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David Mathis: How Low Can You Go?

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
June 2, 2022 10:02 pm

David Mathis: How Low Can You Go?

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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June 2, 2022 10:02 pm

Humbled by the hard? On FamilyLife Today, Dave & Ann Wilson host author David Mathis, who believes when we're low, there's a response even more important than why?

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Do you think you're humble? Do I think I'm humble?

Yeah. Part of me thinks it doesn't matter what I think. It matters what you think. I didn't want to start dating you. I mean, if I think I'm humble and you think I'm not, then I'm not. I didn't want to start dating you because I thought you were incredibly conceited back when I was 19. And I'm not sure if you were or not, but you acted very conceited. But now I would say you're humble. Well, I know my pride in that in those days was insecurity.

It was all a big cover up. But God has worked in my life and our life and our marriage. Probably a lot of it is, you know, how we've struggled in our marriage has humbled me. I thought it'd be easy. I thought I'd be amazing.

And I found out I really sort of wasn't. It makes us see how much we need God. And there's a humbling in that as we bow before him to say we can't do it apart from you. And this whole topic of humility is a very interesting topic to sort of dive into.

And we've got David Mathis back in the studio today. He wrote a book called Humbled as a pastor, as the executive director of Desiring God Ministries. I tell you, of all the things to write about, this is an interesting topic.

And our conversation really went to some deep places that I think will impact us, not just in our walk with God, but in our families and in our marriages. Well, David, we're back talking about my favorite topic, humility. No, I'm kidding. Nope. I mean, it's not, you know, something you initially think I'm going to, you know, talk about humility. And I don't even think it's probably something you decide. I'm going to write a book called Humbled.

No. You know, I didn't even ask you previously, why, of all things to write about, were you humbled in your life? Where did somebody tell you to write?

I mean, why did you decide this is what I want to write about? Part of my calling and work at Desiring God is writing regularly. And most of the thoughts for those various articles or sermons that I preach come from daily Bible reading. And over the years, I noticed this pattern of this humble yourself language.

And so I thought, oh, I'll go study that. And I bet I can write a nice little short 1000 word article that will help people know how to humble themselves. It was a humbling lesson to look at those texts, and to see that the pursuit of Christian humility is not something that we just do in our own way at our own time. God, first and foremost, begins the humbling. He first humbles us. And then the question comes, as it does to Pharaoh in Exodus 10, and as it does to the kings in 2 Chronicles, and as it does from the mouth of Jesus in the Gospels, and from the apostles to the church, will you humble yourselves under God's mighty hand?

So God first acts in his perfect timing, in his timeframe. Then the question comes to us, having been humbled, will I humble myself? Will I receive God's work, painful as it is, will I find the beauty in it, and that he is making me more of what he means for me to be for my joy in humbling me?

So yeah, you gotta explain, what would that look like? Because we talked yesterday about, you said, you know, we don't really start the humbling process, God does, and you just restated that. So when God does that, when there's a humbling thing going on in our life, and it could be many different facets of how that is, how do we respond?

Because that's hard. And part of me wants to stiff neck up and fight against it, rather than, I don't know how to respond. How do I respond when I'm being humbled? That's right. I mean, that is, for us, the natural human reaction and sinful reaction to God's humbling work. That's right. I mean, and you know, we talked about, you joked at the beginning of, oh, humility, you know, we'd love to talk about that, because we have a love-hate relationship with it. Yeah. I mean, we love humility in other people.

Yeah. And for us, like, oh, we get it. And we can see pride in other people.

That's right. It's hard to see it in ourselves. We hate pride in others. That's the good thing for all of us to keep in mind, that our radar for pride is often more in tune with others' pride than our own. And our love for humility is often more in tune with others' humility than our own. It's very much we're talking about here, that we have this instinctive sense of, yeah, I probably don't just coast or glide or walk into humility. It probably happens with bumps in the road. It probably happens with pains, with skinned knees and broken arms, so to speak, spiritually.

And that's right. And so there is that love-hate relationship with it in the sense of, I don't want to be humble. I don't want to experience the pain of being humbled. However, I do want to experience the joy of knowing God for who he really is. I want to be who God's called me to be. If you're a Christian, you have this desire. I want to be who God wants me to be.

I want to know him. I want to know my Creator as the great joy of all of life, as the meeting of my restless longings as a human, to know God himself in the person of Jesus. And so humility, there's that love-hate relationship. We don't want to go through being humbled, which is right.

It's painful. And let's not minimize the pain or the discomfort or the shame or the chaos of what happens in these moments in life that we all experience when God humbles us. But also, let's not stay and wallow in the humbling moment, but let's look to heaven and see, all right, what's God doing in this? Is there pride in me that's being chastened?

Or is he just reminding me? Maybe this humbling was not prompted by my sin, and God is not revealing particular sin in me, but what he is revealing is that he's God, and I am not, and I'm happy about that. For me as a creature, I will be happier, far happier, when I stop pretending or thinking subconsciously that I'm God, that I'm the boss of my own life. There is far much more happiness for you as a creature that you are in acknowledging and welcoming his Godness, and it is often the times in our lives that are most painful, most inconvenient, most humbling, where we're startled afresh to that reality. As you're talking about that, I'm thinking of a moment in my life.

I wonder if you have one or two. You know, I joked yesterday about throwing an interception, and that's a joke, but there was a moment, and our listeners know this well, we wrote about it in our book, Vertical Marriage. But it was our 10-year anniversary. I won't go into details because I've told the story too many times, but when I think our marriage is great, year 10 anniversary date, I'm convinced I'm a great husband. She loves me. It's amazing. Our kids, we had two of our three sons were born starting this church, Detroit Lions Chapel, and I think we actually were winning games back in the 90s, and all I know is that the night that Ann said as we are on our way home on our 10-year anniversary date that she had lost her feelings for me, it was one of the most humbling moments of my life.

Number one, I didn't have any idea. I wouldn't have said I was arrogant and proud, but there was a sense of pride that I'm doing pretty good and we're pretty good. And in that moment, now as you were talking, I'm like, wow, that was a God humbling moment.

I'm not saying God caused it to happen. This was my failings as a husband that caused her to lose her feelings for me. But in that moment, God got my attention so much so that I ended up on my knees in a car realizing I can't be the husband she longs for and that I want to be or the dad I'm trying to be without the strength of God in my life. So it was a very humbling moment that I've never really thought of as a humbling moment until you were just describing it. I'm like, oh, my goodness, I've got many of those in my life.

But that was a huge one that I know changed our marriage, but it actually probably more significantly changed me to realize what I had always known. And as a preacher, I'd even preach. I'm not God.

He's God and I'm not. But I'd often live like, I've got this thing. I've got this under control.

We're good. And then in that moment, it's like, oh, my goodness. What Ann would say about that moment is that moment, the way Dave responded changed him and us. And it was that I could have responded like, what do you mean you lost your feelings for me? I'm a good man.

I'm a good husband. You know, start loving me. Or, oh, my goodness, I need to repent, which is where we went. Talk through what a man would do, a woman would do when you get to that humbling moment where, like you said earlier, it might be your sin. It might not. It might just be something happens like that and you have an opportunity to respond.

How do we respond to become the man, the woman God wants us to become? I think in those moments when they catch us off guard. I think it sounds like Ann caught you off guard.

Oh, completely. And I still blame her for it, you know? To see in that moment that it wasn't only Ann catching you off guard, but it was God. That's not to minimize how startlingly painful those moments can be. I dedicate this book to my wife because so many of my humbling moments in the last 15 years, she has been God's instrument for my good.

You know, God has a way of using our wives. He does. Doesn't it drive you crazy?

Yes, he does. I mean, in one sense, it drives you crazy. In another sense, it's really beautiful. It is so beautiful. So you dedicated the book because you've gone through many moments. It's wonderful how honest she is.

She loves authenticity if she sees something and she sees a pattern in me and she's willing to say it and not just stuff it. And over and over again, many other humbling moments I could go to, you know, a job I wanted and didn't get or the humbling moments of having a son break a bone in a way that I couldn't even prevent. Now I got my little kid, his foot's broken in four places. All of us have our stories of realizing the limits of our influence and power as a worker, as a husband, as a father. But a regular theme for 15 years and being married is my wife's kind pointing out of my needs for God's ongoing grace and my limits as a man and as a Christian. And that's the beautiful thing about marriage in that we get that kind of proximity to each other. That if we'll be honest with each other and appropriately gracious, it is an amazing opportunity for God to humble us.

And again, that doesn't happen at our initiative. God seems to bring those most humbling of exposures or rebukes or kind words of constructive feedback at times we don't expect. That's been my impression as a husband. Again and again, when I think things are at their best is when she very kindly lets me know they're not. And as I share with fellow men, you know, they'll ask, how's your marriage?

How are things going with Megan? Often I say, well, let me tell you what I think. Exactly.

It may not be anywhere near reality. This is what I think is going on. I'll be honest with you about what I think, and then I'll check in again with her and find out what's really going on. Because I have found over the years, and this is very humbling, that her sense of where we are at is typically better than mine. Yeah, I actually, after that 10-year anniversary moment, and our marriage wasn't healed in one prayer, but it started a healing process. But as we would go out on dates after that, I regularly, and I still do this 30-some years later, I will say to her, hey, honey, on a scale of 1 to 10, how are we? Because I think we're a 9, 5, 10.

She usually has a lower number, and she's more accurate, and that's humbling. But I also know that's going to help us get to where we need to go. One of the things you write about is the role of prayer, the Word, fasting, in the self-humbling journey that we go on. Help us understand those aspects of how God uses those to help us become the humble person He's called us to be. So you might think, oh, these biblical texts are emphasizing that God takes the initiative, God does it first, His humbling hand descends. We're sitting around waiting for God to humble us, and then there's an opportunity to, quote unquote, humble ourselves.

Well, it's more complicated than that. You're listening to Dave Wilson and David Mathis on Family Life Today. We'll hear more of their conversation in just a minute. But first, David's book is called Humbled, Welcoming the Uncomfortable Work of God. And we'll send you a copy as our thanks when you give today at, or when you call with your donation at 800-358-6329. That's 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. And I just wanted to pause here and say thank you to everyone who gave during the month of May and had their donations matched. We don't have a total just yet of what was given, but gifts are still pouring in, and we are deeply grateful for your support.

Thank you so much. All right, now, when it comes to humility, God's in control, so I guess we just sit around and wait for God to make us humble, right? Well, no, not exactly. Let's listen to more with David Mathis. It is true and important to see that God acts first in our humbling. And we begin to see these startling, unexpected, surprising, painful moments in life as times to humble ourselves before Him. But there are many things, biblically, some specific things that we can make patterns of in our life so that our soul is ready.

Our soul is habituated to God in His godness. And so that we are more likely, more ready, more eager even to humble ourselves when those unexpected humbling circumstances come. Again and again, one connection between God humbling His people and what His people do, so to speak, is how we receive His word.

So Josiah finds God's word and sees the people have not been keeping up with the feasts and goes to the prophet Huldah. And she says, because you humbled yourself and obeyed my word, you heard God's word and you obeyed. You repented for yourself and for the nation, King Josiah, by humbling yourself and putting on sackcloth.

You have done well. God's going to give you grace and spare you and help your kingship. So the response of God's people to His word is something very much tied with humbling ourselves. So one way that we might seek to humble ourselves on a daily basis, to be ready for these moments to come, is are we putting ourselves under God's word? Do we want to hear His word on a daily basis and be ready to obey it? Are we habituating our souls to receiving His word even when it's uncomfortable? If you read your Bible and it's always pleasant and comfortable, what are you reading? If we have a book from God Almighty, do we not expect that it's regularly going to rough us up and have us scratching our heads and trying to receive some uncomfortable things from God? So daily putting ourselves under His word begins to work a pattern of self-humbling in our souls. Yeah, and if you don't, it's really the opposite. Because as I hear you saying that, it's like, man, if I have right in my hands, literally a written word of God, or digitally in my hands through my phone or a device, the word of God written by the God of the universe, and I don't take time to submit to say I'm going to read this, it just means I don't need it. It's like, oh, I'm good.

I can manage life on my own. It's like, no, no, no, a self-humbling heart would be, man, I can't do it. I need the wisdom of God. I need the truth of God. I'm going to submit myself under the authority of His word right here, right now. This can be a habit so that I can be the man, the woman God's called me to be.

So that's the word. And our souls don't stay neutral. It's not like if we stay away from submitting ourselves to God's word, then they stay where they are.

No, they get harder. Your heart on a daily basis is getting harder or softer to the truth and to God himself. Yeah, and we say in family life at our weekend, remember the same thing happens in your marriage. If you're not intentional, you're going to drift away.

Oneness requires work toward bringing one another together. You're going to drift away. Your heart's going to drift away personally.

Your soul's going to just drift away in your marriage. So same thing in our own soul. And one other thing to add there to how we receive God's word is sitting under faithful preaching. And when we come on Sunday morning, let's hope, I hope listener, that you're in a church where the pastor is faithfully preaching the Bible. And we are to hear those words as from God himself as the pastor faithfully represents them. And so we should be putting ourselves under God's word in faithful preaching. We're not mainly there to have this dialogue in our heads about, he said that this way and I'd respond this way.

There are other times in the week to be more constructively critical. I would encourage you, come under the preaching of God's word to hear from God himself. I know, through an imperfect messenger. But we are habituating our souls to God's humbling work in our lives as we sit under faithful preaching gladly and seek to be shaped by it. What's the role of prayer? Exactly.

I just want to go next. And I'd love to hear you talk a little bit about fasting. Yes, let's talk about how fasting accompanies prayer. Prayer, we might say, is the quintessentially humbling act. You mentioned earlier about, you know, dad being on his knees with the family before God. I mean, in prayer, we say to God, I can't do it.

Like, I am coming to you in prayer because I need help. Prayer is an acknowledgement of our creatureliness. It's an acknowledge of our limits. It can be an acknowledgement of our sin. It's an acknowledgement of our inability in some sense. And you have the normal, everyday prayers and our regular acknowledgement of our inability and our need for God's help. And then at times, we pray more desperate prayers. Just reflecting recently on Acts 12, they put James to death, John's brother, and they get Peter. Herod's got Peter now, and he's thinking about putting Peter to death, too, because the Jews seemed happy that they put James to death.

And the church came to God, it says, in earnest prayer. This is especially humbling. God, we can't do this. Herod took Peter.

We can't do this. We are coming in earnest prayer. This is humbling, self-humbling. And as you know, God miraculously answered that and freed Peter from prison and answered the request of the urgent prayer. And one gift God has given us to accompany earnest prayer is fasting. Fasting is not an everyday measure, because if you don't eat, you die. God doesn't mean for us to fast all the time. Fasting is an extraordinary measure.

It's a special measure. Now, for many today, it's a forgotten tool. But I think as we read our Bibles, we remember how God's people have used this special tool at times in the past. And so there's this story in the Old Testament about King Ahab, one of the worst, proverbial for wickedness, King Ahab.

Oh, yeah. And he has Naboth killed, seizes his vineyard at the council of his wife Jezebel, then comes in the prophet Elijah. Here he comes. Here comes Elijah.

And Elijah calls him out. And wonder upon wonder, King Ahab humbles himself. This doesn't mean that Ahab was a great king.

He was one of the worst. But he had a moment of self-humbling, and he fasted. And he put on sackcloth. And God said, you know what, this is how ready our God is to see and bless our humbling, is that even when someone so wicked as Ahab humbles himself, in this instance, with fasting, God saw it, blessed it, and delayed the judgment that was coming.

The judgment still came, but he delayed it because of this act of King Ahab. And so fasting is also a gift we have from God in those moments of special desperation or particularly earnest prayer. Fasting accompanies particularly earnest prayer.

And God's given us that tool in the Christian life, and it's a quintessential act of self-humbling. Yeah, I've said many times on here that 36 years ago, I heard a dad talk about fasting for his children. And my firstborn, CJ, was born 36 years ago. And I said, I'm going to take one day a week and fast for my kids. At that time, I didn't know what I would have.

I ended up having three sons. Thirty-six years later, I'm still doing it. I thought it would be a few months or maybe a year.

Usually it's Fridays, but it doesn't matter what day it is. But it's sundown from the night before to sundown the next day, and I just don't eat food, I just drink. I would never have thought of it as humbling, but it is. It's a humble moment to say, I can't raise these boys to be men of God. You can. I don't have the power.

I'm not going to live a perfect life in front of them to show them what it is. You can. And I still do it. And all day long as I'm getting hungry, and by mid-afternoon, hungry and hungrier, I'm praying. And I remember praying for their wives when they were little boys, these girls that I didn't know their names, that they'd be women of God. And then standing there as the pastor of their wedding, officiating that, and the dad, and looking at these women I've been praying for their entire lives. In some ways, it was a humbling moment to go, this didn't happen by my hand. This beautiful moment is happening because God is a God who is in control and answers prayer. And so, yeah, when you say that, I'm like, man, the Word, submitting yourself the authority of the Word, taking prayer and fasting, and I'd encourage a listener.

Maybe you just had a baby boy or girl. Maybe you start this week and say, I'm going to do that. I'm going to jump in one day a week. And again, it's not like a magic genie.

Okay, I do this. Poof, I'm going to get the kind of boy or daughter to be the man or woman of God someday. It's a humbling all-day experience to say, all day long, I'm reminding myself, you are God, I am not, and I can't do this apart from you. And I'm asking you to work in me and through me in a legacy that will impact the world with the gospel. That was my prayer. And that's what he does. That's so good. What a beautiful example.

Yeah. If I could toss in one more pattern to put in our lives, in addition to a pattern of being under God's Word, a pattern of prayer, particular desperation accompanied with fasting. One other would be, people might not want to hear this, the local church. Commitment.

We want to hear this. Commitment to the local church because one of the most humbling things you can do is commit to a particular local church and all of its pains, all of its warts, people getting to know you, you getting to know people. One of the most humbling things you can do as a Christian is really be plugged in, not float in and out of church as is convenient and comfortable.

And as soon as things are conflicted or difficult, you run somewhere else. I'm talking about committing to a local people saying, be the church to me, I will be the church to you. And God is often pleased to do some of his most at first unwelcome and then in the long term welcome humblings in our lives through our local churches.

Yeah. Some of the greatest humblings in my life have been with my men, the guys I do life with, them speaking grace, but also speaking truth into my life. It's been hard, but it's been needed and it's changed me as a man. And so that's the local body. I met these guys through the local community, the church. And you're right, that's a powerful moment of God using people to humble us, to make us who he wants us to be. So many places in life, when things get tough, we're able to just drift elsewhere.

We got our cars, we got other communities, we can just move on and move away from people. When we commit to each other in local church, we're saying, when it's tough, I'm going to stick to it. I'm going to try to embrace God's humbling, push through it, grow, learn, learn to love and receive God's humbling hand. That's Dave Wilson with David Mathis on Family Life Today.

David's book is called Humbled, Welcoming the Uncomfortable Work of God. You can get it at or by calling 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. If you know anyone who needs to hear today's conversation, you can share it from wherever you get your podcasts. And while you're there, it'd really help us out if you'd rate and review us.

There is a Weekend to Remember event happening this weekend in Asheville, North Carolina. We'd love it if you'd take a second right now and join us in praying for those couples who will be attending this weekend. And next week, Dave and Anne are going to be talking with Brad Griffin and Kara Powell about the three big questions that change every teenager. We'll also hear from Ron Deal about how to thrive in a blended family. On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-14 05:34:53 / 2023-01-14 05:46:15 / 11

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