listen to anyone telling us what to do; after all, we are strong and independent.
It scares me how easy it is to start thinking like the world without realizing it. It troubles me that the majority of what we pour into our minds is so worldly. Our thinking can stray so far from biblical truth! Think about how much time you spend in a normal week watching television and movies, reading magazines, scrolling through the internet, and engaging in social media. Now compare that with the amount of time you spend in the Word of God and in prayer. Scary?
I’m not trying to conjure up guilty feelings that leave you feeling defeated. But I do want to give a wake-up call. We will struggle with a worldly mindset if we aren’t careful to guard against it. As Colossians 2:8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty conceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
The enemy is cunning. In the most subtle of takeovers, he lies to us about everything, and especially about what we “deserve.” He wants us to think of ourselves so highly that a humble heart is something to be laughed at. All that worldly wisdom sounds deceitfully good.
Here is the simplest place to start in this war for our minds:
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
If my desire is to display the humility of Christ, I need constant input from the Scriptures to do so. I am so weak that I must keep my eyes on His example, and pray constantly for the Spirit to enable me to live for Him.
I have counseled and spoken with many women in troubled marriages. Many times I have cried with them. And I can tell you that no matter how varied the circumstances were, no matter who was most at fault, no matter how utterly hopeless the situation seemed, these women always responded in one of two ways: in pride or in humility. They all showed emotion, cried, endured pain, and struggled deeply. But some of these women made a choice to respond in pride, and some battled their wills and responded in humility.
The power of humility
Prideful people are defensive, angry, blame-shifting, and focused on self. They consistently see that the problem lies not with them, but with everyone else. The gospel is not the focus; it is not the goal.
Humble people are broken over their own sin, more concerned with honoring God than arguing about what they deserve, and try—by the grace of God—to stay focused on the gospel and the goal.
I remember sitting across the table from my friend Reisha, whose marriage was a wreck. Her husband had betrayed her, and at one point, had even packed up his things and left. It looked like he was finally going to come back and try to reconcile with her, and Reisha was struggling. She looked me right in the eyes and said, “I don’t love him. My heart doesn’t feel anything for him.”
It was her next statement that shocked me: “But I do love God, and I will do whatever it takes because I love Him. Is that okay? To do this out of my love for God, and not for my husband?”
Honestly, in that moment, I had a million thoughts swirling in my mind. The grace of God that had flooded Reisha’s heart silenced me. I was completely moved by her intense desire to honor God and obey what she knew He was asking her to do. Her love for God made her willing to do anything, regardless of how she felt, and regardless of how many people told her she deserved “better.”
And praise God, their marriage completely turned around. This was one of the first times I witnessed the power of humility, and it is undeniable. Seeing God move like that changes your perspective on things. How many times have people allowed their pride to stand in the way of something beautiful that God was about to do?
We need to remember at every moment that God stands actively against us when we are prideful (James 4:6). You may think you are digging your heels in against your spouse, but it’s ultimately God you’re opposing, and you’re inviting His opposition in return.
God has always loved humility. Always. And He generously pours out His grace on those who are humble. View your arguments with your spouse in this light. It doesn’t matter what he said or what he did. The question is whether you want to experience God’s opposition or His grace. Is it more important for you to be right? Or to do what’s right?
On FamilyLife Today®, Francis Chan and his wife, Lisa, encourage couples to go far beyond an average marriage, and to love and live to the glory of God. And in their book You and Me Forever, Francis and Lisa dive into Scripture to understand what it means to have a relationship that satisfies the deepest parts of our souls.
Adapted by permission from You and Me Forever. Copyright © 2014 by Francis and Lisa Chan. Used with permission of Claire Love Publishing. All rights reserved.