Each summer for the past several years, Iâ€™ve written a few daysâ€™ worth of devotions for Sonservants: short-term student ministry mission trips through Youth Conference Ministries. Though I donâ€™t enjoy the work, I love getting to the summer and seeing students actually use them â€“ and God at work through them. Hereâ€™s an excerpt from one this summer (this part picks up after a study of Philippians 2:1-12).
But you CANNOT become humble by trying. You don’t get the virtue of humility by working at it. If you try to, you will constantly be thinking about yourself, focusing on what you do, evaluating how humble you are – and that’s the complete opposite!
I think the way you become humble is you focus on other things and learn to forget about yourself. You donâ€™t take advantage of other people. You donâ€™t force your way. You stop caring if you get the credit, or if everyone thinks youâ€™re awesome. And then one day – a month later, a year, a decade, etc. – you realize that you’ve started to change. You’re different. Here’s what I mean: The point God teaches us here through Paul goes like this:
- Live together in Jesus – in a smooth, free way where everybody plays their part! Work together, love together, encourage each other.
- Look after other people; pour your heart and life into loving them. In fact, treat them as better than yourself – don’t worry about who gets the credit.
- Look at Jesus, who He is and what He did. He is God, and yet He humbled Himself enough to die for you and me. Look again: this is who God is.
- Spend your life this way, and guess what? You just might find that your life, your attitude, looks like Jesus Himself.
Every summer after my four years in college, I worked at a big sports camp in Missouri. Our director was probably the most humble person I have met. Spend any time with him and you’d realize that this guy isn’t very concerned about himself, nor does he think he’s that big of a deal. Now we all thought he was completely amazing, better than any of us, but I genuinely think he didn’t care about any of that. He’d make time for the smallest kid or the worst counselor, he was patient with us, he was devoted to us … and any one of us would have done anything for him.
He sticks in my mind when I think about what it means to be a humble servant. No arrogance. No putting yourself first. Not looking out for #1. No demanding your way or expecting everyone to notice you. Just a brilliant life, a humble life, a Jesus-style life.
So don’t worry about yourself for a bit. God knows who you are, what He’s doing in you, and what part you’ll play in the story.
Let me back up a bit further. Between the ages of 16 -18, I spent a lot of time in drama departments at a high school and college. We all loved acting, auditioning for new roles – but we hated the waiting to see who got what part. If you got a lead role, the excitement and pride and sense of how important you are just welled up in you. If you got a small part or side role, you hated it. You thought it was lame, worthless – you wanted to be somebody big, a star. Over the years, I got both parts. But oddly enough, the one I enjoyed the most was one of the smallest. Because once the lights came on, it was about the show. It wasn’t about me. It was about the story we were telling together, about the experience of other people, about the awe they felt when you all played your parts for a bigger purpose. It was beautiful.
You have a part to play as a follower of Jesus. I don’t know if it is big or small – you might not even know yet. In John 3:30 we find this situation: lots of people in the crowds were leaving John and going over to follow Jesus. Jesus was becoming more important, John less. People thought John might have a problem with his part getting smaller, and what’s he going to do? John’s response: no problem. It’s supposed to be that way – it doesn’t matter how much attention I get, how important I am, who notices me – my job is just to point to Jesus.
Be honest: don’t you need to hear that? Your importance is measured by Jesus – He loved you enough to share His own life with you, to call you to follow Him. He gave you a great task to do: love others as He has loved you. And yet – we still look to everything else to give us a sense of value and importance.
- We “have” to have to a girlfriend or boyfriend (now I matter to somebody!).
- Our hearts sink if we log on to Facebook and there’s no red box of notifications (no one is paying attention to me!)
- It doesn’t matter how well everyone thought I did (I know I can do better – I’m pathetic!)
- We repeatedly text someone who doesn’t answer (why aren’t they listening to me!)
Really? This is no way to live.
The truth is: God sees you. God knows you. He places incredible value on your life. The Bible says He knows the number of hairs on your head, knows when you wake up and go to sleep, what you do, who you are. Do you want to have a life that’s worth living? Then give up, now. Give up on the idea that you have to be the most important. Learn to play your part – whether big or small – without worrying about yourself. Let God become greater in your life, and let “you” become less important to yourself!
My guess is at this point you know God has come to you. You know He’s called your name and said “follow Me.” You know what that looks like: loving God with all you have, and loving others as He has loved you. You do that as you keep your eyes on Jesus and follow Him. It’s simple. You may not think about it this way, but as you all do this together, you act this life out: You put on a play, you tell a story for the watching world – about a great God who gave Himself in great love for you and me in Jesus, the Christ, the world’s true King. And just maybe – there’s someone right now watching your life. As you play your part – great or small – they see in you the great and glorious Jesus and then bend their knee and learn to praise His name.
“He must become greater; I must become less.”