Life is not easy. You figured that out – right?!? When life gets hard, what do we normally do? When things go bad, when there are relationship messes, when there are hurts we can’t overcome, what do we naturally do? We think about ourselves. We all do it. It’s normal. We tend to go inward. We think about how hard our lives are. We focus on how unfair our lives are. We secretly look at others and compare ourselves to others. We quickly conclude, they have it easy, but my life is hard.
We have a natural way of focusing on ourselves. We think, ‘Life is about me right now.’ When we focus on ourselves, what happens to our emotions? We become more and more sad or depressed – right?!? We feel like we are waist deep in mud because life is so hard and unfair. We kind of loop in our minds and replay negative thoughts, don’t we? We can loop in all kinds of negative emotions. We loop in how people have treated us. We loop in all the bad things that can happen in the future – right?
This happens to me. In my car, when the light on the dashboard goes on, I’m not happy at all. When I have text messages and voice mails 24/7, I think I am falling behind. I begin to think about what I have to do and what I have to get done. I just keep thinking about myself and my challenges. I have a cavity to get fixed. I have a van transmission that blew up. I have to get the oil changed. I have college to pay for. I have to buy a car to replace the old one. Oh, now I have a second kid going to college soon. The truck now has rust on it. How will Covid impact church? The thoughts just keep coming into my mind. How will all of this get done? In that moment of thinking about myself, it can feel like an avalanche of issues coming down on me. I feel frozen and defeated. Can you connect with what I am saying? It’s the feeling that life is overwhelming and I begin to feel smaller and smaller.
When this happens, we tend to look inward and begin to feel tired, sad or depressed. What does the world tell us we should to do? The world says, focus on yourself more. You need more me time. You need more self-care. You need down time for yourself. You need more alone time for yourself. You need more vacation time for yourself. Councelors go out of their way to celebrate every child and every feeling. Every emotion you have must be validated and celebrated. The world tells you, your real friends will validate and celebrate everything you are feeling no matter how destructive it is.
Can I just say, I don’t think it’s working – do you? Have you noticed, the more people focus on themselves, the more depressed and confused they become about life? It seems like the more down time, the more me time, the more social media time, the more Netflix binging, it still leaves us empty. Have you noticed that kids today are more celebrated and loved than ever before in history and they are growing up with greater emotional struggles and challenges? What do you think about it all? Do you think the more you focus on yourself, does it make you happier?
What do we do about this? What does that Bible say about this? That is what I want to talk about today. To prepare you for today, I want to quickly review where we have been in this teaching series. We said that what we need is complete transformation. We need God to save us, rescues us, and to transform us. And that’s why we spent so long talking about God’s grace. Grace is about what God has done and what He is inviting us into.
How do we take God’s grace and live a transformed life? We said we must remind ourselves that we gave ownership of our lives over to God. We don’t own us, God does. We stay desperately connected to God or our emotions will be all over the map like Elijah. Remember when Sam shared the Elijah story? God shows up and asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?” Lastly, we purposely grow up. That means we do things that shape our hearts. We engage God’s grace, give, serve, celebrate and forgive. Why? These things shape our hearts; they don’t feed our egos.
Last week Sam talked about being real. He read what Jesus said about being real.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. NIV Matthew 7:21
Jesus says it’s the person who does the will of God that matters. Sam said those actions come out of who we truly are, right from our hearts. He said who you are comes out for others to see and for others to live with and you can’t hide it. Sam closed with a powerful statement, “Who you are matters.” His challenge for us was to be real. Sam did such a great job with this because this is what it means to live with integrity.
So, what do we do when we feel the avalanche of issues coming down on us? What do we do when we begin to focus on ourselves and conclude we are miserable, we are rejected, we are not enough?
Let’s go right to scripture.
1 Is there any such thing as Christians cheering each other up? Do you love me enough to want to help me? Does it mean anything to you that we are brothers in the Lord, sharing the same Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic at all? 2 Then make me truly happy by loving each other and agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, working together with one heart and mind and purpose. TLB Philippians 2:1-8
Paul is really pouring out his heart here. He is passionately writing the church in Philippi to be unified. This church was filled with all kinds of different people. Rich, poor, Greek, Roman, Jewish. Because they were so different, it would have been natural for them to see their differences, be selfish and divided. Paul wants them to see the big picture of doing life together. So, he tells them, be unified. Love each other. If the Holy Spirit lives in each of you, you must see that you are connected like a brother or a sister because of God. If God has made any impact in your heart, have empathy for others. One of the clear markers of spiritual maturity is your ability to walk in unity.
Okay Paul, sounds good but how? Next verse.
3a Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. TLB Philippians 2:1-8
How are we supposed to live? Don’t be selfish. Don’t think about yourself so much. Don’t be self-absorbed all the time. Don’t be fake, be real. Don’t focus on yourself so much you don’t know what is happening with others. Being self-focused is called pride. And pride will always destroy a community, a marriage, a family, a friendship.
Okay, I get what I’m not supposed to do. What am I supposed to do?
3b Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. 4 Don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing. TLB Philippians 2:1-8
Paul says, the answer is to be humble. What do you think of when you hear, ‘…be humble?’ What is the mental image you have when you hear ‘…be humble’? Maybe a quiet, mousy, kind older grandmother who is baking cookies? Does being humble mean you are a wimp? No. Does it mean you put yourself down all the time? No. Does it mean that you have to be a doormat and just accept people walking all over you? No. Does that mean you never share your thoughts? No. Maybe you need to update your mental image of what it means to be humble. Being humble has nothing to do with those things. We will give you a new mental image of humility later in this talk.
