Allen Jackson - Humility, Courage and Leadership - Part 2
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It's a privilege to be with you. We're gonna continue our study on humility, courage, and leadership. I think we've avoided humility. We thought somehow it was about weakness. I don't believe humility means you don't think you have any value or any intrinsic strength. Quite the opposite, it's just a right understanding of yourselves. Some of us are mad at God for gifts we didn't get, and we've forgotten to say thank you for the gifts that he's entrusted to us. Whatever that looks like today, let's open our hearts to let God shape our attitude, and that we understand that we serve in his strength, at his pleasure, for his purposes. It's really not about us. We just have an assignment. Grab your Bible and a notepad. Most of all, open your heart.
Think back to COVID. We first began to hear about a virus from Wuhan, China, and the possibility of millions of people dying, and we knew nothing about the virus, and we didn't have any treatment protocols, and we knew very, very little. So, what was the best thing they told you you could do? They were the fundamental things that would protect you against infection from anything. Wash your hands. If you touch somebody else wash your hands. If you go out in public, wash your hands. If you pick up something that's been from outside your house, wash your hands. The answer to two-thirds of what they talked about was "wash your hands".
And then they said if you really want to, like, limit your infection, don't visit with people. Isolate. None of this was like rocket, none of this was new. They knew this when the bubonic plague wiped out a third of Europe. We went back to the fundamentals until we could figure out more information to know how we could combat it. That's true with your physical health. That's true with your finances, don't spend more than you make. You could become Dave Ramsey if you can say that effectively in a cleverly, we laugh like it's simple, but we can't figure that as a nation. So, we're thirty trillion dollars in debt and we're runnin' up a deficit on an annual basis that exceeds anybody's imagination. We've just not, we're not only mortgaging our future now, we're mortgaging our wellbeing. It's a fundamental.
Well, the same is true spiritually. And if the goal is sacrifice, what you wanna look for is some simple things that enable you to give an expression of sacrifice as a matter of habit. I'll give you some things that we encourage people to volunteer here. If you... we want to encourage you to volunteer. Don't just come to church and say, "Feed me". That's not your best long-term plan. You know, initially that's most appropriate while you determine if the place is safe and trustworthy and you wanna be a part of that community, but at some point, you have to be a part of it, you have to engage with it and not just take from it. If you serve here, we'll ask you not to get the closest parking place to the building when you get here, but to park at the edges, the periphery of the parking lot. Leave those places up next to the building for the people that are still coming just to watch and decide if this is a safe place for them.
Why would you do that? "Cause it's a very simple, easily overlooked way to say, 'Hey, we'll make that sacrifice. I'll walk forty feet farther.'" Woo! Does that make your life a tremendous sacrifice? No, but it's a good way of reminding myself. You can build your own list. We play with those. You know, once you decide that you're gonna serve the Lord, rather than just serve and volunteer, make the effort to lead others. That's harder. It's one thing to stand in line and say tell me what to do next. Blow up this balloon. Okay, I'll blow up this balloon. Well, blow up a hundred more. Okay, I'll blow up a hundred more.
How 'bout taking these 20 people and blowing up 5,000 balloons? No, I don't wanna do that. Use the life skills God's given you. Maybe you're doing a work, you don't have to just do it in the context of this place. But you want to live with a pattern that says on a regular basis, I'm making sacrificial choices because I want God to know that I know he's watching. I'll give you one more. You wanna cultivate. Remember, all of these are things that let humility emerge in your life. Not some false humility, I don't know much. And I don't know. I'm not worth much. And... stop it. The fourth one I'll give you in this session is the will to bear discomfort. You wanna maintain the willingness to endure difficult people, to endure difficult circumstances, and to endure difficult assignments. And what that means, another way of saying that is just don't capitulate to the demands of comfort and convenience.
