July 16, 2017
I read an incredible story this week of a man born September 9, 1890. At the age of 5 his father died. When he was 16 he quit school, by the time he turned 17 he had already lost 4 jobs. At the age of 19 he became a father, but a year later his wife left him and took their baby daughter too. So he joined the military and was discharged. He decided then to apply for law school, but was rejected. Since he couldn’t do law, he decided to be an insurance salesman, but failed at that too. So finally, he got a job at a small café as a cook and dishwasher. He retired when he was 65 years old, and shortly after he retired he received a check from the US government for $105. He viewed this as the government telling him he could no longer provide form himself, he could no longer perform. He felt worthless so he decided he was going to commit suicide. But as he was getting ready to follow through with his plans, suddenly he realized he was good at something. He was good at cooking. So he borrowed $87 and he fried up some chicken using his special recipe, and went door to door in Kentucky selling chicken to his neighbors. Kentucky Fried Chicken was born, and at the age of 88, he retired a millionaire.
Now I’m not sure if that story about Colonel Sanders is true or not. I read it online. But, Colonel Sanders was quoted as saying, “I made a resolve then that I was going to amount to something if I could. And no hours, nor amount of labor, nor amount of money would deter me from giving the best that there was in me. And I have done that ever since, and I win by it. I know.”
He felt like a failure. He thought he was a nobody, and so he relied on his skills to go out and make himself somebody. It was his power, and his might that led him to be successful.
As we continue in Freedom, we come to the topic of self-reliance. And the thing is, we don’t even realize it’s enslaving. Because honestly, we look at Colonel Sanders story and we say, “Good for him. I want that too.” I want to build my little kingdom just like him. Self-reliance looks to ourselves to build our little kingdom and keep it. And there can be some deadly consequences to that. We see that in Daniel 4.
Around 950 BC. Solomon ruled over Israel. After him, there was a civil war and the nation of Israel split. Around 750 BC the northern nation of Israel was attacked by the Assyrians, deported off, and never came back. The southern tribes held on until around 605 BC when King Nebuchadnezzar from Babylon came over and conquered Jerusalem. He deported all the wise men back to Babylon to serve in his government. Daniel was one of those people. His book takes place around 600 BC and is all about their times in Babylon.
In Daniel 4, we hear that the king had a puzzling dream. It was of a big tree that grew as high as the sky with huge branches. One day, all of its branches were stripped away and it was cut down to a stump. He had Daniel come in to interpret the dream, and Daniel told him, “King, this tree represents you. If you don’t turn from your sin and repent, if you don’t humble yourself and acknowledge the God of heaven, this will happen to you. All your authority will be taken. Your mind will be taken and you’ll live like a wild animal.” We pick it up in verse 28, and here’s what we are told.
28 All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
We are all trying to build our own Babylon.
If you want to look to someone who built a kingdom, there is no one better to look at than this man, Nebuchadnezzar. Here he is walking around looking at everything that he had done and all his accomplishments. He was standing at the edge of his palace roof and looking out at the largest and most magnificent city in the ancient world. In fact, he was looking at the very first master planned community. He had divided Babylon up into a number of rectangles that were separated by wide roads. Close to the roof of his palace he was able to see the Hanging Gardens which was one of the seven wonders of the world. He was looking at the system of canals that controlled the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers for irrigation. That’s right, he had an irrigation system in place. Maybe he was looking at the 2 huge walls that surrounded the city, both 20 feet thick. Or maybe he looked out over the city and saw all the impressive temples, shrines, and altars. And how does he respond? “Look at how successful I am. Look at everything I have built with my power and my might.”
And that’s the deadly part to self-reliance isn’t it? When we do succeed, we end up becoming so prideful. That’s because self-reliance is really a result of pride. We want the glory that comes with success, and so we rely on ourselves to make it happen. If I rely on myself and I succeed, then I get all the glory. That’s what we want. It is so easy to look out at our little kingdom and say, “My business savvy mind has got me as high as I am in this company.” “It’s my practice time and my performance on the field that has led to my opportunities in sports.” “It’s my intelligence and my hard studying I’ve done to get me into the college I want.” “It’s my parenting skill that have produced such great kids.” “It’s my hard work, my dedication, my connections in the community that is growing the church and making Peace successful.” We look at our accomplishments and a part of us says, “Look what I’ve done.” You see, self-reliance leads to pride, and pride wants all the glory for what we’ve accomplished.
