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Philippians 2:1-11                                     8 January 2017

HUMILITY IN RELATIONSHIPS

Ill. A Pastor, a Boy Scout, and a computer expert were the only passengers on a small plane.  The pilot told them that the plane was going to crash but there were only three parachutes for four people.  The pilot said, “I should have one of the parachutes because I have a wife and three small children.”  So he grabbed one and jumped.  The computer whiz said, “I should have one of the parachutes because I am the smartest man in the world and everyone needs me.”  So he took a parachute and jumped. The Pastor turned to the Boy Scout and said, “You are young and I have lived a fulfilling life, so you take the last parachute, and I’ll go down with the plane.”  The Boy Scout said, “Relax, Pastor, the smartest man in the world just picked up my back pack and jumped out!”

In Proverbs 16:18 we read, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

I want to speak this morning about the opposite of pride which is humility. In Roman and Greek societies humility was looked upon as weakness. If someone showed signs of humility they were regarded as a spineless wimp. Pride was a quality people admired.

But Jesus taught by word and example that humility is essential if we are to enter and live in His eternal Kingdom.

Many of us don’t have a clear idea of what humility is. Humility is not putting yourself down. It is not pretending you are not good at something when you really are. It’s not rejecting compliments and praise because you think you shouldn’t accept them even though you like getting them.

That is false humility and it’s not being really honest. So let’s look at what real humility is.

  1. Willingness to accept what God says about us.

God says in the Bible that we are all sinners. We have all turned away from God and broken His moral laws. God tells us that at heart we are rebellious, proud, and deceitful and unless we admit this fact and humble ourselves and seek His forgiveness we will have to pay the ultimate price for our rebellion which is eternal punishment and separation from God. The humble person will put their pride aside, own up to what God says about them and come to Him for forgiveness. The proud person will never do this.

Do you know what the word confess means in Greek – to say the same thing about yourself that God says. To agree with what God says about us. 

  1. Willingness to listen to our conscience.

Every one of us has a God given moral indicator inside called our conscience. The Bible says that our conscience makes us feel bad when we go to do wrong and feel good when we go to do what is right.

Paul says in Romans 2 that even people who don’t know the Bible instinctively know what is right and wrong because God has written his moral laws on their conscience.

A proud person ignores, resists and suppresses their conscience. They will argue against it, try to justify their behaviour even though their conscience tells them it is wrong. The humble person is willing to face the truth their conscience is telling them and admit they have done wrong. And until we humble ourselves and agree with our conscience we will never admit we have done wrong and we will never turn to God for forgiveness.

  1. Willingness to accept the truth from others.

Ill. When I was younger and people pointed out my faults, even though I knew they were right, I would get defensive and angry, because I assumed they were attacking me, rejecting me, seeking to hurt me. As soon as they pointed out some fault or failure, the adrenaline would run and I would start fighting back. Much of that came from my low self-esteem, but this is common. I saw criticism or correction as another put down.  

To admit that they could be right would be to risk being rejected, humiliated, to lose face, and that was too painful.

 So I refused to accept the criticism, refused to admit blame, refused to apologise and instead I argued in my defence all the time. The main area this was happening was in my marriage. The bottom line was that I believed that if I lost my pride I wouldn’t have anything left.

People used to say to me, “Why do you react to criticism, you won’t accept that they could be right and you could be wrong. You always try to justify yourself.” 

The day came when I realised that I would never progress in my spiritual and personal development unless I was prepared to take, what for me was a very scary step, listen to my critics and admit the truth they showed me about myself. 

I discovered something wonderful. I did not lose anything by admitting the truth. In fact I was freed from the fear of being humiliated, losing face and being rejected. I discovered that people did not reject me or think any the less of me. In fact they respected me more for being honest. I discovered the only thing that was wounded was my stinking pride…that thing that God hates and is determined to destroy me and my relationships.

Why on earth would  we defend our pride when it is determined to destroy us?

Now when people criticise me or point out faults in me, I listen without the fear of being humiliated or rejected, and I weigh it up to see if there is truth in it. In most cases there is some truth in it and I find I lose nothing by apologising. I believe we can learn something about ourselves even from our worst critics. 

A scripture that spoke to me recently in this area is Psalm 141:5 “Let the godly person strike me! It will be a kindness! If they correct me, it is soothing medicine. Don’t let me refuse it.” 

For me this was a big growth step in my life. It was very freeing and I discovered that by accepting the truth about myself I was free from the fear of humiliation and rejection. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

When we come to that place, we are open to learn, change and grow as a result.

  1. Willingness to accept ourselves and our limitations.

[ Romans12:3 ] “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given you.

