It’s Hard To Be Humble—But We Should Keep Trying!—Selected Texts

Levi Durfey—LDM-Humility-It’s Hard To Be Humble—But We Should Keep Trying-20200531FBCAM-SERMON




I read about a pastor who was voted the most humble pastor in America. His congregation gave him a medal that said, “To the most humble pastor in America.” But the very next Sunday they took it away from him because he wore it to church. It’s hard to be humble!


What does it mean to be humble? I asked my computer and it said, “the disposition of valuing or assessing oneself appropriately; especially in light of one’s sinfulness or creatureliness.” Don’t you love it when you have to look up the definition of a definition? 


Here’s a better definition: Chuck Swindoll told a story about some kids who built a clubhouse. They found some pallets and fit them together and borrowed a tarp from one of the Dad’s garage. Then they all got in it and had their first meeting. They decided that there would have to be rules. So they decided on three rules. First, nobody act big. Second, nobody act small. Third, everybody act medium. Ain’t that great! That’s a good definition of humility—act medium.


Humility is something that often escapes us humans. It’s hard to be humble. We never seem to get past thinking about ourselves. Even when we are in the depths of self-pity, feeling lower than a rattlesnake in a rut, we aren’t being humble. Self-pity is just another form of pride—“Woe is me, I am unloved” is the cry of a prideful person.


It’s hard to be humble, but we should keep trying! The Bible says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:10). It’s not something that we can ignore. God wants us to humble ourselves! 


I want to show you six ways that we can humble ourselves:


1) Practice Giving Thanks For Everything.

2) Confess Your Sins On A Regular Basis.

3) Treat Embarrassments As An Opportunity To Grow In Humility.

4) Listen To Others More Than You Talk.

5) Put Others Before Yourself.

6) Consider Often The Example Of Jesus.




Turn to 1 Thessalonians 5. Are you a thankful person? How often do you give thanks? The example of giving thanks and the command to give thanks occurs some sixty times in the Bible, including this all-inclusive command:


18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)


What is God’s will for your life? I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that one part of God’s will for your life is that you give thanks in all things. If you can’t figure anything else out about God’s will for you, you can know that one thing. Give thanks in everything!


How does giving thanks make us more humble? When you give thanks for something, you acknowledge that you weren’t ultimately responsible for getting it


It’s pretty easy to give thanks when someone gives you a birthday gift, or helps you with something—we are conditioned from toddler-hood to say thank you when someone gives us something. 


But when it comes to other things, like your possessions that you bought with your hard-earned money, it’s more difficult to remember to give thanks. We think that it’s us who earned it. 


But who is ultimately responsible for everything we have? It’s God! Paul said, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28)


Everything we are and everything we do is because of God! Giving thanks for everything requires us to humble ourselves to admit that God is the Giver of all things. 


The humble person sees everything as a gift. Their food is a gift. Their home is a gift. Their family is a gift. Their work is a gift. In fact, the trials they go through are a gift…a gift to make them more humble.


Consciously start thinking about being more thankful. Perhaps it’s that you have food on the table, or that you had a good visit with someone, or a good quality you find in a friend or family member.


Don’t wait to feel thankful. If you wait until you feel like it, you’ll do it less and less. We need to obey despite our feelings. God didn’t say “feel thankful,” He said, “Be thankful.” If the feeling is there, that’s a bonus. 


Are you a thankful person? If you are, that’s a mark of humility. You are not, practice giving thanks to become more humble.




The Bible tells Christians to confess our sins on a regular basis. The famous 1 John 1:9 was written, not to unbelievers, but to believers:


9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)


How is confessing our sins a humbling practice? 


One way of answering that question is to look at the Greek word behind “confess” (homologeō). In its basic form it means, “of one mind.” When you are “of one mind” with someone else, you agree with them.


Every parent has had the experience of a disobedient child saying that they were sorry, but the child was only sorry that they got caught! The child’s pride was still on the throne. They did not agree with their parent that they were wrong. They were not of one mind with their parents.


When you confess your sins you agree with God about your sin—“Yes, it was wrong, Lord.” To do that, you have to knock your pride off from it’s throne and be humble!




