Before I started in ministry I went to visit the pastor from my home church in Connecticut. To be honest, I don’t remember a lot of what we talked about, but I have never forgotten one piece of advice she gave me. Andy, she said, to be successful in ministry you have to get your ego out of the way. I really didn’t know what she meant that day, I assumed she was talking about letting go of our pride, but through the years her words have come back to me again and again I realize that she wasn’t really talking about pride, she was talking about self. The word ego doesn’t mean pride, it means self, so overcoming our ego isn’t getting over our pride or an inflated sense of our own importance and abilities; it’s just getting over ourselves. To be an effective leader, we have to take ourselves out of the equation and always remember that it’s not all about me. To put it simply we need to get over ourselves – or overcome our ego.
This isn’t just important in ministry or in leadership, this is important in life. Too often we think that the world revolves around us and that the most important thing in everyone else’s life is what we post on instagram or facebook. There are dozens of articles and studies being done on the how social media heightens our sense of self-importance. Because we are able to share every moment of our lives and what we think about everything with the world – whether the world wants it or not, creates a false sense of our own importance. As long as we are at the center of our world and everything seems to be about us – we miss out on most of life and much of what God wants for us. Maybe that’s why Jesus said, those who love their lives will lose it, but those who lose their lives will save it. It’s in losing our lives that we find life, it’s in losing our self, overcoming our ego, that we find more of life and the life of Moses shows us this.
Last week we started looking at the life of Moses and heard how he was rescued from certain death because there were several women who were willing to overcome their history and step out with faith and courage to do the right thing. Because Moses was rescued by the daughter of Pharaoh, he went from poverty to power and became a prince in Egypt. As a young man, Moses saw an Egyptian mistreating a Hebrew slave and he got so angry that he stepped in and killed the Egyptian and hid the man’s body. Moses was afraid people would find out what he had done so he fled into the wilderness of Midian. It was in Midian that Moses got married and tended the flocks of his father-in-law Jethro and one day as Moses was out with the sheep he encountered a bush that was on fire but was not being consumed by the flames. The sight was so strange that he stopped to examine what was going on and when God saw that he had Moses’ attention in this burning bush, God spoke to him.
Through the burning bush, God told Moses that He had heard the cry of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt that He was going to rescue them and lead them into the Promised Land. God said to Moses, I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt. (Exodus 3:10) Moses’ response, however, was not to think about God and his purpose or power and wasn’t to think about the Hebrew people and the situation they were in, Moses was just thinking about himself. Moses said, who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?(Exodus 3:11) When we hear this we might think Moses is being very humble, but as we read on, we don’t see humility here, we just see Moses consumed by himself.
In the rest of Exodus 3 and into chapter 4, God and Moses have a conversation where God consistently tries to help Moses see that what is going to take place isn’t about Moses but about God. God says to Moses that he was going to be with him to accomplish this great task – Exodus 3:12. Then God gives Moses his name which means that Moses will have access to God’s power and he can use God’s name to help the Hebrew people work with Moses. Then God gives Moses the complete plan for liberating the Israelites and God says he will be the one to persuade both the Israelites and the Egyptians to work with Moses. Exodus 3:18 and Exodus 3:21. God was going to take care of everything because this wasn’t about Moses it was about God and God’s people. It was God’s plan, God’s power and God was going to give Moses everything he needed but Moses wasn’t able to see anything other than himself.
Moses continues to be obsessed with his own ego and says to God, What if they don’t believe me or listen to me. Notice Moses words here, all he can think about is himself. God once again is patient with Moses and provides Moses with three miracles he can do to help convince the people that God sent him. Moses can throw his staff to the ground and it will turn into a snake. Moses can pull his hand into his robe and bring it out completely covered with leprosy and then put it back in and bring it out healed and Moses can pour water from the Nile river out on the ground and have it turn into blood. God gives Moses miracles to do but Moses continues to only think about himself and his own limitations and so says to God, O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech. Exodus 4:10
As we look at this statement we see that Moses continues to only be thinking about himself. God has just provided Moses with miraculous powers and all Moses can think about is his own failings and shortcomings. God even tries to remind Moses that because God is the one who made him God can do whatever God wants in him and in his life. Exodus 4:11-12.
Moses persists in his self-centered way and says once more to God, Please send someone else. Now God is getting frustrated, it says that God’s anger burned against Moses, but God does not give up, God actually gives Moses what he wants, kind of. God does send someone else, not to replace Moses but to go with him. God sends Aaron to work with Moses in setting the people of Israel free.
Through this entire conversation with the living God, Moses is only focused on his own self. While God is offering God’s power and strength, Moses is focused on his own fear and anxiety. When God offers Moses miracles, Moses can only see his limitations and failures and as long as Moses is focused on his own self he is not able to grab hold of the life God has for him. God is offering Moses the opportunity to be part of something historic and life changing. God is asking Moses to serve his own people and save a nation and God is giving him everything he will need to do it and all Moses can think about is himself and his own human weakness. This is not healthy humility, this is self-centeredness.
