Sermon May 24, 2020
Why does not God wipe out all suffering, pain, and the source of all suffering? Why doesn’t God do what the Marvel Comic, villain, “Thanos” , does, simply snap his fingers and make us all holy and end all this fuss about sin, etc. The answer appears to be that the key to finding God, on this plane of existence, is by simply avoiding sin, but by embracing humility. To find God we must find humility, there are no other options. And nothing destroys spiritual growth like personal pride. It’s only by emptying ourselves of our self-love that we can hope to be filled by the Holy Spirit. There’s not room for both. You love one and hate the other—that’s how Jesus described it. You cannot serve two masters.
Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
James 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Many years ago I took a trip to visit a boys’ orphanage in South America. On that trip I took several volunteers and about four youth from our summer camp. The youth that assisted us were from affluent families in the USA. Anyway, there were 20 orphans, so we got 20 hats, 20 t-shirts and some candy from the mall here in North Carolina. When we got there and the little boys were indescribably excited to see us and proudly showed us how they raised chicken for eggs, and their neat little beds, and how they performed their daily chores—it was a very special visit and these boys made us feel like movie stars. They were all without mothers or fathers, abandoned on the streets of Valencia or simply dumped on the back alleys by parents that did not want to keep them.
And so after playing with them and allowing them to show us their new home and activities, we proceeded to hand out the gifts. But we found that one new boy had been added to the group, so there were now 21 boys. The ladies in our group quickly divided up the candy and toys so that it was not divided by 21, not 20, but we still only had 20 baseball hats and 20 t-shirts. So after talking to the orphan leader, we decided to give the 20 that were first there the 20 hats and t-shirts and that the last boy would just have to understand that we could not go back to Winston-Salem, NC for anther shirt and hat.
And so the youth that I brought from the USA passed out the shirts and hats, but when the 21st boy did not get his portion, he did nothing. He did not pout, cry or ask why he was forgotten. He smiled and was grateful for the candy and toys. But one of the youth from our camp asked the orphan leader why the new did not get upset or become hurt that we did not bring him a hat or T-shirt, and he responded that the boy had been an orphan his entire life and was used to being forgotten and ignored. When the fourteen year-old teenager that I brought from Raleigh, NC, heard this he quickly left the room, sobbing and obviously quite bothered by what he heard. And when he came back, he was not wearing his t-shirt or his hat——he had taken them off, wrapped them in a bag from our van, and gave them to the 21st orphan.
That little orphan’s humility brought out compassion and empathy from this wealthy 14 year old boy in a manner no preacher ever could. It’s the best story of humility and Godly compassion I have ever witnessed first hand. That little orphan was an angel, displaying true humility, and it touched the heart of this teenager. Do my children—-or your children—have such humility when things don’t go their way and are they as compassionate to those who don’t have a good life as this 14 year old from Raleigh was?
Consider for a moment the people that we celebrate in sports, politics, entertainment, business and even in the pulpit. Are they people of true humility, like this little orphan, or are they the accomplished, polished, witty, the best at what they do, the most beautiful, eloquent, and articulate of all mankind?
Please think of the folks that really touch your hear, and think of the ones that touched God’s heart, i.e. the ones that He celebrated, e.g. Moses, Noah, Abraham and Isaiah— godly men of integrity and passion for the Lord. Isaiah cried out when He saw a vision of God, “Woe is me!… I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
These men all showed great humility and God smiled at them and was proud of them. Why did they have this humility? In Isaiah’s case, why did fear grip his heart? He was quite aware of how small he was compared to God and just how filthy he was as stood before the holiest of all beings.
In the gospels Jesus spoke about the lowest of the low, a tax collector, and the most respected of the respected, a Pharisee. The tax collector (a Publican) and the very religious fellow (a Pharisee) went to the temple to pray. “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ Jesus said that the TAX COLLECTOR, a man despised for his vocation, left the temple justified because of his repentance, remorse, and humility.
In my work at our camp I realize that there are primarily two types of people when things don’t get done or there’s a mistake: those that blame others (the arrogant) and those that blame themselves (the humble). There are those that constantly hide behind excuses and those who offer up no excuses. There are those that point the finger at the faults of others and those that never stoop to self-pity. As you can imagine, one of these types are difficult to work and live with, while the other type are an inspiration and breath of fresh air!
But what am I? Do I blame others for my lazy actions and ill-advised decisions? Do I admit my own shortcomings (before others are tempted to point them out), or do I carefully orchestrate the situation to make me appear the hapless victim? It’s so easy to make myself an innocent prey for all my hardships, but all so humbling to acknowledge that I am “what is wrong” in my family or business or ministry, or relationship. Am I willing to accept the truth about my own ego, pride and general lack of humility.
G. K. Chesterton said that ultimately, “Humility is truth” . “ Once we are awaken to real truth about our selves we are intellectually made to know ourselves as we really are – and in our life we soberly are taken, in relation to God and to men, to our proper place.” If you are really truthful with yourself, you simply cannot be vain or proud! Who you really are—not the charade or act you present.
Isaiah knew that He stood before God with no excuse for his sin or association with others that sinned, etc. Likewise the tax collector knew that arguing about how it was not his fault for being a corrupt tax collector would go nowhere with an omniscient heavenly Father. So they both did a very wise thing: They admitted that their mistakes and errors were their own fault and not the fault of someone else. God takes delight in this, I can see why. Nobody, particularly God, likes a whiner or coward. It takes courage to accept the blame and admit that you deserve to be held accountable.
Aren’t we blessed to worship a God that rewards such a heart with forgiveness and restoration? It was said that the closer Saint Francis came to God, the more aware he was of his sins, and the more he sought to turn away from them. There was nothing fake about his humility. He once said. “Above all the graces and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to his friends, it is the grace of overcoming oneself, and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt that we must desire— for in all other gifts of God we cannot glory, seeing they proceed not from ourselves but from God.”
Jesus set the tone when He taught, ’You know that the rulers of the heathen have power over them, and the leaders have complete authority. This, however, is not the way it shall be among you. If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, you must be the slave of the others — like the Son of Man, Who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life to redeem many people.‘ (Matthew 20:25-28).
Humility is the virtue of casting aside our pride, hubris, conceit, narcissism and arrogance. Just as pride is the worst, foremost and root of the Seven Deadly Sins, humility is its cure. Jesus is the best example for those who seek to humbly follow God's plan for His life (Matthew 11:29). He is meek and His burden light. Just be honest with yourself and boldly seek the truth about yourself.