Understand: Humility

This morning, we’re continuing our new message series entitled, “Understand” where we’re learning just how powerful and critically important understanding truly is.  Last week, we learned how this becomes the foundational requirement to fulfilling our vision this year.  After all, we cannot truly connect with someone unless we understand them and we cannot begin to understand someone until we connect with them.

 

God said that if we come together with a common understanding that nothing that we plan will be impossible for us.  That is how tremendously powerful understanding truly is and also how tremendously destructive it can be to misunderstand.

 

The book of the Bible which most frequently speaks of understanding is the book of Proverbs, which should not surprise us.  Understanding is the gateway to gaining knowledge and ultimately wisdom, which is what the book of Proverbs contains.

 

The second book of the Bible which speaks most frequently of understanding was interesting to me; the book of Job.  Has anyone here ever had a difficult time understanding why God permitted you or someone you love to experience hardship?

 

Job was no exception to this search for gaining understanding about why He experienced such pain and hardship for at least months (Job 7:3) despite the fact that he strived to live a life of obedience and faithfulness to God.  God very clearly permitted Satan to steal everything from Job except for his life.  In fact, God even recommended Job to Satan.  This black-and-white, Biblical account challenges most of us on understanding God’s ways.

 

God’s answer to Job’s struggle to understand leads us to the first key in how to understand God, each other, and the world around us so that we might connect with them.  God’s answer, which is found beginning in Job chapter 38, is essentially a perspective shift given by God through a string of rhetorical questions:

 

Who are you?

Where were you?

Have you ever?

Can you even?

Who provides for?

Do you know?

Have you seen?

God said:

Job 40:7

“Brace yourself like a man;

I will question you,

and you shall answer me.

 

Job 42:1-6

1 Then Job replied to the Lord:

2 “I know that you can do all things;

no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’

Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,

things too wonderful for me to know.

4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;

I will question you,

and you shall answer me.’

5 My ears had heard of you

but now my eyes have seen you.

6 Therefore I despise myself

and repent in dust and ashes.”

 

We learned last week the prophecy of Isaiah quoted by Jesus that people are ever hearing, but never understanding, ever seeing, but never perceiving.  They heard and saw, but they didn’t understand.  Job confessed to unknowingly living in this exact same state.

 

What lead to Job’s eventual understanding of God?  Humility.  Job was so totally and completely humbled by God that he despised himself.  Can anyone here relate with Job?  Have you ever reflected on your own life and been so humbled that you despised the person that you had become?  Sure, most of us have if we’re honest with ourselves.

 

For us to begin understanding someone, we absolutely must humble ourselves.  We don’t need to reach the same point that Job did where we despise ourselves.  However, we do need to set ourselves aside first in order to begin to understand someone else.

 

Humility isn’t thinking less of ourselves, it is thinking more of others.  It is honoring them above ourselves.

 

To understand someone begins with humbly acknowledging some facts.  It’s agreeing that we’re not the same.  We don’t think the same, we don’t act the same, we came from different backgrounds and life experiences and have very different perspectives.  It’s admitting that we do not truly know about someone what I think that I know.  It’s admitting that, internally, I need to do some work and make some sacrifices in order to understand them.  I silence my own thoughts and opinions in order to truly listen to them.

 

The very moment that I begin to assume that I know what someone is thinking, what someone is feeling, why someone is acting the way that they are, etc. is the very same moment that I will cease to understand them.  To understand God, each other, or the world around us, we need to start with a blank canvas and allow them to paint a picture of who they are to us.

 

This is far easier said than done!  All of us having pre-conceived notions and judgments about individuals or groups of people.  These all serve to misunderstand others.

 

When someone learns that you are a Christian, people will often assume that they already have you pegged.  You are a close-minded, fun-sucking, arrogant person who looks down on anyone who doesn’t agree with you.  In your mind, most people are heathens who are far less of a person than you are.  They see you as one who lives a stale, religious life defined by a firm adherance to a set of “thou shall nots.”  Is this accurate of who a Christian truly is?  Absolutely not in most cases!

