Good morning, everybody! Welcome to week 2 of our series “The Missing Element!”
And I want to begin today by playing a game called… “Who is More Powerful?”
To figure this out we are going to have a curling contest. Let’s see who can curl the most. I want to pump you up!
I’m just playing. We’re not going to do that…
Typically that is how we determine who is the most powerful, by a show of strength… But let me ask you a question.
Who is more powerful in your estimation? Jay-Z OR MLK? Let me tweak the question. Who has lived a more Powerful Life?
This is Jay-Z. He is a rapper, record producer, media mogul, and married to Beyonce. Last year Forbes listed him as worth $610 million last year.
And of course, this is Martin Luther King Jr. Here you have a poor preacher. A pastor who spent time in a Birmingham jail, never knew riches, and whose life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet.
Q: Who’s lived a more powerful life?
Nothing against Jay-Z—he’s a gifted artist, no doubt. But I’m guessing he won’t have a monument erected on the National Mall in Washington.
One man influenced our culture—but the other CHANGED it.
Why? One word: Humility. Humility is “The Missing Element” in our culture today. And the premise of this series is simple: We live in a world of ego, fame, and self-promotion. A culture that values material success and self-advancement… over a life of humility, service, and self-sacrifice.
But Humility is the MISSING INGREDIENT if you want to live a truly powerful life! Not just a “good” life—but a life that is TRULY GREAT in God’s eyes.
- As we saw last week, HUMILITY is the central attribute of Christ highlighted in Philippians 2, which says:
Phil. 2:5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Phil. 2:6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
Phil. 2:7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
Phil. 2:8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Jesus is easily the most HUMBLE leader the world has ever known. Jesus’ death on a Roman Cross changed the way the ancient world thought about humility. It re-defined greatness as a willingness to put others’ needs before your own.
In the first century, crucifixion was the lowest form of death—it was humiliating. And early believers reasoned: If the greatest man we’ve ever known was willing to sacrifice his own life on a Roman Cross—the innocent dying for the guilty—then TRUE GREATNESS must exist in sacrifice.
So Paul wrote:
Phil. 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
The Cross changed everything! That is, true greatness exists in downward mobility. Putting the needs of others ahead of yourself. It’s an attitude that says:
YOU > ME
Remember that? Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself… it’s thinking of yourself less… and the needs of others more.
Now even if you aren’t a Christian, you can see the value in this. Generally speaking, most of us can’t stand people who are proud or full of themselves…
But we’re inspired and drawn to people who are humble.
- (HANDS) Any BOXING FANS here? Let me show you two of the greatest fighters of all-time!
In this corner, Cassius Clay… more popularly known as… Muhammad Ali.
And in that corner:
Joe Louis—Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World from 1937-1949.
Both of these guys were incredibly strong, and could curl some serious weight!
Now boxing fans: Which fighter was more powerful?
Let me tell you a story that might affect your scorecard.
ALI SUPERMAN STORY: PLANE STORY
Ali: “SUPERMAN don’t Need No Seatbelt!
Stewardess: “With all due respect… Superman don’t need no plane either!”
Now contrast that PROUD attitude with Joe Louis.
JOE LOUIS STORY
In the 1930s, Louis was sitting alone at the back of a bus in Detroit. Weeks before he became champ.
When 3 young street thugs hopped on and decided to have some fun. …
… … …
Card Said: Joe Louis. Boxer.
They’d just tried to pick a fight with the Heavyweight Champ of the World—the “Brown Bomber” one of the fiercest fighters of all time.
Now, who is the Greater Man?
I mean: Here was a man of capable of defending his honor with a single, crushing blow.
Yet, he chose to forgo his status and hold his power for the good of others—in this case, for some very lucky young men.
That’s the very definition of HUMILITY:
“the noble choice to forgo status and use your power to serve others”
And that was symbolic of Louis’ whole life. He was raised in poverty by former slave parents—and he never forgot his HUMBLE beginnings and saw success as a chance to give back some of what he’d received.
Interestingly enough: Louis is listed as the number one boxer of all-time. And Ali is second.
But Power does not equal strength. Power is the controlled ability to act no matter the circumstances. Our world says that Power is strength let loose… Power means you can do what you want, say what you want, and get what you want, whenever you want it. According to the world that means you are powerful!
