Next year I will be celebrating 25 years of ministry. Over the years I have seen a lot of people come and go. Many of these individuals possessed wonderful gifts and had great potential for God’s service, yet it appeared that they fell far short of God’s highest and best. Why is that? I firmly believe that they failed to understand God’s principles of promotion. We live in a world that tells us that in order to climb the ladder of recognition, we must promote ourselves. Even though this is not God’s truth, this worldly spirit of “self” can creep into the Church. Without maintaining a careful, diligent heart, even mature Christians can be misled and move into worldly self-promotion.
Where does this need for recognition come from? God has placed in the hearts of His children a desire to be recognized. This inherent need, while present in everyone, is easily recognized in the attention seeking antics of children. Any parent will tell you that their children have been known to do some of the wildest things trying to get attention and fulfill this need.
Recognition, in itself, is not wrong. God himself desires to honor and recognize His children. 1 Peter 5:6 declares that God wants to “…exalt you in due time.” You see, being exalted or promoted is not wrong when God is doing it! Being exalted by God is one of the most rewarding and honoring experiences that a child of God can have. By His recognition, God is openly declaring that His hand is upon you and has deemed you worthy of such recognition. It is a beautiful and sacred experience in a Christian’s walk. However, when we fail to walk in God’s principles of promotion and try to exalt ourselves, we can get into big trouble.
Absalom, one of King David’s sons, is a perfect example of the fatality of self-promotion. There is little doubt that, as King David’s royal offspring, Absalom possessed many gifts, abilities, and advantages. Psalm 112:2 declares that, “our children will be mighty on the earth.” Unfortunately, Absalom felt that he wasn’t getting the recognition he deserved so he sought to make himself look good in the eyes of others while undermining King David’s authority. 2 Samuel 15:6 states that, “…Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” It is clear that Absalom possessed charisma and leadership ability. The Bible is clear, however, to point out that whenever anyone attempts to exalt himself, they are heading for a fall. Luke 4:11 states, “For whosoever exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.” As we read, the result of Absalom’s actions led to difficulties and an untimely death. His life fell far short of God’s best. Why? Self-promotion. This is a lesson for us all. Many fall short of God’s best and may even die early because they try to exalt themselves rather than waiting to receive the honor that comes from God.
So what are God’s principles for promotion? There are two main qualities that will make us candidates for promotion – humility and faithfulness. Proverbs 18:12 tells us that, “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honor is humility.” There are many definitions of humility, but obviously we are going to support a scriptural perspective. Humility is the ability to submit to authority with the right attitude. In James 5:6-7 we read that humility and submission are almost synonymous terms. It also tells us that pride is present when one fails to submit. Our submission to God and to those God places in leadership over us should not just be an outward display, but should spring from the right attitude of the heart. God not only looks at what we do, but the “thoughts and the intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:13). While serving under another’s authority you may not be in agreement with everything being done, but when you submit and give it your best effort and refuse to give into petty thoughts and reasoning, you are in line for a godly promotion.
This brings us to the second principle of promotion – faithfulness. Matthew 25:23 tells us, “…well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things; enter into the joy of the Lord.” We cannot be promoted to big things if we haven’t been faithful in the little things! Many individuals want the glory of speaking behind a pulpit, but aren’t willing to clean the church bathroom. They may feel that cleaning is “beneath” them and that they should only be involved in more important, visible things. The Bible calls this pride and it will hinder the promotions that God desires to bestow on them. Unfortunately, these folks are plentiful and are seldom useful to the Church.
King David and Joseph are wonderful examples of humility and faithfulness. They were both called to be leaders when they were young. They each submitted to the authority that was over them with a right attitude, and did it for many years without complaint. What happened to them? The Lord promoted them to greatness. They didn’t need to seek it…the Lord’s promotion sought them out! When we serve with humility and faithfulness, the promises of God become ours. Proverbs 18:16 declares that, “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.”
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