What I have discovered is we've reached seasons in our lives where we think entitlement takes over. Well, you know, once upon a time, I did this and this and this and this. But now, because of my success or my achievement or my experience or my age or whatever, and we lose that willingness to do anything that is uncomfortable. "I just don't do that anymore". And you forfeit something. Now, what that looks like and how it's described can change with the time and places of our lives. If you get little people running around your house, you have volunteered to bear discomfort. Because they're gonna bring it. Grandparenting's different. You can jack 'em up on sugar and send 'em home. Let their parents bear the discomfort. You did it with them; it's their turn. But you don't wanna walk away from this.
It concerns me. It concerns me for the body of Christ. David got in trouble. The Bathsheba narrative follows a very single, a simple sentence. I didn't put it in your notes, but it said in the springtime when the kings went off to war, David didn't. He's a warrior king, and he secured his kingdom, and he's got the leaders of his army and his mighty men, and he stayed home. And what it says next is that he saw Bathsheba on a rooftop. Do not give up your willingness to do some things that aren't pleasant. Don't just choose your engagement in the things of the Lord by what you like to do, or what's easy for you, or what makes me feel good. Find some places where there are consistent expressions of service and obedience and sacrifice, and a willingness to show some endurance.
What that will help you cultivate is humility, and humility will bring great things to you, awesome things to you, amazing things to you. Humility is something that is installed on a permanent basis. The Bible gives us any number of scenarios where humility is gained or forfeited. And I brought you a couple of really quick examples. They're characters I think you're familiar with. The first king of Israel, does anybody remember? It's not a trick question. Samuel recruits him. Samuel is the last of the judges. The tribal leaders don't want Samuel anymore. They don't want God to be their King. They wanna be like everybody else. Warning! Warning! And when Samuel gives them the warning, they say "We don't care, we still wanna be like everybody else". So, God says to Samuel, "It's not you they rejected, it's me. Help 'em".
And God is an expression of mercy. This still amazes me till this day. He said, "I'll choose a king for them". And Saul is recruited, and when Samuel goes to see Saul, this is what Saul says. It's in your notes. 1 Samuel 9:20, "To whom all the desire of Israel is turned,", this is what Samuel says to him, "if not to you and to all your father's family"? And Saul answers Samuel. He said, "Am I not a Benjamite from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans in the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me"? Saul says, "Look, I'm not a big deal. I'm a big guy, I'm taller than most of the folks around here, but I'm not a big deal. My family's not particularly significant, my tribe isn't significant". And yet, he's chosen to be king. And then he ignores those things, that list I just gave you. He's disobedient, he loses grasp with, again, humility is the antithesis of what? Pride. Pride.
Now listen to what Samuel says: "You were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? And the Lord's anointed you king over Israel". When you were small in your own eyes, God made you king. But now you stand here in arrogant, prideful disobedience, and God has rejected you. Does that sober you as much as it does me? The opposite pattern is played out in Joseph's life. When Joseph is a young man, he has these dreams, and he understands the dreams to mean that his brothers are gonna bow down to him. And he's a little full of himself because his father hasn't parented well and he's favored Joseph, and his brothers know it and there's this antagonism that already exists, and then Joseph has these dreams and he tells his brothers, 'cause he knows his dad'll protect him. Until his dad can't and his brothers sell him as a slave.
And then Joseph has a horrible run. He's accused of immorality that he's not guilty of, and for that he's cast into prison. In prison, he interprets dreams and he's promised things if the dreams come true. And the people that have the blessings forget their promises. It's an awful run. Until finally he becomes a powerful man in Egypt. His life is filled with all the seeds for hatred and bitterness and resentment. I mean, every one of them is there, every reason under the sun. And there's a famine and from his position of power and affluence, he's responsible for all the resources of Egypt and his brothers come to him because they need food. And they don't recognize him because now he looks like an Egyptian and smells like an Egyptian and he talks like an Egyptian. He doesn't look like Joseph. But Joseph recognizes them.