However, the cross of Christ challenges those of us in the room who say that we are followers of Jesus to live a life that is shaped by the cross, or what we are calling a Cruciform life. We talked about this last week. If you missed week 1 of our series you can listen to it on iTunes, or check it out on YouTube. As Christians, a Cruciform life is one that is directed by what Jesus did on the cross. The Christian life is cruciform—it is formed or shaped by the cross of Jesus. It requires us to die to ourselves and—in dying—find true life.
Not the counterfeit life—which is about popularity & wealth & material success.
But an “eternal” kind of life— one that is truly great in the Father’s eyes.
- True Greatness
The truth is: We all want to live a powerful life, a life that has meaning and purpose. I mean: Who doesn’t want to be great?
But the path to True Greatness—according to Christ– leads through a Cross.
And today I want to show you how this works. Because HUMILITY isn’t something that comes naturally—and it’s not just something you try to do EXTERNALLY, it’s not on a check list.
Rather, it’s something that God does INTERNALLY, inside us as we submit our lives to the Spirit of Christ.
And it’s a beautiful thing—bc to be truly humble means to make yourself vulnerable.
- You don’t win every argument with your spouse.
- You’re comfortable with others getting the spotlight at work.
- You steer your money & resources towards people who need it more than you.
And all of that is counter-intuitive. It doesn’t come naturally. But the results are INCREDIBLE!
I’m convinced it’s one of the HIDDEN SECRETS of Scripture! Because the Bible says over and over— “Whoever humbles himself will be exalted. And he who exalts himself will be humbled.”
There’s a Power Principle at work here. That if you and I are willing to take the risk and HUMBLE ourselves in our marriages, our relationships, our career or finances.
If we’re willing to put others ahead of ourselves—and give God the glory for our successes… That’s powerful! In God’s eyes Power is found through being made weak.
Then the Father says: “Ahhhh, now that’s a life I can bless!” That is someone I can trust!
And he EXALTS us.
- Weight Lifting
Have you spent much time with weight lifting? Okay, good me neither. J
Here’s what I know… when I work out, I hate every minute of it. I find myself in the gym wondering why am I here right now? I’m surrounded by rows and rows of torture machines… They put you in the weirdest positions and then make you do things that you would never do in the real world.
The Gym is literally designed to break you down. You know that right? It rips your muscles apart. It shreds your inside. You grab the weights, you hit the bench, you push the reps, in order to tear your interior muscles apart, to push them where they have not gone before. You put those weights up and do those reps because you get yourself to the point where you can’t go any further. You’ve broken your muscles down as much as possible. You’ve maxed out. It is in this moment that you feel the weakest. It appears that you are lacking strength but there is something amazing going on inside your body.
The Power Principle begins, because after you’ve shred your interior muscles, your exterior form changes shape. And your muscles come back stronger and more powerful.
I never feel good when I’m at the gym, but I feel amazing after I’ve left. I feel amazing about what I’ve accomplished and what I see changing in me.
That’s the Power Principle. Push yourself to the place of weakness and God comes back in and strengthens you!
Scripture says: If you humble yourself… at just the right time. I’m going to exalt you. I’ll lift you up. The Power Principle…
That’s how it was with Jesus. Philippians 2 starts with a description of HUMILITY:
Jesus humbled himself… Came as a servant… made himself nothing… died on Cross.
He was made LOW.
That’s how Philippians begins. But listen to how it ends:
Phil. 2:9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
Phil. 2:10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
Phil. 2:11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Christ’s life on earth began in humility… but ends in EXALTATION!
From earthly SHAME… to eternal GLORY. From a Roman CROSS… to the CROWN in heaven!
The Power Principle.
- Luke 14:7-14
Jesus talked about this principle in Luke 14 turn there or click over with me this morning.
Bc Jesus not only demonstrated humility in his life—he was always teaching his disciples about it.
He was like: “This is the way to true greatness!”
And here in Luke 14, he tells a story to illustrate. It says Jesus was invited to eat at the house of a “prominent Pharisee”—which simply means he was on a VIP list. His miracles were famous, his teaching was getting attention. His ministry blowing up.
So a well-known religious leader INVITES HIM to a public reception—and verse 1 says “he was being carefully watched.” So I want you to imagine the scene: All these VIPs are milling about— it’s an “invitation only” affair—and after cocktails, the guests are invited into the main room, including Jesus.
Verse 7 says:
Luke 14:7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable:
Luke 14:8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited.
Luke 14:9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place.
Luke 14:10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests.
Luke 14:11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The Power Principle. If you live a life where you’re always jockeying for position, trying to get the best seat for yourself… you’ll inevitably be humiliated.
But if you take a posture of HUMILITY—put the needs of others ahead of your own—you GAIN the MASTER’s attention. And when it’s the right time, what will he do?
LIFT YOU UP.
This is how it works in God’s economy.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it works in our world, is it?
Cuyler Arm Wrestling Story
Several years ago I was a pastor at a large, rapidly growing, multi-site church in New Jersey, just outside of NYC. I was a campus pastor, which meant that I was the pastor of one of our churches campus’s. Every week my staff team would gather together and once a month we would gather all four of the campus staff teams together for a meeting. In that staff meeting we would share stories and talk about what was working in our campuses. There always seemed to be a sense that you needed to represent your campus well…
Well, there was one campus pastor who happened to be a bit older than the rest of us. This is a pic of us away on a staff retreat.. This guy was old. I mean, I’m talking O.L.D. You know what I mean? He was like 54 at the time. Well, we got talking all of us together, there were probably 30 staff members in the room, and somehow I challenged Cuyler, to an arm wrestling competition. I mean, come on… the guy is Old. And on top of that, he’s Canadian.
I’m this young dude, in the prime of my life. I was the youngest of all the campus pastors. I was pretty confident that I could take him. I’ll never forget the room. We were in our conference room, with the big table… and everyone was around. The spotlight was on us. I rolled up my sleeves and leaned over the table to grab his old frail, Canadian hand, and I was met with the grip of a butcher. In that moment, I knew it was over. I knew I was done for. And sure enough, I was beat in about 4 seconds flat. TERRIBLE! IT WAS HUMILIATING. I GOT WHOOPED UP ON BY AN OLD MAN! That’s some serious old man strength!
It wasn’t trying to prove to myself that I could take him. I wanted to prove to everyone else that I could do it. I wanted everyone to know how great I was. I wanted to promote myself in the minds of everyone else. As if arm wrestling was anyway of showing that… 😉
Let me tell you something about Cuyler. He may have walked this earth longer than me, but his experience on earth taught him something. It was to not make much of yourself. I found out after our little wrestling match that he woke up every morning at 4:30 to run and get to the gym. He was a Lean-Mean-Candadian-Machine. But you would never know it. Cuyler is not one to talk about himself, or show off.
Let me tell you something about me. I was desperate for approval. My pride wanted people to know how good I was, how strong I was and how powerful I could be.. And instead of appearing powerful, I just looked pitiful. Your pastor has to wrestle pride into submission everyday. And my guess is I’m not alone.
Guys, don’t miss this! Q: What advice does Jesus give in Luke 14? Don’t seek the place of honor… or you’ll be humiliated. Don’t Arm Wrestle an old man! J Instead take the lower place. The path of Downward Mobility.
Jesus ends with these words:
Luke 14:11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
- How to be Exalted
When you voluntarily take a position of humility in your relationships… in your home… in your school… in your workplace… even though you risk being taken advantage of… or overlooked by others… it’s guaranteed to draw the Father’s favor.
Because the Power Principle is more than a spiritual principle—it is the SECRET KEY to living a powerful life that draws the FAVOR of God. And it impacts others for eternity!
- The Glory Drive
See, the reason we want the best seat in the house—the reason we put ourselves first—is that you and I were created for GLORY!
Each of us instinctively has a Glory Drive—a desire to be admired, valued, praised or seen as precious. The OT word for “glory” is kavod = weight, something heavy
And we all have this aching fear that we’re secretly lightweights—insignificant. No one really loves, notices, or esteems us. And if we don’t make our mark, one day we’ll be forgotten. So we fight for the spotlight, push our way to the front and flex our muscles to prevent being overlooked.
