Summary: 1. His focus was on the will of God, not his own. 2. His focus was away from himself, not on himself. 3. His focus was on serving, not being served.
It was January 30, 1994 and Super Bowl XXVIII was being played out at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The NFC champion Dallas Cowboys had just defeated the AFC champion Buffalo Bills, 30–13. Dallas scored 24 unanswered points in the second half, and Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith was named the Super Bowl MVP, with 30 carries for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns, while also catching 4 passes for 26 yards. At the end of the game, Buffalo Bills player Thurman Thomas stayed on the Buffalo bench with his head in his hands. It had been Buffalo’s fourth straight Super Bowl loss. The Bills became the first team to both appear in and lose 4 consecutive Super Bowls. During the game, Thomas fumbled the ball three times which had contributed to the Bills losing the game. But Thomas looked up from the bench to see the Dallas Cowboys’ star running back, Emmitt Smith standing in front of him. He was holding his small goddaughter. Smith looked at her and said, “I want you to meet the greatest running back in the NFL, Mr. Thurman Thomas.” Smith and Thomas were competing for NFL records, but there was no gloating on Smith’s part. Emmitt Smith, if you do not follow sports, retired from the NFL in 2005 as the NFL’s all time rushing record holder, and one of the greatest players in the history of the game. He is also a professing Christian. One article states, “Emmitt founded an organization called the Open Doors Foundation to help underprivileged children overcome and be successful. In an amazing act of selflessness he has donated much of his personal memorabilia collection, and has auctioned much of it off to support the foundation.” The article concludes, “This is just another example that Emmitt played for the game itself rather than the glory.”
Emmitt Smith is a contemporary example of Christian humility. Humility is a Christian character quality, because it was part of the character of Christ. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). He is telling us that as we learn to follow his example of humility, we will find rest. Pride and arrogance throw us into tension and turmoil, but humility allows us to rest from that competitive spirit. The book of Romans admonishes us: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment. . . Do not be proud. . . Do not be conceited” (Romans 12:3 & 16).
I want to point out three main areas that display the humility of Jesus. The first is: His focus was on the Father’s will, not his own. Here is the crux of the Christian faith. Whether or not we have entered into the Christian faith, and become a disciple of Jesus, is determined by whether or not we are doing our will or God’s will. You can know that you are Christian if you are no longer living by your own will, but have totally surrendered to and are seeking to live out God’s will in your life. Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). He prayed as he was facing the cross: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). And if we are going to belong to Jesus, and be like Jesus, we have to come to the place where we live to do the will of the One who made us and sent us into the world to live out his purposes for us. We are no longer our own.
It is important to seek to be like Christ, who is our Savior and model for life. The Bible says, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8). Doing God’s will brings us into a relationship with Jesus, for he said, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50).
Pride and rebellion make us determined to have our way and bring ruin and destruction into our lives, but humility enables us to surrender to the will of God and experience peace. What we discover when we put on the yoke of obedience to Christ is that his will is difficult, but we also discover that it is not nearly as difficult as not doing his will. Stubbornly refusing to surrender to the will of God invites disaster into our lives, but accepting his will brings peace and rest to our souls. We want to imitate the life of Christ, so we say with the Psalmist, “I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). The Scripture says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). The end result of doing God’s will is eternal life, for the Bible says, “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).