Now listen to what he says. This is Genesis 45 and verse 5: "Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here. Because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you". Folks, that's an expression of humility. I was sold as a slave. I lived as a slave. I was falsely accused. I was put in a prison. I suffered in the prison, but I don't want you all to be stressed about that, because all of that was just the prelude for me to help you now. What's the word you're lookin' for? Humility. Humility. Joseph started out in pride, and in the most difficult of circumstances, he maintained an attitude that let the humility of God grow in his heart. Saul on the other hand, started out in a rather humble place and God blessed him, and he imagined that he's the one who caused the blessing, and he forfeited everything. Again, our objective is to set a trajectory for our lives that lets the season in front of us be filled with the blessings of God.
The opposite of humility is pride. If humility brings the blessing of God, it brings the exaltation of God, you need to know what pride brings. Pride brings destruction. We've got a little saying that says, "Pride goes before the fall," but that's not what the Bible says. In Proverbs 16:18, says "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall". You just don't wanna do that. Proverbs 11:2, "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 29 verse 23, "A man's pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor. Again, the pathway is not murky. It's not unclear. It isn't as if... it's an open book test and God has told us what's behind doors 1, 2, and 3, and we can choose if we will just believe it. It's worth noting that pride is one of the unique fallacies of religious people.
Religious pride is one of the more powerful expressions of human pride. We're better than you because of the translation I read or the kind of worship music we have, or how our podium is constructed or some other, we're better than you because of how many people we do have, or we're better than you because of how many people we don't have, or...stop it. We don't save ourselves. What's the Psalmist say? It's he who's made us, and not we ourselves. We're the sheep of his pasture, and that's not a compliment. Of all the animals in the barnyard, the sheep are not the brightest. We need a shepherd because without a shepherd, we are defenseless and stupid. That's why we need a shepherd. We have pride of our faith. We get so proud of how we look and our appearance and our clothing and our labels and our youthfulness, or our whatever. We have pride of place, what I've achieved and become and accumulated.
Do you know who I am? We have pride of race, something we didn't choose, something we didn't create, something we have no impact over. We imagine it makes us better. What nonsense! It's not the color of our skin that's the problem, it's the color of our hearts. If our hearts are clouded with sin, none of the rest of that's gonna make a difference. Pride brings destruction. Humility brings promotion. Matthew 23:12 says, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted".
Again, this is simple! Humble yourself. "Well, how do I do that"? Well, let me think. Maybe I could serve others. Maybe I could practice obedience more completely. Maybe I could live sacrificially in small ways. Maybe I could be willing to continue to do some difficult things for the sake of the Lord. When I read about my heroes in the Bible, I don't find their assignments being easy. I don't find them taking a gift test to go, well, these are the things that would be meaningful to me. Do you understand how we've distilled our faith down to this happy, clappy, convenient trash? Well, I don't wanna do that. That's not fun to me. Oh! I got it, Paul only took missionary trips that look like fun.
Peter only took ministry assignments when he was with his friends so they could go fishing in between. Moses at the burning bush, "I'll go back and see Pharaoh, but only if". God almost took him out because he complained. Jesus gives the parable of the two men and the tax collector and the Pharisee praying on the corner. The tax collector says, "God, I thank you that I'm not like other men". Be careful, 'cause we tend to get into that category so quickly. You watch the evening news and goes, "Those people are the problem". "They are; they are the problem. They're immoral, perverted, wicked, dark, lying problems". Blah. You just swell up in your recliner. Right? "Can't watch the news. I get too mad".
I get more agitated when I listen to the Christians. We don't care. We're not interested. We think we can secure our future. We always, "You know, the news is just always negative. It'll be okay". No, it won't. What is happening now will not be okay without a supernatural intervention from God. And the key to that is God's people. It's not the pagans, the ungodly, the immoral. The Pharisee said, "I thank you, God, I'm not like these other people. They are clowns". And it says that the tax collector wouldn't even lift his eyes to heaven, and he said, "God, have mercy on me. I'm a sinner".
