Monday, August 29, 2016

The Pathway to Success

The Pathway to Success
Luke 14:7-14 Upper Rogue/Gold Hill UMC Picnic August 28,2016

O Lord it's hard to be, humble when you're perfect in every way. I can't wait to look in the mirror, Cause I get better looking each day.
To know me is to love me, I must be a wonderful man.
Oh Lord it's hard to be humble, But I'm doing the best that I can.

Of all the Christian virtues, none are as misunderstood or unpopular in our world as Humility. Humility is often used as a synonym for weakness and self-deprecation. It is believed that being humble means groveling in front of others or thinking we're no good and others are better. That's not what the Bible says. God says when you are humble, you are free from pride and arrogance. You know that in your flesh you are inadequate, yet you also know who you are in Christ. Humility recognizes that our own strength is not enough, we need, and give thanks for, God's help and give God credit for the gifts and graces that bring us success. Godly humility is being strong enough in our faith to put others first. The picture of humility in the Bible is one of a strong person who loves others, not someone who is a wimp. Perhaps the best description of humility I ever heard was from the top sensei of the Tong So Do school of Karate who wrote that true humility is the ability to lift up others without pulling yourself down.

The old joke says: "In Sunday School I got a ribbon for humility; but when I wore it they took it back."  Which brings us to the flip side of humility, arrogance. The definition of arrogant is someone who is full of self-worth or self-importance and who tells and shows that they have a feeling of superiority over others. An example of arrogant is when a guy on a date brags about himself all night, acting like he is the best thing to ever happen to a woman.

In today's lesson from Luke, Jesus engages the arrogance of his fellow guests at a dinner party. In that society, where you sat at the table was a sign of your status in the group. Kind of like when I was in Zaire (Now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). In a culture where almost everyone walked everywhere, to be seen riding in a car was a sign of importance. Consequently, we had several local teachers who would walk past the school to our quarters so they could be seen riding to school in our car. So it was that Jesus, noticing the guests elbowing one another in a mad rush to the best seat, said to them: “When someone invites you to dinner, don't take the place of honor. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. Then he'll come and call out in front of everybody, 'you're in the wrong place. The place of honor belongs to this man.' Red faced, you'll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left.
When you're invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then, when the host comes, he may very well say, 'friend, come up to the front.' That will give the guests something to talk about! What I'm saying is, if you walk about with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face. But if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” (The Message)

When God says to be humble, he lets us know we must examine our motives and attitudes. We also must examine how we respond to others. Shortly after assuming the presidency of the prestigious Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Booker T Washington, the renowned African American Educator, was walking in an exclusive section of town when he was stopped by a wealthy white woman. Not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, she asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood for her. Because he had no pressing business at the moment, Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to do the humble chore she had requested. When he was finished, he carried the logs into the house and stacked them by the fireplace. A little girl recognized him and later revealed his identity to the lady.

The next morning the embarrassed woman went to see Mr. Washington in his office at the Institute and apologized profusely. "It's perfectly all right, Madam," he replied. "Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it's always a delight to do something for a friend." She shook his hand warmly and assured him that his meek and gracious attitude had endeared him and his work to her heart. Not long afterward she showed her admiration by persuading some wealthy acquaintances to join her in donating thousands of dollars to the Tuskegee Institute.

Being humble means you can speak with the right attitude. Henry Augustus Rowland, professor of physics at Johns Hopkins University, was once called as an expert witness at a trial. During cross-examination a lawyer demanded, "What are your qualifications as an expert witness in this case?"

The normally modest and retiring professor replied quietly, "I am the greatest living expert on the subject under discussion." Later a friend well acquainted with Rowland's disposition expressed surprise at the professor's uncharacteristic answer. Rowland answered, "Well, what did you expect me to do? I was under oath."

Humility makes it easier to have courage. Humility frees you from worrying about how others perceive you. You have less of a need to make a good impression on people, so you are more open to learn new things. You don't mind if people see you as imperfect, or that you are not as skilled or talented as you would like to be.
An arrogant or conceited person always needs to appear to be perfect, to be highly skilled and talented. This creates tension and anxiety. The truly humble person is calmer and more relaxed.” (From Rabbi Pliskin's book, "Courage")

Thus it is, that You will usually be more successful if you practice what the Bible says about God and humility than if you are pushy or arrogant. (When you are humble, you are likely to have more influence than when you fight abrasively.) Even if you don't achieve the results you hoped for, you have the joy and pleasure of having acted in a godly manner. When you understand the meaning of humility in the Bible and put it into practice, you are a winner—even if you do not "win.
"David Hess writes for Forbes: Highly innovative and consistently successful businesses like IDEO, Google, Intuit, Bridgewater Associates, W.L. Gore & Associates, and Pixar Animated Studios have cultures and processes that encourage and enable people to unlock their chains so they can imagine, explore, experiment, and think critically. These companies encourage childlike curiosity and taking ownership of challenges with the mindset of a scientist who is good at not knowing. All are idea meritocracies that devalue hierarchy and value candor.
Along the way to adulthood, however, most of us lost our childlike curiosity and our candor because we became consumed with being liked, being “smart”—which to us meant being right and not making mistakes—and protecting our self-image so as not to lose face. Innovators, however, can’t be consumed with always being right and can’t avoid mistakes and failures. Innovation, as a process, requires failure. Exploration into the unknown, by definition, produces surprises. To become innovators, we have to develop a different mental model of “smart.” That requires us to accept the science of learning, which illuminates the cognitive and emotional proclivities that can inhibit our learning.” In short, innovation, courage, and humility go hand in hand.

John the Baptist had the crowd following him before Jesus came to the scene. His followers saw Jesus and quickly left him and went to follow Jesus. Some disgruntled ones went to John and reported to him. They thought John would flare up and curse his disciples but to their surprise replied, “He must increase and I must decrease.” John 3:26-30. It was John’s joy to promote Jesus above himself. That’s the mark of true humility.

Do you have the strength of faith to be humble. Do you have what it takes to sit at the lower spot? Even when it means you may not be called up? Do you have the faith to fail? Do you have what it takes to recognize and honor the gifts and successes of others without downplaying your own. Are you ready to try true humility? To quote one of the presidential candidates: “What have you got to loose?” Other than pride (which goes before defeat), and arrogance (which precedes a fall)? [Proverbs 16:18]

The odd truth is that humility is the pathway to success. Take it. AMEN.

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