Pride of Power
How much do you desire power or being in control? Are you ever actually really in control?
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
I was reading online this week, and I came across a headline that I just had to click on.
It basically said this: “The most highlighted book passage on a Kindle…ever!”
And I was hooked. I wanted to know. What is it?
Surely it must be something like Charles Dickens’ “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Nope. Turns out it’s a quote from the Hunger Games.
The great, and the wise Katniss Everdeen in Catching Fire (the 2nd book) to be precise. J
Here it is:
“Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them – Katniss Everdeen”
In fact, it’s so popular, that it’s been highlighted literally two times more than the 2nd place quote.
What’s going on here?
To me, that speaks of a deep reality that, particularly, a younger generation is grappling with and struggling to understand.
A generation that’s been told that they could do anything they set their mind to!
A generation that’s been sheltered, hovered over, and protected from hardship more than any generation before it
And they’ve been taught, “You just pick your dreams, work hard, and it’ll surely happen to you!”
And yet in the honesty of their bedrooms at night, reading their Kindles by the lamp light, it’s as if they’re underlining the words saying, “Oh my word, no one’s ever told me that before…but it seems to ring true”
“Truer to reality than what I’ve been told.”
“Because I don’t have full control.”
“Sometimes…I’m not even ready…I’m not equipped for things to happen.
“Why is it that my friends are depressed, I’m not getting into the college I want, and I can’t find a job out of college…but everyone told me If I just dreamed it would happen! That I have the power to achieve my dreams!”
“I better underline this so I remember it”
And maybe we should too.
Maybe, we don’t have as much power and control as we think.
Maybe, life sometimes proves to us, quite otherwise…it proves to us that we aren’t actually the captain of our souls…that we don’t have the power to do whatever we set out to achieve.
Suzanne Collins, the author of the Hunger Games, is not writing a new thought here.
This is a truth the Bible has presented for ages.
And yet, generation after generation…we ignore this reality.
In fact, we are in the middle of a 3-week series called DISTORTED REALITY.
It’s a 3-week series on “Pride”
Which is to have a falsely inflated or overly high view of your self.
It’s to have a distorted sense of your reality.
And we’re breaking this series down into the 3 most common forms of pride.
The pride of knowledge
The pride of power (which we’ll cover today)
And the pride of virtue
This morning, we’re going to look at what has been traditionally been called the “pride of power”
It’s the idea that we think that WE are the ones who have the power over our lives…
We think WE’RE in control.
But it’s pride…because it’s actually a distorted reality.
We’re going to study this topic by looking at a true story from the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament.
It’s a story about King Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonians.
In the history of the world, Nebuchadnezzar had power that only a handful of people have ever had.
His kingdom was enormous.
As King, he controlled almost every part of the world that he knew about
He built the greatest city in the world at that time.
Including, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, 1 of the 7 wonders of the world
This is a guy who “all day, every day” experienced power and control over the lives of other people.
If you want to follow along with the story today…
Here’s how Nebuchadnezzar starts telling the story in his words:
(Daniel 4:4-5) – NIV
4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. 5 I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me.
He then tells of a crazy dream he had about an enormous tree that gives shade and food to the whole world.
And then the tree is cut down…left to be just a stump…
It’s an odd dream.
And none of his Nebuchadnezzar’s magicians and astrologers can figure it out.
So he brings in Daniel who had previously interpreted dreams for him.
Daniel is a Jew, one of God’s people that had been exiled to Babylon when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem.
And Daniel interprets the dream about the tree.
He tells the King that the dream is in fact a warning of what might happen to him because of his great pride of power.
He says this:
(Daniel 4:24-27) – NIV
24 “This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: 25 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. 26 The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”
A lot of warnings from God in the Bible read like this.
It’s a warning.
It doesn’t have to come true.
Nebuchadnezzar could choose to humble himself.
However, this happens instead:
(Daniel 4:28-33) – NIV
28 All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.” 33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.
So, Nebuchadnezzar is basically walking on his enormous palace rooftop, looking out over this magnificent city he had built, and he’s thinking, “You can tell everybody, I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man…”
And just like that… “God shows him who he really is”
He might have been the man, but the point is: He wasn’t God. He wasn’t the most powerful.
Not even close!
He was like the 3rd grade hall monitor bragging about his power to the President of the United States
And God humbles him.
WE ARE PRIDEFUL OF OUR POWER
Now, when we read stories like this, ironically, our prideful and natural inclination is to say, “Well, that doesn’t apply to me. I’m not a world leader”
But maybe it does…
We may not be kings, but many of us try and run our own little kingdoms just the same.
So many of us are starved for power, and even more so, for CONTROL.
And we’ll get it in any little way we can.
This second form of pride that we’re covering this week is traditionally called “The Pride of Power,” but perhaps our deeper desire is actually for control.
Listen, we all want control over our lives…and if we can get it…control over other people’s lives too…
And before you think your exempt, let me remind you of your upbringing.
