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Watch 2022 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - The Value of Humility

Craig Smith - The Value of Humility

Craig Smith - The Value of Humility
TOPICS: More to the Story, Humility

So, I wanna talk to you today about the value of humility, which I’m gonna be honest with you, it’s kind of a tricky thing to talk about. Humility is always tricky to talk about because it’s always a possibility. I mean, let me teach you something about humility and you’re like, “I don’t know that you figured it out yet.” Right? So, just thinking you have something to say about humility, might feel like kind of a revelation that you still got a lot to learn there. And it’s always possible. Humility is a slippery subject and the lack of humility can kind of sneak up on you.

Just last week I was in a staff meeting and we were trying to figure out how to sort of deal with something that we were gonna do. And really early on in the staff meeting, I had this idea and I was like, “Oh, I think we should do this.” And so I wrote it down in my notepad. But somebody else was talking, and I didn’t wanna interrupt him because I’m a humble guy. And then the conversation, some other people had some things to say, and I was like, “Well, I didn’t wanna like force the conversation with my idea because I’m a humble guy.” And then, later on, somebody actually said the exact same idea, like, the exact same idea. And I was like, “That’s a great idea.”

And then at night, I was talking to Coletta at dinner and she asked me a question she always asks. She said, “Hey, you know what? What was a win for you today?” And it was like, “Oh, let me tell you about this thing. Like, yeah, I had this idea, but somebody else had it. And I didn’t say, ‘Oh, hey, that’s a great idea,’ because I had that same idea. Look, I wrote it in, I didn’t do that.” And she looked at me and she said it nicer than this, but this is the bottom line. What she said, she’s like, “Are you bragging about how humble you were today?” I was like, “No, yes, that’s exactly what’s happening.” Humility is just a slippery subject. But it’s a really important thing. It’s a really valuable thing.

And I wanna talk to you about the value of humility because what I’ve come to understand is that humility is actually the key to all the more that we’re looking for. Humility is the key to all the more that we’re looking for. We’ve been talking in this series about how to receive from God more peace, more joy, more hope. All the things that we’re really longing for are actually only possible when there is humility. And to show you why I say that, I wanna take you to a story in the Bible of a guy who learned kind of a hard lesson about humility from Jesus himself. If you wanna join this and follow along, we’re gonna be in John chapter 21, verse 15, John 21:15. And by the way, you can follow along in your own Bible. You can use the Mission Hills app as well. And you’ll see the verses that we’re gonna go through. And there’s some places there to take notes as well.

But while you’re making your way there, let me just say this. Let’s go ahead and define humility because I think there is a misunderstanding about humility out in the world. And the misunderstanding is that the people who are humble, they think they’re worthless, that they think, you know, well, humility means saying, “I don’t have any talent, I don’t have any ability, I don’t have any skills. I got nothing to bring to the table. I got nothing.” That’s not humility according to the Bible. I don’t know who first said this, but I think such a great definition of humility. Humility isn’t thinking less of ourselves. It’s thinking of ourselves less. Do you hear me? It’s not thinking I’m worthless. It’s just not thinking about us all that much at all. It’s thinking about other people. It’s getting our eyes off of ourselves and on to other people. So, it’s not thinking less of ourselves. It’s thinking about ourselves less. That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about the value of humility and humility being the key to all the more that we’re looking for.

And I wanna take you a story of a guy who learned an important lesson about that kind of humility. It’s a story about the Apostle Peter. And if you’re not familiar with Peter, Peter’s one of the early followers of Jesus. He went on to be probably the main leader of the early church, the early Christian Church. And Peter had all kinds of great qualities, but he had one kind of glaring weakness. And that is, he had a serious case of foot in mouth disease. He was always saying stuff that then he couldn’t actually live up to. And probably the best case of that was the night before Jesus was arrested and ultimately crucified, Jesus looked at his disciples and he said, “Hey, I just want you guys to know you’re all gonna fall away on account of me.” Meaning you’re all gonna run away when they come from me. You’re gonna run away, you’re gonna fall away.

And Peter jumped up at that point and he goes, “Even if all the rest fall away, I won’t.” In other words, he’s like, even if these other losers leave, I’m not gonna… I’m there for you. And then, unfortunately, his boldest declaration became his biggest humiliation. Because not only did he fall away, not only did he run away like everybody else, but unlike everybody else, he denied that he even knew who Jesus was three separate times. The last time he actually cussed a girl out. She’s like, “Hey, aren’t you with him?” And he cussed her out. He’s like, “No, I’m not. Leave me the beep alone basically.” And right at that moment, he looked across the way and he saw Jesus being led out towards the cross and Jesus locked eyes with him. And the Gospel accounts say that at that moment, Peter broke down and he wept.

