That hard lesson: it really isn’t about me

By 28/10/2020From Nigel

Now we see how Joseph had risen to power (Genesis 47:13-31). God had given him years of training; he had experienced rejection, been abandoned in the depths of a well, sold into slavery. He had to resist temptations, known life in prison and learnt to handle his own gift with responsibility. He had extended forgiveness and mercy, he was now ready to be an administrator in Egypt.

Now, in a position of power and influence, Joseph refused to take glory for himself. He was trusted by Pharaoh, he had brought great profit and glory to Pharaoh but had taken nothing for himself. Many today want recognition, they like the spotlight to be on them. Joseph had been like that, but now he had lost that self-glorifying spirit. He did what he did, not for himself but for others (we will come back to this).

Now there was no food in all the land, for the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished by reason of the famine.  Genesis 47:13

What Joseph did, he did for the people, to save them. Firstly, the people gave money for grain (vs 14), then they paid in livestock (vs 15-17). Soon the entire livestock of the land belonged to Pharaoh. Then the people had no choice but to offer their freedom in exchange for food (vs 18-19). Joseph gave the people back food in return for land (vs 20) and the people went wherever Joseph sent them (vs 21). Joseph had married a priest’s daughter which meant that his wife’s family were exempt from the restrictions. Joseph had the power but led the nation in such a way that enabled trust and he did it without that power becoming self-corrupting. He used his power and influence for the good of others and the people’s response was, ‘they said, you have saved our lives’ (vs25).

The glory we get for anything we do must not be stolen or taken for ourselves. It is always for Jesus. Our contentment must be in that we are happy to do his will, to serve him and to fall into the shadows so that His name alone is glorified and honoured. Joseph was content to do the will of God his Father and was content that the honour should go to His Father.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8

The highest example of humble, self-effacing, self-sacrificial, self-giving service for the sake of others is perfectly found in Jesus. Imitate him, follow his lead. Have this at the forefront of your mind.

It is quite stunning, only God could turn greatness upside down and make what looks loss become great. Be like this! Some folk, much smarter than me, have said that Paul constructed this hymn based on the fact that he had spoken with people who recalled the famous incident in the life of Jesus: the foot-washing episode in John 13. Although the verbal parallels are few, the conceptual and theological similarities are striking.

In John 13, knowing he had come from God, Jesus rises from the table and lays aside his outer garments (vs 4). Likewise, in Philippians 2, from his position of eternal, pre-existent equality with God, Jesus, as it were, lays aside the garment of his visible glory (vs 6-7).

In John 13, Jesus clothes himself with a towel. In Philippians 2, Jesus clothes himself with human nature.

In John 13, Jesus performs a menial task often assigned to slaves (washing the feet of others). In Philippians 2, Jesus takes the form of a slave and serves others.

In John 13, when Jesus finishes, he once again takes His outer garments and puts them on. In Philippians 2, after his work on earth is finished, He returns to the visible glory with the Father that was His before time.

In John 13, Jesus resumes his place at the table, from which he had temporarily departed. In Philippians 2, Jesus is exalted by the Father and sits down again on his heavenly throne.

Jesus concludes by saying, “You call me teacher and Lord and you are right, for so I am” (vs 13). In Philippians 2, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is “Lord” to the glory of God the Father (vs 11).

The story in John 13 is an example of humble service. In Philippians 2, Paul uses the incarnation and humiliation of Christ as an example of humble service (see verses 1-5). Maybe just clever eh! But going back to our main theme Paul reminds us to….

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:3

This exhortation has two sides: Paul denounces not only sinful pride (assuming a role or position for which God has neither called or equipped you) but also false humility (the tendency to underestimate and undervalue what we can and ought to do). Humility “is not assuming the least role, or taking the worst of everything. Rather humility is an attitude and action which results from taking an honest look at where we best fit into the whole of God’s work as He has determined by His gifts to us”. Joseph’s humility did not stop him leading but rather it defined his leading.

Paul does not forbid thinking about ourselves. He says, rather, that we should neither think too highly nor too lowly, but soberly and with sound judgment. That is, we are to assess the gifts and opportunities that God has graciously bestowed upon us and respond appropriately.

This from John Piper:

“We read in verse 3 that God gives varying measures of faith to his people. Paul says that we ought “to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” In the context this is not a limited reference to the unique spiritual gift of faith (1 Corinthians 12:9) For Paul says, “I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” “To each” refers back to “everyone among you.” God has given all Christians varying measures of faith. This is the faith with which we receive and use our varying gifts. It is the ordinary daily faith by which we live and minister.

In the context, Paul is concerned that people were “thinking of themselves more highly than they ought to think.” His final remedy for this pride is to say that not only are spiritual gifts a work of God’s free grace in our lives, but so also is the very faith with which we use those gifts. This means that every possible ground of boasting is taken away. How can we boast if even the qualification for receiving gifts is also a gift?

That’s how important humility is in God’s eyes. This is exactly the same aim of God mentioned in (Ephesians 2:8-9)where Paul stresses that saving faith is a gift: “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, so that no one may boast.” Faith is a gift from God, so that no one may boast. Or, as Romans 12:3, so that we will not think too highly of ourselves. The last bastion of pride is the belief that we are the originators of our faith.

Let’s use what God has given to his glory with great humility.




Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Tony (from the forest) says:

    Good one Nigel.!

  • Mobayode+Akinsolu says:

    The prideful tendencies associated with spiritual giftedness cannot be over emphasised. A classic example which still “haunts” the world today is that of Lucifer, the anointed Cherub who was appointed and exalted to cover before pride made him to fall ingloriously .

    I strongly believe God gently and jealously watches over His elect and he teaches each and every one humility, severally. I suppose a thorn in the flesh cannot be totally ruled out in most (possibly all) cases.

    Thank you for sharing. God bless.

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