Some people think that humility is putting ourselves down, understating our abilities and gifts and rejecting any praise or appreciation.

Ill. I remember saying to a young Pastor after he had preached, that I appreciated His message and it blessed me. He said to me, “I wish people wouldn’t say that to me.” It may have sounded very humble but it made me feel guilty for having said anything.

Real humility is being true to yourself and if you know you have done a good job and someone compliments you on it, don’t see it as pride to thank them for their compliment. Pride is when we receive compliments and start getting exaggerated ideas about ourselves and our abilities as Paul says here.

Genuine humility is accepting the person God made you, not belittling yourself or thinking you are better than you are. It is also recognising that your gifts, talents and abilities are given by God to be used in ways that honour Him and bless others.

  1. Willingness to admit our faults and failures 

[Psalm 32:5]Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! 

Ill. Jesus told the story of religious leader who had convinced himself he was so righteous and holy that God was impressed with him, stood in temple praying, [Jesus said he was actually talking to himself]  telling God how good, kind and generous he was but God knew what he was really like and ignored him. Another man who was only too aware of his shortcomings stood nearby and cried out to God to have mercy on him because he had failed and offended God and others. Jesus said that God listened to that man and forgave him because he was being honest and real and that’s humility. 

A proud person will not admit they have done wrong. Like I said before they will try to justify themselves, blame others, argue against their conscience because they think that to admit they are wrong would be to lose face, suffer humiliation, wound their pride. In fact this is often a sign of someone who is insecure. What are they fighting to protect? Their pride.

That deceitful enemy within them that is working against them and their relationships and wants to drag them down to hell.

A humble person is not afraid to accept the truth about themselves and to admit it. A humble person sees pride as a destructive enemy and they resist it by humbling themselves and admitting the truth about themselves.

Ill. There was a Pastor in England some time ago and another Pastor in the same town started to criticise him. One of his church members came to him one day and told him what the other Pastor was saying about him. This was his reply, “Do you mind leaving the room. I need to search my own heart before God to see if any of these accusations are true.” Humble response. 

  1. Willingness to apologise for our wrong doing 

[1 John 1:8-9]

We need to say sorry and humility to forgive.

I often say at weddings that the two phrases you need to use regularly in marriage are, “I am sorry”, and “I forgive you.”

To apologise is to humble ourselves and admit our responsibility in wronging another person. To confess that we were at fault goes right against our pride….and we will experience real resistance within when we are challenged to apologise because once again we think we will lose face, open ourselves to humiliation and rejection. That is pride.

Pride will always look for excuses not to apologise.

  1. It happened long ago
  2. The one I wronged has moved away.
  3. It was such a small offence.
  4. Things have improved in our relationship.
  5. I’m being too sensitive.
  6. They won’t understand.
  7. It may involve restitution.
  8. There is no hurry.
  9. I may offend again.
  10. The other person was mostly at fault.
  11. The other person is not a Christian, what would they think me.

Humbling ourselves before those we have wronged and sincerely apologising has a disarming affect. It builds and strengthens relationships, whereas pride the destroys them.

Jesus made it clear that this is part of Kingdom behaviour. Matthew 5:23. “If you are aware that you have offended your brother …go and be reconciled with him.”

The wrong way to apologise

These are some of the ways we apologise seeking to keep our pride in tact:

  1. I was partly to blame. This not an apology. It’s trying to make the other person feel guilty.
  2. If I was wrong, I am sorry. This is not an apology. We are really saying that we still believe they are right.
  3. I am sorry I offended you, but I couldn’t really help it, so much is happening in my life at the moment and I’m not responsible for my reactions. This is not an apology; it’s a cop out because we are saying that we have no control over our behaviour. We are not asking for forgiveness but understanding.
  4. I’m sorry. When we don’t specify what we are sorry for, we can mean whatever we want it to and the other person is left wondering whether we really know what we have done wrong.

It is so important when we apologise we do so without trying to justify or excuse our behaviour. Take it on the chin. Swallow your pride it’s non-fattening.

The right way to apologise.

  1. Focus on how our attitude or behaviour may have hurt or offended the other person.

There are times when others will accuse us of doing or saying things that offended them and yet that was the last thing we wanted to do. We never meant it to cause offence. But the fact that it hurt the other person is all the more reason to apologise.

But we need to be honest with ourselves and others and say, “I can see that my words or actions have offended you. I never meant to upset you and so I am truly sorry for the affect my behaviour has had on you.”

We may honestly believe that what we said or did was not wrong, but if it offended someone we love, we need to apologise.

