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How to War Against Pride // Trillia Newbell

"When we're worshiping the Lord, we're going to think rightly about ourselves."

— Trillia Newbell

Do you catch yourself being more prideful than you'd like to admit? Pride is a difficult battle for all of us, and today Trillia Newbell and Natalie Abbott help us learn from Scripture how we can war well against pride. Looking at John the Baptist's famous words in John 3:30, they walk us through their own struggles with pride, why John the Baptist was able to say what he did about Jesus, and the freedom awaiting us when we worship the Lord for who he is and see ourselves as he sees us: covered in Jesus's righteousness.


"He must become greater; I must become less." — John 3:30


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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT: Hey, welcome back to the Dwell Differently podcast.It's your host, Natalie Abbott, and today I am so excited to talk with our guest, Trillia Newbell. (READ MORE)

We are talking about our verse for this month, and for those of you who haven't listened in yet this month, our verse comes from John 3:30 and it says this, "He must become greater; I must become less." What an awesome message for us today! and welcome, Trillia, I'm excited to get to talk about this verse with you.

Trillia: Thank you. I'm excited to be here.

Natale: Yeah. So, for those of you out there listening who are unfamiliar with you, could you give us just like a like a little tiny, one minute intro about what do you do? What are you passionate about? Who are you?

Trillia: Yeah. Well, I am a wife and a mother to two teenagers, and I love them so much and I love my husband too. And then I'm the Acquisitions Director at Moody Publishers, so I work in publishing and I get to write and speak as well. And it is an absolute joy and a passion to serve in that way.

Natale: That is awesome. So, you live in Chicago then, I assume?

Trillia: I do not. I live right outside of Nashville, Tennessee. So just like so many other organizations and companies, we have a pretty remote staff now, so lots of people everywhere.

Natalie: That's awesome. Well, if I were going to live someplace, I think I would rather live outside of Nashville than inside of Chicago. I've been to both places and Nashville is just such a fun, fun city.

Awesome. Okay, so this verse that we are talking about, it is really a beautiful verse. I feel like it's kind of a counter-cultural idea that we would put somebody above ourselves and say, that person should be greater and I should become less. But before we dive into the application component, I want to give the context a little bit for those of you who haven't listened to that teaching episode yet. [00:02:00] These are the words of John. John is saying to his disciples, “He, [Jesus] must become greater; and I must become less.”

And what happens is, John is baptizing on one side of the river and Jesus is baptizing on the other side of the river, and his disciples come over and they are concerned because everybody is going over to Jesus. John's disciples are jealous of Jesus. What is it about us and our human tendency that would make John's disciples be jealous of Jesus, do you think Trillia?

Trillia: Yeah. It's interesting. I think there's a number of things going on in this scene. I think there could be jealousy, there could also be comparison. And so, I think our tendency is to look to the other and see what they have or what they don't have and compare ourselves. And either we want what they have, which could lead towards envy and jealousy or we compare and think that we are more than or better than. So, I think there's a lot of things that are in our human heart that lends itself towards looking at other people and either comparing them or being jealous. I think it's just a human tendency.

Natalie: Yeah, I would totally agree. I think this particular verse, like I said, it feels very counter-cultural. It feels like in our society today, we are encouraged to look out for number one, you know? To get what we can get, to get all the followers and all the likes and all the things, and you know, John's actual physical followers are following Jesus now.

And how is it that John can look at that situation and instead of his disciples be like, “What? What's going on? Oh no. What are we going to do?” He's like, “Actually, this is good and right.”

Trillia: Well, I think it's because he knew the Scriptures for one. But also, if you look at the whole of his words—I was thinking about this and I wrote down a few things. John 1:20, “I am not the Christ.” So, he's declaring, he [00:04:00] knows his place. He knows I am not the Christ. John 1:27, “He who comes after me, the strap whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” He quotes Isaiah that he is like a voice calling out of the wilderness. John is understanding his place. He was to preach and prepare away for Jesus. And he tells them to behold the Lamb of God. There's Scripture after Scripture after Scripture that says that and he always knew that there was someone greater coming. He was preparing the way for the light of the world.

And there's a fear of the Lord that I see in John the Baptist. He fears the Lord. He's in awe of him. He's worshiping him, which when we do that, we think rightly about ourselves, right? When we're worshiping the Lord, we're going to think rightly about ourselves.

As Tim Keller would say, it’s not that we think less of ourselves, it's that we think of ourselves less. I think that's what we see kind of laid out here. That’s what I think when I think of John and why he was able to handle Jesus baptizing.