That’s the Glory Drive in human terms.
But Christ shows us a different path to lasting glory. On the cross Christ says that Humility > Glory. Before he visited earth, Jesus had all the glory in the world with His Father. Yet when he came down to our level, he wasn’t at all self-seeking. Why?
A: Bc he was 100% confident in the Father’s love for him!
(ie: baptism “This is my son, whom I love”)
Jesus was 100% secure in His Father’s affection & affirmation of his life.
He lived the only PERFECT life in the history of the world!
And bc of that—He was content & secure to take the humble position in every situation.
He was the King… but he was happy to wash feet like a servant.
He didn’t need a title, position, or wealth to PROVE his worth. He knew he was the Father’s beloved child. More than that: He TRUSTED His Father to elevate Him at just the right time back to glory. As James 4:10 says:
James 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
This is what gave Jesus the courage to walk the road to the Cross. Bc was confident in the Father’s love and trusted Him to EXALT Him to glory at the just the right time.
Humility > Glory
- Do you have that kind of Confidence? Do you trust God that way?
Bc humble, confident trust in the Father is your BIRTHRIGHT as a Christ follower!
That’s what happened on the Cross. Christ became sin for us—the ultimate humiliation. And an exchange took place. When we trust in Jesus, we receive his RIGHTEOUSNESS in return!
IOW: When God the Father looks at you—he now sees the perfect life of Jesus!
And He calls you “son” or “daughter”—you become the beloved child! We are “co-heirs with Christ!” And if the Love & Acceptance of God penetrates your heart—I am the Father’s beloved!—I am the righteousness of Christ!—suddenly all those insecure needs to prove yourself in front of others quiet down.
You don’t have an aching sense that you need to make your mark—bc Christ made His mark on you & now an eternity in Glory awaits! And when that TRUTH takes root in your heart—the result is humble, confident joy. You don’t need to worry about glory because your focus is on humility.
You begin adopting the cruciform life, a life shaped by the cross. Putting the needs of others ahead of your own. Not always needing to be right. No flexing your way into the spotlight—but willing to serve behind-the-scenes. You trust the Father to provide for you. To bless you– to lift you up in due time.
- That’s what the Power Principle is all about! It’s when Your Heavenly Father sees the heart of CHRIST being formed inside of you… bc you humble yourself… but then He decides to exalt you when it’s time.
1 Peter describes it this way:
1Pet. 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
In due time. Do you trust the Father’s timing? Or do you need to make it happen for yourself?
Do you believe if you take the humble path—putting the needs of others ahead of your own—
that He’ll “lift you in due time?”
Can you trust your Father to do that? Or do you believe it’s all up to you
Can I ask you a personal question?
Is there a current situation in your life God is calling you to choose HUMILITY?
- A confrontation at work… where you decide to back down. Not out of fear of man, but trust in the Father?
- A promotion you’re weighing… that would give you prestige. But mean less time with your kids?
- A relationship that needs mending—and you humble yourself to make the first move toward reconciliation?
- How about a mistake you made or weakness… you need to acknowledge in front of others?
- Could do that?
- BTW – To give an apology to your kids or spouse is one of the most powerful things you can do to gain the respect of those you love!
Guys… Just recently, Tiffany and I were together and she said something I didn’t want to hear and I just shut down. I didn’t yell or scream, but I very strongly said, I’m done talking and then proceeded to sit in silence for the next 30 minutes. She didn’t deserve this. She didn’t do anything wrong. She was simply asking me some questions. Ugh, it was the hardest thing for me to do was to come back and apologize for my behavior.. Why? Because I had to lower myself, humble myself, and admit I was wrong, and ask for forgiveness..
Q: What is it for you?. What current situation at work, or school, or home could you make the choice to forgo your status… and trust the Father?. Where can you apply God’s power principle this week?
To step over your need to flex your muscles and prove you’re right… or come in first … or hog the spotlight.
And instead, choose a path of voluntary humility. And do so out of reverence for Christ.
That’s how you grow & develop the character of Christ! Humility is the missing element in many of our lives. Is it found in yours?
May you feel it this week as you humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand… and trust Your Father to lift you up in His perfect timing. Amen?