Robert Jeffress - Don't Celebrate The Summit
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Have you ever watched a pet hamster running on its spinning wheel? Their little feet become a blur because they're running so fast. Well, in the same way, many people are racing on a hamster wheel of their own making, chasing after power, wealth or fame. And while there's nothing wrong with personal ambition, and working hard to achieve our dreams, if we're not careful, our worldly aspirations will lead us to the sin of pride. My message is titled, "Survival Tip #7: Don't Celebrate the Summit", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Mountaineer John Krakauer wrote, "Reaching the top of Everest is supposed to trigger a surge of intense elation. Against long odds, after all I had just attained the goal I had coveted since childhood. But the summit was really only the halfway point. Any impulse I might have toward self-congratulation was extinguished by the overwhelming apprehension about the long, dangerous descent that lay ahead".
In our series, courageous, we're looking at ten survival tips for living out our faith in a hostile, threatening environment. People who are engaged in mountain climbing know that it's a danger to obsess about the summit so much that you lose your good judgment. But it's also dangerous to feel like after you have reached the summit, to be so caught up in the celebration of that goal that you forget that the descent from the summit is more dangerous than the ascent. That's why we need to beware of celebrating the summit. If we're not careful, we can allow the attainment of that summit, that goal in life, blind us to our relationship with God. In fact, those who either obsess about the summit or celebrate too long at the summit, miss three important truths we need to look at to begin with today. Jot them down.
First of all, life is about more than fulfilling your dreams. Life is much more than accomplishing your dreams. Remember God's dream for your life. It's found in Romans 8:28-30, and that is that you be conformed to the image of his son Jesus Christ. That's what all things are working together for in your life, to make you like Christ. That is his dream. Every other dream you might have is secondary to that.
Secondly, your dreams have been given by God for his glory. Your dreams have been given by God for his glory. Any God-given dream is given by God. And if it's truly given by God then that means the pursuit of that dream ought to draw you closer to God, rather than driving you away from God. If you have a goal in life right now, students, or soon you'll have a goal, ask yourself the question, is this driving me toward God or is it driving me away from God.
Thirdly, God has more dreams for you to pursue. The danger of celebrating the summit too long is we forget God has other things he wants us to do after the summit. If we forget these three important truths, we are in danger of pride. And nothing is more dangerous in either reaching the summit or staying on the summit than pride. Pride blinds us to God's purpose for our life. In Proverbs 16:18, the writer says "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling". There's nothing wrong with celebrating the summits, the accomplishments, as long as it doesn't lead to a case of pride.
I think about the apostle Paul. In Philippians 3, he talked about his own accomplishments, especially in the spiritual realm. He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews of the tribe of Benjamin, a pharisee, a persecutor of the church, righteous. But remember what he said in Philippians 3:8. "I count all those things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish that I may gain Christ". What is pride? Pride is an attitude that credits ourselves for our successes and blames others for our failures. Pride is taking credit for your successes and blaming others for your failures.
When you look in Proverbs chapter 6 at the list of things God hates the most, at the top of the list is pride. Why does God detest pride? Because of what it leads to. Pride leads to ingratitude toward God. Ingratitude to God leads to independence from God. Whenever we become intoxicated by our own successes, we begin to think we don't need God. And by the way, that was the basis of the very first sin ever committed in the universe. C.S. Lewis called pride the great sin. And he observed, quote "It is pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began".
What are the characteristics of pride? Turn over in your Bibles to 2 Timothy 3:2-4, Paul gives three characteristics of the proud. Good way to diagnose yourself, to see if this is true of you. First of all, he says "The proud are lovers of self". Look at the passage. "For men will be lovers of self". He's talking about the last days. He said "For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God".
Now you may read that and say, "Lovers of self? Didn't Jesus say we ought to love others as we love ourself? What's wrong with loving yourself"? Well there's a difference between self respect and self love. We are commanded to treat others as we treat ourselves, with respect, as something of value because God created us. The sin of self love is not self respect. Self love is treating yourself better than you treat other people. Author Peter Kreeft summed it up well when he said, "Humility is thinking less about yourself, not thinking less of yourself".
And that leads to a second characteristic of pride. The proud are consumed with self. They're consumed with self.
And that leads to a third characteristic of the proud. The proud are driven by power. At the root of all pride is a desire for power. The power to control our own destiny as well as the destiny of others. And by the way that is completely antithetical to the attitude of Jesus Christ. He didn't come to be served by others, but to serve others. Listen to me, pride, being consumed with yourself, setting your will above God's will, will blind you as you try to reach the summit in your life. And it can cause you to stumble after you've reached the summit. The only way to clear the fog of pride that may have set in in your life is through humility. Humility allows you to see your life and God clearly.
What is humility? Here's a definition we used last time. Humility is the recognition that any good thing in your life is the result of what God and/or others have done for you. It is the recognition that any good thing in your life is the result of what God and/or others have done for you. The proud person thinks his accomplishments are what he has done. The humble recognize it's because God or others stepped in to help you. You know, Jesus had a word to say about humility. In Matthew 5:3, he said "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God".
Three characteristics of humble people. First of all the humble recognize their spiritual bankruptcy. Now many people misquote that verse I just read to you. They say "Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". If you're poor, that guarantees you entrance into heaven. No, trust me there is no particular blessing that comes from being poor. Being poor does not make you blessed. The word blessed means happy. Being rich doesn't make you happy. Being poor doesn't guarantee you entry into heaven any more than being rich does. It's not your financial status that determines whether you go to heaven or to hell. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who are poor". What? "In spirit". That is, people who recognize their spiritual bankruptcy. Humble people recognize their spiritual bankruptcy.
