I was in my early twenties when I took my first ministry assignment. I soon experienced what I call quick fruit—favor and multiplication of my ministry. I had many offers for highly influential positions at a young age. For example, I was appointed a district leader to more than 180 churches in British Columbia.
My heart was full of love for my Savior and passion to serve him. I was fearless, strong, and ready to take on large challenges—but I didn't see a heart of pride growing inside me. It eventually destroyed my heart and ministry.
Now years later, after repentance, transformation, and needed restoration, I can watch for key symptoms of pride in my personal life and ministry. I see these same symptoms in examining the life of Hezekiah, the King of Judah written of in 2 Chronicles 32 and Isaiah 38-39. Hezekiah tore down the idolatrous high places and brought Judah back to her God. Yet four triggers in his life made him susceptible to pride's destruction. Perhaps you'll find these same four triggers in your own life.
Trigger 1: Ownership
I took ownership and credit for the talents I possessed, which resulted in my getting caught in the trap of success and measurement of results. The problem with measurements of success in ministry is that they are moving targets. I justified my ambition by calling it "love for the ministry," but inside of me pride was taking root without notice.
God had given Hezekiah immense riches, wealth, and honor, and he prospered in all he did. With all his wealth, the Bible says he created for himself treasuries of silver, gold, precious stones, spices, and shields; storehouses to produce grain, wine, and oil; and pens for all kinds of cattle and sheep. Scripture also states he made great cities for himself.
When Merodach-Baladan, King of Babylon, and his officials came to visit Hezekiah, he was pleased to show them all his treasure. (I'm not in the army, but am I wrong to think that showing the enemy your armor is a bad idea?) "There was nothing in his palace or kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them" (Isaiah 39:2). Here's the key: God had left him alone in this matter "in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart" (2 Chronicles 32:31).
Did you catch that? My treasure. My fruit. My ministry. We forget we are only stewards of the gifts and the call, not the owners. The root of pride shows its ugly face when we dare claim to be the authors of such greatness. This became easier than I thought even while I was praying for God to guard my heart against pride. Each time I strove for more success, more results, seeing people as projects rather than those I was called to serve, pride grew undetected.