I studied diligently. I prayed fervently. I prepared purposefully. I stood before that crowd of people and did my best to preach God’s Word in a way that would be accurate and applicable. I preached my heart out. As the band took over and I left the stage, I would have said with a clear conscience that I had discharged my duty before God, that I had done my utmost to honor him and bless his people with the opportunity he had given me. I felt good. I felt blessed. It’s still a wonder to me that God ever gives me this privilege of opening his Word before his people.
But something happened as I walked down the steps and went backstage to take off my microphone. A sudden temptation loomed in my heart. Suddenly I found I wanted some outside reassurance. I wanted to hear the approval of other people. I wanted to know that others had been blessed by what I had said. And right then and there, I made a terrible mistake. I opened Twitter.
What I found on Twitter was mockery. Led by a couple of fairly prominent people, a crowd was making fun of me. They had spotted a little tic in my language, a little indication of how much it cuts against my personality to stand before so many people. While I preached, they were making sure that I and their thousands of followers knew about this tic. They were making sure that I and their thousands of followers knew exactly how they felt about it and about me. I had no idea in the moment and would have had no idea at all. But I opened Twitter.
Twitter was open for a second, maybe two, but that was enough—more than enough—to cause me to crash to the ground. In an instant I wanted to run away, to crawl into a dark corner, to be instantly teleported back to my home. In an instant a gloom descended over me. I wanted to be gone, to be somewhere, anywhere else. It was a dark moment.
The cloud began to lift eventually, of course. It always does. And as it lifted, I had to deal with the painful reality that my pride had been painfully exposed. I was forced to accept that I had needed to learn a lesson on pride.
Pride is, of course, a constant temptation to me and to every other human being. Some would go so far as to say that pride is at the root of every sin. But the strange thing about pride is that it can manifest itself in very different ways. Imagine for a moment that when I opened Twitter I had found those people praising me to the same degree that they were mocking me. Imagine that they had focused on my strengths the way they had chosen to focus on my weaknesses. Imagine that they had tried to lift me up instead of bring me down. What would have happened? Inevitably, pride would have led me to soar to great heights. I would have lost all sense of the goodness and mercies of God as I instead revelled in own strengths.
As it happens, the people were cruel rather than kind that day. They were malicious instead of encouraging, foes instead of fans. But that, too, engaged my pride and sent me plummeting. It led me to wallow in deep, dark valleys. The pride that could have led me up instead led me down.
Pride had led me to open Twitter so I could have my ego stroked. My ego had instead been battered. And I learned that day how pride is a devious and relentless foe. Whether I sink too low or whether I soar too high, the cause is the same—it’s the ugly, malicious, oppressive, deceptive, ever-present sin of pride.