Do you want to have lifelong relationships, do you want to have relationships that will be deep and authentic and last? Then listen to these five observations and He’s going to give us the secret of how to have those kind of relationships.
Observation number one, honoring others is motivated by, I get it right out of verse 1, love. See, something has to happen in your heart. I don’t know about you but if I would have walked in the room and I would have known, as Jesus did, that these guys are arguing about who is being the greatest, and I knew that tomorrow morning they are going to nail me on a cross, I believe I would have lined the guys up and said, “You know what? I’m up to here. I’m ready to check out. You haven’t listened to a single message I’ve got. I am sick of this kind of behavior.”
I wouldn’t have reproved them gently. But He did. He wasn’t down on them. He understood them just like He understands you. And He showed the full extent by giving them - we hate this, don’t we - what they don’t deserve.
I don’t know about you, the only person I want to get what they don’t deserve is me. I see that recognition of laughter. Isn’t it amazing how, in every situation, what do we say? “That’s not fair, that’s not right, that’s not fair, we want justice for everyone except for…” Right?
Jesus didn’t give justice. He was motivated by love. Few things are as hard to give up as our position, control, esteem, and ego to voluntarily serve others. But according to this passage, that’s how He revealed the full extent of His love.
I would have thought, “Oh, the full extent must have been the teaching, it must have been the miracles, it must have been the counseling sessions.” Uh-uh. According to Jesus, the way we express the full extent of our love to other people is when we honor them. Not even equal to, but above ourselves.
The second observation is security in God’s plan allows us to choose downward mobility. Did you notice that’s what He did? Now, humanly speaking He is Lord and Teacher. But beyond humanly speaking, this is the Son of God, fully God, fully man. He spent time in eternity before this being worshipped by angels.
And He not only became downwardly mobile and was born in a little stall of a teenaged girl, walked upon the planet, but now, His last night, they should have been throwing a party for Him and telling Him how great He was! But, see, the way God works it is great leadership is not working your way up to the top until you get to call the shots. God takes that pyramid and He flips it upside down and He says, “The greatest leaders are servants.” People who use their power and position to leverage it to love other people.
Why did He do that? Did you notice verse 3? Why could Jesus do that? And why don’t we? Well, why don’t I? I don’t know that you’re not. Did you notice in verse 3, He knew three things. He knew God had given all authority, all power into His hands, He knew where He came from, and He knew His certain future. He knew where He was going.
See, He knew God’s plan. He knew what God was doing that night, He knew why He was there and how He got there, and He knew for certain where He was going to be. You know what that produces? It produces security.
See, you can become downwardly mobile. The reason I don’t want to be downwardly mobile and most of you, is because we are insecure. And, see, if you work and work and work where people finally think this of you, or you have a good idea, or you do something great, people have got to know about it. They gotta give you recognition, they gotta give you pats on the back, they gotta put letters behind your name, they’ve gotta get you a reserved parking space! You have to drive a certain kind of car, live in a certain area, make so much money, have so many people report to you, have people involved in ministry sing your praises and talk about how wonderful you are, because you’ve worked hard to get there. Right?
It gets kind of convicting when you say it that way, doesn’t it? See, we long to be the one in the limelight, we long to be the person esteemed, we long to be recognized because down deep we think that makes us a someone.
But, see, Jesus was secure, He knew who He was, He knew where He was going, that gave Him the freedom to be downwardly mobile and use His power and His position to love people instead of using those things as badges to tell people He was okay. Do you see the difference?
There’s a gal named Darcy, she’s a doctor, and her husband is a doctor. You know what they do every Saturday night? They choose to be downwardly mobile and the moment the message gets done on Saturday night they go over to another building and they make tapes so that when you walk out, you have one already done. Because they have seen how God passes these tapes around, to all of our amazement, and reaches people.
And so they feel like their veterinarian training has qualified them to make tapes for the body of Christ.
