Monday, September 08, 2008

Pessimism and Pride

I have enjoyed giving copies of Joel Beeke’s book Overcoming the World to some of my pastor friends. My two favorite chapters are "Your Fight Against Pride" (chapter 17) and "Your Coping with Criticism" (chapter 18). Any Pastor would profit from reading these chapters.

Beeke admonishes: "Take heed to your attitude toward ministry. Ministers can develop two paralyzing attitudes toward ministry: pride or pessimism. Both are worldly at heart, for both show that the world is not crucified in us" (p. 136).

Regarding pessimism, he notes, "A pessimistic attitude in a minister is no better than a proud one, for pride is the root of pessimism." He continues, "Resentment and criticism are the maidservants of pessimism. A complaining spirit produces negativism, depression, bitterness and disillusionment in ministry. It promotes smugness and blindness to one’s own condition" (p. 142).

Beeke is on the money. Pessimism is really the flip side of pride. When we are overly pessimistic what we are really saying is, "I lack trust in myself or those around me to get things done." When we do this, we are in reality demonstrating a lack of trust in God. Pessimism, like pride, is a false confidence in self that neglects the presence and power of God.

In Sunday’s message, reflecting on the bold promise Jesus gives to his disciples in Mark 11:23-24 about telling mountains to be removed and cast into the sea, I gave this summary of our typically pessimistic attitudes:
  • That kind of person will never listen to the gospel—he’s too intellectual, or too uneducated, too polished or too rough around the edges, too popular or too unpopular, too rich or too poor, too self-sufficient or too needy.
  • He’ll never overcome that addiction.
  • This town will never see a revival—it’s too Jeffersonian, too secular, and too gospel hardened.
  • Our church could never raise that kind of money or support that kind of ministry.
  • Our family could never have consistent daily devotions.
  • My children could never be that obedient.
  • My family will never have that kind of closeness.
  • We can’t give that much to missions.
  • That child will never be able to overcome those handicaps.
  • That marriage will never be restored.
  • That slacker husband will never be the spiritual head of his household.
  • She’ll never have her physical health restored.

Beeke concludes the chapter on criticism by saying:

"Put your hand again to the plow, despite your weaknesses and hurts. ‘Continue with double earnestness to serve your Lord when no visible result is before you,’ Surgeon said. Pray more and look at circumstances less" (p. 157).


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