And, you know, right after that, of course, Jesus died. He was crucified and he died. And imagine Peter felt that, that death even more keenly than some of the rest of the disciples because he’s like, “I screwed up right before he died and I didn’t have a chance to make it right. I didn’t have a chance to say, I’m sorry. I didn’t have a chance to ask him to forgive me for denying him. I knew him. He’s just dead and he’s gone. And that’s always gonna be hanging over me.” And then, of course, Jesus rose from the dead. And that was amazing. It was awesome. Jesus came back and he hung out with his disciples. And I’m sure Peter, like, the rest of them experienced joy in that. But I promised you, Peter also had this kind of looming fear that, at some point, Jesus was gonna bring up the time that his boldest declaration became his greatest humiliation. He’s gonna bring up that time, all those three times that he denied that even who Jesus was.

And that’s kind of where we rejoined the story through with this last week, we ended, Jesus is having meal with his disciples after the resurrection. And Peter’s there. John 21:15 says, “Now, when they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” And what Jesus is asking is, “Hey, Simon, do you love me more than these other guys love me? Do you love me more than the other disciples love me?” And the reason he asked that question was because when Jesus said that he was gonna be betrayed, and when Jesus said, you know, you guys are all gonna fall away, Peter said, “Even if the rest of these losers leave, I’m not gonna leave. I’m with you.” And essentially what Peter said was, “I love you more than they do. I’m more committed to you than they are. My passion is deeper than theirs. I’m more on fire for you than they are. I love you more than they do.”

And so now Jesus looks at him and he goes, “Do you still think you love me more than they do?” So, what Jesus understood was that Peter’s declaration of commitment was actually a revelation of pride. Peter thought that he was gonna do better than the other disciples because they thought he was better than the other disciples. It was a pride issue. And so what Jesus is doing, it probably feels to Peter, like Jesus is sticking the knife into the sensitive part and twisting it. But Jesus isn’t sticking a knife in. He’s more like sticking the dipstick in. You remember dipsticks, right? I mean, cars are changing, but, you know, combustion engine cars require oil to run. And if you don’t have oil, everything’s gonna go wrong, everything’s gonna seize up. And so there’s a dipstick that you use to stick down in there and make sure it’s got enough oil to run.

I know how important that is because I had a car when we moved to Colorado that burned oil really fast and it leaked oil. And I couldn’t afford to get it fixed. So, we just carried a bunch of cheap oil in the trunk, and we were constantly checking the oil level with the dipstick to see if it had enough. And one time, I forgot to do that. We started off on a trip. And I was actually out on 470 by our broadcast campus. And the car started making a kind of a, let’s call it funny noise. But I hardly had time to start to, like, “What noise is that?” And suddenly, it was making no noise. And like, I just got it off to the side of the road and smoke started billowing out. And I got the hood up and I was like, “Yeah, I burned the engine up because I forgot to check to see if it had enough oil to run.”

Well, in the Christian faith, humility is kind of like the oil for the engine. Humility is the oil that keeps everything moving. And if you don’t have enough of it, it’s gonna seize up. Things aren’t gonna work. And so what Jesus is doing when he asks this question, “Do you still think you love me more than they do?” he’s not sticking the knife in, he’s sticking the dipstick in and going, “Let’s check the humility level. I wanna see if there’s some humility there. I wanna see if some of the pride that you’ve had has been replaced with humility,” because the problem with pride, the Bible says very famously is that pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit, a prideful spirit before a fall. And that’s exactly what Peter experienced. He had a prideful declaration and that was followed immediately by a massive humiliation, a massive fall. He failed. Not just one time, three separate times. Pride goes before a fall. But the Bible also says before a downfall, the heart is haughty, it’s prideful. But humility comes before honor. Humility comes before honor.

