Paul Madson


Month: May 2011

Lesson #7c: What I Wish (as a Pastor) that I had Known, Understood, Believed and Lived 30 Years Ago

Subtitle: A Humble Life, Lesson 3

J.I. Packer writes these incredibly profound and comforting words (I urge you to allow these words to take root deep within your soul)

“There is unspeakable comfort, the sort of comfort that energizes, in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.

“There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow men do not see, and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself.  There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that for some unfathomable reason He wants me as His friend and desires to be my friend and has given His Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose.”

It’s only when we understand our utter sinfulness and God’s profound holiness that we will begin to fully appreciate God’s phenomenal love for us! When we understand these truths, the natural response is humility! This God who is perfectly holy in every way, and we who are utterly sinful through and through – this God, this Lord, this Jesus – loves us immensely and promises to always work all things for His glory and for our good.

Randy Alcorn gives us perspective on humility…

“If we see God as He really is, and ourselves as we really are, there’s only one appropriate response: to worship Him. Humility isn’t pretending we’re unworthy because it’s spiritual—it’s recognizing we are unworthy because it’s true.”

As A.W. Tozer said, “Only the humble are sane.”

If someone were to ask me, “Paul, what do you consider to be one of the most important character traits required in order to be used by God, to have a happy, healthy marriage and maintain long-term successful relationships with friends and family?”

My answer would be: Humility.

No one has helped me more in understanding what a “prideful, arrogant” life looks like as opposed to a “humble, broken” life than Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Her superb book entitled, Brokenness: The Heart God Revives, would certainly be among the best and most personally impacting books that I have ever read.

The Apostle Peter, probably known as the most naturally arrogant of the disciples in his early years of ministry with Jesus, writes in his later years (after learning many lessons the hard way), the following:

“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).

And then he goes on to say: “Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”

The force of the Greek text in verse 5 could accurately be translated as, “God stiff-arms the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

How would you like to be “stiff-armed” by God? Not me! I want and need all of the grace from God that I can get.

Notice also in v. 5 “who” is the One that does the “exalting.” God!

As a matter of fact, Jesus said in Luke 14:11, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Over the years, I’ve had dozens of men approach me about wanting to go into full-time ministry. Many times they tried the “self-promotion” route and came up empty. In many of these situations, no doors opened for them and no one seemed to be asking.

When asked for my opinion, my counsel has always been: Faithfully and humbly serve Christ where you are, with the opportunities that are in front of you. He promises to do the ‘exalting’ when and how He wants. He will open those doors if, when and how He desires. Trust His sovereign hand.

I’ve learned over the years that there are two ways to end up humble:

Either choose to humble yourself before God and others or let God do it for you! Trust me, I’ve been in the second category too many times to count (it’s painful).

Notice that Peter’s command in v. 6 is “humble yourself…” We’re commanded to choose humility each and every day, in all of our relationships and conversations. Humility in our relationships with others begins with humbling ourselves before God.

I leave you this week with a quote from Andrew Murray on humility…

“Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me. It is to be at rest when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord where I can go in and shut the door and kneel to my Father in secret and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble. The humble person is not one who thinks lowly of himself, he simply does not think of himself at all.”


Lesson #7b: What I Wish (as a Pastor) that I had Known, Understood, Believed and Lived 30 Years Ago.

Subtitle: A Humble Life (Part 2). This week, we continue with Lesson #7 in the series “What I Wish (as a Pastor) that I had Known, Understood, Believed and Lived 30 Years Ago.”

Lesson Number 7: Humility is always the right choice! Humility is “foundational” to the Christian faith, as well as effective, God-honoring ministry. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. God always honors the humble – either sooner (on earth) or later (in heaven)! (1 Peter 5:5-6; Proverbs 18:12)

(Con’t from Part 1)

Augustine, once made this statement:

If you ask me what is the #1, #2, #3 most important quality of a Christian, I will answer by saying: Humility, Humility, Humility!”

I believe one of the most dangerous and debilitating people in all of ministry is a pride-filled, insecure pastor who must always be the center of attention and receive all the praise. These pastors get really uncomfortable when one of their colleagues seems to be garnering more success, attention or blessing from the Lord than them. Usually this flows from being insecure as an individual. They are not locating their identity in Christ (refer back to “Lesson #3 in this series), but rather in how their ministry is going (or at least “appears” to be going).

