Humility: first step to happiness

What would it take to make you happy? This question was asked of 52,000 people by the magazine Psychology Today. These were the answers:

  • Friends and social life
  • Having a good job
  • Being in love
  • Recognition and success
  • Sex
  • Personal growth
  • Good financial situation
  • Having a nice home or apartment
  • Being attractive and beautiful
  • Being married

The interesting thing this survey highlights is that attempts to find happiness are through external situations. It is a popular idea that when circumstances are right, I can be happy – when/then thinking. It goes something like:

“When I get married then I’ll be happy.”

“When I loose twenty pounds then I’ll be happy.”

“When I win the lottery then I’ll be happy.”

A popular idea about happiness is that the right set of circumstances will make me happy. But is it possible to be happy if circumstances are not perfect?” The Bible teaches us that: happiness is not based on circumstances – it is based on ATTITUDE. In Matthew chapter five we can read the “Beatitudes”.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:3–12

Each beatitude begins with the word “blessed” which can also mean “Happy”. Today we focus on verse three: Happy are the poor in spirit: for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:3

This verse sounds like contradiction. Happy are the poor … Being poor does not sound like a recipe for happiness. Actually, being rich may not bring happiness either. Jesus is teaching that true happiness is not based on external circumstances but on an internal attitude – a “BE” attitude. In other words, your happiness should not depend on the right circumstances – but on your right attitude. Circumstances change. Circumstances WILL change, but if we have the right attitude – we can be happy no matter what the circumstances are. Would you like to learn an undeniable fact? FACT: Happiness is a CHOICE. Happiness depends on choosing the right ATTITUDE.

Let’s look at that verse again: Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

What does it mean to be poor in spirit? We start with what it does NOT mean. It does not mean that I have no value. It does not mean that I need to have low self esteem. It does not mean that I need to put myself down. Jesus did not die for anyone who is worthless – He died for people who have value, who have worth, purpose, and significance. You have worth, purpose, and significance. Oh, you are not perfect. You’re human just like the rest of us. We all have sinned – yet we have value. Being poor in spirit simply means we need to have an attitude of humility. When it comes to our relationship with God we are all on a level playing field. We all depend on Him for our salvation.

Poor in spirit = HUMILITY

Humility is not thinking less of yourself – it is thinking of yourself LESS. It is admitting you don’t have it all together, acknowledging you don’t know it all. Humility is realising the universe does not revolve around you. It is admitting to God that you need His help. Lots of people can’t do this acknowledging, realising or admitting, but there are three benefits from humility. Benefit one:

HUMILITY REDUCES STRESS.

A few weeks ago I was instantly placed in a situation of high stress. My business partner buzzed me and matter of factory told me that I had made a mistake with an invoice to a client. I had overcharged them. He said it made us look bad, unprofessional, and I could feel my cheeks turn pink and my blood pressure rise. I was mortified, it was a careless mistake with numbers. I sweated for a moment, and said that I would contact the client. I tried calling her mobile, then her home office, but she was out. I left a message and then got on a train, still feeling pretty stressed.She called me back not long later – “it sounded important Mark, what’s up?” I just told it straight, admitted the error, said sorry, and offered to immediately refund the overcharge.

“Think nothing of it, we all make mistakes, no harm done, I really appreciate your call to put this right.” When I am willing to admit I am not perfect, a great burden is lifted off my shoulders. I’m reasonably certain I will make mistakes again, I will never be a perfect COO or pastor, but I am absolutely certain that admitting when I mess up, reduces a lot of stress in my life. You don’t have to solve every problem you encounter, because many you can’t. You don’t have to fake the fact that you don’t have all the answers. I don’t have all the answers. But I can point you to the One who does. I am not perfect – but I can tell you about One who is. I don’t have to play God – but I can show you the way to God. In a way I am a guide to Jesus – as is everyone who claims to be a Christian.

Americans have a proverb – “He still puts his trousers on – one leg at a time.” Does that compute the side of the pond? It does not matter if I am a King, or a president, a billionaire or a street-beggar, I still have to put my trousers on one leg at a time. So do you. This is a proverb about humility. I think there are times we take ourselves too serious and we don’t take God seriously enough. We are trying to impress people and that leads to stress. When I humble myself – when I admit my dependence upon God – it reduces the stress in my life. When my stress goes down and my happiness goes up. Happy are the poor in spirit: for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. The second benefit of humility is:

HUMILITY IMPROVES RELATIONSHIPS.

