“Let not him who puts on his armor boast like him who takes it off” (I Kings 20:11).
I heard this guy brag, “When I stand before the Lord at Judgment, I’m going to tell him I did it my way!”
Oh yeah. Sure you are.
I’ve known of funerals where the Frank Sinatra/Paul Anka song “My Way” was played. Whether we should call this overconfidence, presumption, or just sheer stupidity is another question.
Winston Churchill is supposed to have said this. Asked if he was ready to meet his Maker, he replied, “I am. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” As a Churchill admirer–I own shelves of books on and from him–I find this incredibly insulting. Frankly, I hope he didn’t say it. Although I wouldn’t be surprised. I’m under no illusion about the man.
I’ve been reading The Johnstown Flood, the first book from David McCullough, the wonderful historical author. (I recommend anything from McCullough. His books are all eminently readable. His biography of Harry Truman won the Pulitzer. In truth, everything he wrote should have won that prize, but I expect the committee would have been embarrassed to keep naming him.) )
What’s stunning about the account of the 1889 flood that destroyed this lovely village in the mountains of Pennsylvania is how blase’ the owners of the South Fork Dam were. A secretive group of wealthy families had formed themselves into “The South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club and built the earthen dam.
Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; let not the mighty man glory in his might; nor let the rich glory in his riches. But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
I am a preacher, bear in mind. So, I know how it’s done. After all–pay attention now–I pastored six churches for forty-two years, some of them large, influential churches. Why, in one of my churches, I had a deacon who was a commissioner of the F.D.I.C., appointed by President Reagan. And the sister of Dr. Billy Graham was a member. In fact….
Okay. See what I’m doing here?
Bragging in a subtle, indirect way is an art not taught in seminary, but picked up along the way, believe me.
Yes, friends, you too can learn how to brag on yourself in an indirect, humble way!!
Do these things promptly…
- Confess sins. “Keep short accounts with God,” it’s called.
- Write thank you notes.
- Write notes of appreciation. “Great song Sunday.” “I hear great things about your class.”
- When inspiration for a sermon or an article comes in the middle of the night, it must be recorded then or, count on it, you’ll never remember it. Keep a pad by the bedside.
- When you agree to do a friend a favor–write a letter of recommendation, call on a patient in a hospital, whatever–do it immediately or you will never do it.
- Jot down a story, illustration, or thought for a sermon that occurs to you. If you’re in the car alone, look for an exit and get off the highway so you can write this down. I’ve sometimes asked my wife to make a note for me as we drove.
- Pray for someone when prompted by the Spirit. When I spot someone who reminds me of a person I knew years ago, I take that as an impulse to pray for them.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4)
There is a reason the Lord makes humility step one to living for Him.
He is going to be asking a lot from you, more in fact that you will think you can humanly give. Unless you have humbled yourself before Him and received what He has for you, you will balk at the demands, insist on your own rights, and insert your own methodology. In so doing, you will mess it all up.
Be humble or go home.
Only the humble can pull this off.
“We are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to Thee, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
The thought that flitted through my brain that night scares me to this day.
It had rained heavily the previous day, the kind of West Texas downpour they write books about. Next morning, very early–4 am or something–I was leaving the Alto Frio Baptist Campground for a very long drive home (to central Mississippi). Anyone familiar with that remote retreat facility knows that the main route calls for you to drive down a highway and then cross over to the primary highway. Oddly, that crossover is a humble, one-lane road of perhaps half a mile. The thing to bear in mind is that it crosses a small creek, and oddly, the bridge curves as it passes over the creek. I made this drive several times during my few days at the camp speaking to senior adults, mostly to drive into the town of Leakey, Texas.
So, now it is pitch black out there, and as I am about to turn off the first highway and drive the small trail over to the main highway, I notice the entire area is flooded. The whole area around the little road was completely submerged. Assuming the bridge was still there, it would be flooded also.
“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32). And on the other hand, “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).
Self-control is a mighty good thing to have. And as rare as Spanish doubloons in the Sunday offering.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). So, the much-desired quality of self-control is found among the nine traits making up the “fruit of the Spirit,” which is also a pretty solid description of Christlikeness.
The ability to master one’s own spirit is not as recognizable as its opposite, the failure or inability to control one’s inner self. That trait–a spirit out of control–is quickly on full display whenever its owner is offended, attacked, questioned, called to account for something he/she has done, or otherwise challenged. The uncontrolled spirit has no defenses against temptation, no muscles for hard tasks, and no patience with difficult people. “Love one’s enemies”? (Luke 6:27) The uncontrolled spirit has difficulty loving its own friends and thus nothing in reserve for its opponents.
“Joy is the business of Heaven.” –C. S. Lewis
What started me thinking of this was a line from James Comey’s book “A Higher Loyalty.”
“Although I have had a different idea of ‘fun’ than most, there were some parts of the Justice Department that had become black holes, where joy went to die.”
James Comey explains further about his days at the Justice Department: “Places where morale had gotten so low and the battle scars from bureaucratic wrangling with other departments and the White House so deep, I worried that we were on the verge of losing some of our best, most capable lawyers.”
Sound familiar, pastor?
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance, and my God” (Psalm 42:11).
A smile is outward evidence that everything inside is in good shape. A smile is visible evidence of the joy of the Lord.
Anyone can smile. And everyone should. But those who put faith and trust in the Lord Jesus have more right to smile than anyone. They can number a hundred blessings in their lives as a result of the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ: They’ve been forgiven, cleansed by the blood, and born into the family of God. They are indwelt by the Spirit, overshadowed and undergirded by Him, and surrounded by like-minded disciples. They have the Word of God, the love of God, and the power of God. And so forth.
The unsmiling Christian is a contradiction.
Why aren’t you smiling?
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? The unsaved do that…. But love your enemies and do good and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great…. –Luke 6:32-35
I was a freshman in college, with everything that implies: I was green, scared, eager, excited, learning, stupid, silly, and a hundred other things.
Among the civilians working on our campus was Mrs. Grigsby. I can see her to this day: stern, tight-lipped, unfriendly, and unloving. We thought she looked more like a man than a woman. She was all business, never a ‘good morning,’ and generally unpleasant, we all thought.
Walking our dog this morning at dawn, the breeze was just right and the air so refreshing. I thought, “How could the feel of Heaven be any better than this?” So sweet, so satisfying.
In truth, I’ve not seen anything yet. Heaven’s blessings, of which we have just a foretaste here on Earth, are going to be indescribable.
His sweet peace is one of those foretastes.
Jesus said, “My peace I leave with you. Not as the world gives.” –John 14:27