Pride-filled, insecure pastors are typically jealous when another pastor or leader within their church (or organization or surrounding community) gets more attention than they do. This person’s natural tendency is to be critical of the person (usually behind their back) who is being praised because of the blessing or apparent success of their ministry.

I’m convinced that one of the greatest marks of a humble, mature, and secure person is the genuine ability to “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15). In other words, to rejoice and celebrate the Lord’s blessing and success of another person’s ministry.

Insecurity and pride go hand in hand. Humble people are so secure in their own identity (because of their deep trust in the Lord and fear of the Lord) that they can freely compliment and encourage fellow brothers and sisters in Christ – even when those people are more “blessed” or are experiencing greater “success” than what they are.

One of the first things I look for whenever I want to hire someone on my staff (both in the past when I was a pastor and now leading a missions organization) is:

How often and how well does this person genuinely compliment and rejoice in the blessings of another brother or sister in Christ? Especially when it is another person who is in the same type of ministry as what they are involved in – and especially when that other person is more successful, more blessed, and getting more attention than them.

How do they respond? Are they jealous? Are they hesitant to “rejoice with those who rejoice”? Or do they freely “join in” on the joy of what God is doing in and through this person and their ministry? It’s not about praising another individual. It’s about praising and honoring God by rejoicing with what He (God) has done in and through this person.

I also pay special attention to how this person talks about people in their past: are they quick to be critical of and point out the faults of the people in their past? Or do they make it a practice to always speak well of others?

Several years ago, I met with a pastor in another state and it wasn’t more than 10 minutes into our almost two-hour conversation that he began to verbally shred the previous pastor who came before him. And then he proceeded to tell me about the faults and failures of several pastors throughout his surrounding community. He was so quick to point out others’ failures, but found it seemingly impossible to speak well of anyone else in ministry. I couldn’t help but think, “This poor man is so insecure that the only way he can feel better about himself and his ministry is if he tears other pastors down.”

I remember asking myself: “Why does he feel the need to “gloat” in the faults and failures of others in ministry? Why does he find it so hard to speak well of others – as imperfect as they might have been” (of course as if he was the model of perfection)? I believe that Scripture shows that this is a characteristic of someone who lacks humility and maturity as a person and a pastor (again, going back to Lesson #3 in this series).

This kind of person is best described in the following illustration called “Competition or Cooperation?”

What if we replaced competition with cooperation?

Fishermen say you never need a top for a crab basket. If one crab starts to climb up the sides of the basket, the other crabs will reach up and pull it back down. There are people who act a lot like crabs.

In a competitive world it is easier to weep with those who weep than it is to rejoice with those who rejoice. We can sympathize with failure better than we can congratulate success. We are jealous of those who rise too high and succeed too quickly. We want to pull them back in the bucket where they belong.

What if we replaced the spirit of competition with the spirit of cooperation? What if people helped each other climb as high as they can without yielding to the temptation to cut them down? What if service became our motto instead of selfishness? What kind of world would we have? So the next time you see someone doing well, cheer them on instead of holding them back. After all, people were not made to live like crabs.

The late Dr. Joseph C. Aldrich, former president of Multnomah School of the Bible (now Multnomah University) used to always say, My job is to make you as successful as possible!” He would say this often in the context of Sr. Pastors and their associate staff. Imagine if we all lived like that toward one another? Imagine the impact upon our world if they saw us genuinely living like that? Imagine if our focus was truly on helping to make those around us the best, most effective leaders possible?

The Apostle Paul says it this way:

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

Or as Jesus said so clearly…

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28)

And finally, let me wrap up with some great wisdom from A. W. Tozer (this is the second half of the quote I began in Part 1)…

“If you are too big for a little place, you are too little for a big place.

It is an odd rule of the kingdom of God that when we try to get big, we always get smaller by the moment. God is jealous of His glory and will not allow anyone to share it with Him. The effort to appear great will bring the displeasure of God upon us and effectively prevent us from achieving the greatness after which we pant.

