Sermons

Summary: In times like these, when pressures are brought to bear on the committed by the uncommitted, mature Christians respond to challenging situations not with a coin toss but with sights set on God who gives grace to the humble.

HUMILITY THAT HONORS GOD HAPPENS BY CHOICE NOT BY CHANCE

A coin toss to determine which football team will be the receiving team and which will be the kicking team is the method used simply because it gives both of the teams a 50-50 chance of winning the flip of the coin. The outcome of most if not all of such events depends a great deal on chance or just plain luck.

In the spiritual realm, however, we rely not on chance and certainly not on luck. Rather, we rely on the purpose, plan and power of Almighty God, spoken of by the psalmist as the King of glory. And why not? He is the ruler of everything.

One of Solomon's wisest proverbs puts into perspective the sovereignty of God vs man's estimation of himself: "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." (Proverbs 19:21). James, pastor of the First Church, simplified it with these words of caution: "You ought to say, 'IF it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'" (James 4:15).

Truth is: Nations as well as individuals would be better off to recognize and rely on God's sovereignty - not on chance or luck or waiting for things to happen accidently on purpose!

Love the story told by W. A. Criswell of First Baptist, Dallas, Texas, about the cowboy who applied for health insurance. The agent asked him if he had had any accidents the previous year.

The cowboy replied, "No. But I was bitten by a rattlesnake - and a horse kicked me in the ribs. Both of those incidents laid me up for a while." The agent asked, "Well, weren't those accidents!?" "No", replied the cowboy, "They did it on purpose." To this old cowpoke there was no such thing as things happening by accident.

Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king who conquered Judah during the time of Jeremiah, then deported many of its Jewish inhabitants - including Daniel and his friends - to Babylon, was allowed to do these bad things to good people for the purposes of disciplining a nation that had forsaken the Lord their God, and for dealing harshly with an evil empire that had established itself as the number one enemy of God's plan for His people.

The lesson of Daniel 4 is plain and simple: God hates sinful pride whether it rears its ugly head among people of God or enemies of God - which I suppose is why the early church fathers placed pride as the first of seven deadly sins.

Arrogance toward God coupled with aggrandizement of self is anathema to the God of creation and salvation. A ruler of a nation nor a human being living on the face of the earth should never desire to anathematize the Lord God of the universe and of all the people that on earth do dwell!

After Nebuchadnezzar had been dealt with harshly and learned his lesson on humility the hard way, his story become an example of how one's recognition of the sovereignty of God humbles any person whether great or small.

The process of humbling this ruler - cutting him down to size - reducing his arrogance to a level of humility that "gives in but does not give up" - began with yet another dream interpreted by Daniel who predicted the king's downfall . . .

Rejoin the story at the point the interpretation is fulfilled - Daniel 4:28-37 . . .

Having witnessed firsthand all the earlier manifestations of the Lord God's mighty acts, it's as if this earthly ruler sensed his image of greatness fading away, felt as if he was about to become obsolete, and decided to make one last attempt to declare his mighty power and the majestic glory he thought was due him.

Daniel had warned him about sinning against God by placing himself above the God of heaven and earth. Yet, the essence of sin is pride - as illustrated by the middle letter of "sin" and the middle letter of "pride" which is the pronoun "I". "Is not this the great Babylon I have built?"

The consequence of this battle, in the king's mind, for supremacy of self over submission of self to God was that he became mentally ill, and behaved like an animal. Anybody remember Howard Hughes? Recalcitrant and reclusive?

Who in his or her right mind would want to live like that? No one has to live like that, if they and we heed the admonition of Scripture: "Humble yourselves therefore under God's mighty hand, and He will lift you up in due time." How can this be? Because "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

Nebuchadnezzar's root problem was that he was an unbeliever - out there on his own mistakenly thinking that he could get by without God's help. Like so many folks who are misguided by an inflated estimation of themselves, this man's pride had him say, "Whenever I have a problem, I call on me!"

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