Matthew 23:12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
I once heard a person tell another, “There is a God, and it’s not you!” Haven’t you felt like telling that to someone who is acting outrageously arrogant or demanding? Sometimes, we need to take a good look at ourselves and see if we deserve that admonition. “There is only one Presence and Power in the Universe…and it is not me.” This is the secret to humility that Jesus was sharing.
Some of us engage in a power leadership style of living - as a spouse, parent, pet owner, homeowner, boss, or CEO of a company. Maybe over our own bodies. We look to results, and only the results, ignoring the process. We disregard the input of others and insist we have all the answers. We command, demand, and expect others to line up behind us.
The truth is, if we believe we have personal power over anything at all, we are mistaken. There is only God, that one Presence and one Power; all else is confirmation of that Power acting through us.
Wind generators receive attention as sources for electricity. When we see these massive structures turning from a distance, they seem to have a power of their own. But in truth they are simply conduits for the flow of the wind that drives them. Remove the wind, and these generators are eyesores, useless behemoths. Add the power of the wind and these magnificent machines can generate power for thousands of homes. If there is some sort of resistance in the propellers of the generator, however, a defect in the turbine for instance, there is a loss of power. The more freely the wind generators props turn, the more power is created.
Like wind generators, we are conduits for the Power of God flowing through us; powerless in and of ourselves when separate from Spirit, yet capable of our own magnificence when connected to Source.
A common human quality causing resistance to our flow of Spirit is pride and selfishness. In contrast, humility, a complete lack of false pride, is a lubricant for the flow of Spirit. The humbler we can be - the least resistant we can be to God moving through us - the more power that courses through us, and the more authentic and useful we become. This power reveals itself through us as love, joy, service, kindness, wisdom, willingness, charity, peace, and all the other highly attractive qualities we aspire to have.
Although it seems counterintuitive, the humbler we are, the more power we have. The less we assert our ‘small selves’ and let Christ express through us, the more capable we become. I’ve been taught that it is always better for people to discover our good qualities without us having to tell them. Similarly, it is far more effective to let the winds of God turn our propellers than for us to fuel them with our own hot air.
It is a myth of civilization that the most aggressive and strongest people always win the day and make the greatest leaders. History is filled with examples of such people: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon, Stalin…. Yet despite all their battles, what did they win and what did they keep?
“What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his soul?” Mark 8:36
It seems that today many of us are struggling to get ahead, or perhaps just to stay even, not just financially. We seem steeped in a mindset of lack, and this negativity spills over into all areas of our lives.
Many life lessons are revealed to me while driving. There was a time when I had to take Rebecca to the airport, and just as we were leaving Carson City, the traffic stopped. It had just happened, so the traffic was terrible. All north bound lanes had to merge right immediately to get off the highway.
As I attempted to merge right, I realized how impoverished people must be feeling. It was difficult to move over because people we so consumed with getting where they wanted to go there was no room left in their hearts for anyone else.
Finally, of course, someone let us over, but it was a lesson to me. Some people are caught by Life in circumstances far beyond their control and are trying to find a better position for themselves and loved ones. They have no choice but to move in a specific direction. They are not trying to deny anyone of anything, or step on anyone to get there, they are not asking for anything out of the ordinary…they simply are forced to move in a particular direction.
Often, we can see their situation; we understand what they are doing and why, and now we have a choice – do we help them and grant them the relief they seek, which is within our control, or do we ignore them for our own convenience, and fight to keep our superior position, bending them to our dictates? Like the power-aggressors of old, if we must victimize people to get what we want, and fight to keep it, is it really ours at all?
When I was younger, I hate to admit it, but I have done that while driving, and I know how I’ve felt at those times – angry, aggressive, and insensitive, irritable, and ultimately ashamed. I had effectively shut off the flow of Spirit through me and I had lost my magnificence.
Over the years, I’ve become more aware of the God within and have mellowed, on and off the road. I am more aware of the plight of people and have become more willing to allow people the space they need. I am developing the foresight to anticipate the needs of other on and off the road, before they are forced to move into a particular position. This is a passive form of serving others.
Jesus said in Mark 9:3, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” And when we do this, regardless of the circumstance we feel good about our self; we feel in harmony with Creation and in a good place within our heart and mind. We can feel the flow of Spirit through us.
In the book The Serving Leader, Ken Jennings and John Stahl-Wart call this ‘turning the pyramid upside down’, where we put others before ourselves. It is often within our control to empower others to do their best through encouraging them, accepting them, approving of them, appreciating them, and anticipating their needs and obstacles.
There are many people within our church who are powerful servants. They have a service-first mindset. One excellent example of this is our Board President, Brian Foster. Although I have my role as the ‘front person’ in the band, it is Brian who is the bass and percussion sections; he keeps things moving. He takes care of the business of the church, arranging for insurance, negotiating our rent, acting as the liaison between the Church and the Town Council. He takes care of all that so that I can focus on the spiritual teaching.
Frankly, I could not do what Brian does. I think I’m pretty good at what I do, and Brian is great at what he does. He can anticipate needs and offers solutions. He volunteered to play the piano on songs. He tends to the camera and helps put away my junk at the end of the service so I can speak with folks. I want to express how thankful I am for Brian and all that he does for me and the church. He is a brilliant example of being a servant leader.
Others serve by dealing with the offerings at the end of the service. Patti, Mary, and Marilyn have accepted responsibility for that task. Others open and close the church: Bruce and Jocelyn Reeves, Stan and Jeanene Kaplar, Lisa and Brian Foster, and Darlene Tiffany. This is being a loving servant.
Subtle things are accomplished by wonderful servants, things that needs to be done and they just do them. The steps are swept by various people. Marilyn changes flowers on the piano and elsewhere. Coffee is retrieved, and goodies are brought and presented beautifully. The Church Board makes decision on what direction the church goes.
Lisa Foster heads up our Outreach Program. I have no idea how some of these things even happen. When we have potlucks, I am gratefully not involved at all, and they go off without a hitch. This church is blessed by service-minded individuals, and I for one, am extremely grateful.
Our service angels sometime work actively; we see plainly what they are doing. They pass out songs books and pick them up at the end of church. But much service to this church is performed passively. I consider wearing a mask and being vaccinated a service to each other, a way of fulfilling Christ’s commandment to ‘love one another’ as we protect each other and the children from a harmful virus.
If you have ever given an offering to the church, you have served your church. If you have ever spoken with a new person or singled out a person who looked like they had no one to chat with, you have served your church. If you feel the nudge to be a part of our Outreach Program and call on those who are ill or haven’t been seen for a while, please reach out to Lisa Foster. If you spot a way in which you can serve, please see me or Brian, or another Board Member.
In John 13:14-15, Jesus has just washed the feet of his disciples and says: “And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.”
When we are humble, or meek in spirit as the Bible refers to it, Spirit expresses naturally through our strength set. Jesus would not take credit for his works: “It is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work.” When we allow God full reign of our lives, we exhibit behaviors that we thought were lost, hidden, underdeveloped, or nonexistent. We will live at our fullest potential, and at our most joyful, only when we get our small selves out of the way and let God move through us unimpeded.
To serve others we put them first. By getting ourselves out of the way, abandoning the ego and letting God express, it becomes clear that leading or following is not about us, it’s not about a position, it is about serving; it is about ‘them’.
When we exalt ourselves, putting ourselves before others and holding dear to our human power and natures, we will be humbled. When we humble ourselves – that is, to let the indwelling Christ move through us freely – we are raised through the power of Spirit to where we, and all those around us, are exalted.
My prayer is that we take to heart Hebrews 6:10:
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.