Natalie: I think it's interesting too, what you said about how it's not that we are lesser, but that we think about ourselves less. I mean, certainly because God is, God he is. Far greater than we are, but it's when we are beholding him, when we are spending time with him, when we are, understanding the word, he's greater because he is greater. It's not a lie, it's the truth. We're just living in what is already true about us.

Trillia: [00:06:00] Absolutely. And about him, a holy just set apart God. So, when we think on him, we are able to worship him rightly.

And to think of ourselves rightly, and frankly, it's probably more beautiful than what we actually think of ourselves. Like God sees us covered in Christ's righteousness, which I think is just amazing in and of itself. And it does change the way that we view others.

If John's followers were thinking rightly about Jesus, then they wouldn't have compared or have been jealous. There is a love of others applying it directly to our current context because you mentioned how in our current context we can struggle with social media—feeling like we need to have all the likes or wanting what that other person has or whatever it is. But if you love people the way God has called us to, then you're going to want that thing for them, you're going to want them to succeed. You're going to want them to get that job that they want, you are going to want them to have that marriage and that baby and that you name that thing, you're going to want them to have godly success in the Lord.

So, when we apply and obey God, to love him with all our hearts, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, it's easier to put off jealousy.

Natalie: I appreciate that word, easier. I think you kind of alluded to it just now, but I would love to hear you expand on that idea that when we rightly understand who we are based on who God is, there's actually a [00:08:00] freedom in that.

How is that a freedom for us when we walk in the things that God has given us, instead of being comparative with other people or jealous or whatever? I think sometimes we feel like that wouldn't be a freedom or that the freedom is actually in becoming the best this or that or having the thing. But what if the freedom is actually just being content with what we have?

Trillia: Well, I feel like you just said it actually—contentment. Contentment brings such peace. And so, when we're not always clamoring for the next thing, or someone else's thing, then you're going to have peace.

But not only that, you can be affirmed in the Lord. What I mean is we are created to reflect our creator, God. Before the foundation of the world, God gave us good works that he had planned for us, that we might walk in them. God gives us certain gifts. If we acknowledge, “Oh wait, I'm created by the Lord. He has kindly given me certain gifts. I can exercise those gifts, and it is a gift that I can do these things,” then it's going to change the way we view our success and frankly, our "failures". We're not going to ride the wave of emotions. We're going to trust the Lord and walk in them with faith, because they were prepared before the foundation of the world. If we know this and we trust him, then it brings peace and contentment and joy in our labor. I think there's a lot of freedom when we can view ourselves the way the Lord views us - it brings joy.

Natalie: I think you're really hitting the nail on the head there, because even in the text, like right before our verse, John talks about himself as being like the best man at the wedding, right? He's not the groom, he's the best man and he's there to announce to everybody, “Hey, the groom is coming [00:10:00] and he says that now he's here! And because of that, I have this joy and my joy is complete.” That's exactly what you're saying. We can have this joy and confidence and security and blessing in just kind of staying in our lane, you know?

Trillia: Yes. I actually love that verse and the thought of how he’s Jesus's friend. And he gets to rejoice with his friend. I think it's beautiful, this long-awaited bridegroom and he gets to rejoice with his friend and he knows his place, and he can support and be encouraged because he's not clamoring to replace him. Obviously, he could never, but he knows that.

How would it be if we all operated with that mindset in all the various things that we do? I think we would have encouraging teams, and I'm talking about at work and households that are encouraging one another and supporting one another, and churches, goodness, churches are messy. I love that picture of a bridegroom and the friend of the bridegroom who rejoices with his friend.

Natalie: Well, and when I think about me kind of being a glory thief, so to speak, trying to steal a little bit of God's thunder sometimes, like, “Oh, I was wise about that, or whatever this or that.” I don't think about it in as aggressive of a way as this image would be if you flipped it on its head, you know? How awkward would it be if you went to a wedding and the best man was trying to dance the first dance with the bride?

What? You know, like that is a pretty aggressive image. But if I think about myself that way, like I'm showing up at this wedding and I'm doing the first dance, I'm going to [00:12:00] get out there on the floor. Like, what? Who does that? And yet, that's kind of what we're doing when we're trying to kind of steal the Lord's glory or attribute it to ourselves. It might seem less out there and crazy, but if you put yourself into this scenario and you're acting like John’s disciples, encouraging him to go get those guys and you bring them all back here. You know, all those followers, we need those guys back here!

And, and John's like, “No, no, no, no, no. I am not the groom. That's awkward.”

