Humble Attitude Toward Accomplishments

Steve Viars March 18, 2006 Deuteronomy 9:1-29

- Every so often a story just grips your heart...
- By now you’ve probably heard of Jason McElwain, who has been the manager of the varsity basketball team of Greece Athena High School in Rochchester, NY...
- [Pic #1 – Jason in a shirt and tie]

- Jason has autism...but he is loved by the guys on the team, and by the kids in the school...
- in their last regular season game, the coach gave Jason a uniform, and told him he could suit up not as a manager, but as one of the players...
- let’s listen in...and you might want to notice what happens when the coach prays...”Lord, just give him a hoop”...
- [CNN clip about Jason scoring 6 - 3 pointers and another shot, for a total of 20 points in 4 minutes...]

- that’s not the end of the story...when the team went into post-season, Jason was back in his role as team manager...here’s what a television reporter said about Jason...
Despite his fame, he's all about the game. A Greece teen's triumph puts a new face on sports greatness.
Rochester's most celebrated basketball player was back on the court. Greece Athena senior Jason “J-Mac” McElwain was back in his shirt and tie, back on the bench.
“No pre-game interviews,” he said.
His team was preparing to take on McQuaid at the Blue Cross Arena. With the semi-finals on the line, he was all business. The most talked-about team manager was all about his team.
J-Mac's moment brought him national exposure, even movie offers. Still, he remains focused on the game and on his teammates.
“I'm just so proud of these guys,” he said, calling out the name of each player.
Bolstered by J-Mac’s support, the Greece Athena Trojans won their semi-final match-up with McQuaid’s Knights. They are now headed to the finals.
“Our dream was to get a sectional title all along. Now's our chance,” he said.  “I just want to win as a team, not individually.”
The J-Mac story keeps getting better. Saturday night, Jason McElwain or J-Mac as he’s known to the world and his Greece Athena Trojans capped off what was an already unbelievable story.
The Trojans lifted the Class AA Section V trophy for the first time since 1992. They also lifted J-Mac – literally.
- [Pic #2 – Jason being hoisted up by his teammates]

- Of course, if you follow the news this week...you know Jason got another visit...from this guy...
- [Pic #3 – Jason meeting President Bush...]


- now, let me ask you this...would this story have been so popular if the star basketball player on that team, the guy with all the natural ability, had hit 3 consecutive 3 pointers?...
- probably not...when stars perform like stars...its nice, but its not going to make the President of the United States cry...
- perhaps this story was compelling for 2 reasons...
1. It happened to somebody you would have not expected...1 bucket, maybe...6-3 pointers in 4 minutes from an autistic boy who had never played in a varsity game before...never...
2.  He handled it so well afterwards...putting focus not on what he did, but on his teammates and their next challenge...joyfully accepting the regular role he’d been assigned...
- see, something about that resonates with the heart of man...

- now, let’s just say that God was putting a team together...
- and if the goal of the “game” was to help others understand His character, and His attributes, and His ways...
- do you think he would do that best by pulling together a bunch of superstars, who were already a bit big for their britches...
- who, if they succeeded, it probably wouldn’t surprise anybody, but it also wouldn’t move them...
- or, would he bring together an incredibly unlikely cast, and then bless them abundantly, so there was no doubt who was behind it all?...

- with that in mind, would you please open your Bible to Deuteronomy chapter 9...[page  139 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you, page 237 of our Chinese English Bibles]...

- This year we’re talking about Gearing Up for Greater Effectiveness...
- we’re getting ready to launch a series of new ministry initiatives in our missions program, and in our community ministries, and in our training of people seeking full time Christian service...
- over the period of the next 16 months, we are hoping to be serving God at a new level of commitment, and dedication, and effectiveness...
- we’re trying to reinvest what God has entrusted to us because we think that’s part and parcel of what stewardship is all about...

- to help guide us in all of this, we’ve turned to the book of Deuteronomy...which is a gearing up book if there ever was one...
- because God’s people find themselves at a place called Beth Peor [show slide]...
- their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness are over, and now God is preparing them to enter into the promised land...
- this book is the coach’s speech before the journey begins...

- last week we looked at chapter...which wasn’t about military strategy, it wasn’t about supply routes or personnel matters...
- it was about humility... Developing A Humble Attitude Toward Your Resources
- guess what today’s chapter is all about?...humility...only this time... Developing A Humble Attitude Toward Your Accomplishments

- let’s listen in – Read Deuteronomy 9:1-29
- we’re talking about Developing a Humble Attitude Toward Your Accomplishments...
- and I’d like to suggest that from these verses, you can find 3 principles to help you respond to accomplishments with humility.

I. God Desires to Help His People Accomplish Mighty Deeds.


- you may have noticed that Moses begins verse 1 with “Hear, O Israel”...
- that’s Hebrew for “listen up”...(:...
- there have been several strategic places during this gearing up speech where Moses has used those words...
- of course all of this is important, but he wanted to be especially sure they got this...hear this, O Israel...think about...
A. The insurmountable nature of the assignment.
1. Timing.
- verse 1 – today...
- soon, right away...this isn’t one of those projects we’re going to talk about a lot but we have no intention of actually doing...
- we’re getting on this one right away...

2. Size.
- this is anything but a sales job where God is purposely understating the significance of the task...
- what kind of language does Moses use in these first couple of verses?
- verse 1 – nations greater and mightier than you
- verse 1 – great cities fortified to heaven
- verse 2 – a people great and tall
- verse2 -  the sons of the Anakim
- now, if you’ve studied the Bible, you know that that last description would have especially made their knees knock...
- the Anakim were a race of people who were especially large and fierce...
- in fact, it was the presence of the Anakim that had been used 40 years earlier by the 10 fearful spies as a reason not to obey God’s Word and enter the promised land...
- Moses recounted that earlier in this book...
Deuteronomy 1:28 - Where can we go up? Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, saying, “The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are great and fortified up to heaven; moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.” ’
- and now, 40 years later...what does Moses tell them...the Anakim are still there...and its not like he’s trying to sugar-coat that...
- well, they’re there...but the new generation isn’t so tall...
- or, they just look big from a distance...it’s an optical illusion...
- or, they’re really nice when you get to know them...

- this is going to be like an autistic team manager hitting 6 three pointers in a row...
- this is a purposely enormous task...BUT...

B. The Lord is going before you.
1. In this passage.
- verse 3 – as a consuming fire
- verse 3 – He will destroy them
- verse 3 – He will subdue them before you...

- and we’ll talk in a minute about the ethics of all of that...why God would allow these nations to be judged in this way...
- but the overall point here is...God is purposely putting His people in a position where the only way they are going to succeed is if God blesses them in an unusual way...
- nobody is going to say...they had a great battle plan...their people are really tough...
- no, the only conclusion anybody will be able to draw from this is, their God is blessing them in incredible, unique, and supernatural ways...

- now, we see this same emphasis in many other...
2. OT parallel passages.
- Deuteronomy 1:30 - The LORD your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes,
- Deuteronomy 3:22 - You must not fear them, for the LORD your God Himself fights for you.’
- the principle is this...people who are geared up for greater effectiveness are characterized by hearts of confidence and courage...not in their own strength, and their own power...but in the firm and settled conviction that God will keep His promise of going before them...
- And we see that same idea emphasized all over the NT...

3. NT parallel passages.
- 2 Corinthians 2:14 – But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.
[develop, if time, how this verse makes the point of His leading us for the purpose of the knowledge of him, not us, be manifested...]

- Romans 8:31 - What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
- 1 John 4:4 - ...greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.
- and we could multiple verses like that for a long time...but the point is, often God’s will is insurmountable...until you factor His greatness into the equation...
- then all of a sudden, the balances change...now....

C. What about us?
- do you think God wants you/us to be taking on some Anakim?...some significant challenges?...could that be part of His plan for us?...
1.  what about the challenge of spiritual growth?...
- does the Bible say that all of us are to be changing and growing?...[cf. II Peter 3:18]
- and I realize some of us, perhaps many of us, perhaps all of us would say things like...
- but you don’t know my past, or you don’t know my heritage, or you don’t know my weaknesses, my struggles, my challenges, my failures...
- I can’t grow, I can’t change...I can’t get any better...
- wait a minute...are you looking at the size of the Anakim or the size of your God?
2. what about the challenge of accomplishing our mission?
- we are told to go and make disciples of all nations...
- we are told to be witnesses for Christ in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria...
- we are told that Jesus is going to be building His church right here, right now...

- and you might say...but we can’t do that today...there’s the giants of unbelief, and the giants of ridicule, and the giants of indifference...
- and then there’s the giants of disagreements, and infighting, and petty bickering...
- the church shouldn’t be expected to accomplish much today...

- friends, that’s unbelief talking....that’s fear talking...that like the 10 faithless spies all over again...
- thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.
- God wants to put His children of positions where He blesses them with such abundance, in the midst of such insurmountable odds....that everybody is forced to conclude...only God could do that...

- we don’t believe that statistics are everything...
- but to the degree that they represent people, souls...God doing a work...they are important...
[show 10 year growth graphs for Sun attendance, number of members, giving, school, BCTC]

- is God great or not?...
- and does the aggressiveness with which you serve Him today demonstrate that you really are convinced that God wants to lead you in triumph in Christ?...

- I received an e-mail from Liz Welsch this week...
- [show Liz’s prayer card]
- Liz was a faithful part of our college ministry and just this week she arrived in Japan to serve as a missionary there...
- in her e-mail she was telling everybody that she had arrived safely in Japan...and she said this...
- I'll be honest, Tokyo is HUUUUGE...
- but God is bigger and that's what I'm resting in. He'll give me the strength and wisdom to adjust to things here.

- there’s a single young woman who gets it...God desires to help His people accomplish mighty deeds...

- but when He does it, or when He’s doing it...that presents a different challenge...


II. Do Not Allow Your Accomplishments to Make You Proud.


- this was a big part of gearing up for God’s people...
- you are about to experience some incredible victories...but,
- verse 4 – do not say in your heart.
- what’s the principle there?...
A. Just like developing a humble response to your resources (cf. Deuteronomy chapter 8, especially verse 17), developing a humble response to your accomplishments also begins with “what you say in your heart” (verse 9:4).
- see, the truth of the matter is, God has allowed a number of the people in this room to accomplish some pretty significant things...
- some have overcome habits and addictions both large and small...
- others have taken substantial strides in your marriage...
- others have advanced in your professions...
- many here are involved in ministry in very effective ways...
- as a church...those graphs are what they are...

- but the question before the house now is...what are we saying in our hearts about that?...
- are we responding to accomplishment with humility, or are we responding to accomplishment with pride?
- a very important verse to put into this mix is...
Isaiah 42:8 - I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images.
- when you and I become proud of what God has allowed us to accomplish, instead of being amazed at His grace...we are in essence robbing God of glory...
- [if time, could tell about guys stealing your bikes from the storage area at the apartment in New Jersey...]

- now, how do verses 4-5 fit into this?...
B. The focus during a time of accomplishment should be on the righteousness of God, not man.
- Moses says repeatedly, don’t say, “I have accomplished this because of my righteousness...that is simply not true...”...God has a...
1. His plan.
- these other nations were being judged...and if that is troubling to you, I would encourage you to later read verses like Deuteronomy 12:31, or Deuteronomy 18:9-14...which explain some of the incredibly detestable practices that these nations had developed...especially the wicked things they were doing to their children...
- and because God is righteous and holy...at some point sin will always be addressed...
- the focus also was to be on...
2. His faithfulness and His promises.
- verse 5 basically restates verse 4 and then Moses says...God made a promise to your forefathers...and He will keep His promise and accomplish His purposes...

- now, here’s where that takes us...during times of accomplishment...we must...
C. Zealously avoid the sin of self-righteousness.
- look what I am...look what I have done...
- do you remember Nebuchadnezzar in the OT?....
1. Nebuchadnezzar
- Daniel 4:28-30 - All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of the twelve months he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. The king spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”
- did those words go over well with the Lord?...
- no, and time doesn’t allow us to tell the whole story...you might want to read it later in Daniel 4...
- let’s just say that Nebuchadnezzar didn’t brush his teeth for a while...
- but the beauty of that story is...he did repent...and the last words you read from his mouth are...
- Daniel 4:37 - Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.

- what about the NT?...do you remember the story Jesus told about...
2. The “man praying to himself”.
- Luke 18:9-17 - Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

- here’s another sobering verse...
3. Isaiah 65:5 - Who say, ‘Keep to yourself, Do not come near me, For I am holier than you!’ These are smoke in My nostrils, A fire that burns all the day.

- do you see the relationship between those 2 passages?...
- the parable was given to people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others...
- Isaiah speaks bout people who love to say to people...stay away, keep to yourselves, I am holier than you...
- and in case the metaphor isn’t clear...being smoke in the nostrils of God is a decidedly bad place to be...

- friend, can I ask you about this issue of pride and accomplishment?...
1.  Is it possible that some will be here today trusting that their accomplishments will get them to heaven?...[cf. the argument of the parable...]
2.  Do you want credit and glory that truly belongs to the Lord?...
- [cf. how do you respond when you accomplish something and nobody notices, or nobody says thanks...]
3. What about the issue of creating an atmosphere of grace here?...are you trying to help us be a place of welcome to the person who is struggling?...
- [thank folks for doing such a good job of being loving to persons God is bringing to our congregation, even though we are becoming increasingly diverse...]

- could talk about the implications of all of this on a community level --- often times God’s people are so proud---we’re the only ones, that His glory cannot be proclaimed to the community...cf the TEAMM prayer retreat...Titus’ point from the Draw Me Close song...
- now, what about the rest of the chapter?


III. Be Amazed that God Would Use Us in Spite of Our Failures.

- Moses gives...
A. Reminders to the children of Israel.
1. Verses 6-21 - at Horeb – Idolatry
2. Verses 22-24 – at Teberah, Massah, and Kibroth-hattaavah – Complaining
- you noticed that repeated theme of the stubbornness and rebellion of the children of Israel...
- and Moses wasn’t trying to rub their noses in all of this---he was just point out the facts of the matter...after God blessed them with accomplishment...it would be illogical to take the glory for themselves...

B. Reminders to us.
- I think you could make the case that it stands to reason that a church that has had a counseling ministry for over 25 years would be a place where God would choose to unusually bless his people...because so many of us have such a past...
- you’ve heard me say this before...we’re like misfit Baptist...we’re like Jason McElwain...
- there’s no logical reason for us to enjoy the accomplishments we enjoy...
- and if we’ll stay humble...that is a story that can resonate with the people who live around us...

- now, how can we retain that focus...

1. the Lord’s table

2. the sanctification process

- could conclude with Caleb --- the last time you hear about the Anakim in Joshua 14...

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video