July 23, 2017
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
Be Humble or You’ll Stumble
In this morning’s Isaiah passage, the Ancient of Days extends to you and to me a most eloquent call to humility!
Humility is one of the greatest of the Christian virtues. The word itself comes to us from the Latin humilis – meaning “on the ground”… “lowly.” Humus is the organic portion of God’s soil. Humility, when all is said and done, is really a very wise and prudent state of mind… a careful outlook… a sober assessment and understanding of how God’s world operates… the realization of just who we really are in the grand scheme of things!
George Washington Carver, one of my favorite characters in history – a very talented black scientist who (as an example of his incredible talent) developed hundreds of useful products from the peanut – once explained: “When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘That knowledge is reserved for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well, George, that’s more nearly your size.’ And he told me.” To be humble is to take our proper role first, before God… and then, before man!
Humility is the opposite of pride – which is inordinate self-esteem! In the vernacular… pride is having an inflated view of ourselves… our importance… our indispensability! How rare it is to witness true humility. Once observed in others, it is life-changing!
For many years Sir Walter Scott (who was in his prime two-hundred years ago) was the leading literary figure in the British Empire, writing such enduring literature as Ivanhoe and Rob Roy – along with poetry, short stories, and plays. No one – and I do mean, no one — could communicate in writing as well as he could. Then the works of Lord Byron began to appear, and their greatness was immediately evident. Soon an anonymous critic praised the poems of Byron in a London paper, declaring that in the presence of these brilliant works of poetic genius, Sir Walter Scott could no longer be considered the leading poet of England. Who do you suppose wrote it? The unnamed reviewer had been none other than the humble Sir Walter Scott himself! Humility…
Isaiah tells us in the lesson before us this morning there are two paths to humility. This shows our Heavenly Father is intent upon humility in His children. One path is to be humbled by God. To be humbled by God!
God humbled His own people by sending them into exile. Why? Because of their idolatry. He, in essence, told them (verse 13), When you cry out for help… let your collection of idols deliver you! Then He added, But the wind will carry them all away. A breath will take them. [But] He who puts his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain. God humbles His people for their own good!
It has always struck me just how much the Almighty gives us every opportunity – especially through the various seasons of life — to be humble before Him before we finally leave this earth.
The second path to humility is to humble ourselves! To humble ourselves. To voluntarily travel the path of humility and to practice it from the heart! Verse 15: For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit…
What a stellar verse! It does not say the knowledgeable will dwell with God in Heaven! It does not say the eloquent will dwell with God in Heaven! It does not even say the generous will dwell with God in heaven. It says the humble are those who will dwell with God in Heaven!
I dreamed death came the other night;
And heaven’s gates swung wide.
With kindly grace an angel
Ushered me inside.
And there, to my astonishment,
Stood folks I’d known on earth.
Some I’d judged and labeled
Unfit or of little worth.
Indignant words rose to my lips,
But never were set free;
For every face showed stunned surprise…
No one expected me!
How humble we should be – in light of God’s mercy and goodness! How humble we should as when we advance in our knowledge of God’s holiness. The Sacred Scriptures show us the way… and there are enough tasks on the developmental chart to occupy us for a lifetime for a lifetime!
For starters… St. James wrote: Be swift to hear… slow to speak… slow to wrath…He then counsels: Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. He also tells us: God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.
St. Peter wrote: Make your calling and election sure…This requires an immense amount of humility.
St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: I am least of the apostles.
To the Ephesian Church he wrote: I am less than the least of all saints.
And of our Lord, it is recorded: …the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. That spells H U M I L I T Y.
And the Lord still reminds us that the disciple is not above his Master. It is enough that the disciple be as his Master.
The very insightful evangelist, Dwight L. Moody (of Moody Bible Church in Chicago), once summed it up so cogently: BE HUMBLE OR YOU’LL STUMBLE!
We cannot overestimate the importance of our humility before God as stated in the Bible!
Where are we this day, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ? Isaiah wrote that it is the humble who will dwell with God in Heaven! The humble! Are we willingly humbling ourselves? Or does God need to humble us?
This is one endeavor of Christian Faith… one virtue that is available to all of us! It requires no special payment… no special education… no special rank… no special vision from the Almighty… It does, however, require honest effort and a sincere faith!
As we concern ourselves with personal and corporate growth this Trinity Season, let us to remember to humble ourselves! For without it, we will not see God!
BE HUMBLE OR YOU’LL STUMBLE! World without end. Amen.