And the reason that Jesus is kind of probing Peter’s pride, he’s checking his humility level, it’s quite simply because he actually wants to honor Peter. He doesn’t wanna hurt him. He actually wants to honor him. Jesus wants to pour more into Peter. Jesus wants to do more through Peter. Jesus has more for Peter. But he’s checking humility levels because he understands that without humility, more honor just causes more harm. Do you hear me? Without humility, more honor just causes more harm. It hurts the person who receives the honor, and it hurts other people around them. I remember several years ago, I hit this point where I was really kind of depressed because I felt like every time I looked at any kind of news, I was just seeing some story of some pastor who had kind of flamed out. Some leader of some church that got caught in sexual sins, some kind of a moral failure, some kind of abuse of power. Sometimes it was financial. Sometimes they just burned out. Sometimes it was alcoholism.

And I just felt like there was just a string of those. And I was calling one of my mentors and I said, “Man, what’s going on with all these guys?” And he said an interesting thing to me. He said, “Craig, I actually know almost all those guys. I know them personally. And they all have one thing in common.” He said every one of them succeeded before they suffered. I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Every one of them succeeded, they got honored way before they had struggled with anything, before they suffered through anything. They got a huge platform, they had massive influence before their character had kind of caught up.” He said, “They succeeded before they suffered.” And because they succeeded before they suffered, they caused suffering. Their success led to suffering. It means that it hurt their souls. They couldn’t handle it. But it also meant that it hurt their churches. And ultimately, it hurt the cause of Christ because our culture looks at that and goes like, “Yeah, it’s what I always thought about those people who claim they follow Jesus.”

So, see, Jesus understands. He wants to do more through Peter, but he knows that without humility, more honor just leads to more harm. So, he’s checking the humility level and he says, “Hey, last time we talked, you thought you loved me more than these other guys love me. And so I’m curious, do you still think that?” And Peter answered this. He said, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.” And the Greek word that’s translated as yes there can mean yes, but it can also mean truly, which I actually think is a more natural translation here because Peter isn’t saying, “Yes, Lord, I do. I do love you more than they do.” He’s actually kind of sidestepping. He’s what he’s saying is, “Truly Lord, I love you.” He’s kinda sidestepping the big question. Do you love me more than those? He’s like, “I ain’t touching that one with a 10-foot pole.” Besides that, you and I both know, it’s not true. I already proved beyond a shadow of a doubt. I don’t love you more than they do. Not only did I run like they did, but I denied you three times. They didn’t do that. So, do I love you more than them? I’m not going there. But he’s says, “Truly Lord, I do love you. You know that, right?”

And by the way, if you’ve been in church a while, you may have heard a message here where somebody said that Jesus is using a different word for love than Peter is. There’s four Greek words for love. One of them is agape, which means kind of a sacrificial love. And one of them’s phileo, which means kind of a friendship love. And sometimes preachers love to go, “Yeah, Jesus says, are you willing to sacrifice for me? Do you have this sacrificial love?” And Peter says, “Well, I have phileo love. I have friendship love.” How many of you’ve ever heard something like that? Yeah. A few of you. And that might be true. I’m a little skeptical of it, partly, because John uses those two words very synonymously. He uses them interchangeably back and forth. So, I’m not sure that he’s trying to make a difference. He’s translating an Aramaic conversation. Peter and Jesus were speaking Aramaic. And when he translated into Greek, he may have just used two different words because he thought they were kind of the same thing.

But if there is a difference, it’s this, Jesus would’ve asked, “Hey, do you have a sacrificial love for me? Are you willing to die for me?” And Peter’s response is says like, “I think we both know that’s not true, Jesus. I wish it were. That’s what I claimed before, but I know it’s not now. I’m just hoping that you’ll consider me someone who loves you as a friend. Can we start there?” So, if there is a difference, what it is is that Peter’s responding with some humility. And so by sidestepping the question and maybe by using a different word, what we’re getting here is a very clear teaching that this is a humble answer. Do you hear me? This is a humble answer. Jesus gets the dipstick back out. He’s like, “Huh, there’s some humility there now. There’s a humble answer.” And that humility is really important because what Jesus wants to do is he wants to give him honor, but he’s gotta make sure the humility is there.

And so now he gets a little humility and then Jesus said, “Okay, then feed my lambs.” He says, “Feed my lambs.” And it’s interesting there, he uses a Greek word for young sheep, for lambs. And I like that because young sheep are kind of cute and lovable. Have you ever seen older sheep? They’re ugly, right? They’re not impressive. They’re not precious. Lambs are kind of precious. It’s Mary had a little lamb. It’s not Mary had a little sheep. Okay? Mary had a little lamb because they’re precious. And what Jesus is communicating here is that his lambs are precious to him. Okay? He said that he’s the Good Shepherd. He loves his lamb so much he would lay down his life for them. And now he’s basically saying to Peter, “I’m gonna entrust their care to you.” And do you understand that this is an honor? Jesus is honoring him, but by trusting him with the care for his lambs.

It’s like, listen, you know, apart from my wife, my two daughters are the most precious people in the world to me. And to the extent that as their father, I have the privilege of calling them kind of my daughters. They’re my most precious possessions in some ways. And it kills me that someday, some dude, he’s gonna come along and he’s gonna wanna marry them. And by the way, if somebody watching this, that ever turns out to be you, right, you gotta come talk to me first. Okay? So, some dude’s gonna come talk to me and he is gonna say, “Hey, I love your daughter, and I would like to marry. Can I have your permission, can I have your blessing to marry?” And if, if I say yes, if, you need to understand that it’s gonna be because I am honoring you. When I say yes, I’m honoring you because I am entrusting to your care something that is deeply, profoundly precious to me in a way I don’t really have words for. And that’s what’s happening here. Peter displays a little humility and Jesus says, “Okay, then I want you to care for my lambs.” He’s honoring Peter.

But notice the progression, the honor comes after what? It comes after the humility. The humility comes before honor so that it doesn’t do harm. Jesus is honoring Peter because he’s seen some humility. And so he knows maybe you can handle the honor now. And again, Jesus said, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” And he answered, “Yes, truly Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” Even the ugly ones, apparently. And the third time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” And Peter was hurt. He was hurt because Jesus asked him a third time. Do you love me? And so he said, “Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.” And Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

So, why does he have this conversation three times? Why does he ask the question three times? And understand it’s not because Jesus is unsure. It’s not like he asked him, you know, “Do you love me?” And he got an answer back and he’s like, “Yeah, I’m just not sure I buy it. Let me lean in. Let me ask again. I need you to convince me.” Jesus isn’t looking to be convinced, because notice what he does each time he asks the question, he also bestows the honor.” Each of the three times that he asks the question, he bestows the honor. Clearly, Jesus is convinced that there’s humility, so why does he ask it three times? And the answer’s very simple. It’s because Peter failed three times. And for each of the times that Peter failed, Jesus is forgiving him. For each of the times that Peter fell, Jesus is reaching down and he is lifting him back up.

And this is so powerful because there’s a promise and a principle here. Okay? That the promise very simply is this. The promise is this. Jesus will never give up on you. And I guarantee you that there’s somebody listening today that is the reason you’re here because you needed to hear that you feel like you’ve fallen one too many times. You feel like you failed once too often, and you need to hear that Jesus is looking at you going, “There’s no such thing.” Jesus never gives upon us. Jesus will never give up on you. Is that good news, church? Can I get an Amen if it is? Amen. Yeah, it’s good news for me. Jesus will never give up on you. Every time you fail, there is forgiveness if you just ask for it. And there’s a principle here too, and the principle is this, it’s that humility comes before forgiveness. For each of the times that Jesus forgives him, he also elicits a response of humility. Humility comes before forgiveness.

Why is that? Because to receive forgiveness, there’s three things that have to happen. And without humility, none of them are possible. The first thing is to receive forgiveness, we have to admit we need it. Okay? We can’t go, “Yeah. I’m gonna want some forgiveness from you because I know that you think I did something wrong.” No, no that’s it. To receive forgiveness is the first thing we have to do, whether it’s with God or with another human being is we have to go, “I know I did something thing wrong.” We have to admit we need it. And that takes humility. Second thing is to receive humility, we have to ask for it. We have to go, “I realize I don’t deserve it; I realize I haven’t earned it; I realize you don’t actually owe it to me, but will you forgive me?” That takes humility. And then third thing is to receive humility, we have to accept it. We have to accept it knowing that we didn’t earn it, knowing that we don’t deserve it, but what we have to accept it and then move forward as though that the one who’s given it has actually given it. And that takes humility.

I struggle with that one. And when my wife and I have a conflict and I realize that I’m wrong and I admit it and I ask for forgiveness, I struggle with the accepting part of it. Maybe you do too, because there’s a part of me goes what? “But I’m gonna make up for it. I’m gonna fix it. I’m gonna do better. And I’m gonna make you glad that you forgave me.” But what I’m really doing is, is I’m allowing pride to say, “I think if I work hard enough, I can actually deserve it.” Humility is not, I don’t deserve it so I just have to accept it. I just have to receive it.

