Success and Humility
SUCCESS AND HUMILITY - A Third Day tour Bible study from our archive.
How do you cope with success? How do you define success? Where do you think that success comes from?
The real problem of success is pride. Like the person who wrote the book, Humility and How I Achieved It, sometimes we are last to see it as our problem. We are all vulnerable to pride, and humility is very difficult to achieve; the process is often painful.
How would you judge the success of a tour?
- audience numbers
- units sold
- audience approval
- money made
None of these things are wrong in and of themselves.
How about relationships?
- band members
- other bands
Helmut Thielicke said this about Nazi Germany; “The worship of success is generally the form of idol worship the devil cultivates most assiduously.”
He also has much to say about worldliness:
The Pharisee in Luke 18 and Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4 both faced problems of success and pride. In different situations both of them felt they had got it made, that they were a great success. For both of them there was difficulty in realising that they needed to be humble.
The Pharisee gave himself away by the attitude he had to others. He strictly kept all the laws and was very critical of anyone who didn't match up to his standards. Easy targets for him were robbers, adulterers, tax collectors, and he even boasted in his prayers how good he was:
Luke 18:11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector.
Luke 18:12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
Of course, all his success was cancelled out by his pride and this stopped God from hearing him. You see, self-righteousness never impresses anyone, least of all God. He prefers the humility of the Tax collector:
Luke 18:13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
Luke 18:14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Nebuchadnezzar, living 600 years before the Pharisee, had even more reason to be proud. A King who ruled over many people and that made it hard for him to submit to the God who is supreme:
Dan. 4:22 you, O king, are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth.
However, God took the trouble to warn him in a dream. A time of suffering was to be the way God would make him humble and only then would he give God his rightful place:
Dan. 4:24 “This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king:
Dan. 4:25 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.
Dan. 4:26 The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules.
Dan. 4:27 Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”
The problem with Nebuchadnezzar was that he attributed all of his prosperity to his own efforts and he forgot that it was God who had given him money, power, position and property. He was using all the right words about God in public but his actions revealed a heart set on power and self-glorification:
Dan. 4:30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
Dan. 4:31 The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you.
Daniel, in contrast, knew that success is solely the gift of God:
Dan. 4:17 “‘The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men.’
His private acts of praise put God in his rightful place as the source of all his accomplishments. Are we more like Nebuchadnezzar or Daniel?
In order for him to remember who was really responsible for his wealth Nebuchadnezzar had to go through the severe experience of madness. The route back to sanity for Neb took him through humility, faith, recognition of the glory of the true God and an awareness of the source of justice
There is a simple but painful road to humility, and according to Jesus in Luke 18v14 it is a conscious choice; we have to humble ourselves.
Seeing ourselves in a true perspective, seeing our weaknesses as well as strengths, and letting God take his rightful place. In a world were everyone tells us to look after number one this may be tricky; but the starting point is to recognize the depth of our pride.
We all need to develop to our full potential -and God can make our lives both prosperous and meaningful- but always we must realize God's part, depend on him, and give him due credit and thanks.
Of course, in the Christian music industry we face a battle to be humble because the whole system is geared to bands and artists becoming “stars.”
How do we win that battle? By obeying the command of Jesus to take up our cross daily, die to self, and follow him. By being associated with the condemned, the oppressed, the outcast, by putting others first, we begin to live in true humility.
In an industry where you are pampered and honored and treated by executives and audiences alike as valuable commodities, the challenge is accepting the:
ABANDONING OF YOUR RIGHTS
- self determination
None of these can be of paramount importance any more. In fact, you should acknowledge that they aren’t even yours! Investing in anything other than the word of God and the people of God is simply not worth it!