 

However, it is easy for us to quickly stereo-type individuals by certain attributes about them instead of taking the time to connect with them and to understand them.  Often people are completely misunderstood and kept at arms-length just because of the way they dress, whether they have tattoos or piercings, the friends that they have, the music that they listen to, etc.  We rarely take the time to seek to understand others.

 

Jesus broke all of these stereotypes by connecting with and understanding the “sinners” around Him.  He saw the need to do this and the calling of His Heavenly Father for Him to do this.  Connecting to understand and to save these people didn’t cause Him to be any less holy, in fact, His holiness is what lead Him to do so!  This reality still has radically shaken my understanding of a holy God!

 

Job was confident that he understood God and understood his ways.  He was blameless and upright, fearing God and shunning evil.  He was the greatest man in all of the East.  It was Job’s regular custom to sacrifice a burnt offering even for his children early each morning thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.”  He assumed that he understood God, His ways, and His desires.  God revealed in a pretty awesome and unique way that Job didn’t exactly understand God as fully as he thought he did.

 

We must be very careful not to make Job’s mistake about God or anyone else for that matter.  We must be humble and not think that we know someone by stereotyping and categorizing them without ever truly getting to know them.  Just because we know a few things about someone doesn’t mean that we understand them.  Knowing facts about someone and connecting with them through a relationship to understand them are two radically different things.

 

To begin to understand others, we must simply humble ourselves and acknowledge this truth:

 

1 Corinthians 2:11

Who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

 

The only one who truly knows someone is their own selves and God, who knows all things.  We should be able to easily grasp this truth about our limited ability to understand and our need not to assume things.  How often do we not even understand our own selves?  The country song rings true, “I know what I was feeling, but what was I thinking?”

 

Often, we do not even understand our own selves.  How could we be so arrogant as to assume that we know what someone else is thinking or feeling or why they act a certain way?  We reflect on our own lives and can’t figure out why we feel the way that we do or why we acted that way or why we just can’t connect with that person because there is something that you’re holding against them.

 

The tool which God has given to us in order to understand others is the same tool that God used with Job; asking questions.  In order to understand someone, we ask them questions about themselves.  If God’s word is true that no one knows a person’s thoughts except their own selves, then we must interrogate others to have them express themselves.

 

Connecting with others happens through relationships and relationships require an exchange of information.

 

1 Corinthians 2:11

Who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

 

This scripture also has a flip-side to it.  People can only know things about me that I choose to reveal to them.  We cannot assume that someone knows how we are feeling, what we are thinking, or why we act the way that we do.  Humility is also required of me to stop thinking that others should just know something about me or do something for me without me expressing it.

 

I should hear a bunch of husbands amening this truth!  🙂  Ladies, we are not mind readers.  If we don’t understand, we just don’t understand.  We’re very simple and nowhere near as complex as you are!  All of us must humbly choose to express ourselves honestly and with integrity in order for others to understand us and connect with us.

 

We cannot sit back at a distance and think that we know other people nor can we sit back at a distance and think that others ought to know us.  We must choose to humbly connect with one another in order to understand each other through relationships.  We close on this powerful reality.

 

Interestingly enough, after Job humbled himself and gained understanding, God required one last thing before restoring DOUBLE what had been stolen from him.  God had Job connect with his three friends and pray for them.  Job, still suffering severe illness, still owning nothing, still totally broken, still not fully knowing why God permitted such things was asked of God to pray for his friends who had offended him.  This is so powerful!

 

Job 42:10

After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.

 

Let’s choose humble ourselves, setting aside all assumptions and stereo-types about others and especially all past offenses inflicted by them.  Let’s humbly decide to connect with God, with each other, and with the world around us seeking to gain an understanding of them.  As we humble ourselves and honor others, God just may choose to restore double what had been stolen from us in our past just as He did for Job!