Excerpted from Lead: Leadership Lessons from the (Not So) Minor Prophets. Copyright © 2014 by William Attaway. Used by permission of Erial Press.
Zephaniah is calling the people of Judah to a life of humility, not pride, warning them (and us) against trusting in anything other than God.
That’s what God wants because He knows that what we worship determines what we become. And if we’re still here, still breathing, there’s still hope.
Prideful arrogance separates us from God; humility brings us closer to Him.
Are we ever like the people of Judah? Absolutely. Think about how many times in the church we have refused to extend grace, sometimes over some really minor things. In nearly 25 years of ministry, I’ve seen prideful arrogance over everything from music to volume levels to styles of preaching to who will get spoken to in the hallway to what we say on Facebook or Twitter about others. The idea of prideful arrogance, refusing to offer grace, is not limited to any demographic; it’s not limited to any segment of the population at all; it’s a human condition problem with which we all wrestle.
The problem of arrogance and pride comes down to one thing – trust. Will I trust in my own opinions, what I know, what I like, or will I place my trust in God and what He says and leave handling other people up to Him?
My bottom line for leaders from this section of Zephaniah is this: you can’t look down on others when you’re facedown in the dust.
That is so countercultural, so different from the society and people around us. We’re taught to stand with our head held high, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and not being dependent on anyone for anything. Many would resonate with the words of William Ernest Henley from Invictus, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” Be in charge, and don’t be dependent on others. Leaders are supposed to be above the behavior of those who serve, right?
Wrong. That is not the experience of the follower of Jesus – it’s just not. It’s about humbling ourselves, face down before God, and from that position we can’t look down on anyone else for anything.
In his classic book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said, “As long as you are proud, you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”
Do we want to truly know God? Do we want to seek Him like Zephaniah and Jesus encourage? Then it starts here, by humbling ourselves and putting ourselves last, putting our wants and our desires after those of others, and putting obedience to God first.
Being a disciple is not about doing everything our way until it doesn’t work or gets hard and then firing up a flare prayer. Being a disciple of Jesus means doing what He says no matter what. When it doesn’t make sense. When it does make sense. When it’s hard. When it’s easy. When it doesn’t affect anyone but us. When it affects people all around us.
We have to get past this view of being a Christian that makes it all about a walk up an aisle and getting wet in the baptistry and that’s it. It’s WAY more than that. It’s about a daily, conscious choice to follow Jesus. Jesus said it this way in Luke 9:23: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Deny yourself sounds to me a whole lot like humbling ourselves, like going facedown in the dust.
You can’t look down on others when you’re facedown in the dust. That’s why God tells us His heart on this. This is what He wants for us, and it’s so hard and challenging.
When we get this right – when we realize that it is in Jesus alone that we find hope, peace and life – then we discover the truth of what Zephaniah’s telling us; that trusting in God is an all or nothing decision, and it begins with humility.