Second characteristic of humility. The humble reflect the character of Christ. Being humble, being poor in spirit doesn't mean you have to be spiritually weak. Jesus isn't. Look at Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus said "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy and my load is light". Look, Jesus was humble but he wasn't weak. Jesus is strength with restraint. And if we're truly humble, it doesn't mean we're weak, it means we too are strong, but we're restrained.
Thirdly the humble are dead to themselves. By that I mean they put God's will above their will, not some of the time but every time. Just like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. "Not my will but your will be done". Matthew 16 Jesus said, "If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me". We're truly humble. We're dying to our own desires in order to put the interest of God and others above our own.
You know when you look clearly in the Old Testament, probably the man who demonstrated humility above all was the character Moses. I mean if Moses wanted to, he had every right to have his own pride wall, listing all of his accomplishments. Think about it. The adopted grandson of Pharaoh, educated in Pharaoh's household, the leader of the Exodus, parting the Red Sea, God speaking to him in the burning bush, receiving the law from mount Sinai. And yet the scripture says in numbers 12:3, "Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth".
My time is running out. Let me mention just two illustrations of Moses' humility that are so interesting to me. First in numbers 11:26-29, the elevation of Eldad and Medad. Do you remember that story? They had just gotten over to the other side from the Red Sea, great deliverance, and then the people started complaining. Complaining to Moses about the food, the water, the living accommodations out in the wilderness and Moses got so tired, he just went to God and said, "God just shoot me right now. I'm tired, I'm spent, I can't do this any longer". God said "No, here's what to do Moses. Take 70 elders, men of the spirit, and share the burden with them, share the burden of leadership. And once they've been selected I will put my spirit on them and they will prophesy".
So 70 men that had been chosen started prophesying to show that they were the 70 God had chosen. And finally they quit prophesying, everybody except these two guys, Eldad and Medad. They kept on prophesying after everybody else stopped. Well, somebody got alarmed by this. They told Joshua. Joshua was kind of Moses' executive pastor and Joshua decided he better tell Moses what was going on. He said "Moses, there's something bad going on. There are two men who are still prophesying. And it doesn't make you look good that God is speaking through them". Numbers 11:29, Moses said to Joshua, "Are you jealous for my sake? I would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his spirit upon them". Moses didn't care about his rank, his position, his reputation. He wanted the Word of God to be spoken. That's an example of humility.
Second instance of that in Moses' life was the murmuring of his sister, Miriam. When people started grumbling against her brother Moses, she and her older brother Aaron thought, "This is our chance to tell everybody what we really think of our younger brother". There had been years of sibling rivalry that had built up. Remember what happened? He called Aaron and Miriam to come stand before him, and he struck Miriam with a case of leprosy. Now, how did Moses respond to that? Numbers 12:13 and "Moses cried out to the Lord saying, 'o God, heal her, I pray'". He prayed for the healing of his sister. As you pursue your goals in life, as you reach toward the summit, remember humility is that fog cutter, if you will, that allows you to see God clearly, and keeps you from being blinded with pride.
In closing, let me share with you just three quick suggestions for how to develop humility in your life. First of all, accept the fact that you aren't indispensable. Accept the fact that you are not indispensable. Accept that fact. Secondly, cultivate the habit of silence. Cultivate the habit of silence, especially when you're being attacked. Moses didn't speak out against Miriam, but he did speak to God. He did speak to God. It would've been easy for him to come back with a retort to Miriam, you know? If you and Aaron are so important, why don't you have a bigger part in the Ten Commandments movie? I mean does anybody remember them in that movie? I mean we remember Charlton Heston. We don't remember who played Miriam and Aaron. They were secondary players. You could've come back with a great retort.
He didn't talk to them, but he talked to God about them. He cultivated the habit of silence. And again he was foreshadowing what Jesus would do when he was attacked. 1 Peter 2:23 "And while being reviled, he did not revile in return: while suffering, he uttered no threats, but he kept entrusting himself to the one who judges righteously".
And finally, you want to demonstrate humility, pray for those who hurt you. Pray for those who hurt you. That's what Moses did. There are some of you right now who have gone through a great injustice in your life. You have been deeply hurt by another person. They may not know it or care about it. You may never have a reconciliation with them. But listen to me, it's important that you don't harbor bitterness in your own heart against them. And the best way to extinguish bitterness is by praying for your enemies. Praying God's best for their life. It is impossible to be bitter toward somebody you're praying for. That's what Jesus did. Luke 23:34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them: for they know not what they are doing".
It was veteran mountaineer David Breashears who said, "Getting to the summit is the easy part. It's getting back down that's hard". That's not only true about mountain climbing, it's true about the Christian life. Pride is easy, humility is hard. And yet, if we're going to reach that summit, that plan that God has for us, we've got to empty our backpack of pride. Pride not only weighs us down, it keeps us from receiving the help we need from God, or even from other people in reaching the summit. And it's pride that causes us to stumble after we have reached the summit. Do you wish, really wish for God to lift you up and help you attain his best for your life? It was James, the half-brother of Jesus who told us how to do that. James 4:10 "Humble yourselves in the presence of God, and he will exalt you".