Within Dr. Randy’s blog series, “How to be Intentional in a Dying Culture”, he shares some highlights from Jim Collins’ book, How the Mighty Fall that explores the declining paths of businesses. But Dr. Randy realized the five things Collins shared about how businesses get into trouble can also be applied to our culture.
Collin’s first point is “Hubris Born of Success.” In other words, success makes you arrogant. And I immediately thought of King Uzziah.
“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts’” (Isaiah 6:1-5 ESV)!
Perhaps you recognize that passage, and just like me, skipped over the king’s name and got to the “Holy, holy, holy!” But who was King Uzziah? To answer that question, let’s look at two passages from 2 Chronicles 26.
“And all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king instead of his father Amaziah. He built Eloth and restored it to Judah, after the king slept with his fathers. Uzziah was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem… He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:1-5 ESV).
The people set a 16-year-old child up as king, instead of his father. Early in his reign, he had success because he “set himself to seek God” as long as the prophet Zechariah instructed him. As long as He sought God, he was prosperous.
“But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense” (2 Chronicles 26:16 ESV). (Read the full account here.)
Key to Success
If we’re going to learn the moral of King Uzziah’s “success” story, there is a key verse from this chapter we must not miss. From 2 Chronicles 26:5 “As long as he sought the LORD, God made Him prosper” (ESV).
At some point, Uzziah began to trust in himself more than he trusted in God.
The verses which I left out between these two passages are a list of all Uzziah accomplished during his reign.
- He was successful against the Philistines and the Ammonites.
- He prepared and equipped his army.
- He invented weaponry.
- He fortified Jerusalem.
- He built cities.
- He constructed forts.
- He cared for the land.
He was a pretty successful guy. The author of Chronicles gives us the reason why Uzziah slipped – “He grew proud.” And what do two earlier kings of Israel say about being proud?
- David: “Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud” (Psalm 138:6 ESV).
- Solomon: “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; assuredly, he will not be unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5 NASB).
For his pride and arrogance, God struck him down with leprosy. And he was that way until he died. And although it doesn’t state his spiritual condition at the end. Other than he died, I suspect had he repented, something would have been written to that effect. But the last thing said about him was “He was a leper.”
I believe the leprosy to be the symptom of what was going on inside. Uzziah’s flesh was dying because his heart was dying.
If we are indeed living in a dying culture, what can we do to avoid walking down the same path Uzziah took? What do we need to do to keep our heart from dying?
Let’s look at some passages in the New Testament which speak to a living in a dying culture, what you and I need to do.
- Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-2 ESV).
- “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:9-13 ESV).
What will happen? Jesus said we would be delivered, tried, beaten, betrayed and hated.
Why will it happen? Because we have decided to pursue Christ; the gospel must be proclaimed.
Peter picks up on this subject:
“But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name(1 Peter 4:13-16 ESV).
Suffering connects us with sharing in His glory. Insult gives way to blessing. Shame is replaced with glorifying God. You can see how pride is the opposite in all of the passages above.
Some New Testament thought about pride:
- “And he gives grace generously.” As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor” (James 4:6-8,10 NLT).
- “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17 ESV).
- “In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:5-7 NLT).
One more passage which contrasts the king of Israel with the King of Kings: “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:3-5 NLT).
Embrace Jesus’ Humility
Paul may have been thinking of the John 13 passage when he wrote: “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Philippians 2:3-5 NLT).
Back to Uzziah. His downfall began with pride. Jim Collins stated that the demise of corporations began with hubris. And Dr. Randy stated in his teaching that what started with the demise of companies applies to our dying culture.
Uzziah began great, but he got sidetracked. And here is the massive contrast for us. In the days ahead, it’s probably not going to be great for followers of Christ. And that‘s the result of living in a dying culture. For us, it may not be our successes which distract us, but our troubles and trials. Will they be so difficult that they cause us to no longer seek the LORD? After reading the passages from Matthew 16, Mark 13 and 1 Peter 4, we know better.
And Jesus made this quite plain in as He spoke to His disciples at His Last Supper. “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33 ESV)
But you’ve got to be willing to play the long game. To run the long race. As Jesus said in Mark 13: But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Accept Uzziah’s fall as a warning to endure to the end.
Romans 8:35-39 serves reminder of Christ’s faithfulness, which will give us the strength to endure anything and endure to the end. “Nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39 NLT).
Whether you’re in the midst of trials or success, never take your eyes off Jesus. He will give you the strength to overcome.
Uzziah got distracted. He confused his abilities with God’s blessing. What can you do to avoid these?