>>
2CH sermons

Footprints

A sermon by Alan Best

Good morning. One afternoon, as I walked along a beach near Sydney, I looked back to see the deep, clear footprints I was leaving behind me. There was something impressive about them because there were no other marks on the sand. They almost seemed to be making a statement.

But while I watched, a wave swept up the beach and in an instant, my footprints were far less distinct and some had almost disappeared completely.

Very soon afterwards, another wave arrived and where my footprints had been so clear a few moments before, there was no evidence that I had ever walked there.

Sometimes, we can look at our lives in the way we might look at footprints in the sand. We are tempted to think we are making an impressive mark on our world and we might like what we see. Before long, pride can become the hallmark of our behaviour. Depending on our circle of influence, some of us may start to be filled with self-importance and a belief that our influence and power make us indispensable. And even if we feel we have a limited sphere of influence, we can still be ruled by pride. During the rest of our time together, I would like to talk about the importance of humility.

******

I do not need to tell you how Australians react to pride. We recognise it as a serious failing, so we want people to be real or ‘fair dinkum.’ We react positively to people of whom we are able to say, ‘What you see is what you get’ – this is an excellent description of people who are genuine and not puffed up with pride.

By complete contrast, we are quick to turn against people when they become arrogant. This is especially true of politicians, entertainers or sporting stars who forget the people who helped put them into positions of power, or made great sacrifices to help them develop their natural abilities. I am sure we have all been disappointed by those whose pride has seen them lose the common touch they once had, and instead, they strut around in a world of self-promotion. Their lives declare, “It’s all about me!”

But of course, we were not the first ones to be aware of the problem of pride. The Bible clearly warns us against this, and in Proverbs 16, we read:

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

And when we turn to the New Testament, the Apostle Paul gives this great advice to the Christians in Rome:

Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.

There is no doubt we all need to be aware of just how easily pride can gain a foothold in our lives. How quickly we can begin to imagine that we are somebody of significance. And before long, we believe we are really important and the world revolves around us. As we become more and more self-centred, we expect and want more and more for ourselves, imagining that we deserve the very best of everything we see.

When we start to think like this, we want people to look at our impressive ‘footprints’ and admire us for our influence. That sort of behaviour is very unattractive to those around us and it is also unwise – for when we become entranced by our ‘footprints’ and imagine the world will continue to look at them, we can fool ourselves into thinking we will be here forever. But we must all face reality, and in the fourth chapter of the book of James, we read these sobering words:

“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

The truth is that our lives are just like my footprints in the sand that did not last as the incoming waves swept them away. No matter how important we believe we are, the time will come when our ‘footprints’ fade and then disappear, far more quickly than we would like to think.

Of course, the opposite of pride is humility and I’m sure I do not need to remind you that we should all seek to be humble. For not only does the Bible urge us to do this, but so do those around us. We would all know people who are greatly admired for their humility, but I doubt that we know any people who are greatly admired because of their pride.

******

The Bible speaks about humility and pride in many places. For example, in Psalm 18, David wrote this about God’s attitude to humility and pride:

27 You save the humble, but bring low those whose eyes are haughty. (Psalm 18:27)

A similar statement is made in the book of Proverbs and quoted by James and Peter in the New Testament:

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble .” (James 4:6)

These verses should make us ask why God is so opposed to pride and so positive about humility. The reason is that not only can we display pride or humility towards others, but every person expresses one or the other of these attitudes towards God. A proud attitude says to Him, “I am in control of my life – I know what I want, so leave me alone.” Pride refuses to allow God to have any place in our lives and that is a description of sin. It is worth remembering that the middle letter of pride and sin is ‘I.’

But a humble attitude to God says, “You are Lord and King. You have the right to rule my life – please forgive my sin and take control.”

Of course, God is also interested in whether or not we are humble or proud in our dealings with each other. The Bible contains verses such as these:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

(Ephesians 4:2)

. . . live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble .

(1 Peter 3:8)

What a contrast there is between humility and pride, just as there is a contrast between the consequences of each. As we read in Proverbs 11:

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

(Proverbs 11:2)

Humility is attractive and endearing. Being around humble people is a joy. Humble people build others up and give their attention to them. But being in the company of proud people is exhausting and brings no joy. Proud people demand that others build them up – they constantly compete to be the centre of attention and are only satisfied when that happens.

The perfect example of humility is Jesus Christ. Without even the slightest hint of pride, He could say of Himself:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

(Matthew 11:29)

And writing to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul wrote about our need for humility – and then he showed how the life and death of Jesus demonstrated this virtue:

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

7 but made himself nothing,

taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to death –

even death on a cross!

(Philippians 2:3-8)

******

There was an Englishman whose achievements were very impressive. His name was Charles Thomas Studd, and he is mostly known as C.T. Studd. He was born in 1860 into a wealthy family and excelled at cricket while a student at Eton and later, Trinity College Cambridge where he studied Law. He also represented Middlesex, the MCC and England, playing in five Test Matches. He participated in England’s first Test Match against Australia in 1882, after which the Ashes were named.

C.T. Studd had many things in his life about which he could have become proud, but instead, he gave up his sport, career and family wealth. Having been challenged to serve as a missionary, he humbly went to China in 1885 to serve with the mission established by Hudson Taylor. He returned to England 21 years later, having served God in China and India. But his health was broken and his wife, Priscilla, was also seriously ill.

At a time in his life when everybody would have expected him to stay at home and relax, C.T. Studd surprisingly received a clear call from God to go to the heart of Africa. In 1910, at the age of 53, he left his wife in England and headed to Africa, completely depending on the promises of God. There he commenced the Heart of Africa Mission, now known as WEC International and he eventually died in Belgian Congo, in 1931.

You might be asking, ‘what motivates a life of self-sacrifice like that?’ C.T. Studd had a postcard on his desk that provides the answer: ‘If Jesus Christ be God, and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.’ Because of this conviction, he was willing to renounce the things that could have been a source of pride and he humbly gave his life in sacrificial service for God.

C.T. Studd is also believed to be the author of a poem that describes the choice between living for ourselves or living humbly for God. It is titled “Only One Life” and the first four stanzas say this:

Two little lines I heard one day, Travelling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart, And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, And stand before His Judgment seat;
Only one life,’ twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice, Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave, And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years, Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its days I must fulfill, living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

******

Friends, we can all be tempted to point to the important things we are doing with our lives. We may become entranced by our impressive footprints. The source of our pride could be the influence we exert on our family or friends – or it could be the significant mark we are making on our school, university or workplace. But we need to resist this temptation. Instead, humility should characterise our lives. Others will appreciate that virtue in us, and as we have seen, it will be pleasing to God.

I want to conclude our time together with the words of the prophet Micah who described the sort of life that pleases God, including the importance of humility. I trust that we will not simply regard these words as good advice for people in an ancient time and place, but instead, that we will take them to heart and obey them with God’s help:

He has showed you, O man, what is good.

And what does the LORD require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

and to walk humbly with your God.

(Micah 6:8)

Discussion

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Archives

%d bloggers like this: