When Muhammad Ali was in his prime, he was quite full of himself and loved to brag about his greatness. Some of this was done in a calculated way for show in order to promote his fights. Much of it, though, was simply the overflow of Ali’s sizable ego. One day he boarded an airplane and had a stewardess remind him to fasten his seat belt. In his typical, brash way, Ali told her, “Superman don’t need no seat belt.” To that, the stewardess replied, “Superman don’t need no airplane either.” Zing.
Humility is a subject that everyone needs to master, but a course that no one wants to take. I’m reminded of that story about the young preacher who was scheduled to preach his first sermon. Whereas most young preachers are nervous their first time in the pulpit, this young man was exceedingly confident in his own abilities. So, when he was called upon, he didn’t just walk to the pulpit from his seat in the front row of the congregation, he strutted up there. Then he opened his Bible, read his text, launched into his sermon, and proceeded over the next fifteen minutes to bomb in a colossal way. He stuttered. He stammered. He rambled. He forget half of what he was going to say. It was all very embarrassing and humbling.
Finally, he decided to concede defeat, cut his losses, close the sermon, and meekly return to his seat. Following the service, he wanted to get out of that church as quickly as possible without having to speak to anyone. But no sooner had the last “Amen” been said than an elderly woman came walking toward him. She seemed sweet, pleasant, and compassionate, and so the young preacher thought to himself, “This might not be so bad. She probably just wants to tell me that I did alright and offer me some encouragement.” What he got from her, though, was some sage wisdom. She said, “Young man, if you had gone into the pulpit the way you came out of it, you would have come out of it the way you went into it.”
2 Chronicles 7:14 is known as the great “revival” verse. The context for it is God talking to King Solomon about what Israel should do during any potential times of drought, locust-infestation, or pestilence. God says of such times:
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
It’s noteworthy that the first item on God’s list for healing isn’t praying, seeking His face, or even turning from wickedness. Instead, it’s showing humility. That should tell us just how much God values humility. I might add that it’s relatively easy to show humility when you’ve had the snot knocked out of you by drought, locust-infestation, pestilence, or a bombed sermon. It’s much, much harder, though, to show it when the weather is fine, the crops are good, and you are excelling at what you do. I guess that’s what got Muhammad Ali into trouble on that airplane that day, and I guess it’s what gets us into trouble too. So, let’s all learn the lesson: Not one of us is Superman, and even if we were life has kryptonite around every corner.