Lord, help me never to be too big for a little place. In humility let me serve and revel in You as my ‘friend and helper always.’”


Lesson #7a: What I Wish (as a Pastor) that I had Known, Understood, Believed and Lived 30 Years Ago.

Subtitle: A Humble Life (Part 1). This week I’ve come to lesson #7a in my “What I Wish…” series.  I will be spending a few weeks on this particular point because I feel it is one of the most important of all the lessons that I am sharing in this series. I wrote briefly about this subject (humility vs. pride) last summer in a short three-part sequence of blog posts, and today I’ll be expanding significantly upon that content.

Lesson Number 7a: Humility is always the right choice! Humility is “foundational” to the Christian faith, as well as effective, God-honoring ministry. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. God always honors the humble – either sooner (on earth) or later (in heaven)! (1 Peter 5:5-6; Proverbs 18:12)

Demonstrating genuine humility and vulnerability will engender greater trust and deeper relationships between yourself and the people you are leading. On the other hand, pride and egotism will most certainly cause people to be repelled by you and your leadership. Humility is not only the right thing, it is the best thing – both for yourself and your ministry.

As Randy Alcorn has said, “Pride is delusional and it is never in our best interests!”

Allow me to say right up front: I have a long way to go in my understanding of and application of what it means to be a truly “humble person.” Humility is one of those slippery character traits – once you think you have it, you’ve lost it! Having said that, I do believe that I have learned a few things (by no means all) about the importance of humility – both personally and in ministry leadership.

My desire in sharing this is to (especially) help younger pastors avoid the potential pitfalls and spiritual potholes of ministry leadership. As a matter of fact, that is the primary reason for this entire series of “What I Wish…” blog posts. It is to help younger pastors learn some of these lessons from those of us who are further down the road (and who have made some of these mistakes themselves and have the bruises to show for it) – rather than having to make these mistakes on their own and therefore, learn the hard way.

For the past 20+ years I have begun my personal prayer time with the following words (this is what I have written at the very top of my Prayer List):

“Lord, today I humble myself under Your mighty and sovereign hand. I acknowledge that You are God and I am not! I acknowledge that apart from You I can do nothing! May You pour out, in abundance, Your grace and mercy upon me today!”

Do you want God to honor your life and ministry? Then make sure to always take humility seriously and run from all forms of pride, egotism and stubbornness toward the Lord! God chastened the people of Israel over and over throughout the Old Testament because they were a “stiff-necked people.” They weren’t teachable. They were arrogant and filled with pride. They were stubborn and wanted to do things “their way.”

A.W. Tozer wrote…

“Humility pleases God wherever it is found, and the humble person will have God for his or her friend and helper always. Only the humble are completely sane, for they are the only ones who see clearly their own size and limitations. Egotists see things out of focus. To themselves they are large and God is correspondingly small, and that is a kind of moral insanity.”

This week I introduced this lesson on humility. Next week I will be sharing some very practical and difficult lessons on humility that I have learned through the years that I pray will be of great benefit to you and your ministry.

Also, an important side note: Rather than make one really long blog post, I am going to try and keep them a bit shorter (easy to read within 1-3 minutes at most). Because of this, each lesson may have more “parts,” but I think it will be easier for everyone to digest and find the time (and take the time) to read in the midst of their hectic lives. As always, I pray these posts will be an encouragement to your heart and spiritual stimulation to your soul – all for the glory of God!

I leave you this week with the following Scripture verses on the importance of humility. I would encourage you to allow these verses to soak deep within your soul.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13 NIV)

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” (1 Peter 5:5-6 ESV)

“…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-3 ESV)

“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews.” (Acts 20:18b-19 ESV)

“Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 18:12 ESV)

The Problem with Pizzazz – Interview with Chuck Swindoll

Has entertainment replaced Scripture as the center of our worship?

A Leadership Journal interview with Chuck Swindoll.

A survey in 2009 asked pastors to identify the most influential living preacher. Chuck Swindoll came in second only to Billy Graham. How does one use that kind of cachet? Apparently to call the church back from its captivity to entertainment. (Click here to finish reading)


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