I have GREAT news for you this morning! The odds are GREAT that you are NOT going to die in an avalanche! Isn’t that awesome? And I can say that with relative assuredness, because I looked it up. Only about 30 people die each year in this country as the result of an avalanche. That means, you’re sitting pretty on that one! You’re actually five times more likely to be killed by a falling coconut. Five times!
But if you ever ARE in an avalanche, here’s an important survival tip: spit before you dig. Really! Turns out that one of the biggest mistakes people make when caught in an avalanche is they dig blindly, trying to get out. And when you do that, it’s really easy to dig in the wrong direction. A man died in an avalanche. And when rescuers finally found him, he had dug 30’…DOWN…in an ill-fated attempt to get out. He spent every last ounce of strength he had to get farther from his intended goal. What you do is…spit. Why? Because even though you probably won’t know which way is up, gravity still applies. You push the snow away from your face … and spit. If the spit falls away from you, you’re facing down- you need to turn around. If the spit falls left or right, you’re sideways. And if you end up spitting in your own face…winner, winner, chicken dinner…you’re facing up! Start digging! It’s important to know up from down.
Psalm 25:8-9 Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.
Today, we continue our current Sunday morning journey- The End of Me. Based on the book by Kyle Idleman (author of Not a Fan), we are spending 8 weeks unpacking several truths that, on the surface…make no sense! Ultimately, we’ll discover how Jesus can transform us if we’re willing to live out these odd and paradoxical principles. Our first step pulled us immediately into this upside-down world as we considered what it means to be Broken to be Whole. Last week, we continued the journey as we looked at Mourn to be Happy. Today, we take another step as we consider Humbled to be Exalted.
Today’s main Scripture is one of the most well-known stories of the New Testament. The Resurrection has happened and Jesus has appeared to the disciples…at least MOST of them.
John 20:24-29 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The Gospels portray Thomas as a loyal, outspoken, and somewhat pessimistic person who was unsure about the future but closely aligned with Jesus. In this story, he wasn’t there when Jesus first appeared to the other disciples after the resurrection. He was clearly in contact with them, but not “running” with them.
And despite their repeated assurances that Jesus was, in fact, alive, Thomas remained unconvinced. In fact, he was so certain of Jesus’ death that he insisted he wouldn’t believe unless he could actually touch the living body. Like a good trial lawyer, he wanted physical evidence.
John’s Gospel says Jesus’ appearance to Thomas was “a week later”. So this appearance to Thomas happened on Sunday- one week after the Resurrection. The disciples had stayed in Jerusalem. And as they gathered a week after that first Easter Sunday, Thomas was with them. Maybe he was starting to recover from the initial shock of Jesus’ death and felt like being with his associates.
As they were gathered together, Jesus again shows up. The doors are locked for fear of the Romans busting in on them. But mere 1st Century home security systems can’t keep out Jesus. He shows up, among them. And He goes straight to Thomas. He clearly knew what Thomas had said in his pride and hubris. But Jesus doesn’t chastise Thomas for his unbelief, for his pride. Instead, He offers Thomas the very test he said he would need to believe. “Put your hand here…and here. Stop doubting and believe.”
Notice two things: 1.Thomas DOESN’T do what he said he would HAVE to do in order to believe and 2. He immediately humbles himself in perfect belief. He claims Jesus as Lord and Savior. The swagger, the pride that had him say he wouldn’t believe unless he could touch the wounds is melted away- replaced by a genuine humbleness and faith. To humbly acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior is the pinnacle of faith.
When Jesus showed up, there was a lot of directional confusion. Up felt like down. So Jesus came to set the compass once and for all. But when Jesus sets things in order, it’s hard not to feel sometimes that He’s holding the map upside down.
And that’s maybe no more obvious than in the 3rd of the beatitudes Jesus offers in His famed Sermon on the Mount- blessed are the humble- they will inherit the earth. To our 21st Century ears, that sounds like irony, hyperbole, sarcasm. The humble inherit the earth? Really? It looks to me like the CEOs, internet gurus, politicians and big Hollywood stars Are at the head of THAT line. “Humble” doesn’t really pop into my head when I think of them. Jesus says the way up is down, the way to greatness is through humbleness. And that statement is a radical reversal.
Matthew 12:34 says, “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” The truth is that our words betray us, no matter how much we guard them. Fake humbleness often expresses itself in pride that is obvious to everyone but the speaker. If there aren’t any people in your life who will offer you loving feedback and constructive criticism, it’s not because you have no need of it. You might think that nobody offers you advice because they can’t find anything to criticize. The truth is more likely that nobody offers you advice because they know it’s not going to end well if they do.
