There's a way to be humble, lowly, and at the same time outrageously confident in God's ability to use you in an amazing way.
I feel like I came to the ministry kicking and screaming the whole way. Pastor Cindi can attest to this probably more than anyone.
I was raised in the church, not in some general way, but specifically this church, Believers Center. My parents started attending this church when my mom was pregnant with me.
And when I was in the nursery, well you don't really get a say on whether or not you come, so I came every time my parents came.
And then in elementary school, there were a few teachers - including pastor Shirley and Bill McKinley that I loved! So I was glad to come to church.
Then I became a teenager, and I started to rebel and test my boundaries as young people do, and so I started getting into trouble in the youth group. To the point, where there were multiple youth services where Jeanette Martinez actually kicked me out of the youth group.
And I remember just thinking church was so uncool. I was just discovering what cool was and I decided church was NOT cool. So I went home and I told my mom 'I don't want to go to church anymore.' And my mom then gentle parent that she is, she said 'What makes you say that?' I proceed to tell her how people at church weren't cool, and were stupid, and judgmental. (Which is a funny order to do that in. "They're uncool and stupid, and also, they're judgmental!" After I just placed all my judgements on them. It's like saying "That big fat idiot is a name caller!"
After that conversation, I remember going home one night and walking into my parents room to my mom sitting in her chair crying. And my heart breaks, and I go to her to try and comfort her and I find that she's incredibly grieved over the idea of me being done with church. Unsurprisingly. And so I told her "I love church. I just didn't want to go for a little while." So she feels better, and I'm back at church.
Well this all changes with a guy named David Meyers. This story right here is why David will always be a hero to me.
Well he was the Zack Morris of the youth group. All the girls wants to date him, all the guys wanted to be him. He had spiked hair, and wore nike swoosh shirts and he was just fresh as all get-out. And he was also a high-schooler and I was a mid-schooler, and so needless to say, they didn't talk to us mid-school peasants much.
Well one day David Meyers came up to me and said 'Hey I just wanted to tell you that I think you're really cool.' - And my world was shook! 'DAVID MEYERS thought I was COOL!'
And I had taken some guitar lessons and so when our youth pastor at the time, Jeff Wimpy, yes real name. - When he tasked David Meyers with launching a brand new youth worship team, David asked ME. And so David Meyers, his brother Jesse, and me played music together for probably 12 years. Started out as the youth worship team, until we decided we were too cool for that and simultaneously quit so start a rock band. - Old. Man. Shattered.
And boy we thought we were really something. We had a Number 1 song on the local radio station, probably because our parents called to request it 12 times a day. And we had a big white van that we'd use to go on these tours that we'd book. And we were a Christian band, so you'd certainly assume me and the rest of the guys were ultimately in it to bring glory to God. That is what you would assume. I can't speak for the other guys, but I was in the band mostly for girls and the ego boost. The first time you're walking in the mall with your friends and a stranger comes up and asks you for your autograph, you're thinking "Lord, is that you? What's that? You're calling me to be a rock-star full-time!? This is my calling?! Okay. If you insist!"
I remember one time we were playing a little concert on a local christian TV station. You guys remember Blackie Gonzalez??
Well we played our set then we sit down with Blackie and he starts asking us questions we are in no way prepared to answer. I remember Blackie turned to me and said 'David, tell me about flowing in the anointing." - I don't even really know what that means. I can't remember what I said, I think that's a gift from the Lord so I don't permanently hate myself for speaking blasphemy on Christian television. I had no idea what flowing in the anointing means!
And that's a funny story, but in a way I sometimes feel like that's the story of my life. Being thrown into situations where I'm asked to talk about something spiritual that I don't feel remotely qualified to discuss.
Even going to bible college I had no interest into being in ministry at all. I just loved the bible, still do, but had no interest in ministry.
And after bible college, I came home and pastor Cindi immediately started lovingly pressuring me into trying (I use that word on purpose) TRYING to deliver my first sermons, most of which were approximately 4 minutes long, before I'd pass out from running out of breath.
Here's what amazing: From very early on, from some of my very first sermons, people would come up to me, truly impacted by God. I was remember thinking "Really?! God spoke to you through THAT TRAIN WRECK?!" - But it didn't take me a real long time to develop this deep confidence. Not in my ability to do much of anything in a positive way. But confident that when I would open my mouth in faith that God was able to do something really amazing and special, even though I was such a spaz.
And that was a long long time ago, and I wish that I could tell you that now after 17 years of preaching that all that insecurity and lack of confidence is just a thing of the past, but that wouldn't be true. If anything, I have LESS confidence in myself as a speaker than I did 17 years ago. But what's amazing is that at the same time, I have 1000 times MORE confidence in God's eagerness to show up and do something amazing for his kids.
As I've grown as a preacher, I've found MORE reasons to not be confident in myself. Like Paul would say - More reasons not to be 'confident in the flesh'. And yet, keep finding more reasons to be confident in the greatness of God.
There's this really interesting intersection where you find more and more reasons to not be confident in yourself and more and more reasons to be confident in the greatness of God. That's where the magic happens.
And I think this really gets to the heart of who David is. He has this beautiful sense of humility, have you ever read the psalms? I mean, talk about being aware of your own inadequacy. But at the same time he has this ferocious confidence to him that is like 'Who does this uncircumcised philistine think he is?! I will feed you to the birds.'
I think it's almost always a bad idea for me to use a hip-hop illustration, but I don't understand hip-hop, I don't like hip-hop. I don't get all the gold teeth. I don't know what's happening there. But I will say that sometimes I feel like David would have made a great rapper. I think he's better than Jay-Z at telling you how fresh and how cool and how tough, and how popular he is.
We're getting towards the end of David's life, don't miss next week because David dies and boy, it's really somethin'.
But this is an interesting moment in the life of David. I feel like this chapter - 2 Samuel 22 really provides commentary in the whole life of David. And David's song, is really, really interesting. If you've been following along, that shouldn't surprise you.
And so as I read this, try to keep in mind how far we've come with David, from this great calling when he's still tending the sheep in the field, and he defeats Goliath, and is on the run for his life, and his best friend dies, and he becomes king, and he commits adultery with Bathsheba and murders her husband to cover up his sin, and gets royally called out on it, and he loses children to tragedy and murder.
And now we have him near the end of his life giving us a recap from his point of view. I've got quite a bit of text for you today, but please don't tune out, this is an amazing piece of scripture.
… “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; (2 Samuel 22:2)
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior— from violent people you save me. (2 Samuel 22:3)
“I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies. (2 Samuel 22:4)
The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. (2 Samuel 22:5)
The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. (2 Samuel 22:6)
“In my distress I called to the Lord; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears. (2 Samuel 22:7)
The earth trembled and quaked, the foundations of the heavens shook; they trembled because he was angry. (2 Samuel 22:8)
Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. (2 Samuel 22:9)
I love this:
“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. (2 Samuel 22:17)
He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. (2 Samuel 22:18)
Remember that David says this - his enemies were too strong for him
They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. (2 Samuel 22:19)
While David is known as an incredibly brave warrior, God is always the one who does the delivering.
He brought me out into a spacious place; (Highlight this / write it down) he rescued me because he delighted in me. (2 Samuel 22:20)
I don't want to jump too far ahead, but I really believe that it's this revelation right here that sets David apart from everybody else. The entire nation of Israel knew what it was to delight in God. But not everyone understood that God delighted in them. I think David understood that in a way that was really unique for his time. And it's that sense of "God delights in me." that gives David the confidence to try what no one else will try.
Now this is where it appears to go off the rails:
“The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. (2 Samuel 22:21)
For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I am not guilty of turning from my God. (2 Samuel 22:22)
All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees. (2 Samuel 22:23)
I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin. (2 Samuel 22:24)
Please tell me you find this hysterical. "BLAMELESS" Do you remember that one little thing: Not just adultery but murder of your friend in a attempt to cover it up.
If you remember from our last sermon on David, his inability to accept his son was likely the greatest failure of his life. I mean, David was in a lot of ways, a terrible father. His daughter is raped and David does what? Nothing. BLAMELESS.
The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight. (2 Samuel 22:25)
Let me introduce you to a word called 'Irony'.
David, what are you smoking? Your hands are clean?! Are you kidding me? Your hands are about as clean as a subway toilet.
Stanley Hauerwas - who has the best commentary on 2 Samuel in my opinion, when taking about this passage:
"David's song of praise affirms something very different than what it seems to confess." (Such a good way to say that.) "There exists a tension between the moral seriousness of covenant obedience (which David confesses but does not live), and the free rescue of God. What intends to be moral instruction turns out to be a celebration of God's gracious goodness." (Stanley Hauerwas)
If you've been here through this series, you have a pretty good idea of all the ways David's hands are anything but clean. But it's not just you, ALL of Israel knew it too. And so what's amazing is that David, now that so much of his life is behind him, a life he thought was going to be about great power and great success and being blameless and righteous, well it instead turns out to be celebration of God's gracious goodness.
This - so important:
You save the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low. (2 Samuel 22:28)
You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light. (2 Samuel 22:29)
With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. (2 Samuel 22:30)
“As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. (2 Samuel 22:31)
I'm gonna stop there, I could keep going, it's quite beautiful.
But what I want to do is highlight 3 verses, that for me, is really the secret to David's life with God. I don't like it when preachers say things like "the secret to David's life with God" but in this case, I honestly do think this is the secret to David's life with God. Verses 20, 28, & 30.
Put all those together, and you've got David. You might read those and at first just think David is schizophrenic, but it actually shows us something about God that David understood that lots of us don't.
We've talked at great length about David's failures and his sin. David messes up as bad a human can mess up, and then he does it again, and again, and again. And STILL after all of that, he's able to recognize that God still delights in him.
David has walked with God long enough to know that not everything he does brings God pleasure, but God still delights in HIM.
Right off the bat that tells me something: Believing that God delights in you is not a lack of humility.
Here's the great thing about David: David never believes that any of the great things that he does originates with him.
Think about David before fighting Goliath. "God delivered me from a bear, and he'll deliver me from a giant." He's NOT saying "Do you know how hard I can shoot this slingshot? I can shoot the white off rice with this thing." - No he's not bragging about how amazing he is. He's saying "Guys, it's cool. God is with me." - That's not a lack of humility.
Whenever David wins a battle you know what he always says "The Lord delivered them into my hands."
Lastly: Number 3, which is probably my favorite: I can take down an entire troop; I can scale a wall.
That is hip-hop. That is a Ludacris song I bet.
I've got a deep revelation that I'm not sure you're ready for: I think that David lives in the intersection of hip-hop and country western music. It's like that Lil Nas song with Billy Ray Cyrus. "I can kill a whole troop. I can climb over a wall." - That's hip hop. Keep in mind that he's an old man here. When I picture a really old person jumping over a wall, it's not pretty. I prefer he go AROUND the wall. Or ask for some help to get over the wall. Hip-Hop music is mostly about
But see David is able to live in this tension, of being humble, but also having confidence, not in himself but confident in the God that lives inside him.
So I have 3 core beliefs that I think are absolutely foundational to the life of David. This is what makes David who he is. And if you could get these, I think they would help you see God and yourself in a better way.
Anyone who knows or understands God at all, can see that there are reasons to delight in God. But not everyone understand that God delights in them. Especially when they've really blown it. Maybe they feel like God still tolerates them, or even loves them in some super broad, generic way, but they don't grasp that God delights in them.
Over the years, I've struggled with exactly how to phrase this to get people to understand and the best I've ever found is this:
God doesn't love us all the same, he loves us all in particular.
I've spoke at great length about Brennan Manning, who's one of my favorite authors. Passed away in 2013. I did a whole series on his book 'The Ragamuffin Gospel' which was a book that changed my life.
The short version, he's a catholic minister, this great up and coming ministry. He flies to the other side of the world to care for the sick and hurting.
Comes back home to NYC, becomes an alcoholic, loses his ministry, loses his marriage, he's an absolute disgrace. Discovers the grace of God, it changes his life, and late in life he writes these books on the Grace of God that are some of the most powerful words ever put together in the English language.
Anyways, I have a file on my computer with my favorites quotes of Brennan Manning and I wanted to share them with you.
"God delights in me"
I don't want to overstate it, but if you don't get that, I fear you won't be able to get anything. The reality that God loves and delights in you is the bedrock on which the Christian faith sits. And without that, it just falls to pieces. But when you truly get that. Then life because this beautiful gift. That's not there for you to earn, it's there for you to enjoy.
So here's the tension again.
God delights in me. But not because I'm always delightful. God's love has a lot more to do with who he is than who I am.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” (Psalm 16:2)
Apart from the miraculous grace and mercy of God, none of us have much of anything to brag about.
I just think that lightly remembering that in the back of your mind is a wonderful and important thing.
Look at the way Paul puts it:
For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. (Romans 7:18)
… God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. (James 4:6)
I feel like that's pretty strong language. Of all the stupid things I could do, and I could do a lot of them, it certainly appears that being arrogant is a bad choice. This theme is constantly played out with Jesus and the religious people of the day - the pharisees.
Disclaimer: This does NOT mean you go around always pointing out how dumb and pathetic you are. That's not humility. You know there is this thing called FALSE humility right? We think humility is just being all 'awww shucks' all the time.
And I really have that in my personality. "You like my preaching? Aww shucks." David is not 'awww shucks' about much of anything. "God delivered me because I'm his favorite." I think we may have to adjust our definition of humility to mean something deeper than - Doesn't know how to take a compliment. "You really did a great job with that. "Aww shucks. No I didn't." When you really know you did.
Not being able to take a compliment is not humility, it's pride.
Often times the people who talk the most humble, are the least humble. And you can go 'awww shucks' all day long and still have an ego the size of Europe.
You're arrogant if you say : "I don't have any weaknesses! What are you talking about?" But you're also you're arrogant if you say "I don't have any strengths! I'm just 100 talentless!" Also arrogance.
Why? B/C you're minimizing God's ability move through you despite your weaknesses. Think about it, who in the bible do you think could be on staff here at this church?
King David? / Maybe Paul? I don't think he would pass the background check. "Hey about those 150 people you murdered. You still struggle with that?" But God comes and enters into that weakness and does something amazing.
So it's arrogance to think you can do everything. And it's arrogance to think you can do nothing. One of two of these might be a bigger challenge for you depends on how you're wired.
So we're not talking about "I'm a worm! I'm worse than a worm, I'm a worm who doesn't shower." Not that. But we're talking about a very real and honest understanding that if I have anything to boast about it, it's because of God, not me. And when you get that, you start to find this balance of humility and confidence.
Humble because you know that on your own you're not that great, but confident because God delights in you.
I realize that this is a unique tension, but this is where the magic happens.
When you become fully aware of your own limitations and weakness, and yet fully convinced of the greatness of God and his desire to use you in incredible ways.
Here's what's different about 19 year old preacher David and 36 year old preacher David:
I still not convinced that I have any greatness, but I've learned to expect God to show up.
Sometimes people will compliment a sermon "Wow, that message really impacted me David. You have no idea. I've been in the corner weeping. Like that was SO good." "Oh wow. God is good. And you're very kind." "No David, I'm not being kind. I really mean it." And I'm like "I think both can be true. I think you can really mean it, AND be kind." - But if you tell me I'm the best preacher that you've ever heard, I know you're just trying to be nice. But if you tell me that the sermon touched something deep on the inside of you, I have no trouble believing that. Because I know it's not about me.
The point of this sermon is not to say "Hey, you know what, you're much smarter than you give yourself credit for." In my experience the problem is usually much worse than you realize. But becoming supremely confident is God's ability to use you, that's the good stuff.
To live in this balance of not getting so stuffy with yourself that you become this egotistical maniac, but at the same time being able to square your shoulders, and be able to say, like Paul, 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' That's important.
That's not just about spiritual stuff (Whatever that means). In every area of your life, you have the capacity to do things that are beyond your ability. And that is not a lack of humility.
The place where that confidence can really come bite you in the fanny is where you misplace it. And put it on yourself. You start believing your own press.
Me : Sermons - Nose-dive
In my context I think about preaching, that sometimes you string together like 4 or 5 pretty good sermons and you start thinking "You know what, I AM pretty gosh darn awesome at this! It's amazing how quickly a sermon can go off the rails when you start thinking like that.
And then when you're in a full-on nosedive, on the inside you're thinking "Oh dear Lord, I'm sorry, help me Jesus. I'm dumb, it's only you. No one is good but you. Please help."
You don't see any of that. That's all internal.
That's funny "I'm the best, I'm the best, I'm the best. (Make nose-dive motion), I'm terrible, I'm terrible, I'm terrible. Ok God! It's only you, please help me!" - And then the plane levels back out.
Too much 'awww shucks', and you'll never step out a do anything great or risky. Too much overconfidence and you start to try to do stuff on your own and that doesn't work either.
So it's this balance.
God ≠ just delight in me -- you.
God doesn't just delight in me, he also delights in you.
So now I can go through my life, anticipating that God will use me to do something great not just because he likes me (which he does), but also because he likes you.
So when you go out in your everyday life, you can be confident that God wants to use you, not just because he loves YOU, but because he loves the people you come into contact with.
At the intersection of being convinced that you're not all that great but fully convinced of God's greatness and that he delights in you.
That's where the magic happens.
This is a quote that I believe sums this idea up perfectly:
“… The man who is not afraid to admit everything that he sees to be wrong with himself, and yet recognizes himself as the object of God's love despite his shortcomings, can begin to be sincere. His sincerity is based on confidence, not in his own illusions about himself, but in the endless, unfailing mercy of God.” (Thomas Merton)
Closing Question: Ask Yourself: Do I truly believe God delights in me? And do I truly believe God can use me in amazing ways?
Which of course brings us to the table of Jesus. There is no clearer picture of God's delight in you than Jesus welcoming you to his table.
That right there should give you all the confidence you'll ever need. That God himself would come and save a place for me.
And when that becomes the foundation of how you see yourself, you will find humble confidence. Not in yourself, but in the God empowers you to live the life you could never deserve.
As pass - just find your way back to gratitude.
It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. (2 Samuel 22:33)
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. (2 Samuel 22:34)
He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. (2 Samuel 22:35)
You make your saving help my shield; your help has made me great. (2 Samuel 22:36)
You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way. (2 Samuel 22:37)
“The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior! (2 Samuel 22:47)
He is the God who avenges me, who puts the nations under me, (2 Samuel 22:48)
who sets me free from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from a violent man you rescued me. (2 Samuel 22:49)
Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name. (2 Samuel 22:50)
“He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever.” (2 Samuel 22:51)