As we have learned over the past few days, lowering our lofty eyes is essential to the calming of our soul. To do so requires us to stop thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. We accomplish this by coming to know our true spiritual size and significance. In addition to no longer thinking too highly of ourselves, we must also rid ourselves of all selfish ambition if we are to ever lower our lofty eyes.
On the subject of selfish ambition, James, the half-brother of our Lord, penned the following under divine inspiration: “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:14-16 NIV). Notice, selfish ambition is not of God, but is worldly, carnal, and of the devil. It, along with the “bitter envy” it breeds, leads to disorder and every evil practice. In light of such a frightening source and frightening consequences, can there be any doubt as to the importance of ridding ourselves of all selfish ambition?
What David professes and preaches in this psalm he proved and practiced in his life. He was a man whose eyes had been lowered from selfish ambition. No longer driven by self-promotion, David was willing and able to patiently wait on God to lift him out of seclusion. For instance, it was out of the seclusion of shepherding that God lifted him to be anointed by Samuel as King of Israel. It was also out of the seclusion of hiding that God eventually lifted him to succeed King Saul, David’s pursuer and persecutor, on the throne of Israel. Unlike most men, who would have definitely attempted to usurp the throne that God had promised them, David patiently waited for years until the hand of divine providence finally placed him upon it.
During those years of waiting for his promised throne, David suffered the deep abasement of being both a fugitive and refugee. After having secured the throne, he suffered the indignity of having to flee from it before his own son Absalom, who led an insurrection against him. During his flight from Jerusalem, David allowed one of his lowly subjects, Shimei, to curse him. In all of this, David exercised an unshakable faith, trusting God to eventually vindicate him and restore him to his throne.
How rare it is to find eyes like David’s—eyes that are not lofty—in today’s world. Most men today frantically attempt to get their foot in a door, refusing to wait upon God to open a door for them. Most men today take matters into their own hands, unwilling to leave things in God’s hands. And most men today rush to avenge themselves, failing to believe, as the Scripture teaches, that “vengeance is [God’s]” and He will “repay” (Romans 12:19).
The self-promoting and self-avenging soul will never know calmness. It will be driven by its selfish ambition to the point of rendering itself incapable of obeying this important scriptural admonition: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Incapable of being still before God and of waiting upon Him, the selfishly ambitious soul will always be in a state of perpetual motion and upheaval.
To calm the soul one must rid his life of all selfish ambition and learn to be still before God, patiently waiting upon Him to exalt and exonerate.