Sir Thomas Beecham, the British conductor, once saw a distinguished-looking woman in a hotel foyer. Believing he knew her, but unable to remember her name, he paused to talk with her. 


As the two chatted, he vaguely recollected that she had a brother. Hoping for a clue, he asked how her brother was and whether he was still working at the same job. “Oh, he’s very well,” she said, “And still [the] king [of Great Britain].” (10,000 Sermon Illustrations)


Don’t you just love embarrassing stories about other people?


While she was enjoying a transatlantic ocean trip, Billie Burke, [an actress famous in the 1930’s] noticed that a gentleman at the next table was suffering from a bad cold.


“[Do you have a cold]?” she asked sympathetically. The man nodded.


“I’ll tell you just what to do for it,” she offered. “Go back to your stateroom and drink lots of orange juice. Take two aspirins. Cover yourself with all the blankets you can find. Sweat the cold out. I know just what I’m talking about. I’m Billie Burke from Hollywood.”


The man smiled warmly and introduced himself in return. “Thanks,” he said, “I’m Dr. Mayo from the Mayo clinic.” (10,000 Sermon Illustrations)


Turn to 1 Peter 5. How do you respond when you are embarrassed? Does your face flush red hot? Do you want to run and hide? 


Why do we respond like that to embarrassment? Because our pride was hurt. And when our pride is hurt, there’s all sorts of sinful responses that can occur: anger, self-pity, bitterness, and so on.


We need to get it in our mind to treat embarrassments as opportunities to grow. Look at what Peter has to say in 1 Peter 5—


6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. (1 Peter 5:6–7)


“The mighty hand of God” This phrase is used in the Bible to signify the sovereignty of God. The work of God in the lives of people, both to bless them and also to test them. Treat embarrassing situations as tests from God. 


According to this passage, why do you think that humble people are more able to accept embarrassments or setbacks? 


Because they have learned that God is taking care of them, no matter what happens to them. That terribly embarrassing situation that you were in is something God can use for your good, if you let Him.


Treat an embarrassment as an opportunity to grow in God.


Another thing we can do to be humble in embarrassments is to recall the embarrassment that our Lord Jesus endured as He died for our sins. The ones who crucified Him beat Him in public. Stripped Him of His clothing. Nailed Him to a cross and hung Him there for all to gawk at. 


Our Lord humbly endured that embarrassment for us. Let’s endure embarrassment for the sake of being more like Him.




We’ve all heard the saying about how God gave us two ears but only one mouth because He wanted us to spend twice as much time listening as talking. Someone had added another thought to that—God gave us two ears and only one mouth because He knew listening was twice as hard as talking!


Why does listening help us be more humble? Because not listening and constantly talking is a mark of sinful pride!


19 In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: But he that refraineth his lips is wise. (Proverbs 10:19)


Prideful people can talk a lot because they are the center of their world. Everything revolves around them, they must keep the world revolving by talking! 


When you force yourself to listen, it makes you humble because it pushes you away from the center of your world. You give other people a chance to be at the center.


One pastor had a season of life where things got busier and busier. Stressed from demands and deadlines, he became more and more rushed and irritable with his family. I suspect that he had become prideful about the ministry that he was involved in. One day, he said, God humbled him…


“I distinctly remember after supper one evening, the words of our younger daughter, Colleen. She wanted to tell me something important that had happened to her at school that day. 


She began hurriedly, ‘Daddy, I wanna tell you somethin’ and I’ll tell you really fast.’


“Suddenly realizing her frustration, I answered, ‘Honey, you can tell me—and you don’t have to tell me really fast. Say it slowly.”


“I’ll never forget her answer: ‘Then listen slowly.’” (10,000 Sermon Illustrations)


General George Marshall was, according to President Harry Truman, the one American he could think of that had made the greatest contribution in the decades spanning the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Marshall was a military genius, a skilled organizer and had a talent for inspiring other officers. You don’t get to be that way without being able to work with people well, including listening to them. Marshall said he had three rules for listening:


  1. Listen to the other person’s story. 

  2. Listen to the other person’s full story. 

  3. Listen to the other person’s full story first.


When we listen to someone, we give them a chance to be in the limelight, and we humbly step into the shadows. Listening is really an application of the next point, which is…




Turn to Philippians 2. Social distancing has been hard on everyone. Some people take it seriously. Others don’t think it’s important. I see it as a way to put others before yourself. 


