Matthew 23:12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
D L Moody, dubbed the greatest evangelist of the nineteenth century, was an imposing man. He was loud, domineering, gregarious and wildly ambitious. Some liked him. But most did not. In his early years Moody sold shoes – millions of shoes throughout the central west of the United States. Moody was a good salesman, very good in fact. Soon he switched to selling religion. He was driven to doing great things for God and nothing or anyone would stand in his way. However, Moody had chosen to place himself at the center of his ambition. Moody did great things for God and ensured that his own name, rather than God’s, was exalted in the process. And Moody liked it that way.
But in the spring of 1867, in Bristol, England, Moody met George Muller. And Moody had met his match. Unlike Moody, who was energetic and as boisterous as a bunch of schoolboys on vacation, Muller was quiet, peaceful and serenely composed. Muller had learnt the glorious habit of waiting patiently for the still, voice of God. Moody had little time to wait for anything. Moody bubbled over with boastings about how he had fund-raised thousands upon thousands of dollars from the richest businessmen in Chicago in order to erect an impressive building for God.
However, George Muller was not impressed. Moody raved, while Muller remained silent. In earnestness, Moody urged Muller, “What is your secret, Mr. Muller? How do you raise money to build orphanages for all these children?”
And in response Muller quietly replied, “I prayed, Dwight, I prayed.” Giving Moody his full attention Muller continued, “I did not run to offices asking men to give; I did not ask anyone, but God. I hear you talking about yourself and how you will build a building and who you will run around to asking for pledges. It is not to be about Dwight Moody and what he can do, but what God can do for – with – Dwight Moody.”
Moody left the presence of this wise man, changed. All his life he dreamed of making something big of himself. He had switched jobs from selling shoes to selling God, but his dream had never changed. Until now. Suddenly Moody realized that it was not important how big he could make himself. Instead, it was all about what God could do with a very small Moody. The world was about to see what God could do through a man wholly and humbly committed to Him.
James 4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, ‘God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.’
In our ambition and zeal for serving God, we can forget that the work must be His, not ours. With energy and passion, we can be driven into a state of working for God, rather than waiting quietly upon God. And our love for self-glory causes us to lose sight of the fact that our lives and all that we do must be for the glory and praise of God alone. All that we do. All that we say. We can quickly point the finger at Moody, accusing him of his faults, but we are all prone to the same error. Sin is sin it just looks slightly different in each of us depending upon our circumstances.
Perhaps we may not dream of making great our name as Moody did. But who of us has not enjoyed the times when others have showered us with attention and praise? Zeal for doing good works is fine, but practiced with the wrong motive it is dangerous. Let’s consider why we do what we do. Even goods works, if done with the wrong spirit, will not impress God, any more than Muller was unimpressed with D.L. Moody’s achievements. God sees through our veneer of good works and searches the heart to see what lays therein.
1 Samuel 16:7 But the Lord said unto Samuel, ‘Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him; for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.’
We may be able to persuade others with our good deeds done in the name of the Lord, but God looks much deeper within. He looks for and exalts the man ‘that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.’ (Isaiah 66:2).
The Westminster Catechism reminds us that our chief purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy Him. We enjoy God by glorifying Him. Not by glorifying ourselves or our works. Our chief end is to bring glory to God. In everything. Always. Only a sincere, repentant and humble heart, eager to see God glorified in everything we do and everything we say, is the antidote for pride and self-glory.
‘Heavenly Father, forgive me for the times I make myself greater rather than exalting You. Create in me a clean heart and please renew a right spirit in me that desires to lift You up above myself and everything else. Thank You.’