And Jesus said the most amazing thing. It's in verse 14. It's there in your notes, then I'm gonna quit. He said, "I tell you the truth that this man, the tax collector, rather than the other, went home justified before God. Because everyone, everyone", who's excluded from everyone? No one's excluded. Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself, everyone who humbles himself will be... now which line you gonna get in? This is not complicated. There's not three options.
So, I'm just telling you, if you don't like my list of how to cultivate humility, get your Bibles out and work on one. I'm okay with that, but you wanna be in the line where you are purposefully practicing the things that will let humility grow within you. If that's what resulted in Jesus being exalted and God honoring him, God will be faithful to you and me. It didn't matter what expression, that saving himself came to see to it that Jesus failed, and God exalted him anyway. He was betrayed by his friends and God exalted him anyway. He was unjustly accused, and God exalted him anyway. He was wrongly beaten and tortured to death, and God raised him to life again and exalted him anyway. His enemies lied about him. They had a trial that was a joke, and God exalted him anyway.
You see, we get our eyes on the wrong thing. You humble yourself before the Lord. You cultivate a respect and a reverence from God, and your enemies can't stop God's blessings from finding you. Because humility and the fear of the Lord bring them to you. I don't remember which one it was, there's about 16 of 'em, but the Indiana Jones movie where he's running through some cave and there's this huge stone ball rolling behind him, remember that? It was on the trailer. That's my picture of God's blessings. You don't have to chase 'em. You gotta get outta the way, 'cause they're gon' get you. That's the life you wanna live. Don't worry about God blessing you. You worry about being the person God's asking you to be. His blessings will roll over you. Amen.
Why don't we stand. That's enough. God's been good to us. Then our response to him is to say, God, we wanna give more careful attention. See, the greatest outcomes are when the margins are the smallest. The hardest outcomes, the most important ones, are when those margins, you know, if you need to lose 50 pounds, the first 10's not so hard. That last 5, you know, we learned to wash our hands for COVID. We got pretty good at that. But if somebody's gonna do brain surgery on you, you want them to do something other than a little Purell. They're trained on how to wash, because the way you wash makes a difference.
If you're just worried about something that came from a wet market in Wuhan, yeah, a little Purell will probably help you, 'cause there's more smoke and mirrors in that story than... But if it's brain surgery, you want somebody that's been trained on how to wash, and we're talking to the Lord, we need outcomes that are beyond us. So that kinda sloppy, kinda sort of obedience... Oh, I kinda once in a while I'll give attention. I'll serve a little here and there. Yeah I'll, you know, whatever. I'm talking about something different. I'm talking about the disciplined life. Self-discipline is one of the fruit of the Spirit. We need God's help, 'cause we need a God-sized outcome. And I believe we're gonna see one. Hallelujah. Let's pray:
Father, thank you for your Word, for its truth and its power and its authority. Thank you that it's available to us. We can open our Bibles and talk about it. Father, I thank you for your Spirit that lives within us. He is our teacher. He is the one that illumines our mind and gives us understanding hearts and enables us to see and to hear. And Holy Spirit, we ask for your help. We wanna walk uprightly before Almighty God. We wanna be men and women that can fulfill what you created us for. Lord, we choose you tonight with our whole heart. Forgive us when we have compromised. When we've been ambivalent and unconcerned. Lord, we come tonight in humility to choose you. We recognize that you and you alone can secure our futures, but we trust you and we ask you now to show us the pathway that will bring your best to our lives. The behaviors in which we can engage, the attitudes we can hold, the way we can treat one another and respond to one another, that will enable you to watch over us in ways we don't even know how to ask for. I thank you for it. I thank you that we're not alone, that we're not abandoned, that you're not displeased with us, that you're not ashamed of us, that you're not far from us. But Lord, we also offer ourselves tonight as living sacrifices. We wanna submit ourselves to you fully and completely. In Jesus's name, amen.