What I mean is that if Harry hates social distancing, but Sam is serious about it, then Harry needs to humble himself and put Sam’s concern before his own needs. That’s how Harry can show love to Sam.


This is the principle that Paul teaches—


3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness [humility] of mind let each esteem [count] other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things [interests, concerns], but every man also on the things [interests, concerns] of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)


The Greek word for “esteem” (hēgeomai) here is normally translated “count,” as in Philippians 3:7, 8. “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss [considered loss] for Christ.” (Philippians 3:7)


So this verse is saying, “in humility of mind let each person count or consider each other as better than themselves.”


I don’t think this means that we have to think of ourselves as lousy people. It means that we have work at considering others as better than us. 


C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” It’s not that you hate yourself more, it’s that you forget yourself.


Do you remember how to spell JOY? Jesus; Others; Yourself. Jesus is first. Others are second. And you are a distant third! The song goes like this—


Jesus and others and you

What a wonderful way to spell joy

Jesus and others and you

in the life of each girl and each boy

“J” is for Jesus for He has first place,

“O” is for others you meet face to face,

“Y” is for you, in whatever you do,

Put your self third and spell JOY.




Who are we supposed to becoming more like everyday? Jesus! Listen to this description of His humility—


5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 


This is a tremendous statement because what follows is a description of Jesus’s humility to which many Christians would say, “Well, I can’t be like that…only Jesus can be like that.” So why does Paul say,Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” if he did not think we could be that way? With God’s help (see 2:13), we can have the mind of Jesus! We can have the humility of Jesus! 


6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 


Jesus did not use His power as God to exploit Himself as a human. There have been movies and stories about humans who inherit god-like power and they use that power, at least at first, to get rich, or get a beautiful girlfriend, or something like that.


Jesus didn’t do that. Instead…


7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 


What did Jesus use His “God powers” to do? To heal people. To help people. Here’s a mark of humility: if you have power, or money, or authority, what do you use it for? Do you serve others with it? Or do you serve yourself? 


The greatest way Jesus served people was…


8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5–8)


We are so used to this, that it doesn’t make much of an impact on us. But think about it. Jesus was an innocent human being. He committed no sin. There was no cause for Him to die. In addition, He was God…He had all authority in the universe. He had all the power in the universe. He MADE the universe!


We worry about losing our rights and our dignity if we are humble. We worry about being a door-mat if we are humble. We’re always careful not to be too humble—just humble enough to look like a good Christian.


But look at our Savior—He had all the rights. He had all the dignity. But He humbled Himself for us. “But that’s Jesus…we can’t be like Jesus!” Look at verse 5 again—


5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:5)


To have the mind of Christ, we must be broken. Our pride must be broken. Our self-will must be broken. Our need for our dignity, for our rights, for our freedom must be broken. We must become like a building meeting the business end of a wrecking ball—we need to be busted down to be humble.


Paul describes how this happened in his own life. Look at Philippians 3. In verse 5, he lists the things that he was proud of—


5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:5–6)


But then Paul goes on to describe his brokenness—


7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung [manure!], that I may win Christ, (Philippians 3:7–8)


And back in chapter 1, we see that God didn’t leave the broken Paul to rot in a ditch, He rebuilt him for a new purpose—


20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20–21)


The humble person has been broken and rebuilt by God for a new purpose—to magnify Christ in their life.


John the Baptist, a very humble man, put all this in a short, memorable phrase. He said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). That’s great, isn’t it? If we all just worked at doing that, we’d be humble and loving people. 


Be humble—by letting Jesus increase more and more in your heart.


Are you doing that? Let’s bow our hearts and pray for God’s grace to inspire and motivate us to decrease ourselves and increase Jesus in our lives.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s