To be humble means, have strength. Have the strength to take your eyes off of yourself, we call that pride, and focus on others. Don’t go inward, go outward. As you walk through the day, have the strength to think that others have incredible value. If it helps you, think of others as more valuable than you. If you want unity in your community, your marriage, your family, your friendships, be humble.
Let me ask you. Do you think about yourself a lot? Do you feel the avalanche of issues and does it leave you thinking about yourself – a lot? Has it led you to feel overwhelmed? Sad? Or depressed? Do you stay in those emotions and has it made you selfish? Has it led you to check out in life to only focus on yourself, your feelings, your emotions?
In relationships that struggle, chances are, there is a humility problem. Somehow pride is growing and humility is getting smaller. That means our selfishness is growing and our ability to love others is dying. Think about the relationships you are in right now. Think about your work, your friends, your church, your family, etc. In almost every case there is a struggle, there is a pride problem and a humility problem.
Do you consider anyone as more important than you? Do you treat others as more significant than you? Those at church? At work? How about your spouse? Your family? Your friend? Do you walk through the day with pride thinking, ‘People are there for me and what I can get out of them.’ Or do you walk in humility and think, ‘What can I do to bring out the best in others today?’
Let’s take a step back for a second. What do you think about all this? About pride vs. humility. Does that sound rough? Sound impossible? Insensitive? Does it almost sound rude to think your emotions aren’t being validated?
Paul continues to write.
5 Your attitude should be the kind that was shown us by Jesus Christ, 6 who, though he was God, did not demand and cling to his rights as God, 7 but laid aside his mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. 8 And he humbled himself even further, going so far as actually to die a criminal’s death on a cross. TLB Philippians 2:1-8
If we need a role model to understand what being humble looks like, it’s Jesus. If you need to update your mental image of what it looks like to be humble, its Jesus. He had the strength to take His eyes off of Himself and focus on you. He hung on that cross, not because of weakness, but because of strength. What an incredible image of humility.
For you and I, it’s the father who rearranges his life to love his son or daughter. It’s the mother who passionately loves and cares for her son or daughter as they walk through every stage. It’s the wounded person who comes to God for healing. It’s the sad or depressed person who comes to God for healing. It’s the person who is tired in life coming to God for more grace. It’s the people of God who get together to build churches for others to experience God’s grace. It demands strength. It demands humility.
We are supposed to be like Jesus. How? Be humble. Have the strength to not be prideful and selfish. Jesus is God. He didn’t stay in heaven to enjoy all the perks. He didn’t demand that His life be fair. He didn’t view His status as God as a right. Jesus saw our mess. Jesus then laid down His power, His glory, His comfort and allowed sinful, selfish, hard hearted people to humiliate Him, beat Him and crucify Him. Paul said, be like Jesus. Read over the Jesus story and let that be your example as to how you are supposed to live.
That humility is a picture of what it means to be a great disciple of Jesus. Imagine if our world experienced Christians like that. Christianity isn’t about power, knowledge, or what you accomplish, it’s about love. It’s about being humble. Imagine if our family experienced parents like that. Imagine if a church was filled with people like that.
If you want to build unity in a community, a marriage, a family, or a friendship, don’t be selfish or prideful. Be humble. Let me ask you.
Before we move on, I need to say three things.
To be clear, we are not suggesting you should allow people to abuse you physically. We gave the example of Jesus who was physically harmed. The point wasn’t that we allow others to physically harm us. It was that Jesus left the status of being God to serve us.
To be clear, when we talk about looking inward and being sad or depressed, we aren’t talking about medical issues. We believe in doctors and the medical community.
To be clear, we aren’t saying never think about yourself. It’s okay to brush your teeth. Do you see what I am saying? Yes, think about your life. Prepare for retirement. Prepare food for dinner. Think about what God is saying to you in your heart and emotions. But don’t become so prideful and self-absorbed that you ruin your relationships around you and you don’t know what is happening in people’s lives around you.
Let’s close with my last point and a couple questions. Jesus is the ultimate example of strength. What did He do with his strength? Did He use his strength to serve Himself? No, that would have been pride. Jesus took this strength and served others. We call that humility.
My point today is that when life overwhelms you with the avalanche of issues leaving your frozen or tired or sad, don’t go inward and stay inward. If you want to heal, if you want joy, if you want to pull out of your mental looping of negative thoughts or emotions, think of others. Like Jesus, don’t be selfish, be humble.
Do you think about yourself a lot?
Are you sad or depressed, in a funk and staying in those emotions?
Do you consider anyone as more important than you?
Do you treat others as more significant? Those at church? At work? How about your spouse? Your family? A friend?
Do you walk through the day thinking, ‘People are there for me and what I can get out of them?’
Do you walk through the day thinking, ‘How can I bring out the best in the people I meet today?’
Those around you, did you listen to them long enough to know what’s going on in their lives?
Can you wrap your mind around what Jesus did? He didn’t demand His rights as God, He laid down His life. With all the power of God, He sacrificed Himself to serve you. That’s humility. That’s strength.
What is your mental image of humility?
Here is a story in hopes this message sticks.
There was a college final for those wanting to become a doctor. This final was weighted heavily for their final grade. The students were so stressed. They studied all through the night. Exhausted, they came to the classroom. They opened the test booklet. They were shocked to see only one question. Some thought it was a joke, others became frustrated and angry.
The one question was, ‘What is the name of the person who cleans this room?’
After the professor calmed everyone down, he spoke. You will never become a true successful doctor until you embrace humility. You may know the technical side of being a doctor, but what also matters to every person and family around you is your humility. Never pass by people thinking you are better or more important leaving you to ignore them.
Paul put it like this. Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself.