How to Know the Next Step

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
(1 Peter 5:5-6)

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you…
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
(James 4:6-10)

 

There are, perhaps, no greater ideals on the current American landscape than the ideals of opportunity and self-promotion.

Ours is a land pregnant with opportunity. Timing one’s ascent to the top, then, is essential. We love stories in which those who have nothing climb the proverbial ladder and find themselves with everything.

The art of that climb is crucial.

We are to leverage avarice, to eagerly await our opportunity, to self-promote, to believe in ourselves, and to move and act.

There is no worse fate upon this backdrop than being doomed to a life of regret…

Like Marlin Brando from On The Waterfront:

“You don’t understand… I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it!”

But how does one know when to advance oneself? When to take that next challenge? To storm that next hill? To apply for that promotion?

To move from passenger seat in the organization to driver seat, to go from second fiddle to first, from wingman to lead?

What James says here and Peter repeats can be counted among the most countercultural virtues in modern society.

You do not advance yourself. You do not make the move. You do not seek out promotion.

You wait. You simply wait.

Obey. Persist. Resist our generation’s siren song of rank-seeking or status-climbing. Nose-to-the-ground, eyes-on-your-race, perseverance.

Yours is not the task of seeking opportunity- Yours is the task of obedience.

(The opportunity thing is God’s- you need only obey.)

When the time is right, in due season, at the appointed interval, God will raise you up.

“You need only be still” (Exodus 14:14).

It is when we move of our own accord, punch drunk on self-aggrandizement, that we lose ourselves and bankrupt our reputations.

Reputations take a lifetime to build. And only one tiny moment, one tiny misstep, to bankrupt, and forfeit what we’ve spent our whole lives building.

This command is not easy. But it is simple. It requires humility. But it also removes risk. It is straightforward and clear. God rewards this obedience by elevating you to a new audience on His terms, not your own. At His timing, not yours.

Notice also that the proverb both James and Peter recite speaks clearly of God’s attitude towards self-promotion:

He does not ignore it. He does not box it out or pretend it doesn’t exist. He sets Himself in direct opposition to it. He opposes. Actively. He is not passive towards your act of showmanship. He sets about to destroy it.

May we never find ourselves at odds with our Creator.

Jesus, we live down here in an endless mirror maze, seeking to find our answers on a landscape full of noise and well-appearing illusions. Teach us to use the light of Your Word to make our ways clear.

Amen.

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