Check out this post from Tim Chester. This has challenged me as I’ve taken up theological studies this year. What hit me was that gifts are for the good of the community, not for personal fulfillment. That may be obvious to most, but I needed to hear it. Thanks Tim.
Small quotes often have great impact. As I think about why I write, a number of things that people have said over the ages have come to mind. I am a broken person, just like anyone else. I have nothing which I have not been given. Only a handful of people may ever read this website, or millions the world over may read it. Numbers don’t matter. If a grain of truth can penetrate this world, then that is enough. That has power. Jesus said the kingdom is like yeast working through a whole batch of dough. And my pastor has said that the value of any creative work cannot be measured by the size or response of the audience.
There is a danger in wanting to do ‘great things’ for God. Mother Teresa famously said once that we cannot do great things, only little things with great love. It’s very easy to cross that thin line between wanting the gospel to be heard and wanting yourself to be heard in the name of that same good news. And another thing – Jesus said the “greatest among you will be your servant”, and “I am among you as one who serves.” This is a huge challenge to the blogger like me who is constantly tempted to gain the whole world through saying something profound. But it is through weakness that God works, and through foolishness that He shuns the wise.
I always remember a sermon given by John Smith in the early 1990s in which he talked about the essence of the Christian faith. In decrying the attitude of the strutting, egoistic rock star, he made a comment that has stuck with me. He said that Christianity doesn’t strut – it marches on its knees.
The journey of following Jesus is completely counter to the culture in which we find ourselves today. In a world where we are told to look out for number one, Jesus says ‘surrender’. The call of Jesus is to run up the white flag. Many misunderstand that command as a call to weakness and letting yourself be walked all over. But it is far from that. It is a walk of humility, a walk, which I have said elsewhere, is nothing less than a facing of reality.
At church a few weeks ago, the song leader invited us to kneel for a song which spoke of surrender. So most of us knelt down as we sang the next song. This simple action changed my whole attitude in the singing of that song. All of a sudden I was in an attitude of genuine worship. For the first time in many many years, I sang with my hands open and my eyes closed. In that place I was no longer just singing, I was praising, lifting God up. And I was offering myself back to God to do with me as He wills. Kneeling during that song helped me to have an attitude of submission to my God. It also made me see how much I demand my own way – how unsurrendered I am most of the time. It was a real eye-opener and something for which I am thankful.
Some years ago, I wrote an article on the essence of humility. I talked about the fact that humility is a matter of facing reality – the reality that, left to our own devices, we don’t do life very well. Hence the need for a higher power, or a saviour, to get us out of our mess.
To me, humility is about being self-forgetful. How hard is that? I find that the more I think about it, it is an issue of trust. When I don’t forget myself in the sense that Jesus meant, I am clinging on to my way of doing things and therefore not trusting. This elusive thing called humility is about not focusing on yourself.
Becoming Christlike has nothing to do with navel-gazing and everything to do with gazing on Christ and seeing reality through the fog of life. The irony though, and what catches many of us out, is that, as soon as you think you’re becoming more humble, you’re not, because you’re focusing on yourself again.
Humility really is about denying yourself. Humble people never think of themselves as humble. A friend once said to me that the closer you are to God, often the more you will be aware of your imperfections. Christian psychologist Larry Crabb says that if you ask a mature person when they last sinned they will smile the smile of a broken but healing person.