And this is interesting because forgiveness is one of a number of things that we all desperately need, and that we can’t take for ourselves. Forgiveness, like many other things that we long for in life, is not something we can achieve, it’s only something we can receive. And we’re talking this series about the more that we’re longing for. And so much of the more we’re longing for cannot be achieved, it can only be received, which means that humility is so critical to all the things we’re longing for, that we’re hungering for. In fact, here’s what I’ve come on to understand. I’ve come to understand without humility, you’re always gonna be hungry. Without humility, you’re always going to be hungry for something that you can’t earn. You can’t get the world says, “Hey, there’s all kinds of things that you can achieve. And if you just achieve these, you’ll be satisfied.” But it doesn’t work that way. I mean, you can achieve possessions. Absolutely you can. But that doesn’t bring the joy that we’re hungry for. That can only be received, not achieved.

The world says you can achieve positions, but that doesn’t deliver the peace that we’re hungry for. That can only be received. The world says you can achieve fame, you can achieve influence. But that doesn’t produce the love we’re craving. The more that we’re really hungry for can’t be achieved, it can only be received. And without humility, we can’t stretch out our hands to receive it. So, without humility, you’re always going to be hungry. And Jesus is probing Peter’s pride. He’s checking his humility level because there’s an honor that he wants to bestow. And yes, he failed three times. But three times, he lifts him back up. Yes, he screwed up three times, but three times Jesus forgives him. But humility was key to that.

And then Jesus said to him, “Very truly, I tell you when you were younger, you dressed yourself and you went where you wanted. But when you’re old, you’ll stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. And then he said to him, “Follow me.” So, the conversation takes kind of a strange turn, right? Peter’s just been restored and I’m sure he feels it at this point, he understands, “Oh, okay. I’m forgiven, like, I’m free. And you’re still giving me a place in your plan. That’s an amazing thing.” And then Jesus says, “Yeah, and here’s how you’re gonna die.” What? And what we need to understand is that what Jesus is telling him is, is he’s describing a humble death. This is a humble death, right? He says, “You know, right now you get to choose your own clothes, you get to decide what you’re gonna wear. But there’s a time coming that other people are gonna dress you.” And the implied bit is, and they’re not gonna dress you the way you’d prefer. He says, “Now, you get to go wherever you want, but there’s a time coming that you’re gonna be led to where you don’t want to go.” He’s describing a humble death.

And legend says that Peter was ultimately crucified for his faith in Jesus. And legend says that he actually chose to be crucified upside down as an act of humility. He didn’t wanna be mistaken for Jesus. And that might be true. There’s no good historical records for it. So, I’m reluctant to go too far down that road. But what we know for sure, from what Jesus says here in the Word of God, is that Peter was going to die a humble death. But John says, Jesus wasn’t digging the knife in. He was actually talking about humility to set the stage for something really good. He said, Jesus told him this, right? Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. He said that Peter’s humble death would actually bring glory to God. And so Jesus looked to Peter and said, “Follow me. Follow me and live humbly.” Because Jesus is the prayer perfect example of humility. Jesus is the only one who never had any reason to be humble. He’s the Lord of lords. He’s the King of kings. He’s the only human being who’s ever walked the face of the earth and had no reason to be humble. And yet, he was more humble than everybody else. Book of Philippians says that he humbled himself even to the point of becoming obedient to his Father, to death on the cross, most humiliating kind of death. So, Jesus says, “Peter, follow me. Follow me humbly. And it’s gonna produce glory.”

Humility comes before honor. Humility comes before forgiveness. And now we see that humility comes before glory. And, yeah, it’s glory to go God. And without humility, we wouldn’t even care about that, right? Without humility, we’d be like, “Why would I wanna give God glory? I wanna bring myself glory.” But humility says, “No. I actually wanna see God glorified.” And because not only does that bring glory to God and that’s good, but it’s also good for other people. Because when God has given glory, he shines and other people are drawn to him and their forgiven of their sins. They enter eternal life with him. They join us on mission sharing the good news of the Gospel. And that’s really good for them. So, it’s good for God and it’s good for them. It just doesn’t have anything to do with me, right? Well, it does actually.

When we give God glory and that glory is good for other people, it actually ends up being good for us too. The Bible says, he meaning God, “He mocks proud mockers, but he shows favor to the humble and the oppressed.” Literally, he gives grace to the humble and the oppressed. He gives good things to the humble. Things that they can’t deserve, things they can’t earn, but he gives good things like forgiveness, like joy, like hope, like peace, like meaning significance. He pours those out on the humble. That’s why I say that humility is the key to all the more that we’re looking for. Humility is the key. It unlocks the more that we’re really hungering for that nothing in the world can provide. We can’t take it for ourselves. Pride says we can take what we want. Humility knows, no, we can only receive what we need. But humility’s hard. Can I get Amen in on that? Amen.

Anybody feel like they’ve just nailed this humility thing? It’s a trick question. And even Peter is still struggling with it. So, Jesus tells him how he is gonna die. It’s a humble death. And then Peter turned and he saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. This was the one that had leaned back against Jesus at the supper, and had said, “Lord, who’s gonna betray you?” Now, when Peter saw him, he asked “Lord, what about him?” You understand, Jesus just said, “Here, it’s how you’re gonna die, Peter.” And Peter’s like, “Huh, thanks for that.” Not what I was hoping for. It’s not a blaze of glory. Everybody wants to die in a blaze of glory. This is a very humble death. It’s not quite what I was looking for, but oh, how’s he gonna die? That’s what he’s asking. What about him? How’s he gonna die? And the reason he’s doing this is because he’s still struggling with a little bit of pride. Like, all of us pride doesn’t just go out the window, never to return. It’s always trying to get its way back in.

And we know this is pride because here’s the thing, pride thrives on comparison. Do you hear me? Pride thrives on comparison. Pride loves to go. “No, you’re not perfect, but you are way better than he is.” “No, no, no. You’re not the best mom ever. But did you see that mom in the grocery store with those kids? You’re doing well, you’re killing it.” Pride magnifies our supposed strengths, and it minimizes our weaknesses. But at the end of the day, it puts our eyes thoroughly back on ourselves. It’s a mirror that we just stare at ourselves in. Pride says to Peter, yeah, you’re gonna die a humble death. That’s no good. But maybe it’s not as bad as maybe some of them will have an even more humble death. So, ask about him to put it in perspective, right? So, you can still hold on to some sense that you’re good enough.

And Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? What’s that got to do with you? You must follow me.” Now, because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die, but Jesus did not say he would not die. He only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” In other words, Peter, we’re not talking about him. I’m talking about you. I’m inviting you to follow me in humility.

Stop looking for comparisons. Because the reality is that comparison is the enemy of humility. Comparison’s the enemy of humility. We compare and we inevitably find people that we’re doing a little better than, and that better than turns into good enough. I do it. I wish I didn’t, but I do it. I’m tempted to compare myself to other pastors and what God’s doing in their churches and what happened this past Easter in terms of their baptisms, or their salvation, or the people who showed up and all that junk, I’m tempted to do that. You’re tempted to do it. You’re tempted to compare your husband to her husband. Or your role as a mom to the way she’s doing as a mom. As men, we compare how much money we make, how much money he makes, what kind of car they drive, or kind of husband he is, or what kind of dad he is compared to me. We’re all driven by that.

But that works against this humility that’s so important. Comparison is the enemy of humility. And humility is so important because Peter, years after this conversation with Jesus, Peter wrote a letter to the church that he had been privileged to lead for many years. And these are the words that he said to that church. He said, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” Again, humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s not thinking you’re worthless. It’s in the context of other people, it’s thinking of yourself less. It’s thinking about other people more. He says, “Clothe yourself with humility toward one another because God opposes the proud, but he shows favor, he gives grace and good things to the humble.” He said, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time.” He says humility is gonna be really good for you because humility allows us to receive from God all the more he created us for. Humility allows us to receive from God all the more that we’re hungering for.

So, my question is this, what’s your next step forward in humility? Because the good news is you can grow in humility. It’s not that you’re either humble or you’re not. It’s something you can grow in. So, what’s your next step forward to grow in humility, knowing that it’s the key to receiving the hope, and the joy, and the peace, and the meaning and the significance, and all those things that God actually created us to experience? But that we can’t without humility. How do you grow in humility?

What’s your next step? Let me give you three things you might think about doing. Number one, start praying. The Bible says that humility is a gift of the Spirit. It’s a fruit of the Spirit, which means that God longs to build more humility in us. Now, I just wanna warn you. If you pray for God to give you humility, it’s not gonna be fun. It’s gonna be good, but it’s not gonna be fun because we don’t usually grow in humility by God going, “Well, let’s just see if I can throw a ton of honor on you and see if it goes okay.” Now, God loves you too much for that. It’s a dangerous prayer, but it’s a powerful prayer. And it’s a valuable prayer because humility is such a valuable thing. So, that’s the first thing you can do. You can start praying for it.

So, the second thing you can do is you can stop comparing, right? And maybe even do this. I’m gonna challenge you this week to think through your life, take some time to reflect, think through your life and find those places where you’re most likely to compare. What you’re often gonna find is those are kinda like red flags. Go, “There’s pride here, there’s a stronghold of pride in this area of my life.” Find those areas you’re most likely to compare. And then just ask for God to give you the strength not to do that anymore, because that’s key. Comparison’s the enemy of humility.

And then the third thing is I’m gonna say start serving. And this is the tricky one because sometimes we can like, “Look how good I am at this serving business.” Humility is slippery, tends to slip away. But there’s tremendous power that comes from serving others.

When I was a senior in the seminary my last year, I got an honor. I was given the senior preaching award. And they actually, I shared it with another guy and they told me this never happened in the history of the seminary. We had two guys that were equally good and I was like, “Huh. I’m not sure that’s true. Actually, if you’d asked me, I would’ve told you actually I think my message is better, but whatever, you know.” But it was a huge honor. And not long after seminary I actually began a kind of a speaking ministry. I started, you know, doing conferences, things like that. And I think there was a part of me that went, yeah, because I know God’s gift to me as a communicator. I’m probably gonna get to talk to some pretty big crowds. And what I found was that for several years, I talked primarily to, like, middle school retreats, sometimes, like, 11 kids. And I got a lot of those. They weren’t big crowds. They were these little things. And I’ll be honest with you, at first, I struggled with that. I looked at friends that were leading larger churches or they had bigger speaking opportunities, and I compared, and it’s hard.

And then the Holy Spirit began to do something in me. And I began to look at the opportunity to speak to 11 middle schoolers as a gift. I began to realize that, “Man, I love it when I can see, and I can see when there’s only a love and I can see when the light bulb goes on.” They’re like, “I get it. I get the Gospel. I get what God’s calling me to. I get what it looks like to follow Jesus.” And I could see that. And that was a gift to be able to see that light bulb turn on. And I began to realize it, it’s a gift. It’s a privilege to serve these middle school students.

And then I began to realize it’s a privilege and a gift to serve their youth pastors who are often tired and worn out and to come alongside them on the retreat even, and just be a support to them and lift their arms up. And I began to go, “God, thank you for each one of these opportunities.” I began to see it as an opportunity to really serve. And I don’t know that it always works this way. But I can tell you in my life, it wasn’t until I began to see the privilege that came from serving those 11 middle school students, that the crowds started to get a little bit bigger. That serving created a humility that I’m so glad God didn’t give me a bigger crowd. He didn’t give me more honor before I was ready to handle it.

And the thing is like, I’m hesitant even to tell you guys that, because it kind of sounds like I’m saying, “You see, I figured out this humility thing.” And I hope you’re just gonna hear my heart and not hear what I’m not trying to… I’m just, I’ve seen it in my own life. I’ve struggled with pride and I’ve seen what it looks like to walk the hard road. But understand that God loves us too much to give honor that’s just gonna cause harm. And so much that God wants to point in your life. It comes because God is longing to pour that into you. And humility’s the key to receiving what all you’re achieving is gonna come short on. Would you pray with me?

Jesus, thank you for your example of humility. We’re grateful for it. And we ask that your Spirit would move us towards humility right now. And I believe that there are people listening to this message today that their next step forward in humility is actually to do what we’d said needed to be done with you to admit that they need forgiveness, to ask for it, and then to accept it, to receive it. There are people here who have never said yes to what Jesus did on the cross for them.

And if that’s you, I wanna encourage you to take that step today. Today is the day. Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sin. He has forgiven you. But to experience that and to be adopted into his family, to have eternal life, you have to accept that, you have to ask for it, accept it. And so if you’re ready to say yes to following Jesus and receiving all that he has for you, here’s how you do it. So, you’re just gonna have this conversation with God, say something like this right now:

God, I’ve sinned. I admit it. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for me. I could never earn a place in heaven, so I’m asking you to forgive my sin and to give me a place. Jesus, I accept your forgiveness, and adoption into your family. I’m gonna follow you from here on out. Amen.

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