You ought to come in here some Tuesday night and go back into the kitchen. We’ve got people - retired people, young people, old people, people who own their own business, people who have all kind of wherewithal, you know what they do? They do dishes for you. They come here early and they chop up stuff. And then they cook stuff and they feed five, six hundred people.
You know why? They’re choosing to be downwardly mobile, honoring you, why? So the gospel can go out. We’ve got one staff member here, I remember when I was offering him the job and we talked it through with the elders and he was the perfect guy for the job, and then I told him what the salary range for that level of job in a church like this in the Bay Area was.
And then I found out what he made. And then I found out what an awesome opportunity for him to become downwardly mobile. And I’m talking to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. Tens of thousands. Why? How can people do that? Because they are secure.
See, once you understand God’s plan, who you are in Christ, once you understand you’re going to land in heaven, once you understand what other people think about all those external things don’t mean a thing, then you’re free.
I was with Chuck Luyties and his wife, he’s the man who is dying. And the next day I spent with Paul Graff, he just had cancer surgery, it came through the colon wall. It’s in a couple of the lymph glands, it’s in the fatty tissue, it’s got a couple spots on his liver. An executive with Intel, physicist.
Isn’t it amazing, with both those people, amazing thing, we didn’t have any conversations about what titles they had. We weren’t discussing what year, make, model, or benefit packages they had. Net worth never came up in conversation, how many people report to them or where they have been, what they have done, and who they have impressed never came up.
You know what came up? I remember Nancy Luyties, she said, “You know, one of the things we have learned is we had all the kids around us and friends from this church have just loved us, loved us, loved us. We have learned there are very few things in life that are important. And the things that are have to do with relationships.”
See, that’s what Jesus knew. That’s what Jesus knew. See, when you know God’s plan, you’re secure. And what people think of you doesn’t matter. It allows you to be downwardly mobile.
Third, honoring others begins in a very unique place. It begins with humility. Humility. The very last night Jesus was talking and modeling humility, the apostle Paul, I think the greatest portion of the Christmas message isn’t in Matthew, Mark, or Luke. I think the greatest picture of the Christmas message is in Philippians chapter 2 where what we get is a behind the scenes look at what really occurred on that first Christmas morning.
Philippians 2 beginning at verse 5, the apostle Paul writes, inspired by the Holy Spirit, “Your attitude, believers, should be the same as that of Christ Jesus,” well, what attitude are you talking about? He describes it, verse 6, “[W]ho being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God a thing 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,” downwardly mobile, “and He became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” See, Jesus is going to teach, when Jesus left, He had lifetime friendships for now and for eternity. And He’s going to teach something: Honoring one another above ourselves is the acid test of how much we love people.
So He says, “You want to see, in your culture, in your time in human flesh, what it looks like to honor you,” and He does the lowest servant’s job to the people who all knew they should be doing it for Him. But long before that, the apostle Paul says, “Let me give you a better picture. Let me give you a bigger picture.”
He said, “For eternity past, in heaven, the Triune God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, perfect relationship, perfect equality, unapproachable light streaming from them before the throne of God, and there is myriads and myriads and myriads and myriads and myriads of angels of all kinds and they are singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.”
And Isaiah says that some of the seraphim cover their eyes with two wings because He is so holy, and with two wings they cover their feet. And with the other two they flap. And this honor, majesty, praise to - who? God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
In the midst of all that honor, the first step toward your salvation was humility like we never have known. That One who is the object of all worship was born in the stall of a teenage girl to become fully God, fully man, to make the incarnate Christ because when God looked down the portals of time, He saw you and you and you and you and you and you and me and He said, “I love you.”
And the acid test of my love is to honor you above myself. He experienced the ridicule of being a poor child, the ridicule of being a bastard child because they understood that she was pregnant before the marriage, the ridicule of coming from a place called Nazareth where people said, “Nothing good comes out of Nazareth!” The ridicule of being spit upon, beaten, and nailed naked to a cross.
Why? Because He loves you, that’s why. Because He loves you. Do you begin to understand why when you honor others like that, that extreme, that kind of love, that kind of sacrifice, people are attracted to you, people want to be around you?
The fourth observation is that position and power are stewardships for service. We think position and power are rewards you get. We think they are the honor. In fact, it’s interesting, you study this word in the early Greek language, the word “honor” is tied with material possessions so closely; you can’t distinguish them.
And so to be honored you were honored because you had so much possession or so much position or so much wealth. Now, the word began to evolve in its usage and then later on, how many gifts or how many possessions you gave were how much you honored people.
By the time of Plato, it began to emerge that there were moral conduct and virtues, character that you should be honored for and by the time the word is used in the New Testament, we have thoughts of honoring your parents as in the Old Testament, and honoring the poor, and honoring your wife, and honoring the elderly, and esteeming others because of their position that God has given them, and their value.
What we need to understand is that Jesus is teaching the key to lifelong friendships for His followers is that God gave you position and God gave you power for serving others. And you say, “Well, I don’t have much position. I mean, I don’t have any power.” Oh yes you do! You don’t have to run a Fortune 500 company to have position and power.
I would guarantee that whether it’s a sphere this size or this size, there is a group of people who you highly influence. There’s a group of people that think highly of you. There’s a group of people that what you say, what you do, how you live – it influences all their thinking. You know what that’s called? Position and power.
Now, for some it’s in business, for some it’s at home, for some it’s your kids, for some it’s your network here, for some it’s your neighbors, for some it’s your extended family.
But whatever level of position and power that comes with your savvy, your background, your experience, your looks, your money, your whatever you have, God has given that to you for one reason: To leverage it to serve other people.
The other night I had a great experience. I watched a lady model this. She just modeled it in a fantastic way. Cheryl Dugan teaches piano and plays in one of the worship bands.
And she had all these people, like, twenty-eight or thirty students and all their family and brothers and sisters and this place packed. How they all got in her house I don’t know. She made it a real quality event and then when they got done, she said, “This has really been neat, it’s a privilege,” she’s the teacher, right? Position. She’s the influence shaper, she has power.
She goes, “You know, I’d really like to invite you all to make Christmas very special.” And then she passed out to all the families, an invitation to the musical. Now, could she possibly get a little flak for that? Probably. But she did it with such winsomeness, she did it in order to serve them, she took her position and she used it to open the door for about seventy-five people to get to hear about Christ, if they choose to.
A little while earlier, about two or three Mondays ago, I had a chance, a fellow who visits our church, doesn’t live in this area, we have gotten to know each other, and he is connected with a group of people called The Pinnacle Forum in Arizona. And their vision statement is to reach the top one percent of all executives in the state of Arizona.
So, they are a group of men that have high influence and are CEOs of major companies, and they are believers. And they want God to leverage their position and power to make a big difference.
And this guy said, “They are going to be at a retreat at Pebble Beach.” And I thought, “Boy, now, that’s a good place to have a retreat if you’re going to have one.” You know?
And then he said, “They are looking for someone to give them a little challenge, you know, someone to raise the bar a little bit that God would really use them. And they’re going to do some strategic planning. Would you like to go speak to them?” And I thought, “Well, I’ve been praying about stuff like that. ‘God, whatever.’” So, I said, “Yeah, I’ll give that a whirl.”
So, I got with the staff and I said, “We really need to pray. This is a great opportunity, number one, and number two, I’m afraid. So, here’s what we need to pray: One, pray that I won’t be intimidated because these are high-powered people. Pray, number two, that I won’t try to impress them because I am insecure. Pray, number three, that I’ll really be bold and tell them what God wants me to say and not worry about what they think. And pray, number four, that I will in no way toot our horn, or my horn, and try and use this in any way other than to serve them.”
And I walked out of there and just the Spirit of God confirmed in my heart, “Boy, God answered my prayer.” And I walked into this little room and they had a long table and a fireplace and they were served privately and I got a good meal out of the deal, it was pretty cool, really.
And on my right was the CEO of the DOW Corporation and then on the left was the guy who owns a portion of the Green Bay Packers, and next to him was a guy who owns a major portion of the Phoenix Suns.
And for reasons I don’t know, I was just relaxed. And then I got the chance to talk. And I walked through Nehemiah chapter 1 and Nehemiah chapter 2 and if you know that story, it’s about a man who got great position and great power right next to the king, and yet he was a Jew in the Persian Empire.
And all of God’s people and the whole nation [of Israel] were going down the tubes. The walls [of Jerusalem] were burnt and the gates were broken down, but God had a plan. And God took Nehemiah and He used his position and power to serve them, risk his life, he went before the king, the entire history, the entire history of God’s people changed because of one man who saw his position and power not as, “How do I get comfortable and I deserve this,” but saw it as a stewardship.
And so I just, by the grace of God, said to those guys, “You know something? You got a lot of wherewithal, and you got a lot of money, you got a lot of savvy, and God didn’t give it to you so you could be comfortable. He gave it to you to make a difference in this world. Don’t do something small for God.
“There’s enough grey matter in this room and probably enough dollars that if you wanted to do something magnificent for God, you could. And I want to tell you that I believe you are the Nehemiahs of your generation and God will hold you accountable for how you steward the position, the power, and the wealth.”
And when I say that, all of us think, “Yeah, I wish those rich people would really get with it, huh?” Huh? And down deep below that we say, “You know, if God ever gave me a million dollars, boy, would I use it for the Lord.” If you’re not using what you have for the Lord, you wouldn’t use a million dollars for the Lord either.
God is never looking for what you would do someday with more time, what you would do someday with more money, or what you would do someday with more spiritual gift. He has this law of progression of faithfulness. And the question He is asking you and me is at whatever level of position and whatever level of power you have in your network, do something great for God.
Don’t fall into the cultural trap of just… Among Christians today, the whole world can be going to hell in a hand basket but as long as my world is okay, we can just watch it happen, can’t we?
As I watch the news, as you have, it looks to me like some worlds are going to collide pretty soon if we’re not careful. So, we might as well go ahead and get out of our little nest egg now and make a difference.
Number five observation is simply real happiness comes when we make others shine, not hog the limelight. Did you notice how Jesus did that? He served others. That’s how you honor them.
I think moms get this directly from God, I don’t know how it works, but I think they just get it directly from God. Moms sacrifice time, moms sacrifice sleep, moms sacrifice everything. And what do they rejoice in? When their kids grow up and they are healthy and they get rightly related and they have an impact. I think God just puts that in their heart because it’s so near the heart of God.
See, honoring other people means that what you really want to do is you want to see them succeed. You find your greatest joy in other people’s success. Didn’t Jesus say, “If you know these things, blessed or happy are you, if you” - what? “do them!” Do them!
See, there is no room for this ooey-gooey feeling among Christians like, “I have good thoughts toward them. I had good intentions.” It’s really wanting other people to get the credit. This has happened so much in this church.
I told you how Steve and I had a wild time about a couple weeks ago so let me tell you a real positive story. He was away on a special anniversary and I got a voicemail from him. His time it was three thirty, God woke him up in the middle of the night.
He was away with his wife, anniversary, he said, “Man, I hope you’re okay.” It was Saturday night and he knew I was going to preach again Sunday morning. He said, “I just know, the last hour I have been praying for you. And, by the way, man, we’ve had a great time but I want to tell you it is an honor and I am so thrilled that we get to work together. I am so excited about how God is choosing to use your life.”
I’ll tell you what, I have never been around anybody, apart from my wife, who is more excited about whatever God lets me do than I am. You know what that’s called? That’s called honoring others.
