David Jeremiah — A Life of Humility
Do you know that nobody is born humble? Children, babies, are not humble. They think it's all about them. And they want you to think it's all about them. And unfortunately, many times, we do, don't we? These little creatures who aren't old enough to even say a word, rule our houses. So if no one is born humble, becoming humble must be something you can learn. In fact, that's why the Bible James 4:10 says: "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up". 1 Peter 5 says it similarly: "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time". And if we're told to seek humility then we can find it and we can learn it. We can take comfort in this because humility is truly a challenging virtue.
Let's talk for just a moment about what is humility. Humility is not thinking less about yourself; it's just thinking about yourself less. In this day when there's so much hurt and heaviness in our culture, what a privilege it is to watch the humility of the people of God humble themselves to serve other people. In our day of selfies, self-promotion, social media, true humility is a rare quality. But let me be clear, it always has been. It's elusive but that's why we're told to discover it and find it and cultivate it in our lives. Humility has a very powerful enemy. Most people are familiar with this proverb: "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall". The enemy of humility is pride. And that kind of self-focus steals the glory from God and I wanna tell you, it also steals the joy away from your life, and it's spiritually exhausting. But humility takes that all away.
Now, are there examples of humility we can follow? Obviously, there are and the one who is the most well-known is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ himself. The Bible says that two people were meek or humble. One was Jesus and the other was Moses. You could not say that either one of them failed the test of manhood. Jesus went into a temple one day and single-handedly cleaned out all the corruption that was in it. And you know the story about Moses. These were men's men. But the Bible says they had humility. And when Jesus said, "I am humble and gentle at heart," he gave us the secret to his life. He was the greatest man who ever walked upon this earth and he knew and understood humility. Did you know, here's the good news. In this book that I've written there's a whole chapter on this with strategies at the end of it, some of which I'm gonna share with you tonight, that can help you develop a more wonderful spirit of humility in your life. If you're around people who really have godly humility, they're the kind of people you just wanna be with all the time. And if you're around people who are filled with ungodly pride, you can't wait to get away from them.
Can I get a witness? Isn't that true? So if it is possible to cultivate humility, how do we go about it? These are some strategies. Own your own pride. That's the first thing. Of all the sins whence the Bible continually warns, pride is the hardest one for us to get our arms around. And every day you ask the Lord to help you. More and more, focus your attention on him and on the people around you that need help. One of the things I learned from my dad is when you're going through difficult times yourself, one of the greatest therapies you can ever do is to go find somebody else that's hurting. I remember sometimes at the dinner table my dad would say, "Man, I went to the hospital today. It wasn't my turn but I just needed to go". Needed to go help somebody because when you help somebody else it lifts the burden of your own heart.
In his book, "Life-Changing Love," John Ortberg told this story. He said, "Not long ago, there was a CEO of a Fortune 500 company who pulled into a service station to get gas. He went inside to pay, and when he came out he noticed that his wife was engaged in a very deep discussion with the service station attendant. It turned out that she knew him. In fact, back in high school before she met her husband, she used to date this guy. The CEO got into his car, and the two drove in silence. He was feeling pretty good about himself when he finally spoke: 'I bet I know what you were thinking. I bet you were thinking you're glad you married me, a Fortune 500 CEO, and not him, a service station attendant.' 'No,' she said, 'I was thinking if I'd married him, he'd be a Fortune 500 CEO and you'd be a service station attendant.'" And that stings just a little bit. I know the ladies love that story but the path to amazing humility begins in the mind. It starts when we can honestly admit we have a problem that we have to constantly keep under control with our own pride.
So the first step is to own your own pride. Don't say, "Well, Dr. Jeremiah, I'm glad I came here tonight but I really don't need this message. I'll take good notes and share it with my friend". No, there's not any of us in here including the speaker who doesn't have to be on guard against the ugly intrusion of sinful pride. Here's the second thing you can do: start serving. The single most powerful way to grow in humility is to start quietly serving. The concept of serving is found more than 300 times in the Bible. Jesus said, "I am among you as one who serves". When we start serving, we take our eyes off of ourselves and we begin to see things through the eyes of another. Jesus said, "Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave". Own your pride. Start serving. Keep listening and learning.
I don't know how old you have to be before you know there's so much that you need to learn, but I can tell you it's sometime after 76. The Bible warns us repeatedly against being wise in our own eyes. Over and over in the Bible, it says, "Be not wise in your own eyes". When we stop learning, when we stop trying to grow, when we stop trying to be a better Christian and a better disciple, that's when pride and humility end up at loggerheads. So keep listening, keep learning, keep growing. Own your own pride. Start serving. Hang out with ordinary people. Romans 12:16 says: "Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble".
Let me just suggest to you, don't ever stop hanging out with ordinary people. Don't find a section in your church where only the highbrows sit. It will be the most unfun place you've ever sat in your life. Here's one I love. Stop taking yourself so seriously. It seems counterintuitive that humility should produce joy and pride should steal it, but that's the case. This is just kind of out of my grandfatherly heart. Spend time with children. You know, children will keep you humble. How many of you know that? They don't see you as some big star. They don't see you as somebody who runs a company. You're Poppy or you're Nanny, and you hang out with them it helps you realize who you really are. When you can be that person all the time, you'll have such an impact on your culture. Don't lose perspective. We have a great God and when we see ourselves in light of his greatness, it doesn't diminish us. It strengthens us. It helps us to see us as we really are.
I stand here before you tonight, knowing that I have not cultivated completely the spirit of humility. But it's on my list of nine things to do. And I'm working at it and I hope you'll join me in the quest. It's one of the most difficult virtues to cultivate in our time and place. But as with all the other qualities that I've written about in this book, it is very worth pursuing. God does not leave us to our own self-improvement. He teaches us and models for us and helps us be what we cannot be in our own strength. Men and women of the faith, that's what God has called us to do: to walk humbly with our God. Not to think of ourselves more highly than we should but also to realize God is our Father and we are creatures of the eternal God.
I mentioned to you earlier that the Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest example. I wanna close with the reminder that Jesus Christ came to this earth from heaven and Philippians tells us that "he humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross". Do you know that when Jesus came here from heaven, he left his beautiful home in heaven and came down here to be born as a child in his mother's womb so that he could come to be our Savior. And he walked among men for those years on this earth. The Bible says he never sinned but he suffered a lot. Hanging on that cross, he invited a thief who was hanging beside him to go to heaven and be a part of paradise. Almighty God allowed his precious Son to humble himself all the way to an ignominious Roman crucifixion and he did it for you and for me.
I want you to think about how much Almighty God loves you. He knows your name, he knows everything about you. And here's what the Bible says. He wants you to be in heaven with him forever. He says, "I go to a place and if I go to a place, I will come again and receive you unto Myself," listen to me, "that where I am, there you may be also". Jesus wants to spend eternity He wants to forgive your sins. He wants to welcome you into the kingdom. And the only thing that will keep you from that because there's no good sense involved in not doing it, the one thing that can keep you from that is your own pride. The Bible says we're to humble ourselves before God and to believe in that simple faith.