If your life is filled with complaining and self-justification, then you have a pride issue. Pride is blinding- it’s hard to recognize the pride in your life because of…the pride in your life! But if you catch yourself celebrating somebody else’s failure, if you lack gratitude for the good things in your life, if you’re convinced that your opinion is the only right one, if you think you deserve everything you have…or want, if you think your efforts deserve the most credit, if you feel entitled, if you’re sure that you should be talking and everybody else should be listening you are struggling with pride. And pride keeps us from realizing how desperately we need God. Pride isn’t just one of the “deadly sins”- it may be the mother of them all. Jesus isn’t impressed with our accomplishments. He’s interested in who we are on the inside, where only He can see.
We look at being humbled as a passive activity- something that somebody or something does to us. We are humbled by unemployment, a failed relationship, a shattered dream. But Jesus says humbling ourselves is NOT passive- it’s active. We’re the ones doing the action- we humble ourselves.
Do you remember Nik Wallenda? He is the newest incarnation of the great Flying Wallendas. He made news a few years ago when he walked across Niagara Falls on a high wire. The next year, he became the first man to walk a wire across the Grand Canyon. Nik also professes a strong Christian faith. So how do you humble yourself when you’re the best in the world at what you do and millions of people cheer your every step? He has an interesting approach. Huge crowds come to see him perform. And those huge crowds leave huge piles of garbage. Nik Wallenda didn’t head for a limo when he was done. Instead, he spent hours picking up trash.
When asked about it, he said, “Three hours of cleaning up debris is good for my soul. Humility doesn’t come naturally to me. So if I have to force myself into situations that are humbling, so I do it because it’s a way to keep from tripping. I do it because if I don’t serve others I’ll be serving nothing but my ego.”
Jesus is our best example of what it means to be humble. I’m talking about somebody Who was, in His very nature, by His very essence—God. He was fully God…and yet fully man. He humbled himself. He didn’t cling to His status. He chose to be humble.
And there it is- taking ownership of our own humbleness. But how? What
does that look like in real time? How can we humble ourselves without becoming proud of our humility and wrecking the whole thing? How do we get to the end of me? There ARE some things we can do to humble ourselves:
1. voluntarily confess my sin. If I confess my sin because I got caught at it, I’m humbled— but I’m not humbling myself. If I confess my sin because I’m confronted with it, I’m humbled— but I’m not humbling myself. Voluntary confession is a way of humbling ourselves and the Bible says that God promises to exalt those who do it.
The alternative is to keep putting up a front- we keep up the facade and keep exalt ourselves. That has a promise attached to it as well. And that promise is that we will be humbled. So if that’s the end result either way…why not take ownership of it?
2. give sacrificially and anonymously. When I give anonymously, so that I can’t be thanked or exalted by others, my heart stays humble. When I give sacrificially, meaning it actually costs me something, it’s a very tangible way of saying God is more important than me. It reminds me I’m not the most important person in my
3. treat others better than myself. It’s the way of the world…turned upside down. I was raised to be self-reliant and look out for #1, but what if I placed a higher value on others than I do myself? Maybe I would better listen when people try to help see that I need to change. Maybe I wouldn’t complain when someone asked me for help. Maybe I wouldn’t fight for the front seat, or the biggest piece, or the best view, or the most recognition.
4. ask for help. It’s humbling to say to someone, “I don’t know what to do. I need help.” Guys especially struggle with this one. We don’t even like reading the instructions or asking directions. But I find that every time I humble myself and ask for help, it opens a new door to some kind of blessing.
Ephesians 2:6-10 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Humble yourself…and mean it. Don’t try and make your case before God. Don’t try and impress Him with your resume. Don’t ask for blessings as a comparison to what others get. Don’t tell God why you deserve to be blessed. Don’t congratulate God for having such an awesome child as you. There’s simply no substitute for humbling yourself before God. A humble heart pleases God. Humbleness invites God to more fully demonstrate His power.
I challenge you to take what you’ve heard here today and improve on it. Be creative. Remember that humbling yourself is not beating yourself up or believing that you should be a doormat. Where are the opportunities to humble yourself? Take a moment to write down a few starting points for yourself. Then put them someplace where you’ll see them and be reminded. Everywhere you look, every situation you’re in, is a laboratory for self-humbling, an opportunity to exalt
Christ and put pride on the cross. Everyday is a new opportunity to boldly —or humbly—go where no one has gone before.