Humility: A Christ-Like Quality

On August 19th Brandon Oland wrote a column in the Frederick Post Sports section entitled, "Every second counts, as does third." In his column he condemns the media and others for getting all over our Olympians for not doing better than a second or third place in an event.

The purpose of the Olympics is to provide a safe forum where athletes from around the world can to be about represent their country and compete with others as a way to demonstrate unity, peace, and goodwill. But sadly what we are now seeing is that the Olympics are becoming more about winning and losing, not just competing, to the point some will use performance enhancing drugs to win or will use intimidation to get better scores.

Have you been to a little league game lately, whether it's baseball, soccer, or some other sport, the goal for some is no longer competing and having fun, it's winning no matter what. And this attitude mainly comes from the coaches and parents; most of the kids could care less. The kids are just out there having fun and looking forward to the hotdog and soda they get after the game.

I'll never forget one little league baseball game I was coaching. One of my players, who was about 7 years old at the time was up to bat, last inning, bases loaded two outs, and we were down by one run. He found himself in the situation many dream of, an opportunity to be the hero, to get that hit that would drive in the winning run.

Well this boy is up to bat and all the parents are standing up cheering with excitement. Here comes the first pitch, strike one, then the second pitch, strike two. And then comes the third pitch as a hush came over the field, the young boy took a vicious swing and missed, strike three and the game is over.

One of the other coaches and I went over to the boy figuring we would have to console him. We said, "Good try," and he looked at us and said, "can I have my hotdog now?" His comment really put things in perspective. None of the kids we upset they lost, they had a good time, and to them the score didn't matter, the game was over and they were ready for their hotdog.

This served as a wonderful lesson for all those present, because life is more than just winning and being seen by others as a hero, or being admired because of something you've done.

Nowhere does the Bible say winning is what it's all about, or that God evaluates your worth to the community and the world in terms of social status, or any other kind of status because you've won something. As a matter of fact Jesus throughout the gospels, as well as Paul in his letter to the Philippians promotes humility, or being humble, as the appropriate characteristic for Christians to exhibit. Being humble will lead to the appropriate reward, whether it's in this life or the life to come.

So what does it mean to be HUMBLE? First it means to consider others more so than yourself. Our natural way of thinking is that the more we can get for ourselves the happier we'll be. But God's word tells us just the opposite is true. If you want to be great, you've got to be last. If you want to get everything you want, you've got to be willing to put others first.

Many of you are probably familiar with the Survivor Show on TV. Well on the Survivor All-star show the final two survivors lied, cheated, and broke promises to make it to the finals. It was interesting that during the final "tribal council", they were called on this behavior by one of the former contestants, who basically said, "I hope all the money is worth it, because you traded your friendships and your integrity for it."

You want to be viewed by God and others favorably? It won't come from stepping on and over other people, but comes instead from looking out for the interests of others!

One thing I know about myself, and hopefully I'm not alone here, is that I can be a selfish person if I'm not careful. At heart, many of us want what we want, and we want it now! In some ways just the whole idea of considering others better than ourselves seems completely unnatural…even un-American! Just like some folks attitude during the Olympics, they can't imagine someone from another country beating an American.

So what would it look like for me, for all of us, to consider others better than ourselves? o We can do something simple like letting others go first. o Giving up the last piece of pie at the dinner table. o Or, more important things like keeping your promises. " Showing up on time to appointments with others. " Giving of yourself to help someone else.

You know it's not easy for us to be humble, so to whom can we turn for an example of humble living? Well our role model for all of this "humility" business is Jesus himself, and Paul lays that out for us when he says, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."

Paul then spends the next few sentences of scripture telling us exactly what Jesus did in providing an example of humility. It's starts in verse six where we learn that being humble like Jesus means to: " Be unconcerned about your personal position. (v. 5-6), your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, didn't consider equality with God something to be grasped. That word "grasped" here brings the idea that it was not something to be seized. Though Christ was, and is God, he didn't go grasping after it, seeking it, putting himself forward, or demanding others treat him in a way befitting someone of his stature. He didn't say "That's mine for the taking!"

Our modern day application for this attitude of living is simple. Whatever titles we may have earned, whatever degrees may hang on our wall, being like Jesus will mean we never lord those things or our authority over others, or try to make them feel inferior to us.

To live a humble life we do have a great example to follow, and that's Jesus himself. We ought to let Jesus be our guide. Though Jesus was in nature God, he didn't consider it something to be grasped. Instead, he set before us an example of humility, teaching us to make ourselves a servant.

So how can there be any joy or satisfaction in making yourself a servant? How can it be true that if you want to be joyful and happy, it's somehow related to being a servant to those around you?

Well consider this: If your joy and happiness in life are based upon having others serve you, then if you're ever deprived of such honor, your life will take a turn for the worse. However, if you make the choice to serve others, your happiness will no longer be founded upon how others treat you - which is by the way completely out of your control anyway.

Being humble also requires us to obey even when it's inconvenient. (v. 8) Paul says, "And being found in appearance as a man, he (meaning Jesus) humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!

You know the question I've been asking myself this week in relation to this verse is…How far does my obedience go?

Am I willing to obey the word of God if it means I lose? Am I willing to obey the word of God if it means someone else might not understand exactly what I mean? Am I willing to obey the word of God even if I don't really like what it has to say?

Our true humility is shown in these types of situations. Will we humble ourselves before God's will or will we lift ourselves up above what God's word says, and say instead, "In my situation this serving and humility stuff just doesn't apply!"

Jesus gave us the most perfect example of humility - and Paul encourages us to live our life with the same kind of humble attitude. Now you might say to me, "That's great Wade, but all that advice in Philippians sounds out of reach for me there's no way I can do that. How can I become that type of person, and begin knowing the joy that comes from becoming a humble servant?" Well to paraphrase Paul, he says, "work hard and let God change your will."

Now don't be confused, Paul is NOT saying that we must work to earn our salvation. There are really two parts of our salvation, and they are described by the words justification and sanctification.

Justification is the one time act of God by which we are pronounced NOT GUILTY of our sin. We are cleansed of our sin by the blood of Jesus Christ, and are able to enter into a relationship with Him. This cannot be earned - it's a gift of God.

But sanctification, on the other hand, is the process of being made more and more into the image of Christ in our physical lives here on earth. It's the lifelong process of submitting our lives to Christ's will, moment by moment, until we've finally reached a place where our will and His will are the same.

So Paul is not saying we need to work hard to earn our salvation. Instead, he's saying, keep on obeying God's word and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, so you can work out in the physical realm, the spiritual salvation you've already received. If we do out part, we're promised God will begin changing not just our actions - but also our very WILL!

A famous Polish composer-pianist, was once scheduled to perform at a great American concert hall for a high-society extravaganza. In the audience was a mother with her fidgety nine-year-old son. Weary of waiting, the boy slipped away from her side, strangely drawn to the Steinway on the stage. Without much notice from the audience, he sat down at the stool and began playing "chopsticks."

The roar of the crowd turned to shouts as hundreds yelled, "Get that boy away from there!" When the pianist heard the uproar backstage, he grabbed his coat and rushed over behind the boy. Reaching around him from behind, the master began to improvise a countermelody to "Chopsticks." As the two of them played together, the pianist kept whispering in the boy's ear, "Keep going. Don't quit, son, don't stop, don't stop." (Today in the Word, Moody Bible Institute, Jan., 1992, p.8)

In a sense, this is how God is at work helping us to "work out our salvation." Although God is behind it all, he does require our effort. If we want to know the joy that comes from living a humble life - it's going to take hard work on our part. It's going to take deliberate choices to be like Jesus in how we relate to others. So what will be the result of a life lived with humility? Paul says, "our life will bring light to dark places."

This past week I took some time to walk around the grounds surrounding the basilica and during my walk I kept thinking about Mother Seton. I'm amazed at how she dedicated her life to teaching. And how somehow, this humble servant woman achieved worldwide fame for her service. She serves as a great example of being a shinning light as she sought to educate people. Paul says that when we live lives of humility, being a servant, putting others first - the result is we will shine like stars in the universe as we lift up the word of God to others by our actions and our words..

The world is full of people looking for attention, for honor, for prestige. But if you want your life to be set apart from the crowd in the right way, live humbly and put others needs before your own.

So I ask you, how will your life be different this week? Who's name is it that God is whispering in your ear for you to serve this week? What action can you take to literally empty yourself of self and become like a servant?

I challenge you to live like Jesus, who lived a humble life, and because of how he lived he now lives in eternal glory with God the Father. I urge you to write down in your bulletin this morning one concrete step you can take this week to develop an attitude of humility and follow the example of Jesus.

Becoming the disciple Christ wants us to be will only come from our willingness to live with a heart of humility. So what will it be, will you chose living a life focused on winning and being admired by others, or will you chose to live a life of serving others looking forward to enjoying the hotdog when the game is over?