Humility

One of the blessings of retirement is being able to go through programs, sermons and devotionals that one has written over a career spanning 43 years. Recently I came across a previously missed cache of sermons and devotionals. I thought that I would share some here.  And, truth be told, some of them will never see the light of day again without a good bit of editing!    

My husband and I have worked closely over the many years of our service and at times collaborated often on sermons, articles, workshop and retreat presentations.  In addition, we have often used each other’s sermons (if it was a topic that we needed). Thus I arrive at this point with a bit of a dilemma as some of the presentations I plan to use I cannot say who was the first author; which is not really important to either of us but I felt that before sharing I should make this point because I may or may not indicate which of us is the author of a particular writing and I did not want to give myself sole credit when it is not warranted.

If you are still reading, thank you.  I can definitively tell you that what I share now was written and presented in chapel at SFOT.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also to the interest of others.  (Philippians 2:3-4)

Hudson Taylor was scheduled to speak at a Large Presbyterian church in Melbourne, Australia.  The moderator of the service introduced the missionary in eloquent and glowing terms.  He told the large congregation all that Taylor had accomplished in China, and then presented him as “our illustrious guest.” Taylor stood quietly for a moment, and then opened his message by saying, “Dear friends, I am the little servant of an illustrious Master.”  

Taylor illustrated the perfect definition of humility. Humility is not denying the power or gifting you have but rather knowing and admitting that this gift is from God and that the power simply passes through you and not from you.  The noted preacher, Charles Spurgeon, defined humility as,” (making) a right estimate of one’s self.” 

Let me illustrate this through the happenstance experiences of others.

It had been a long day on Capitol Hill in 1973 for Senator John Stennis.  He was looking forward to a bit of relaxation when he got home.  After parking the car, he began to walk toward his front door.  Then it happened.  Two people came out of the darkness, robbed him, and shot him twice.  News of the shooting of Senator Stennis, the chairman of the powerful Armed Forces Committee, shocked Washington and the nation.  For nearly seven hours, Senator Stennis was on the operating table at Walter Reed Hospital.  Less than two hours later, another politician was driving home when he heard about the shooting.  He turned his car around and drove directly to the hospital.

In the hospital, he noticed that the staff was swamped and could not keep up with the incoming calls about the Senator’s condition.  (Remember this is 1973 only dial phones no cell phones and no 24 hour cable news channels.) He spotted an unattended switchboard, sat down, and voluntarily went to work.  He continued taking calls until daylight.  Sometime during that next day, he stood up, stretched, put on his overcoat, and just before leaving, he introduced himself quietly to the other operator, “I’m Mark Hatfield. Happy to help out.”  Then Senator Mark Hatfield unobtrusively walked out.  The press could hardly handle that story. There seemed to be no way for a conservative Republican to give a liberal Democrat a tip of the hat, let alone spend hours doing a menial task and be “happy to help out.”  (Knofel Stanton, Heaven Bound Living)

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

On a visit to the Beethoven museum in Bonn, a young American student became fascinated by the piano on which Beethoven had composed some of his greatest works.  She asked the museum guard if she could play a few bars on it; she accompanied the request with a lavish tip, and the guard agreed.  The girl went to the piano and played out the opening of the Moonlight Sonata.  As she was leaving, she said to the guard, “I suppose all the great pianist who come here want to play on that piano.”

The guard shook his head, “Paderewski (the famed Polish pianist) was here a few years ago and he said he wasn’t worthy to touch it.” (unknown source)

Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 15:33)

It is an interesting aspect of the kingdom of Heaven that when we try to appear greater than we are, we only succeed in making ourselves smaller. On the other hand, humility pleases God wherever it is found.

“Jesus knew on the evening of Passover Day that it would be his last night on earth before returning to his Father. During supper the devil had already suggested to Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that this was the night to carry out his plan to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. And how he loved his disciples! So, he got up from the supper table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his loins, poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him.” (John 13:1-5)

…And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8) 

Jesus never insisted on His rights and privileges to be honored, understood or viewed rightly, rather he emptied Himself even of His reputation. He was content to be seen as ordinary and did not seek to be esteemed.  

Let me finish these thoughts with a prayer penned by AW Tozer: “Now, O Lord of heaven and earth, I consecrate my remaining days to Thee; let them be many or few, as Thou wilt. I accept hard work and small rewards in this life. I ask for no easy place. I shall try to be blind to the little ways that could make life easier. If others seek the smoother path I will try to take the hard way without judging them too harshly. I shall expect opposition and try to take it quietly when it comes. Or if, as sometimes it falleth out to Thy servants, I should have grateful gifts pressed upon me by Thy kindly people, stand by me then and save me from the blight that often follows. Teach me to use whatever l receive in such manner that will not injure my soul nor diminish my spiritual power. Let me never forget that I am a man with all the natural faults and passions that plague the race of men. And if in Thy permissive providence honor should come to me from Thy Church, let me not forget that I am unworthy of the least of Thy mercies.” 

Amen.

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