Posts Tagged humility
It’s sort of silly to talk about things that God won’t forget — after all, he knows everythin (past, present and future) and always will. But Scripture does say that there’s something that should be an encouragement to those who are doing loving, heartfelt, behind-the-scenes ministry. I know at Second Mile, these are the people who really make a difference in a bunch of ways that aren’t always seen or known.
Here’s the promise:
For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. (Hebrews 6:10)
This is a great encouragement to do things today to please the Lord and serve people even if it doesn’t earn us immediate recognition or thanks. God won’t overlook it.
May the Lord bless you with the joy of doing unknown ministry that only he will notice. That will be a much better reward anyway.
The end of Acts 12 has a startling description of the death of Herod, who had been a chief persecutor of the early church:
On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. But the word of God increased and multiplied (Acts 12:21-24, emphasis mine).
The first-century Jewish historian, Josephus (not a Christian), confirms this hard to believe account, vividly describing how Herod suffered:
His entrails were also exulcerated, and the chief violence of his pain lay on his colon; an aqueous and transparent liquor also settled itself about his feet, and a like matter afflicted him at the bottom of his belly. Nay, farther, his privy member was putrified, and produced worms; and when he sat upright he had a difficulty of breathing, which was very loathsome, on account of the stench of his breath, and the quickness of its returns; he had also convulsions in all parts of his body, which increased his strength to an insufferable degree. (The Works of Josephus: Ant 17.169).
Ouch. This is obviously a horrible way to die. The question that comes to my mind is, why would God strike Herod down in this particular way? There were many ways to strike Herod other than this. What might we learn from it?
I think the lesson from this is that giving way to pride and self-exaltation is like allowing your life to be eaten alive from the inside out. Pride is an inner disease that sometimes even hides itself in those who appear humble. It eats away at your heart and slowly decays your ability to love, worship, serve, and give.
Want to die on the inside? Then don’t give God the glory, honor, and credit he deserves. It might feel good now, but soon enough your life will be ruined from the inside out.
You may notice that the time of day for this post is way too early. No, it’s not because I’m such a devout person and wake up every day at 4am to pursue every spiritual discipline before the rest of the world is even awake. It’s actually because I had a crazy dream, woke up, and my mind started racing. I’m going to feel the pain around 3pm, as I’m a person who really needs a good chunk of sleep to keep going strong.
Have you ever wondered why God created us to sleep? He could have made us without this need. In John Piper’s short article, “A Brief Theology of Sleep,” he includes this as one of the reasons:
Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). But Israel will. For we are not God. Once a day God sends us to bed like patients with a sickness. The sickness is a chronic tendency to think we are in control and that our work is indispensable. To cure us of this disease God turns us into helpless sacks of sand once a day. How humiliating to the self-made corporate executive that he has to give up all control and become as limp as a suckling infant every day.
I read a great blog post by James MacDonald regarding the book he’s writing (tentatively called “When God Goes to Church”). His thesis is that God doesn’t attend many American churches because “His Word is apologized for, His Son is polished and marketed, and His power is not sought in prayer or even anticipated.” I’ve thought about this and realize how devastating it would be if we had church that God wouldn’t want to be part of because we felt like we could do it on our own. May it never be!
I heard a pastor say recently that the past 20 years have been about “church done with excellence in the flesh is better than church done poorly in the flesh.” How insightful! How about church done according to God’s Word and in the power of the Spirit? How about church on fire, led by men on fire, burning a swath of God’s power across our land like a tornado across a Kansas wheat field? Where is the mighty prevailing church (Matthew 16:18) moving with God’s power, seeing lives transformed frequently and totally? Where is the church that sees miraculous answers to prayer and marvelous interventions of grace? I want to spend the rest of my days working to see the true church, the grace and truth church, (John 1:14) the spirit and power church, the overcoming, Christ-adoring, prayerfully dependant, Word-proclaiming church return to prominence. I believe it is only then that God will begin regularly attending the churches of our land. If that were to happen it would make ALL the difference, would it not?
Pray that Second Mile would be a church where God doesn’t just attend, but where he does manifest miraculous answers to prayer and marvelous interventions of grace.
God has, once again, blessed my family above and beyond what we could imagine. One of the most significant commitments we’ve made to starting Second Mile is moving into the community. Within three days we had multiple offers on our house and within seven days it was sold. Amazing. I know people who have had their house for sale for almost a year, and ours sold in a week.
Then, while we’ve been homeless, we’ve had the joy of living with our friends Charlie and Bonnie in their basement. It’s a beautiful home with plenty of room and their hospitality has been out-of-this-world. In the meantime, we’ve looked at 25+ homes (almost all of which were short-sales and big-hassles). We offered on three homes that we liked and then it was time to wait. All three were good and one was exactly what we wanted (so we had our prayer team pray that God would provide it).
Well, 6-8 weeks later (while we were still waiting), a new house popped on the market that was a regular sale and, though another person offered $12k more than us, our offer was accepted the first day. Amazingly, this house was even better than the one we had asked everyone to pray for and, ironically, they back up to each other. Today we signed the papers, we get keys Friday, and we move in a week. We are thrilled.
It’s funny…but I don’t know totally how to react to all of this. While the Scripture does say that God sometimes gives us more than we ask or think (Eph 3:20) and that he is a generous Father who loves to give good gifts to his children when they ask (Mt 7:11), I am also aware that I don’t even deserve a house, nor am I owed anything by God. I have never given a gift to God that he should repay me (Ro 11:35). I think the reaction that God wants is for me to enjoy his gifts and to delight in the love of the Giver.
But what has troubled me more than once are the comments that some Christians have made when I have told them this story. They’ll say something like, “Well of course God did that for you” or “What else did you expect?” I think when they say this they are simply trying to celebrate God’s generosity. But I also wonder whether these comments carry the assumption that God must bless me in these temporal ways. God may not always provide the temporal blessings I hope for. I know that there are Christians tonight across the world who have zero temporal comfort and God loves them just as much as me.
In conclusion, this experience has taught me to celebrate the blessings of God and to enjoy them, but also to never demand or presume that I must have them. I have Jesus. He is more blessing than I will ever get my arms around and I want him to be enough.
It doesn’t take long in the process of starting a new church before you realize how much work there is to be done. Even when you have a great and growing team of people helping, like we have with Second Mile, there is still much to do (things like gathering people, raising money, securing facilities, ironing out details, etc.). Most of the time, I’m finding it to be fun and rewarding.
Today I came across this Jerry Bridges quote over at “Of First Importance” and it was a good reminder of the reality that all this work must be done in complete dependence on God rather than self-reliance in order to really honor Christ:
“Faith in Christ and a reliance on ourselves, even to the smallest degree, are mutually exclusive.”
Anytime we do this work in our own strength, relying only on what we can see and touch and feel, we become practical atheists. May this church be birthed and grown through a rock-solid faith in Christ that depends fully on him.