Robert Jeffress - The Way Up Is Down - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Most people think that the surest way to achieve success is to be ambitious, get noticed and climb the ladder to the top. But as we'll discover in the book of Proverbs the truth is it's just the opposite. Today, I'm going to share with you Solomon's counter-intuitive wisdom for getting where we want to be. It's a principle that can help you achieve your goals in every area of life. My message is titled, "The Way Up is Down," as we continue our series, "The Solomon Secrets," on "Pathway to Victory".
You may remember, in fact, some of you may continue to watch the reruns of the classic sitcom, "Seinfeld". If you're not familiar with the show, "Seinfeld," one of the central characters in that sitcom is a middle-aged stocky man named George Costanza. And George Costanza is a loser in every sense of the word. I mean he never works, he lives at home with his parents, he strikes out with women all the time, but in one episode George Costanza decides he wants to change in his life. And he decides that the way to start succeeding is to do opposite of what he has been doing, after all, you know, the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Well, George Costanza decides he'll start doing things differently in his life. Instead of ordering chicken salad on white bread at the diner, he starts ordering tuna on wheat. Instead of being timid around women, he starts acting flirtatiously. Instead of remaining silent during important meetings at work, he starts to speak out. And suddenly he notices, he begins to experience wonderful success in his life.
Now, George Costanza is an agnostic in the show, but he actually demonstrates a very Christian principle that you find throughout the Bible. And that is if you want to succeed in life, usually you need to do just opposite of your natural inclination. Instead of holding onto your life, Jesus says, let go of your life. Instead of retaliating against your offender, forgive your offender. Instead of hating your enemy, love your enemy. Do what his opposite, your natural inclination and perhaps the greatest example of doing opposite of what we normally would do, has to do with the subject we're looking at today. In Matthew 20:26-27, Jesus said, "It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave"..
Notice Jesus says there's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be successful in life. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be great. But what Jesus said is if you really want to be great and important and significant, you need to follow a different path to success and that which the world offers. For example, the world says, "Look out for number one," Jesus says, "Look out for others". The world says, "destroy your opposition," Jesus says, "Love your opposition". The world says, "Hold on to your rights don't let them go," Jesus said, "Let go of your rights". The world says, "If you want to be great rule other people," Jesus said, "If you want to be great serve other people". The world says, "Promote yourself," Jesus says, "Humble yourself".
Solomon understood the importance of humility to achieve success in life. And throughout the book of Proverbs, you find all kinds of warnings against pride and exhortations toward humility. Just jot down some of these verses, we don't have time for you to look them up, but just jot them down. Proverbs 8:13, "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil. Pride and arrogance and the evil way in the perverted mouth, I hate," says God. Or Proverbs 11:2, "When pride comes then comes dishonor but with the humble is wisdom". Or Proverbs 15:25, "The Lord will tear down the house of the proud, but he will establish the boundary of the widow". And proverb 16:18-19, "Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before stumbling. It is better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud". Proverbs 18:12, "Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty but humility goes before honor". Or Proverbs 29:23, "A man's pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor".
If there's one theme you find throughout these verses, it's simply this pride is a prerequisite to failure in life, humility is a prerequisite for success. Somebody has said pride is the only disease known to man that makes everyone sick except the one who has it. Nevertheless, God promises that the person who is infected with pride is ultimately going to fail but the person who learns humility will succeed. We're in a series right now, talking about success in life, I've called it "The Solomon secrets for success". And we've been looking at the book of Proverbs at 10 pieces of wisdom, 10 pieces of what I call uncommon sense that guarantee extraordinary success. I call it uncommon sense because it goes against our natural inclinations, every one of these Solomon secrets. And today we're going to look at another one of those Solomon's secrets and it's simply this, the way up is down. What we're talking about is humility.
Now, when we talk about humility, what do we mean by humility? Unfortunately, most of us have a wrong idea about humility, which is why we have a hard time getting excited about it. I'm going to be honest with you, I had a hard time getting excited about the message this week, talking about humility. I mean, it's just not a real rip-roaring topic that most people are interested in. When's the last time you read a best-selling book on the topic of humility. I mean nobody's interested in that. And I think one reason is because of the false idea we have of humility. When we think of humility we think of milk toast men, or we think about cowering women shuffling behind their husbands in submission. Who wants that? Who wants to be humble? But that's not what humility is according to God's word. The best way to understand humility biblically is to understand the opposite of humility, which is pride. Above all things that God hates in our life, he hates pride.