While it’s easy to see how ego is a problem for Moses, I’m not sure we can always see the program ego plays in our own lives I’ve talked with so many people who feel like God can’t use them because they don’t think they are good enough or smart enough or gifted enough. I’ve heard people say the same thing Moses said, Who am I that I should do this? Now one will listen to me? No one will believe God sent me or is working in me. I’m not good enough or smart enough or strong enough. While I often listen sympathetically because I’ve been there, what I often want to say is, get over yourself – this isn’t about you, it’s about God.
Some people have also disqualified themselves because they don’t think God can forgive them because they have sinned so many times or so badly. No matter how I’ve tried to help these people see that God forgives everyone and everything and that God equips all of us to do more than we ever thought possible, these people are so fixed on their own failures and limitations that they can’t see God’s goodness. When we are so caught up in our own sense of inability and insecurity that we can never see God’s power or possibility then we can never experience the fullness of life. All of us have to overcome our own ego and get over ourselves and the way we do this is to shift our focus from us to God.
That is exactly what God is desperately trying to do with Moses – he’s trying to shift his focus. First God gives Moses his name, which is an amazing gift because if a person knew a god’s name it gave them the authority and power of that god. God gives Moses his name not just for the power but to help Moses stop thinking about his own name or himself and start thinking about God. Then God gives Moses his plan and the plan was that God was going to do everything that was needed to set the people of Israel free. Then God gave Moses his power, not in 1 but 3 miracles which would help convince the people that God is with Moses. Then God reminds Moses that he is the one who created him and if God created his mouth then God can put any words into that mouth that would be needed. Every time Moses says no its because he is looking at himself and not God.
To overcome our ego we also need to shift our focus from ourselves to God and we also do that by considering God’s name, God’s plan, God’s power and the reality that God created us. God’s name can help us overcome ego because all the names of God in the Bible remind us of who God is and what God has done for us. There are over 100 names of God in the Bible and when we think about God as our Rock or Redeemer or Savior or Friend we stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about God. It’s interesting that just in this encounter with Moses we hear God called, I AM, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, The LORD and Creator. Every name God used was to help shift Moses’ focus from his self to God and God’s name can still help us make that shift and overcome our ego.
God’s plan does the same thing, it reminds us that while our plans may fail, God’s plans are eternal and God has a plan for us and if we are willing to follow those plans, we will find the fullness of life only God can provide. God also makes clear that he offers us his power to use in following those plans so that we can do more than we can do on our own. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit was going to come upon us with the power so that we would actually do even greater things than He did. We don’t do these things by trusting in our own power but the power of God. The Bible says I can do all things through Christ who gives mestrength.
We also can overcome our ego when we remember that God created us. If God created us, then God knows all of our faults, failures and limitations which means that God can either remove them or work around them to complete what He wants in our lives. What’s interesting is that while Moses said to God that he was not eloquent and so God sent Aaron to speak for him, Moses was the one who ended up doing most of the speaking – God removed whatever speech concern Moses had because God is the one who created Moses’ mouth in the first place.
We overcome our ego by focusing on God and when we consider who God is and what God can do in us and in our world through us, it truly does humble us, but in good ways. Instead of a false humility where we become obsessed with our own selves, we are simply wise enough to understand that all we do comes from the power of God. Humility can go hand in hand with confidence when our confidence is in the power of God and not the power of our selves.
Humility and confidence are both needed if we are going to overcome our ego. We need to be humble before God and acknowledge that God is God and we are not – which Moses does when he takes off his sandals to enter into God’s powerful and holy presence, but Moses also had to leave God’s presence with confident assurance that God was going with him to help accomplish all that God’s plan required.
Like Moses, we are being called into the presence of a powerful and holy God who calls each and every one of us to step out to do great things, but we aren’t going to do anything of lasting value or worth if we trust in ourselves, we have to stop looking at ourselves and trusting in ourselves and keep trusting God,
Overcoming ego requires healthy humility and faithful confidence in the goodness, grace and power of God. Overcoming ego requires us to stop thinking about ourselves and start trusting in God. Overcoming ego requires us to stop being obsessed with the self and fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. So let us get over ourselves and start looking to and trusting in Jesus.
Overcoming Our Ego
Remember: Ego is not pride it is self
1. In what ways does your ego keep you from God?
• Feeling too unworthy or incompetent
• Too focused on your own failures
• Trying to do everything on your own
• Thinking we know better than God
2. Review the ways Moses’ ego got him into trouble with God.
• Exodus 3:1 – 4:17
• Numbers 20:2-12.
3. How can God’s names (found in scripture), God’ s plans, God’s power and the knowledge that God created us help us stay focused on God and not ourselves.
4. Identify how the following practices can be used each week to help us “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)
• Scripture Reading
• Scripture Memorization
• Serving God and others
4. In humility and yet with confidence in God’s power working in you, what are they ways you need to say, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.” This week, share God’s call on your life with someone who can support and encourage you.