Last week, I had a great conversation over coffee with a friend (who is also an elder at another church). He asked me: "If you could choose only one characteristic to describe the greatest sign of a spiritually mature Christian, which one would you choose?"
I have to be honest, one of the first thoughts that popped into my mind had to do with tithing & giving. The wallet is one of the last parts of us to be converted (I remember from personal experience :-). That's why Jesus spoke so much about money. Not so much as a monetary thing, but more as a spiritual battleground. All pastors know that one of the first signs of someone being unhappy with their church is that the person stops giving or begins giving less. Giving can be like a spiritual thermometer that reveals how hot or cold we are toward God--or the church--but not always.
Even though I thought about choosing 'giving' as my answer, I instead chose something I thought was even more important, humility. Humility is the opposite of pride & selfishness. Humility means that I see great value in every person & do not consider myself better than anyone else. Humility means I can surrender my will to God's will. Humility means that I consider other people's feelings as is importan, or more important than my own. Humility means that I treat people--all people--with incredible respect. Humility means that I don't feel I have the right to cut ANYONE else down because I have never walked in their shoes. Humility is a huge part of genuine love for God and others. I told my friend Mark that I thought if I could only choose one, I might choose humility.
He liked my answer--but he had maybe a just as good or better answer. Apparently, for whatever reason, he'd been thinking about it a lot lately. He said he thought the greatest sign of a spiritually mature Christian was a thankful heart. I've been thinking about this ever since & see much wisdom in it. At the same time, I see humility and gratitude as somewhat being the same thing.
It takes a lot of humility to approach God, other people & life in general with a grateful heart. If I don't see myself as more important than I am, I am more able to see God and others with a grateful heart.
If I focus on counting my blessings instead of my problems, I can approach God with a grateful heart.
The person who taught me the most about humility & giving thanks was a guy in his early thirties who was dying of brain cancer and only had a few weeks to live. He had a wife & three little children that he adored. He continually talked about how grateful he was for his life and everything God had given him. He said he had never once asked, why me Lord? He said, "I never asked why me Lord when I met my wife or when I held any of my precious children in my arms the first time--why in the world would I ask, why me Lord now." The man exuded gratitude and gratefulness for everything.
He went into a coma after his third brain operation. At the hospital, his wife said the doctors said he would never wake up. She said, "I just want to tell him that I love him one more time." We prayed together for that to happen. He woke up the next day and was sitting up and talking up a storm. God answered her prayer and she had one more opportunity to tell him how much she loved him. It was truly beautiful. He died a few days later.
I saw gratitude and humility modeled in the most incredible way possible.
Holy Week is the perfect time for all of us to cultivate a grateful heart. Would people describe you as having that kind of characteristic? Let's pray together for that right now:
"Lord God, please forgive me for how often I have taken You and all the good things & good people in my life for granted. Lord, forgive me for not walking in faith with an attitude of gratitude. Help me to change. Help me to daily enter into Your presence with THANKSGIVING. Help me to be humble before others & to express my love and gratitude to them every day. Jesus, thank you for the cross. Thank You that You had the humility & grace to step down out of heaven and give Your life for me. Oh Lord, when I think of all that You suffered & endured for our sakes, I am humbled. Please let me never put myself above others. Help me to humble myself towards others with a servant's heart---never to think that I am better than them---just as You have done for us!"
Lord, we love you! Thank You for loving us! Let me never again ask the question, Why me, Lord, unless I ask with a GRATEFUL heart!!! To Christ be the glory forever and ever---AMEN!!!
Listen to this powerful song by the Gaither Band on YouTube: Why Me, Lord?
Blessed Be the Name of the Lord!
Because Sunday's Coming,