Who likes to be around people with big heads? Or people who brag and boast about themselves all the time? Or those who are full of themselves? Prideful people are a pain in the ‘what’s it’, an irritation. They are self centered and they are never happy. Never happy! All they seem to do is make others around them unhappy. Many times they build themselves up by cutting others down. On the other hand how many of you like being around humble people? They don’t put on “airs” to impress you. When you tell them a story they don’t have to “one up you.” They are honest and open – they may even tell you funny stories of mistakes that they have made in their lives. (Such as preaching with their fly unzipped. That happened when I would preach sermons from behind a more substantial pulpit – quite some time ago. I am thankful for pulpits. If you had been there I’m sure you would have been thankful for pulpits too.)

Folks we’re all human – we all make mistakes. Humility doesn’t mean I think less of myself, I just think more about others. When I become interested in others – I become interesting to OTHERS. Relationships improve when I become humble. I don’t have to be right all the time – I don’t have to have all the answers. It becomes easier to say, “I’m sorry.” “I was wrong.” “I made a dogs breakfast of that, didn’t I?”

Humility changes things. Humility changes relationships. It changes our relationships with one another but it also changes our relationship with God. There is another verse in Second Chronicles we can look at today:

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)

I hope you might see four steps in this verse, that improve your relationship with God? They are:

A. Humble yourself.

B. Pray.

C. Seek God’s face.

D. Stop sinning (turn from our wicked ways).

The truest things are usually simplest too. When we take some action about these four things, our relationship with God improves. That first thing to do is to humble ourselves. Humility improves relationships and helps bring us much closer to the relationship God wants with us.

HUMILITY RELEASES GOD’S POWER.

Look at James chapter four with me:

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6

Would you like to feel God’s strength in your life? The Bible says, emphatically, that God gives “grace to the humble.” The Bible says spiritual power is given to those who walk humbly before the Lord. God gives strength to those who realise they need to depend on Him.

It’s pretty amazing to me, but I cannot count the number of people I have met who claim to be Christians, but who tell me they know nothing or little of the spiritual power God longs to give all of his children. Maybe you fit into that category? When I consider the majesty and mystery of God I am in awe. When I consider how and why God has taken me – even me – and placed me here as your minister – I am humbled. I’m not the most intelligent person in this church family. Some of you have more insight and wisdom than I have. Yet God has placed me here for a purpose. Sometimes I act a little impulsively – without thinking things through. Sometimes I wait too long when I should have jumped in. Sometimes I open my mouth and insert my foot and get myself in trouble because of it. Sometimes I feel so inadequate. Sometimes I feel poorly prepared. Sometimes situations seem overwhelming. It’s at times like that when I pray to God and ask Him for wisdom and strength. I humble myself before Him and He strengthens me. I have to realise that I am where I am – not because of who I am – but because God is who He is. I am strengthened – not because I am strong – not because I am a super chap – but because I have a Great God. I think that is what Paul was talking about when he said:

Jesus said to me, ’My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

God’s strength in perfected in weakness. You have often heard it said – “God helps those who can help themselves.” This is not a true statement. The truth is: “God helps those who know they can’t help themselves.” He expects us to do our best – but He also expects us to rely on His strength. When we admit we need Him – He steps in. It takes a humble person to admit their weaknesses. So let’s get our practical application out in the open. Is there any area of your life you’re trying to get control of and it’s just not working? Have you humbled yourself in that area? Have you admitted to God that you just don’t know how to fix it? Tell God that it’s just not working – and that you don’t know what to do next. Humble yourself before Him. You don’t have all the answers – you’re not supposed to. You are supposed to come to Him humbly – admit your weakness – ask Him for help.You see humility brings about strength. Humility brings about power. Humility brings about happiness – because God provides for you – what you cannot provide for yourself. “God gives grace to the humble.” Is it any wonder that:

Happy are the poor in spirit: for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:3