Everybody hates the Big Guy

Big Government. Big Oil. Big Brother. This morning I even heard a story on the news about Big Whiskey (wasn’t that the setting in “Unforgiven”?). There is this distrust of anything or anyone big. Why?

Maybe it’s because of the fear that anything or anyone too big won’t play by the rules. The thinkings is that the Big Guy ignores the rules and overpowers the Little Guy — you and me. But what if the Big Guy makes the rules? Then what?

God tells us in the Bible “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3) For the average person in the culture I live in, that is a threatening statement. It threatens because it takes any kind of control I may have out of my hands. Like anything or anyone Big, we ask “But does he know what’s best for me?” “Can I trust him?” And, the big question whether we ask or not “What about my rights?”

Anyone who takes a moment to look at the world around them soon will realize that there is much that goes out of control. War. Weather. Relationships. But ultimate control rests in God’s hands, who created this world. The less we choose to believe this, the greater our distress in what looks like chaos in this world.

That is a battle I fight every day. A favorite passage of mine is I Peter 5:6-7, where it says “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, for he cares for you.” Just prior to that, it says that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. So, my battle is to be humble and trust the “mighty hand of God” — that is, the God who does spectacular things for his people.

So, the battle is to trust the ultimate Big Guy who makes the rules and does more than I could possibly do. And part of that battle is to not make myself the Big Guy, because I don’t have the authority or the power to run the world, even my own little one.

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Jesus, Proverbs and American idols: An appeal to be humble, open-minded, generous, obedient and patient

Tim Keller, digging through Proverbs 3, has come up with five guides to godly living that are useful to pray about for ourselves, our families and our church leaders. They are good checks to see if we are putting these things in our hearts.

1. Put your heart’s deepest trust in God and his grace. Every day remind yourself of his unconditioned, covenantal love for you. Do not instead put your hopes in idols or in your own performance.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart (Prov 3:3-5a)

2. Submit your whole mind to the Scripture. Don’t think you know better than God’s word. Bring it to bear on every area of life. Become a person under authority.

Lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Prov 3:5b-6)

3. Be humble and teachable toward others. Be forgiving and understanding when you want to be critical of them; be ready to learn from others when they come to be critical of you.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. (Prov 3:7-8)

4. Be generous with all your possessions, and passionate about justice. Share your time, talent, and treasure with those who have less.

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Prov 3:9-10)

5. Accept and learn from difficulties and suffering. Through the gospel, recognize them as not punishment, but a way of refining you.

My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. (Prov 3:11-12)

Keller goes on to say that this wisdom is personified in the New Testament in Jesus, who did all this by 1) trusting God, 2) being saturated in and shaped by the Scripture, 3) being meek and lowly, 4) becoming poor for us, though he was rich, and 5) patiently enduring suffering on our behalf. These are good, solid truths to think on, pray about and ask God to put in your life and others’.

HT: The Gospel Coalition and Redeemer City to City

Industriousness grows well in the soil of humility

What does God not need? He doesn’t need proud people. He doesn’t need self-sufficient people. He doesn’t need people who are looking for their own glory. He does not need and so people like that are at odds with who God is.

This past Sunday afternoon, I had the joy of watching three people from my church be baptized. It is a wonderful thing to be a witness to this event in a Christian’s life because it points in a public way to the fact that God does a great thing in people’s live — he saves them — by first making them humble. John Piper, in his sermon from this past Sunday, says that humility “is the work of God under everything that makes all other good things in Christianity possible.” He gives just a few examples:

Faith. Would anyone depend on Christ as a needy, weak, and sinful person, if God hadn’t made him humble?

Worship. Would anyone earnestly make much of the worth of God, instead of craving to be made much of himself, if God hadn’t made him humble?

Obedience. Would anyone surrender his autonomy and submit obediently to the absolute authority of Scripture, if God had not made him humble?

Love. Would anyone seek the good of others at great cost to himself, if God hadn’t made him humble?

So, we are all in need of humility if we are to be of any good to God. The world, Piper reminds us, tells us that the best sort of courage is self-confidence. The humble person, however, is God-confident and lives his life not fearing man, but fearing God. Fearing men is a sign of pride, not humility. And because the humble person fears and loves God, that person works and is not passive. Remember what Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 15:10:

By the grace of God I am what I am . . . I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Because we are freed from the chains of self esteem and the concerns of the world, God allows us to be productive, creative, industrious people who do great things for God’s sake, not our own.

Humility: Clothes I’m having a hard time wearing

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

I Peter 5:5-7

Here’s the thing. God, I trust. He knows everything. He is all powerful. He is all wise. He is loving. He is holy. But a man, like me, is sinful. I know that I am a wretch. I have loved these verses for almost all my life as a Christian. I understand the need to be humble. I know God will take my anxieties and care for me because he is great. The part where I stumble is the first part, where it says to be subject to my elders and to clothe myself with humility toward another. And it makes me miserable.

I’m miserable because it shows my trust in God is a lie, and I’m not fooling anyone. Well, maybe myself until I see how I cannot trust God to work in a situation with another person. So, I act like I think God is big and I’m small and yet you’re somehow smaller than me. It’s not a good thing, and I see it like cancer in myself and people around me. These are clothes that we don’t want to wear, this humility to one another. Yes, it is so easy to see the sinfulness in those around us. But that is not the point. The point is to be humble to God, who made that person, and trust him to work things for our good and his glory.