True greatness


Matthew 18:1-14


  • Cassius Clay (Mohammed Ali) used to boast: “I am the greatest!
  • Alexander the Great was so-called because of his exploits in battle

The world sees greatness in these terms

  • But Jesus took a little child and said: “Whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven

True greatness

  • In God’s sight, humility is the mark of true greatness
  • God said of Moses that he was the humblest man on earth

Little children are not perfect!

  • I’m sure you can think of many instances to confirm that point!
  • But humility should not be equated with perfection
  • Humility is the way that we show our complete and utter reliance on God Himself… through our words, actions and decisions

Jesus the man had to humble himself… and become obedient unto death on a Cross

  • As a result, God “highly exalted him

The paradox of humility is that it results in exaltation

  • For God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble in spirit
  • Humble people are truly “set free” from fear and self

Charles Spurgeon commented: “The higher a man is in grace, the lower he will be in his own esteem

Wise words.

We hear a lot about people’s rights these days… and in many ways this is a positive trend…

  • But in our relationship with God, we lay aside our rights, as Jesus did
  • We become a servant of the Most High God, as Jesus did

Jesus the man could have ‘reverted’ to his God-status at any time… but he chose to accept the limitations of his human condition

  • He chose the path of humility and invites us to do the same

Humility should not be confused with weakness

  • It’s an attribute… a strength… a work of grace in our lives
  • Humility requires strength of character to be steadfast when others doubt and waver… or mock us for being “weak” and “needing a crutch”

Humility is not about hating ourselves!

  • God sees us through and through but loves us still
  • Jesus said to love others as we love ourselves
  • Remember that we are created in God’s own image…

 The world values ambition, go-getting, prestige, glitter, celebrities…

  • But Jesus said that we must become like a little child
  • Uncomplicated, enthusiastic, trusting… not naïve
  • To be naïve is to believe the unbelievable… to accept without question the unacceptable

 Humility allows us to deal with situations patiently yet still retain our fervour and enthusiasm…

A child is sitting at the tea table with guests… As the tray of cakes is passed around, he eagerly eyes the one that he wants but has to wait patiently and hope that no one else chooses it… Then at last his turn comes… He grabs the cake. His mother scolds him: “What do you say, Nathan?” ~ meaning that he should say “please”. Instead, the child cries triumphantly: Got it!

So we can choose to be like the child… anticipating, waiting, last to receive… but full of joy and thankfulness when we are so blessed

  • Children place their trust in people… not in philosophies
  • We place our trust in the man, Christ Jesus… not in traditions or strategies or slick sermons

Humility frees us from fear but fills us with awe and wonder

  • So we can say with the centurion of old: “I am not worthy that you should even come to my house… but just say the word…”

And John the Baptist… “I am not worthy even to tie his laces

  • Yet Jesus said of the centurion that He’d never known such faith
  • And of John the Baptist that no one was his equal

We might have some surprises when we reach heaven!

  • Those who have taken the glory for themselves in this life might find themselves at the lower end of the table
  • And the greatest rewards will be reserved for those who humbled themselves before the Lord… those who loved God and their neighbours first and foremost

Child-like faith involves a willingness to take God at His word and to be changed

  • It’s so difficult to change… even when our present circumstances are clearly unsatisfactory
  • We prefer to tinker around the edges rather than really allow God to have His way

But the Bible does not tell us to be reformed but to be transformed by allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work in and through us

Observe a baby watching his or her parent… eyes glued on the mother’ or father’s face!

  • Responding to the parent’s every look, word and gesture
  • As the ploughman fixes his eyes on a fixed point, so we fix our eyes upon Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith

The world likes lucky charms, hope-for-the-best and crossing its fingers…

  • But we “know whom we have believed and that He is able…”

As Martin Luther wrote: “The only saving faith is that which casts itself on God for life or death

  • We might add: “In life and in death”

Perseverance, endeavour, hard work, persistence, determination and the sweat of our brow are all desirable qualities

  • But we are told to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness

Unless we become as little children we shall never enter the Kingdom of Heaven

  • We rightly say much about being born again… but little about that vitally important quality… humility
  • Jesus plainly taught that unless we become as a little child we cannot enter the Kingdom

Our road is narrow… but we have One who sticks closer than a brother

  • He promises to make our burden light
  • NOTE! Jesus did not say that we would not carry any burdens!

I began by referring to Alexander the Great and Mohammed Ali

  • Alexander the Great was, perhaps, the greatest military leader the world has ever known… he died aged just 33 of a fever
  • He never achieved his ambition to dominate the world

Jesus Christ also died aged about 33… but he could cry: “It is finished!” It was a cry of victory: “I’ve done it!

  • For God’s love encompasses the (whole) world
  • And the resurrected Christ continues to transform lives throughout the world today

Mohammed Ali, ‘the greatest’ is, sadly, suffering from a debilitating disease and is a shadow of his former self

  • Jesus Christ humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross…wherefore God has highly exalted him and given him a name that is above every name

Stacey Thaeler wrote a poem about true Humility…

Yield obedience instead of demanding it
Content with what God provides.
Let His every word be your nourishment,
His suffering ever before your eyes.
Banish idols from your life and be filled with His teaching,
Then spiritual prosperity achieve
What you measure out will be measured to you,
So give more than you receive.
Don’t be like Cain, so full of rebellion
Who with the Lord’s warning never complied
Don’t sell yourself into vain bondage
All for the sake of anger and pride.
As we keep our minds humble, boasting only in the Lord,
Disorder and conflict will flee
Step out in meekness and longsuffering
For Christ came in humility.

(Slightly modified)

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