Trillia: That is, I love that. And you know, it's interesting because as you were talking, I was thinking about my own heart and temptation and tendencies and I don't know, and I could be wrong, that I tend to try to steal God's glory.

I think I can attribute my gifts and various things to God's glory. Where I think I would falter would be being like, “Well, at least I'm not like that..” It's still the same pride and arrogance. And, I can think to myself, wisdom says, don't say this thing. And then in my private thoughts, I could say, “Well, that person isn't as wise as I am.” Although it's not outward, the inward is still arrogance and pride and glory.

Natalie: And probably a lot more pernicious.

Trillia: Yeah. And so, I need to repent of that anytime I see that kind of arrogance. I think most people would potentially fall into that kind of error than screaming out, you know, on social media,” Look at me and all my glory!” Yeah. It's interesting.

Natale: Yeah. I like [00:14:00] how John says in verse 27, “A person can only receive what is given them from heaven.” I'm like, I don't know why we didn't memorize that verse too. Like that is a really good verse for guarding against pride and also elevating us when we feel low—like we don't have anything. But we’ve been given all of this from the Lord, our salvation, abundant life, eternal life, all these things that we have and I think sometimes we either get caught up in “I'm better than everybody else,” or, “I'm not as good as anybody else.” There's this tension for us to hold. I think you said it really from the very beginning, when you keep your eyes on Jesus, then you just kind of fall right into where you belong.

Trillia: Yeah. Both of those things are pride. We tend to look at the person who is outwardly doing all the things and think, “Oh, that's pride.” But if you don't recognize God as the giver of all good things and you forget about his gifts and all that he has given to you, then that also is a pride. And so, the Lord gives grace to the humble, he desires for us to acknowledge him and be content, as you mentioned, and to praise him and to thank Him. Both can be an error and it just proves that we need the Lord.

Natalie: That is so true. Okay, I'm going to get real here. Where have you seen yourself personally struggle to live for the applause of others? I feel like because you are in a position where people know you, you've been on the stage. You are on the stage so many times. How is it that you war against that? How do you struggle? What's your tendency to struggle with that, and then how do you war against that?


Trillia: By the grace of God, I have grown so much from the beginning. I didn't struggle in the way that you might be speaking of, I struggled in the fear of man.

Proverbs says,  “The fear of man lays a snare, but those who trust in the Lord are safe.” When I first started ministry, I didn't think, “Oh, I need to be applauded.” I just was so afraid that I would do something wrong and I would be in error, and so after I would speak, it's kind of like what they say about pastors after they speak on Sunday, they're depressed on Monday or something like that.

Natalie: I'm married to a pastor and I have learned that he desperately needs words of affirmation. Every single Sunday. He needs me to say, “Babe, that was awesome. I am sure that everybody got saved.” I can remember one time we had a guest speaker come in and I remember praising that person and saying, “That guy did such a great job!” And I kind of went through his sermon with him and I was like, “I can't believe this and this, this.” And he was like, “I don't know when the last time you talked about one of my sermons like that was,” and I was like, “Oh, oh gosh. Oh, I'm so sorry.” Because it became kind of this normal habit. But he needs that encouragement every Sunday. And I think we all do.

Trillia: You're right. He does. He needs that. He needs that encouragement every Sunday because it is so hard. And the fear of man will lead us to think of ourselves too much. To evaluate every single word. I used to [00:18:00] not be afraid that people weren't going to applaud me, but be afraid that my teaching wasn't going to resonate or encourage. So it was real specific.

I didn't want to be glorified. I'm sure I did in some way, but I just wanted my teaching itself to be affirmed. That what I said was true and good and it wasn't heretical. So, I would dissect myself. Tim Keller wrote a book called The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness, I highly recommend it. It's two pages long. It's so short, but it really helped me, and that's actually where I got the quote which he borrowed from CS Lewis it's not that we think less of ourselves, it's that we think of ourselves less, and that's what I needed to do in order to practically rejoice in order to put what we're reading into action where I could rejoice and be grateful for Jesus and grateful for the gifts.

And I had to stop thinking about myself and being afraid of what other people thought of me in so far as my teaching, not my personhood. And that was a battle. It was a battle that now I've seen the Lord do. He's so faithful that I can speak and leave it. I'm just like, the Lord's going to do what he wants to do and he always does something so I can leave it. That's been a grace.

Natalie: Yeah. Oh yeah. In this world of digital things and everything being recorded, you really have all the tools that you would need to be completely psycho about that. You really could, you could go through every single time that you speak and just micromanage yourself and pick yourself apart. [00:20:00] Oh, I'm so glad you don't struggle with that as much anymore, Trillia, because that is just a burden. That is a burden.

Trillia: Yeah, it was my first year, and then I was like, yeah, I don’t want to keep doing this. It really is, “He must increase, I must decrease” situation. And I needed to decrease. I needed to forget myself and stop analyzing every word I say and trust him. He's going to finish the good work he began in people, he's going to protect his people. I'm not God. That's not my role.

Natalie: And he is pleased to use the small things and the foolish things of the world to shame the wise things. And grand things, you know? Like, Moses. His problem was that he wasn't seeing, like when God said, “Hey, I want you to go talk to Pharaoh,” Moses was like, “I can't do that!”

God's like, “Who do you think I am? Of course, I'm going to give you everything you need to do this.” It’s two sides of the same coin. And the other one being the struggling with wanting to have that glory for ourselves.

Thinking grand thoughts of ourselves instead of lowly thoughts—too lowly thoughts of ourselves.  It seems like John isn't struggling with this. John knows very well, “I'm not the Messiah. I just came to tell you about him. Now he's here and I have so much joy because I can just let that all go. I fulfilled what I was supposed to do.” What can we do to develop a mindset more like John's?

Trillia: Okay. I think practically, John knew the Scriptures, so I started with that because I think it's really [00:22:00] important. He knew Jesus. He knew that he was coming, he quoted Isaiah, he knew the Scriptures. If we know who God is in his Word, we can rightly place him in our minds and in our hearts. I believe that the first thing for us is to behold the Lamb of God. And we do that through so many different practical ways, but one is in his Word.

I would encourage people to get to know this Jesus that we talk about because that's going to be your first line of defense against pride and arrogance and glory seeking— to know the one who is holy. The other thing I think is for us to ask the Lord to identify where we struggle. It can be so easy to listen to something like this and be like, “Oh, that person struggles with this…” You know, like in a sermon, you're like looking thinking, “I hope so-and-so's listening,” so that's not helpful. Ask the Lord to search your heart and to reveal anything that's in you that might struggle with in this area. All of mine were a little different than where you were going, but they were still all a part of the same thing, right? And so, we can ask the Lord to reveal it, and then we need to repent of it, which all of these things are practical.

Ask the Lord to forgive you. And he says, “If we confess our sin, he's faithful and just to forgive us.” 1 John 1:9 So we want to confess it to the Lord and ask him to forgive us and to purify us. So those are a few practical things. And in this situation, if there is something that is good and[00:24:00] that could encourage other people, I would encourage you to do the good thing and encourage other people and ask God to help you with your temptation to self-glory.

In other words, I think that a lot of people right now, I'm going to get real specific, I'm thinking of people who want to be authors or people who they see so much self-promotion that they are afraid to share because there's this fear, “Oh, I'm going to be promoting,” and then they pull back. I actually say, “If it's about Jesus, we need more of that in today's culture and social media where everything is so on fire. We need to hear the good news. And if you're tempted to fear that you're going to sin, ask God to protect you. He provides a way of escape.

If we're tempted, we can ask him for that way out. So, ask him to help you and have faith and step out in faith and do it. I did not stop speaking because I struggled with the fear of man. I killed the fear of man. And that is what I want people to do. Keep going in the way that the Lord, if he has given you a good work to walk in. Walk in it. And ask him to kill the sin in you.

Natalie: Yes. Because if what you're sharing is really about him, even if you have a false motivation, then ask the Lord to kill that. Just like John the Baptist, like you said, we are called to be like him.

We are called to be the best man who's saying, “The groom is coming. He's coming!” To proclaim that Jesus has come and that he has done these glorious, wonderful things and he is here for our salvation and the goodness of mankind. And if we're excited about that, then that will be what eventually and ultimately will be the thing that'll be the thing that people pick up on, hopefully. [00:26:00] Not us trying to talk about ourselves. Like we're all that in a bag of chips.

Trillia: Yes. Yes. Amen. I think so.

Natalie: Awesome. Well, Trillia, this has been such a fun conversation. I love how you've just kind of been very honest with us about your own dealing with this concept and the struggle of how you think about yourself and, and what God has called you to do. And I would just say to our listeners, listen to what she said. Go do a little bit of self-identification work. Ask the Lord to reveal those things to you, and ask him to give you verses that can help you battle the things that you're struggling with because that's what his Word is for. Thank you so much, Trillia, and it was so much fun having you on the show today.

Trillia: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

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Trillia Newbell

Trillia Newbell is an author and serves as the Acquisitions Director at Moody Publishers. Trillia is married to her best friend, Thern, they reside with their two children near Nashville, TN.

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