“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
This week’s Be Great 8 devotional is about being humble. Being humble is a hard place to be. Once you think you’re there, you’re not.
The first step to getting there is to acknowledge that.
“Dear God, my name is Coach Theo [or insert your name here], and I am so full of pride.”
The scripture of the week comes from James 4:6. As always, it’s good and necessary to share the context in which James, the brother of Jesus, is writing. By the way, here’s a fun fact, James didn’t really believe his brother Jesus was for sure the Lord and Savior. It wasn’t until after Jesus resurrected himself that James believed.
In the book of James, James is giving practical commands for authentic Christian living. He instructs Christians to control their tongues, be slow to anger and fight selfish ambition. He really crushes down on the debate between faith and works. By grace you have been saved and you don’t need to do good works to earn anything. But “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17) Or as the footnotes in my bible explain, “an individual becomes a child of God entirely by the grace of God. But when the gospel of Jesus Christ renovates a person’s heart, changes in activity should naturally result.”
Think about that word, RENOVATE. It’s powerful.
So anyways, James is challenging people to stop doing things like judging and fighting with each other, to stop coveting and being jealous of each other, and to stop choosing to be a friend of the world. (James 4:4)
And that is really, really, hard to do without staying humble daily.
Here are three powerful perspective-changing statements that I use to check myself regularly and fight against my pride:
#1: You can always learn, grow, and get better.
Progression never stops. You don’t just get to a point one day when you say I’ve learned everything I can, I’ve accomplished everything I can, I became everything I can, and now I’m done! So why would you ever accept just ‘OK’? Mediocrity is for the birds, or as James says, the world.
#2 You are not better than anyone else.
No one on this earth is perfect. We all have issues. So, “why would you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)
#3 You are not that important and no one really cares about you.
Sounds harsh doesn’t it? But let me tell you, it’s one of the most liberating pieces of advice I’ve ever heard. The reality is everyone has their own lives. We are all so busy, we don’t really care. People move on. People forget. People have their own lives to worry about. You die and then a hundred years later no one will know your name. “You are a midst that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14) Understand this, you are not that important to people on this earth, of this world. But you are to God. “Do you not know that your name is written in heaven?” (Luke 10:20)
You want to know where it’s really easy to identify humility or the lack thereof? In fitness, training, and sports, at the finish line. Watch how people respond when they win, but especially when they lose. And I’m not just talking about towards others, but also towards themselves.
I often tell a story about two athletes in a race. Both look exactly the same. They are built the same and share the same fierceness. They run the race with the same intensity and tenacity to win. At first, on the surface, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the two. The only thing that separates one athlete from the other, is their intention.
One runs to win for their own personal glory. The other runs to gain a platform to give God all the glory. One thinks it was all his hard work and effort that got him there. The other acknowledges that God gave him the ability to work hard and exert the effort in the first place. One sees it as something he earned. The other sees it as a gift that was given to him. When one loses, he makes it all about him and wants a pity party for 24 hours. When the other loses, he dwells on it silently for three hours, then moves on because he knows performances were never about his glory, recognition, and desires in the first place, and no one really cares.
Speaking of racers, I have another racer to tell you about. It’s the Humble Bumble Bee.
This is a short story I share with my youth athletes during our Be Humble week.
Check it out…
The Humble Bumblebee Story
It was the Pollen Collecting Championships.
The Queen bee stood on her throne and announced, “Get ready all of you bumblebees! The bee who collects the most pollen wins!”
Humble-the-bee had his eyes set on the prize. He knew he was the fastest bee with the best wing-eye coordination in the colony. After training all year, he prepared to the best of his abilities. Now all he had to do was show up and perform.
The Queen raised her hand. The whistle blew, and they were off!
The bees were buzzing past each other left and right. Picking up pollen, dropping it. Picking more up,
Humble was off to a great start. He was stashing much more pollen than any other bee.
Carrying as much as possible, the bees buzzed at high speeds around and into each other. Knocking into each other left and right, one bee was violently slammed.
He fell to the ground.
Other bees saw him drop, but no one stopped. They couldn’t, they had to stay up to speed or they wouldn’t stand a chance of winning.
A few bees stopped to see if the hurt bee was ok, but they decided to keep going.
Humble was collecting more than anyone when he came upon the bee. He noticed others whiz by him. He thought about stopping, but he couldn’t either. “How would I make up time if I lose this advantage?” he wondered.
He pursued more pollen, but after making some headway, his conscious got the best of him. “I have to go back.”
Humble went back to the fallen bee. He had to put some pollen down to help lift him off the ground. He carried him back to home base, then spent the last minutes of the competition doing his best to make up for what he lost.
But he couldn’t.
After the competition ended, all of the bees huddled around the Queen Bee at the awards ceremony.
“You all did a great job collecting as much pollen as you could. Some of you collected an enormous amount. But only one of you gets the winning prize. And it’s the bee who helped me when I fell.”
Humble’s wings perked up.
The Queen Bee continued. “You see, I disguised myself as an injured bee. The test was to see how you responded to a fallen bee during the pursuit of victory. Many of you thought to help me, but you didn’t. Winning a trophy overtook your heart. In the end, even though some of you collected much more pollen than Humble, you failed the ultimate test of performance: To Put Others First.”
Humble couldn’t believe his ears. Even though his hopes were initially set on winning because of his speed, he ended up winning because of his heart. And surprisingly, this victory felt much better.
The buzz around town became James 4:6. “God opposes the proud and shows favor to the humble.”