You know, I look around this church and how that is happening. And, see, this is why it’s so important, I believe when those buildings get done and we have about three or four or five hundred of these Growth groups going in multiple homes, and God brings in the next wave of how many people, I don’t know, but He wants to change Santa Cruz and we’re going to be part of it, the critical thing will be us being careful, not worrying about who gets the credit.
You know, we’re going to two services in Graceland, January 17th. But I’m being as honest as I can, I’m not all like, “Oh, wow!” Fourteen, fifteen months ago we had ninety, a hundred people in Graceland. Right now, there are six hundred and fifty.
But you know where my joy is? I was here the first weekend I watched Dan Kimball teach thirty-five high school kids and try to play the guitar. We got rid of the guitar. And here now, six hundred and fifty of the next generation and they are multiplying the services, you can’t pay me enough money and, unless you have ever seen it happen where you [experience] the joy of seeing someone change like that and God use them…
I remember when Fred Hennes was a lay person here. And I remember when he started our very, first official small group things about seven years ago. [Those were the days of] capital campaigns, stewardship classes, preaching and teaching. And the joy is seeing Fred’s life change.
I remember Joy Roberts when we were in a situation, “Could you help part time, just as a volunteer for the women’s ministry?” And then we watched that thing. Now she is helping women all over the Bay Area with their women’s ministry in churches.
I remember Mark Hillenga. When I came, he was my boss. He was an elder. And there was a need and he went from being an elder, quit his job, got down, I remember his bank account, he told me, “God better show up soon!” And then he came on staff here in children’s ministry…
And we said, “A hundred and fifty Growth groups!” I’m always a little optimistic, as you might know. We already have a hundred and twenty-nine started and about six every month, new Growth groups. If you’re not in one, commercial, go, go, go, go.
I remember when Steve, if you said to him, “Do you want to preach?” He said, “No!” To him, preaching was like leading worship without a guitar. Now he can do both! Last August, he did a three or four part series, someone visited our church from out of town and they didn’t know who preaches who, when, or why. He’s now preaching at other churches because they came and visited and thought, “That guy must be the guy!” And you know what? He is.
See, when you honor other people, when you let them have the limelight, only deficit thinkers think if you give a slice of the pie away, there will be less for you. No, no, no, no, no, no! That’s worldly thinking!
You need to be a developmental thinker. When you give what is “rightfully yours,” “because you deserve the credit,” “because you got the position,” “because you got the parking spot,” “because it was your idea” – when you give that away and let someone else shine in it, God gives you new pie. That’s multiplying thinking. That’s how God does it.
What are we saying here? We’re saying that if you want lasting relationships, authentic relationships, in your family, in the church, if you want to get near the end of your life and have people that are connected and who love you and you have impacted, the acid test will be honoring others above yourself.
In summary, honoring others is enjoying and celebrating the worth, success, and accomplishments of others more than my own. That’s wild, isn’t it? You can’t do that on your own, I can’t do that on my own. That’s grace. But you get into it, you’ll flourish and the people around you will flourish more.
So, before we go home let me ask you a couple questions. Let’s put this into practice. How are you doing in this whole issue of honoring? What’s it look like?
In the last week, say, who have you honored above yourself? I don’t mean generically, like, “Oh, yeah, I’m sure I did somebody.” I mean, like, what’s their name? What day was it? And what specifically did you do to honor someone above yourself? Let me give you a good, full three seconds to ponder that. Okay, time’s up.
Now, some of you, something could have come right to mind, and that’s great. For a lot of us, the reason something didn’t come right to mind, we don’t do it much.
Now, I’m gonna step on my own toes here, in the midst of life and being a believer there are a lot of times we want to look like we honor people and we do a little image management and we want people to think we are more holy, more godly, more sacrificial, and more loving and more caring than we really are. But I’m not talking about that. Those are the sophisticated games that Christians play, of which we are all guilty.
I’m talking about, in your heart of hearts, you know you deserve credit and you put someone else out ahead. I’m talking about, in your heart of hearts, you really wanted something, and instead you stepped back and let someone else get what you really wanted.
Let me ask you a few questions and I hope you’ll keep this [bookmark], maybe stick it in your Bible for a few weeks, to develop this. Let me ask you, this will let you know how your honoring is of other people.
Question number one: Do you compliment others sincerely? Do you find yourself affirming people on a regular basis? Or do you find that you’re pretty critical?
Second question: Do you enjoy the success of others? I mean, in your heart of hearts, I mean, when, bang! They do something great. Is there something that wells up inside that says, “Wow! God, that is so great!” Or do you smile on the outside and say, “Oh, boy, we’re so happy for you!” And go, “Boy, how come that’s not happening to me?”
Third: Can you let others be the center of attention? Demonstrated by consistently not interrupting them when they are talking. “He who has ears to hear, let them hear, Chip.”
Four: Can you allow others to get credit even when you had a major role? Or do you slip in, “Oh, man, that was great, it was so neat what happened. And, oh, it’s fantastic. Oh, they really used my idea well. Yeah, they pulled it off! Of course, they couldn’t without me. It was my idea. Did you hear the part about it was my idea? I just so want to make sure you got that part.” It’s funny how we are, isn’t it?
Fifth, do you feel bad, slighted, hurt, or angry when your work or service goes unnoticed? See, these questions cut through the façade of simply doing good as a Christian, of being involved as a Christian, or acting Christianly. And they cut through to the heart. They cut to your motives and my motives.
To genuinely honor other people, the way Jesus did His disciples, is the acid test of your love for them.
Now, if you need a little motivation, I’m not going to develop it, but I have given you a little Bible study to go. What happens when you honor others? Let me just summarize that there’s a paradox you need to understand. Because there’s part of you that I hope you’re at this point thinking, “I want that. I want that. I want to be that kind of person.”
But about three weeks from now or two hours from now, man, it’s hard to do this. So, what I want to do is I want to give you the results, I want to give you the big picture, I want to take the lens and let it go all the way out to the end and show you what happens when you live this way, so you can be motivated to do this day in and day out when it hurts your feelings when you’re unnoticed, it does mine. It hurts your feelings when someone else gets the credit, it does mine. It hurts your feelings when, you know, it seems like everyone else is getting the strokes and you don’t, it does mine. That’s the human side. We struggle with it. But notice the rewards.
The great paradox of Philippians 2:9 through 11, I won’t read it but let me tell you what God did. We already read about how He humbled Himself. It says, “Therefore God highly exalted Him and gave Him a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every tongue will confess and every knee will bow in heaven and earth and under the earth.”
God will honor those who honor others. In fact, in Matthew 23, I’ll let you study that one on your own, He talks about how religious leaders of that day, in verses 5 through 7, sought honor.
And then in verses 8 through 11 he says, “Don’t you do that, followers.” And then verse 12, it’s classic. He says, “The greatest among you will be the servant.”
Here’s this awesome promise of reward, “And those of us who humble themselves will be,” what? “exalted.” You will be exalted. I sat in the room with a man, seventy-one years old, who is dying. He is exalted because he has honored God. And the things that money can’t buy, he is wealthy beyond measure in. And it didn’t happen yesterday. It’s been a lifetime.
I would encourage you to follow along as I read a classic prayer by Saint Francis to end this series. And as I read it, I encourage you to make it your own.
“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.”
Now get the divine paradigm, here it is, “For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. And it’s in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”
Many, many relationships start well. Few end well. But those who habitually honor other people – their mates, their families, their parents, their coworkers, fellow church members, their neighbors – they build friendships that are deep, intimate, authentic, and they last a lifetime.
My challenge, my challenge is to take this package of the “one anothers” and make the litmus test of your life, if you are honoring others, by the grace of God, and decide about where you park, about where you eat, about what you say, about what you do with your time, about what you do with your money, about what you do with your spiritual gifts, and decide, “I’m going to honor others.” And the day will come where not only will relationships be deep, God will honor you beyond your wildest imagination.