  1. If we can see that what we said or did was wrong, we need to state clearly what we are apologising for, thus showing that we know exactly what we did wrong. Don’t just says, “I’m sorry”, say, “I am sorry for not being honest with you”, “I am sorry for getting angry at you”. Otherwise we give the impression that we are not convinced we’be done anything wrong.
  1. We need to specifically ask for their forgiveness. It is so important that we hear the words of forgiveness from those we have offended. That frees us. [release]. If they don’t, that’s not our problem.
  1. We should expect a backlash from our pride.

As soon as we humble ourselves we will feel vulnerable and our crushed pride will want to reassert itself. The temptation will come to excuse or justify ourselves. If that happens it is not an apology we are offering but an explanation, and therefore it is not forgiveness we seek but understanding.

When we humble ourselves and sincerely apologise and specifically ask forgiveness for the wrong we have done…..we smash our pride, we repel Satan and we disarm those we have offended by our humble sorrowful attitude…..and enable them to forgive us, thus restoring the relationship.

  1. Willingness to forgive.

“But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” Mark 11:25

It takes humility to apologise and it takes humility to forgive. It’s our pride that stops us from forgiving because we believe that forgiving them will make us look weak and a push over. Somehow we think that by not forgiving them we will make them suffer. It’s us who will suffer.

No Christian should ever withhold forgiveness from anyone. Sometimes the hurt may be so painful that it might take time to come to a place where we can forgive them from the heart. In that case we need to pray, “Lord, I need to forgive this person from my heart, please help me come to that.”   

  1. Willingness to acknowledge our dependence on God [Deuteronomy 8:10-18]

When the people of Israel entered the Promised Land God told them to always remember that it is He who gave them everything, even there abilities and talents and to give Him thanks. Otherwise after you have prospered and acquired wealth and success you will become proud and take all the credit yourself.

Israel’s history was a series of cycles where when things went well for them they tended to become less dependent on God and more self-reliant, they became proud, took the credit for their accomplishments and then turned away from God and God withdrew His protection and blessing from them and they crashed spiritually, morally, politically and economically.

When they got desperate they humbled themselves, acknowledged they needed God and cried out for forgiveness and God came to their rescue, got them back on their feet again and when things were going well again they repeated the same old pattern. When they became proud, God humbled them, when they humbled themselves He lifted them up.

The Bible says that God opposes the proud. If you hold onto your pride and refuse to give God the credit for everything you are and have, if you refuse to acknowledge that you have failed and need His forgiveness, if you refuse to humble yourself before God…He will work against you.

  1. Our willingness to accept God’s unconditional love, forgiveness, acceptance and approval.

The key to true humility comes from knowing that we are unconditionally loved, accepted, forgiven and approved by God. This comes not because we have earned it, but because Jesus gained it for us when he died on the cross.

Knowing this does not produce pride, but humble gratitude.

When we know we have God’s unconditional love, acceptance and approval, then it doesn’t really matter what people think of us. Our security and sense of self worth does not lie in what others think of us, but in what God thinks of us. And when we know that deep in our inner being we don’t feel the need to impress others, to gain their approval and acceptance. We don’t mind if they like us or reject us.

Our sense of self-worth and significance does not come from them, but from God. When we know God’s unconditional love, acceptance and approval we can be a President or a Prime Minister, a street cleaner or a rubbish collector. We can lead a company or clean someone’s house. How we appear to others is not important, it’s how we are seen by God.

  1. Willingness to serve others and do the most menial tasks

On the evening of the last supper we read these words in John 13:3 “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, wrapped a towel round His waist, poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples feet.”

Notice, John says, that when Jesus was most aware of His position and relationship to God He humbled Himself and carried out the task of a slave. Too often, the people of our world become conceited, proud and filled with their own importance when they get into positions of power and authority. The humble person is just the opposite.

Ill. During the American War of Independence, an army officer came across a group of soldiers trying to lift a huge wooden beam into position at a fort. The corporal in charge was standing by shouting encouragement, but the soldiers couldn’t get the beam in position. After watching their lack of success, the officer asked the corporal why he didn’t join in and help. The corporal replied, “Don’t you realise that I am the corporal, I’m not expected to do that sort of work.” Very politely, the officer replied, “I beg your pardon, Mr. Corporal” The officer jumped off his horse and went to work with the soldiers to get the oak beam in position.  As they finished, the officer wiped sweat from his face and said to the corporal “If you should need any more help, just send for me and I will come. My name is George Washington, your commander-in-chief.”

To follow Jesus is to walk the path of humility. To follow Jesus example…He who had every right to be equal with God the Father, gave up that right and humbled Himself and was willing to be seen as nothing in the eyes of men so that He could serve the sentence for our wrongdoing and bring us back to God. That is humility.