“Don’t make me bring your mom up here to remind you!”
The first 18 years of your life was one massive might for power and control:
2-year-olds want the power to control their lives
“No! Mine! I do it!”
16-year-olds want the power to control their lives”
“Give me the keys, and I don’t need your stupid curfew!
We all want power…because power gives us control…or at least we think it does.
Let me break it down for you where this happens for us as adults:
You can see it at work.
Everyone wants power and control…no matter where they are.
They want promotions…for money and power.
They want more control so they can tell everyone in your department what to do.
And it doesn’t matter if you’re an executive at Target Corp or you’re fighting over how much power your shift manager has at Burger King…WE WANT POWER!
Spouses want power…
You know what I’m talking about! Can I get an amen? J
We used to have to challenge men here…but most men nowadays bow in fear to their wives as she stands with the doorframe painted above her crossed arms: “Happy Wife, Happy Life!”
This isn’t just about the Nebuchadnezzars of the world.
Even in societies where people have almost zero power (take prison for example), what do the prisoners want? POWER!
Gangs are formed. Inmate hierarchy is clearly established.
“You don’t have ANY power…you’re in a 8x8 cell made up of cement blocks and a scary roommate!
And yet we’re so desperate for power and control that we can’t escape it!
It is a deeply embedded sin of humanity.
MY LIFE IS BY ME
We all have the “pride of power”
And interestingly enough, Nebuchadnezzar gives us a phenomenal description of what the “pride of power” really looks like in your life
Look at verse 30 again if you still have it front of you:
(Daniel 4:30) – NIV
30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
He says two things here that describe what Pride of Power is.
Timothy Keller, the great pastor and thinker from New York City, says it this way: Pride of Power looks at life and says my life is BY ME and FOR ME.
BY ME & FOR ME
That’s what Nebuchadnezzar said.
“BY MY mighty power & FOR the glory of MY majesty”
BY ME & FOR ME – Pride of Power
And this is important to understand if you’re going to recognize this sneaky sin in your life.
Let’s take a look at the “BY ME” aspect
Here’s what this looks like:
When things go well in your life, you say, “That’s because I worked harder and smarter than everyone else.
We treat it almost like were Hindus that believe in Karma.
We say, “I deserve this. I’m owed this”
I deserve this house.
I worked hard. Saved up.
I deserve this job.
I make my co-workers look like pet monkeys
It’s no wonder I have such great kids…I’m a great parent.
Pride of Power is embedded in the idea that my life is “BY ME”
“I did it! I brought it about! I caused it to happen…by MY POWER!
But it’s a distorted reality.
You’re leaving some pretty important factors out.
You didn’t choose your race or your gender.
You didn’t choose what you’d be talented in nor did you give yourself those talents!
You didn’t choose that your parents are still living or still married for many of you.
Before you hurt yourself from patting yourself on the back, don’t forget that God could have had you born in a Haitian orphanage in 1923, and surely your life would have turned out differently
Look at how Paul says it:
(1 Corinthians 4:7) – NIV
For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
Or, James says it this way:
(James 4:13-16) – NIV
13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.
See, this whole idea that maybe we don’t actually have much power and control…maybe our lives aren’t completely authored “BY US”….it’s an idea that makes us quite nervous.
Especially when “things happen” as the Hunger Games said earlier…and our control looks to be escaping us.
When we feel “control” slipping out of our fingers, we’ll try and get it back however we can.
Even if that means controlling just our little family, we’ll do it there.
Even if it means jamming on the helmet of distorted reality and entering virtual reality to feel control, we’ll do it
One of the reasons gaming of all kinds has become so popular is because you get to feel power!
It’s about as illusionary as it gets, but it’s POWER!!!
You can control the men in the army!
You control your clan!
You run the farm!
But if you keep living your life like it’s completely written and run BY YOU…eventually it will come crashing down.
And like Nebuchadnezzar, if we refuse to acknowledge reality (That God is in control…that God has the power), God will show it to us.
He’s not above proving to you who’s really in control of your life
GOD HAS THE POWER.
Which brings us to an interesting point in the history of our church.
As many of you know, we continue to grow as a church…and reach new people for Christ.
And we’re not anticipating that stopping anytime soon.
And we know that eventually we’re going to run out of room here at Northpoint Elementary.
And if we’re going to have a greater impact on our city, we need to Amplify what we’re already doing.
So this past Fall, we collected $613,000 in pledges that are coming in over the next 3 years, in order to purchase land for our church.
Then in 3 years or so, we’ll raise money again to put a building on it.
And then, reach a whole lot of people for Jesus!
Purchasing land is a highly complex task, and we’ve been looking for land and working on this process for almost 16 months now.
And our Land Search Team, which is made up of a few board members and some highly capable members of our church, have been putting in a TON of work over the past 6 months.
We are now to the point, where we are going to start putting offers on a few pieces of land in the next month or so.
At this time, we’re not disclosing what all of those pieces are.
It’s a bit like buying a house.
We could submit an offer and they could reject it literally 5 minutes later.
So rather than excite hundreds & hundreds of people about something that possibly won’t even be an option only minutes later…we’re waiting on that part.
However, our constitution states that before we buy anything, it has to be approved by our members.
So when we get to the point of actually negotiating and potentially purchasing a SINGLE piece of property, you’ll get to see it.
See pictures of it, walk on it, run the dirt through your fingers
It’s a decision that we won’t, and we CAN’T make with out you.
But what we need for you to do right now, is to pray.
A lot…particularly in this next month.
Because we don’t have the power here. We’re not in control.
Some sellers might not even take us that seriously because we’re a church.
Not exactly an organization known for having a lot of POWER.
HOWEVER…what they might not know, is that we serve the one who actually has ALL of the power.
And is in COMPLETE CONTROL.
So we will pray.
We really need you to pray
Add it to your prayer list.
Make a note in your Bible.
Set an alarm in your phone.
And pray that the “price is right”
And pray that God leads the people of Renovation Church to where HE wants us.
We’re not writing the story of Renovation Church. God is.
It’s not BY US, it’s BY HIM!
So thank you for praying, and thank you to SO MANY of you that have been sacrificing your finances to give to Amplify…
It’s going to be neat to hopefully see something happen this summer.
MY LIFE IS FOR ME
If we look back to Nebuchadnezzar’s “pride of power,” we remember that pride doesn’t just say that my life is “BY ME,” but also that my life is “FOR ME”
When life works out, we tend to attribute it to ourselves and simply due to the fact that my life is “BY ME”
But when life doesn’t work out, we struggle with the “FOR ME” type of pride.
“This isn’t fair!”
“I never catch a break!”
“When am I going to get mine!”
Which, all of those are assumptions that life is somehow “FOR YOU”
That the inherent purpose of your life is to bring YOU joy
That you somehow are the main character in this grand story.
But that’s not the purpose of your life.
It’s hard to hear because it’ so different than everything you probably heard in school growing up, but life is neither written BY you nor is it FOR you.
Author John Piper says it this way:
“God’s will for human beings is not that we find our joy in being praised, but that we find our joy in knowing and praising him – John Piper”
We exist to glorify God.
He put us here to glorify Him and do His work.
He didn’t put us here to pamper us
We’re not the main character.
And what John Piper is saying is that if you actually want to find joy, you’ll never find it in the holding of power and control.
You’ll find it in the giving up of power and control.
When you surrender to Him…and His will.
Listen, let me share a true principle with you that I think few Americans actually live by: Reality is the only path to joy.
Not distorted reality. Reality.
You’re never going to find real joy in power and control.
Read the biographies of the most powerful people to ever walk the planet
Not exactly a happy lot.
Even Solomon in the Bible…the richest, most powerful man of his time…thought it was all meaningless once he actually got it.
And see, it’s meaningless because you’re always going to want more!
More power! More control!
It’s never enough.
In the core of your sinful self, just like Adam & Eve, as we learned in our “In The Beginning” series, you crave to be like God…but it’s never gonna happen.
You simply aren’t going to find real joy in a distorted reality where you get to be pretend you’re God and pretend you have power and control.
Joy is in reality.
Joy is in being able to let go of the distorted reality that says your life is “BY YOU”
Joy is in being able to let go of the distorted reality that says your life is “FOR YOU”
This is the reality that Nebuchadnezzar realizes after he comes back to his senses
(Daniel 4:34-37) – NIV
34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”
36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
If you’re in reality, you realize that HE has the power…He has the control…and that’s actually a GOOD THING!
WHO ARE YOU THEN? AND WHAT IS REALITY?
So then where does that leave you?
If God is all of these things and you are not, who are you?
And what is reality, really?
It’s important that you realize that the correct response to pride, being humble, isn’t to think that you are worthless.
Humility is a realistic view of yourself.
Humility doesn’t distort the reality on either end.
If you imagine a continuum, it’s like this:
It’s pride on this end of the continuum (distorted reality)
And “thinking you’re worthless” on this end of the continuum (also distorted reality)
But actual reality, is the middle, it’s humility.
Humility is having an accurate view of who you are in relation to God.
And what does the Bible say about that?
It tells us this:
It tell us that…(like we covered last week) you certainly don’t know anything
(and this week) You certainly aren’t powerful or in control.
But, yet, despite all of that, the Bible says you aren’t just worthless either.
Because even though you don’t know much or have much power, your VALUE isn’t in what you know or what you do, but in who you are…
And God values you for you ARE… His child.
So the REALITY is: Joy is not found in pretending to be in control or amassing what “appears to be” a lot of power
It’ll never be enough.
It’ll never be real.
So just stop trying.
Rest in the fact that your life is BY HIM…it’s FOR HIM…
And yet, you’re still his beloved child.
Not the Father, the child.
So sit back, and let him lead.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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