The Bigness of God and The Smallness of Me
One of the things I have enjoyed over the past three years has been the opportunity to sit and listen to many of you talk about what it used to be like. I have enjoyed the stories you have told about growing up in Port Arthur, and to hear you describe the beauty of the buildings that now suffer neglect and abandonment. I am enamored with the stories of how you used to spend your time together, and even how you would play hide and go seek in the Procter Street building.
I think we like to talk about the old days because there is something safe about it. It was a time when we felt free. The stress and strain that we feel now was 1,000 miles away. Even our games were simpler, all you needed to go outside and play was an outside to go to. There are times that I try to explain the finer points of Kick the Can or Red Rover to the boys and they just don’t get it.
So I am sure that by now many of you have already drifted a bit. You have started thinking about the days gone by and some of the games you used to play and the fun that you had with those games. Without a doubt my favorite was King of the Mountain. Maybe it was because I was always the biggest kid in my class, or maybe I was the meanest, but I loved that game.
The game is actually very simple; someone stands on a dirt pile, park bench, log, or hay bale and screams out I’m King of the Mountain. At that moment they become the target and everyone tries to knock them off their perch and take claim to the title King of the Mountain.
It was my favorite game to play when we were kids. I was always coming home with a bloody nose and ripped paints, but we were kids being kids. The problem is that we grow into adults and we are still playing the game. Sure it looks a bit different from the outside, we no longer climb on a heap of dirt, now we just stand on people. And we may no longer cry out “I’m King of the Mountain” now we just say you are not as strong, or smart, or talented, or good looking, or important as I am. This attitude has infected our jobs, our hobbies, and even worse our churches and spirits.
I want you to know that this is not a 21st century struggle, it’s actually quite apostolic. The Apostles were always arguing over who was the King of the Mountain. Can you imagine how dense these guys were? After spending three years with Jesus they were still focusing on their own importance. That’s the struggle they are having in Matthew 18 when they asked “who is the greatest in the Kingdom?” I don’t know what type of answer they expected, but Jesus told them the truth. Jesus said it wasn’t Peter, Andrew, Thaddeus, or Mathew. What Jesus said was that the greatest was the one who was humble. That is a lesson that we are still trying to learn today.
Today our journey to worship brings us to the 131st Psalm. Charles Spurgeon said that our Psalm was one of the shortest to read, but one of the longest to learn.
How would you explain to someone what we are doing here this morning? How would you explain worship? It’s so much more than just being here physically, you need to be here emotionally and spiritually as well. When we gather to worship God with our whole being we are acknowledging His bigness, His grandeur. And we are also acknowledging our smallness. We gather to worship God because He alone is worthy of our time, He alone is worthy of our love, He alone is worthy of our respect. And everything else is the byproduct of that relationship.
We gather here this morning to humble ourselves in the presence of an almighty and awesome God.
King David had it all. He was handsome, talented, had power, money, the best horses and chariots. If you were going to describe someone who was wildly successful, David would fit that description. But the most important description of David is that he is called a man after God’s own heart; he knew how awesome God was and how small he was in comparison. David was not one to stand on his own power, or abilities. He often humbled himself because he was a servant of God. And our song this morning is calling us to do the same thing.
If we want to be people after God’s own heart David says that we must first get rid of our pride and arrogance.
The Psalm starts with “My heart is not proud,” Now I don’t normally think of David as having to struggle with pride. But as successful as he had been in his life, I would imagine that pride was something that he struggled with. But even though David ascended to become the King he couldn’t stop being that shepherd boy that Samuel anointed. He wasn’t perfect but he remained a servant.
Augustine listed “the three greatest virtues of Christianity: humility, humility, and humility.”
The Bible has so many different warnings about pride, 1 Peter 5:5 and James 4:6 warn us that “God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud.” Proverbs 16:18 – 19 warns “pride leads to destruction and a haughty spirit comes before a person falls.” From Genesis to Revelation this warning is echoed over and over again.
The reason that this short Psalm is included in the songs that prepare us for worship is because humility is directly affected by the size of our God. If we don’t believe that God has the ability to direct our lives then worship becomes secondary. If we spend all of our time and focus on what we can control then why would we waste our time worshiping a God that we cannot see? Humility is the choice to credit God, not ourselves, for our abilities, and then to use those gifts in God’s service.
We live in a society that values power and control. That’s why it is so hard to recognize the sin of pride. When we value people who are self sufficient and motivated, and do whatever it takes to make the sale, make the point, or win the war we give value to the very thing that keeps us away from God.
Pride tells us to take things into your own hands, be your own god, improve yourself by whatever means you can to get ahead, regardless of the price. The sin of pride shows itself in self-sufficiency, self-importance, self-righteousness and self-indulgence. And sadly there is no room for God in a life that is filled with pride.
David says: “My eyes are not haughty” And while arrogance is an expression of pride, it goes beyond pride to looking down on other people.
During the days when Mohammed Ali was in his heyday, he would make the claim that he was the greatest. Humility was never his strong suit. One day he was on an airplane and the plane was ready to take off and the flight attendant had repeatedly told him to put on his seat belt. He finally told her, “I’m superman and superman don’t need no seatbelt.” The flight attendant didn’t hesitate a minute but shot back with, “Superman don’t need no airplane either, now buckle up.”
Arrogance is encouraged in our community. I talked with a friend of ours this week and our discussion turned to her struggle with kids who were telling her kids “I’m better than You.” Well they weren’t using those words, it was more like, “Did you get your clothes out of a dumpster?” “You’re too slow to be on my team!” or “Do you have soap at your house?”
If we were to be totally honest with each other we would have to admit that every one of us has a little bit of Phariseeism in us, because we all make snap judgments about people. We stereotype according to clothing, race, sex, nationality, or any of 100 different things.
The problem with this type of arrogance is that we are making blanket statements about people who were made in the image of God. The truth is once you get to know someone, their lives are as good and bad as yours are, they have the same concerns about their family or their job that you do.
We have to be a bit careful here, we cannot assume that the opposite of pride means being timid and insecure. Humility is not inferiority or poor self-esteem; it is seeing our strengths and weaknesses honestly, and not letting either keep us from accomplishing what we need to do. Humility is recognizing that our strength comes from God. He doesn’t need us, but He wants to use us.
We serve a God that is Holy and unapproachable. But He loved us so much that He allowed Jesus Christ to die for our sinfulness and bridge the gap that we created. God is full of mercy and grace and He desires that we long for the relationship we were created to have with Him. For that to happen our souls must be willing to bow down and cry out Holy, Holy, Holy.
If we want to truly worship God David says we must recognize our own limits
David finishes verse 1 by saying “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.”
One of the marks of humility is recognizing your limits, accepting the fact that there are things that you are not going to be able to do or to understand. That’s social suicide now a days. One of the most recognizable ad campaigns today is about the most interesting man in the world. But he’s not just interesting; His shirts never wrinkle, His blood smells like cologne, He bowls overhand, and He has won the lifetime achievement award, twice.
And while he is the most interesting man in the world, he is no David. David had no problem admitting that there are things that he doesn’t know because he was confident in his relationship with the one who does. In the same way we cannot give the impression that we have understanding that we don’t really have. The humble man is slow to express an opinion in matters about which he has little knowledge. The proud arrogant man, by contrast, is an expert on every subject. He can tell you the right way to grill a T-bone steak, the best way to treat a migraine headache, and whether a Lexus is superior to a Mercedes, although he’s never owned, or even ridden in either one. He is utterly confident of his own opinions, and utterly scornful of anyone who disagrees.
David demonstrates in verse one what humility before God really is. It doesn’t mean having a low opinion of yourself, and it’s not having a high opinion of yourself. Humility is having the right opinion of yourself, from God’s perspective. And it’s only when we can see ourselves from God’s perspective that we will be drawn to worship Him.
In verse two David teaches us that we can worship because we have learned the value of Contentment.
David gives the strange example of a child; but it’s not just a child, the key word here is weaned. You see this psalm is not only about the virtues of humility, but of trust as well. When David says that his soul is like a weaned child, he is not saying that he has always been content with God or even merely that he is content with God now. He is reflecting on the difficult weaning process.
I remember when the boys were young and we were trying to get them to eat real food. It was a bit difficult because as babies they only knew one thing and to say that it was a struggle is like saying our present financial crisis is just a small economic dip. They met us with resistance, tears, angry accusing glances, and fierce temper tantrums. It was a difficult time in our home, but if the boys were to grow and mature it was a process that they had to go through.
In our Psalm David is saying that he has come through the weaning process and has learned to trust God to care for him and provide for him. And the trust was not built on David's terms but on God's terms. You see before he was weaned, David wanted God only for what he could get from God. But after he learned that God loved him and would care for him David could not help but worship God. That was a better and much more mature relationship.
Contentment requires quiet reflection, which takes time, a commodity in short supply in our hectic world. How can we “still” our souls when we’re constantly distracted by all sorts of urgent issues? I assume that one reason we’re here is because we recognize the need to slow down and reflect on who we are, to get connected to God. We find our quiet place where there are no cell phones, where projects are placed aside for awhile, so we can focus on things eternal.
This morning we gather to worship because we must learn to love God for Himself and not merely for what you can get from Him. If you are gathered here for any other reason then you may need to spend some time in quiet reflection.
You know there are very few psalms that reach this level of personal disclosure. And even though David is writing about himself and his experiences with God, he makes it personal on a different level. He is not content to let us read about his process, in verse 3 we are invited to learn the same lessons.
David challenges us to "put our hope in God both now and forevermore” Only God is worthy of our hope and will never disappoint us. To know that truth is to be spiritually mature. To know that truth draws us to worship Him with our lives.
Questions For You To Consider
How is having a humble attitude different from being passive?
How should we handle it when our ambitions get in the way of submitting to the Lord’s plan for our life?
How does contentment grow from having a relationship with the Lord?
Try to understand why God considers proud attitudes to be wrong. Read some of these verses from the Book of Proverbs and discuss what the writer is saying. Proverbs 11:2; Proverbs 15:25; Proverbs 16:5; Proverbs 16:18; Proverbs 16:19; Proverbs 21:4; Proverbs 21:24; Proverbs 29:23.
Read Mary’s Song in Luke 1:46-55. What does Mary say about proud people and about humble people?