Let me give you this definition of pride. Pride is the attitude that credits ourselves with our successes and blames others for our failures. By the way, that's worth writing down too. God hates pride more than any other sin. The book of Proverbs tells us, what is pride? You better guard against it. Pride is the attitude that credits ourselves with our successes and blames other people for our failures. A prideful person is somebody who is convinced that every good thing in his life, is a result of what he has done. The prideful person is the one who believes in every conflict he's right everyone else is wrong. The prideful person is the one who believes he has everything he needs, he is self-contained to handle any problem that arises in life.
Another word for pride is the word arrogant. And the Hebrew word for arrogant means to expand, to grow. An arrogant or prideful person is someone who has an expansive, a wide view of himself that by the way, many times does not correspond to reality. I remember the story about Muhammad Ali, when he was the heavyweight champion of the world. One day, he found himself in the first class section of a jumbo jetliner that was preparing to take off. The flight attendant came by and said, "Mr. Ali, you need to buckle your seatbelt". And Ali growled and said, "Superman don't need no seatbelt". To which the flight attendant said, "Superman don't need no airplane either". A lot of times, the big ideas we have about ourselves, don't correspond to reality. And that's one reason God hates pride so much. It's not based on reality, but he also hates it because of the results of pride.
What is it that pride produces in our life? Pride, first of all, results in ingratitude toward God. You know, if you're convinced that the good things in your life are the result of what you have done, then you're going to fail to give God the credit and the praise for the wonderful things he's brought into your life. I remember when our oldest daughter, Julia was two one Christmas we had gone to Amy's parents to celebrate Christmas. And we were opening Christmas gifts and Julia opened up this gift and she pulled it out of the box and it was something she had really wanted. And she pulls it out of the box and she says, "Grandma, grandma"! She thought her grandmother had given her that gift, I'm the one who gave her the gift and it hacked me off and then it kind of hurt my feelings, why? Because I wanted my daughter to know I'm the one who purchased the gift. And I wanted her to know that I loved her enough, I wanted to give her exactly what she wanted.
Now why did I feel that way? Why did I feel angry and then hurt? You know, the reason I felt that way, because I was created in the image of God, just like you are. Every parent here knows that feeling. You want your children to know when you give them a gift, you want your children to know that you love them and care for them. The reason we feel that way is because we have been created in God's image. God is the perfect parent. He loves to show his care and concern for us by giving us, by showering us with wonderful gifts. And whenever we fail to give God the credit for the good things in our life, it hurts the heart of God. He feels both hurt and angry when he does not receive the credit. That's what pride does. It leads first of all to ingratitude, but secondly, in gratitude leads to independence. I mean, if we falsely believe that all the good stuff in our life is the result of what we've done, and we fail to give God credit for it then we come to the conclusion we really don't need God at all and we move away from God.
Moses understood that the Israelites were in danger of doing just that, when they entered the Promised Land. He was afraid that they would forget that the Promised Land was a result of God's gift and that when they came to this Promised Land, they would live apart from God. And that's why he warned in Deuteronomy 8:12-14, "Be careful lest, when you have eaten and are satisfied and have built good houses and lived in them, then your heart becomes," what? "Proud and you forget the Lord, your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery". There is a link between pride, ingratitude and independence from God. And you see that illustrated in the very first sin that was ever committed in the universe, it had to do with the Lucifer. Remember Lucifer, he was the head of the highest angelic realm in heaven, he was God's right hand angel. But listened to what happened to Lucifer and what led to his downfall in which he became Satan.
In Ezekiel 28:15-17 God explains why it is that Lucifer fell away from God. He said, "You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created". Underline that word created. "Until unrighteousness was found in you". What is that unrighteousness? Look at verse 17. "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty. You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor". One day in heaven, Lucifer first started doing some self-evaluation. He started thinking, "I've got it all, I'm the real deal, I've got everything anybody could want". But Lucifer made the fatal mistake of forgetting he was a creature and thinking he was the Creator. And because of that pride, because he forgot that he was a created being, that led, that ingratitude led to the next step, which was independence from God. We find Lucifer's declaration of independence in Isaiah 14:13-14, God explains why it is that he cast Lucifer out of heaven.
And verse 13 says, "But you Lucifer said in your heart, 'i will ascend to heaven and I will raise my throne above the stars of God. And I will sit in the mount of the assembly in the recesses of the north. And I will ascend above the heights of the clouds and I will make myself like the Most High". Do you hear that over and over again? I will, I will, I will, I will no thought of God whatsoever. And for that reason, you know the rest of the story, God cast Lucifer out of heaven. He is now named Satan. And ever since that time that he was cast out of heaven, Satan has been trying to create a rival shadow empire against God. And you know what the basis of Satan's empire is here's the purpose statement of Satan's kingdom, life apart from God is both possible and it's preferable. That's the basis of Satan's kingdom. I don't need God, I can live life on my own.
When you understand where pride comes from, that it was the basis of the first sin that led to the Satanic rebellion against God, you understand why it is that of all the things God hates most in our lives, he hates pride. That is the attitude that credits ourselves for our successes and blames other people for our failures. The contrast of pride is humility. What is humility? Jot this down. Humility is the attitude that realizes everything good in my life is the result of what either God or others have done for me. Humility is the attitude to recognize any and every good thing in my life is the result of either what God or other people have done for me.
There are three components of humility. I want you to note on your outline. What does it mean to be humble? If it's the key to success, we better get this and understand it. Humility, first of all demands an accurate evaluation of ourselves. To be truly humble, you have to have an accurate evaluation of yourself. If somebody were to ask you, what are your three greatest strengths? Would you be able to answer that? Or would you come to, "Oh, I don't have any strengths, I'm just a lowly worm I can't do anything". Somebody asks you what your three greatest strengths are would you know? If somebody said to you, what are your three greatest weaknesses? Would you say, "Weaknesses! Who me"? Or would you be able to name some weaknesses that you have.
See to be truly humble means to have an accurate evaluation of yourself. Most of us go to one of two extremes, we think, oh, I'm worthless. I can't do anything. Or the other extreme is I'm so wonderful how can the world get along without me? Neither is an accurate view of yourself. In Romans 12:3, Paul encourages us to look at ourselves accurately. He says, "For through the grace given to me, I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think, but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith". And interestingly, Paul uses that verse as a launching pad to talk about the subject of spiritual gifts. That is God has given every Christian a unique gift to fulfill his purpose. So there's no reason for us to feel like lowly worms, we're not if we're in Christ Jesus, we have been given a unique spiritual gift by God to achieve his purpose.
So don't think too lowly of yourself, all of us have one gift, but on the other hand, none of us has all of the gifts. And that's why we shouldn't think too highly of ourselves, we do need other people in the body of Christ. If you're truly going to be humble, it means first of all having an accurate assessment of yourself. Secondly, humility involves an authentic appreciation of other people. An authentic appreciation of other people. John Wooden, the former coach of the UCLA Bruins Basketball Team has a great word when he says, "Talent is God-given, be humble. Fame is man given, be thankful. Conceit is self-given be careful". Genuine humility is built on the recognition that every good thing in our life is the result of either what God or others have done for us. Now, many people have a hard time believing that. Many people have a hard time not having an inflated view of themselves.
I remember the story about the pastor who was driving home one day with his wife after the morning service. And he was feeling especially good about his sermon that day. And so he said to his wife, "Honey, how many truly great preachers in America do you think there are"? His wife said, "One less than you think". Paul had a way of deflating the Corinthians ego as well. They had an inflated view of their own importance. So Paul asked one question that completely put them on the course to reality. In first Corinthians 4:7 he said, "You Corinthians who thinks so highly of yourselves, let me ask you a question, who regard you as superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you have not received it"? You know what he was asking? He said, before you get boastful about some great achievement in your life, something you have, ask yourself the simple question, what good thing in my life cannot ultimately be traced to the hand of God. Your appearance?
The reason I look so great is I work out and I eat right, that's why I looked so great. No, that's not what the Bible says. Psalm 139:13-14, says your appearance is a result of God's work in your life . "For thou that's formed my inward parts, thou that's weaved me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are thy works and my soul knows it very well". What are you proud about? Your possessions, your net worth, your balance sheet, the money you've got socked away in stocks and bonds, the business you've built. Oh, my possessions are the result of all my hard work. I work harder than anybody and I'm so shrewd in business, that's why I have what I have today. Is that true? No, it's not what the Bible says.
In Job 34:19 we find these words about God. "Who shows no partiality to princes nor regards the rich above the poor for they are all the work of his hands". If you have money today, if you have great possessions, it's because of God's blessing in your life. And remember when you think it's because of your hard work, God's the one who gives you the breath to wake up every morning and go to work and he could take it away just like that. What are you proud about, your children? Oh, my children, they're so wonderful. They are the result of exceptional parenting and a superior gene pool. That's why my kids are the way they are. No, if you've got wonderful kids, it's probably in spite of what you've done not because of what you've done. In Psalm 127:3 the Psalmist reminds us, "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord".