The Pool of Self Denial
“Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean
having a low opinion of your own gifts. I means freedom from thinking about yourself one way or the other at all.” William Temple, “Christ in His Church”
At a reception honoring musician Sir Robert Mayer on his 100th birthday, elderly British socialite Lady Diana Cooper fell into conversation with a friendly woman who seemed to know her well. Lady Diana’s failing eyesight prevented her from recognizing her fellow guest, until she peered more closely at the magnificent diamonds and realized she was talking to Queen Elizabeth! Overcome with embarrassment, Lady Diana curtsied and stammered, “Ma’am, oh, ma’am, I’m sorry ma’am. I didn’t recognize you without your crown!” “It was so much Sir Robert’s evening,” the queen replied, “that I decided to leave it behind.” Can we all just put aside our crowns for just a moment to learn from the one who was the most humble, Jesus Christ? Even our humility is self serving at times. You know it’s bad when that happens, because that means it is just an all out lie! As Christians we read about the denying or feeding our self, but that’s about as far as it gets….reading. It’s tough to deny self, but we do have the ultimate example of self denial in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Paul wrote about Jesus to the church at Phlippi in 2:8 “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” That is the essence of true humility and that example is ever before us as we live our lives. I look at humility like it is a pool of water and that pool looks inviting but we worry about what might be in there so we don’t dive in. Here are some of the things we might worry about when it comes to the pool of water.
The water might be too shallow….We think if we dive in the water it might not be deep enough to hold the depth of our dive and we might get hurt. The depth of humility is found in the affect of it. True humility is life changing for those who see it and those who experience it. The depth of it’s effect on our lives is wide-ranging and powerful. Of all the teachings of the Christian faith, humility is one of the deepest and most impactful in the spreading of the gospel.
Wakefield tells the story of the famous inventor Samuel Morse who was once asked if he ever encountered situations where he didn’t know what to do. Morse responded, “More than once, and whenever I could not see my way clearly, I knelt down and prayed to God for light and understanding.”
Morse received many honors from his invention of the telegraph but felt undeserving: “I have made a valuable application of electricity not because I was superior to other men but solely because God, who meant it for mankind, must reveal it to someone and He was pleased to reveal it to me.”
The water might be too cold…… Even though we aren’t used to living a humble life, the more we practice humility, the more we warm up to it. Why? The effect it has on those around us, and in turn, the effect it has on us. We might think we will put ourselves at a disadvantage by taking a back seat in the bragging department. That back seat is actually the front seat in God’s reasoning, so that seat will sit just fine.
The water might give me a disease….. A pure heart none can find. You cannot find a more pure heart than the heart of a truly humble person. True enough, when you experience, yes, experience, true humility in your life, you experience a freedom that is unsurpassed. The battle that is found in competitive living is over and done. You will be so radically changed and that change will innoculate you with a good preventive medicine to put you in line with the humility you only read about in God’s Word. Those around you will suddenly see Jesus in you like never before and you will have a calm that draws others to you for answers.
So as you can see, the pool of self denial is a pool that is not only inviting for Christ followers, but satisfying for those who swim in it. As you approach this pool that is always accessible for believers, don’t be scared. Jump right in and see how much God will lift you up and bless you. James wrote in 4:10 – “Humble yourselves in the sight of the lord, and He will lift you up.” Sometimes we worry about drowning in the pool of self denial, but God is faithful to lift us up and keep us breathing in His good air, so we will live as never before. Humility is our greatest form of honoring God. The following story illustrates how to honor greatness.
On a visit to the Beethoven museum in Bonn, a young American student became fascinated by the piano on which Beethoven had composed some of his greatest works. She asked the museum guard if she could play a few bars on it; she accompanied the request with a lavish tip, and the guard agreed. The girl went to the piano and tinkled out the opening of the Moonlight Sonata. As she was leaving she said to the guard, “I suppose all the great pianist who come here want to play on that piano.”
The guard shook his head. “Padarewski [the famed Polish pianist] was here a few years ago and he said he wasn’t worthy to touch it.”
We are so unworthy of God’s grace and His love for us, so may we honor Him by humbling ourselves before Him who is worthy of all glory. To Him be the glory and the honor forever.
The Pilgrimage continues…