Summary: This sermon looks at what sinful pride is and how Naaman’s pride almost cost him everything!
In his book, “The Applause of Heaven”, Max Lucado tells the sad story of a man he came to know through a friend. The man’s name was Anibal. Anibal was a tough man. Max Lucado said that his tattooed anchor on his forearm symbolized his personality—cast-iron. His broad chest stretched his shirt. The slightest movement of his arm bulged his biceps. This was no meek man. This was a man who was tough in every sense of the word. But he was also a man in a prison cell condemned for murder.
As Max spoke with Anibal, they began to talk about becoming a Christian. They talked about guilt, and forgiveness. Max wrote that, “The eyes of the murderer softened at the thought that the one who knows him best loves him most. His heart was touched as we discussed heaven, a hope that no executioner could take from him.”
But as the conversation moved toward the conversion, Anibal’s face began to harden. Anibal didn’t like the statement that the first step in coming to God is an admission of guilt. He was uneasy with words like “I’ve been wrong” and “forgive me.” Saying “I’m sorry” was out of character for him. He had never backed down before any man, and he wasn’t about to do it now—even if the man were God.
In one final effort to pierce his pride (Max writes), I asked him, “Don’t you want to go to heaven?” “Sure,” he grunted. For a moment I thought his stony heart was cracking. For a second, it appeared that burly Anibal would for the first time admit his failures. But I was wrong. The eyes that lifted to meet mine weren’t tear-filled; they were angry. They weren’t the eyes of a repentant prodigal; they were the eyes of an angry prisoner.
“All right,” he shrugged. “I’ll become one of your Christians. But don’t expect me to change the way I live.” The conditional answer left my mouth bitter. “You don’t draw up the rules,” I told him. “It’s not a contract that you negotiate before you sign. It’s a gift—an undeserved gift! But to receive it, you have to admit that you need it.”
“OK.” He ran his thick fingers through his hair and stood up. “But don’t expect to see me at church on Sundays.” As I watched Anibal pace back and forth in the tiny cell, I realized that his true prison was not made of bricks and mortar, but of pride. He was twice imprisoned. Once because of murder, and once because of stubbornness. Once by his country, and once by himself.
The bible is clear. Pride goes before destruction. And although we may condemn more visible sins, Pride by far is the most deadly. Pride acts as the gateway to just about every other sin, and Pride acts as a barrier between you and God, and your will and God’s will.
That is why the bible speaks so harshly against the sin of pride. In the book of Proverbs God gives a list of things He hates, and the first one on the list is pride. Pride is included in the seven deadly sins, and over and over in the bible, we are warned that if we exalt ourselves, God will bring us down. For example, Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful king who forgot God, so God made him become like an animal and eat the grass of the fields. King Herod heard a chant from the crowd saying he was like a god, and since he didn’t humble himself, God struck him down and worms consumed his body. Satan himself exalted himself above God, and God flung him down to the earth. Over and over, either trough example or a direct command we are told…don’t be prideful and arrogant, but be humble.
That’s hard to do when we live in a world where everyone toots their own horn, building themselves up, and touting their accomplishments just to get noticed. And if you’ve ever received just a bit of praise, then you know how intoxicating pride can be, Shortly after Theodore Roosevelt died one of his children said, "Father always wanted to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral." Even Christians can fall in to this, so this is a message for all of us to hear this morning.
This morning we are going to look at a man named Naaman. Naaman was a man who was a very proud man, like many of us within this church. Now as we look at Naaman’s story this morning, I want us to see some key things about him that would cause him to become prideful, and see how his pride almost cost him everything. So let’s look at this together.