There’s a story of a man, we’ll call him Gary. One day Gary went up to his pastor and said, “Pastor, I’m struggling. You see, I just got a promotion which means I’m making more money. Now my wife is telling me that we should up our offering to church.” The pastor said, “So what’s your problem?” Gary said, “The problem is that it’s my money. I worked hard to get that promotion. I did this. Why should I give it away?”
We all want success, and there’s nothing wrong with being successful and wanting to be a success…until we look at our little kingdoms and become prideful. We all want to have our own little Babylon’s, our own little kingdoms, then we can have all the glory. But Nebuchadnezzar learned an important lesson…
33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.
The thing about pride and self-reliance is that glory is never enough. We always want more. That means that it’s all about my performance.
If life is all about your performance, it will drive you “crazy.”
Now for Nebuchadnezzar, God literally took his mind away just like he warned him. God finally said, “You’re going to acknowledge me. Your pride is taking away from my glory.” See, Nebuchadnezzar’s downfall wasn’t that he was successful. It was that he wouldn’t acknowledge that everything he was blessed with came from God. God blessed him with his smarts, God blessed him with his wealth and power, God brought him to power. God says, “Ok. That’s it. You’re going to see what kind of control you actually have.” And he lives like an animal. Eating grass.
If life is all about your performance it will drive you “crazy.” As glory junkies we always want more. Because that’s the thing about earthly glory. It comes and goes. And so we have to keep striving. Why? Because deep down, we know we have no control over anything. Deep down, we know that our little kingdom can be taken from us at any time. The glory fades and we need to build up our little kingdom to get more glory. And so we are constantly looking to ourselves to keep our little kingdom intact. We pride ourselves on how good of parents we are. But we know that can change any time. And so you keep up on the most recent parenting trends because you want the good kids. We work harder and harder at work because we want the employee of the month. We just want work success. We want to make it to the top, or at least point to something in the company where we say, “Look at what I’ve done.” You want some transparency? I need to guard my heart from wanting glory with my sermons. Why am I preaching? Is it to grow you deeper into God’s Word? Or because I want to leave and hear you tell me how great of a sermon it was? If I’m looking for the glory, I will have to continue to rely on myself to come up with different antics to get you to think it’s better and better.
We are chained to self-reliance. Looking to ourselves to keep everything intact. All because deep down inside of us, we want the glory. We want to be able to say, “Look at what I’ve done.”
But here’s the thing, when we rely on ourselves and then take credit for what we’ve accomplished, we do the exact same thing Nebuchadnezzar did. See, it’s God who blesses you. It’s God who gives you success. It’s God who grants everything to you. God says, “It’s not your power, it’s not your might. I’m the one blessing you.” So stop seeking glory that doesn’t last. Instead seek God’s eternal glory. And you do that by…
Relying on Christ’s performance frees you from YOU
34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
Nebuchadnezzar finally acknowledged where all his blessings came from. He finally realized whose kingdom lasts forever and ever, and ultimately whose kingdom really matters. And that is God’s.
That’s true for us too isn’t it? The little kingdoms we try to build up here on earth, they can all be taken away. In fact, they all do go away. Money, looks, intellect, glory, they all fade away. But God’s kingdom and God’s glory that he gives you will never go away. His dominion is an everlasting dominion. And he’s given this kingdom to you.
And here’s the incredible thing about that: in our sin, our pride wants to steal glory from God. And what do we do when we do that? We elevate ourselves up and replace God with ourselves.
And what does God do? He says, “I want you to have glory that lasts, not this earthly glory.” And so he lowers himself to us. Jesus came to this earth, God himself, to live like one of us, so that one day he can elevate us up to be with God. It’s by his performance that we have all the kingdom of heaven given to us. He lived perfectly, had a perfect performance here on earth, and he gave us credit for it. He was pierced and crucified on the cross to take away all of our sins. All so that he could bring us into his eternal dominion. A kingdom so great that it makes even the greatest kingdom on earth look very very tiny. So that one day we will experience all the glories of heaven and they will last forever. That glory will fill our hearts and satisfy our longing for glory forever.
Jesus frees us from self-reliance because we don’t have to look to ourselves to build our little kingdoms just so we feel important. Jesus says, “Look! You are important. Look at what I’ve given you. I’ve given you glory that belongs only to me. But I want you to have it. That’s why I lived perfectly so that you could have it. That’s why I died innocently. So you can inherit it. That’s why I rose victoriously so that you could one day experience it.
The reason we want to build our own little kingdoms is because we want credit for doing something, and to feel important. Jesus frees from that. He says, “You are the most important. I’ve given you more than this world could ever offer. This eternal kingdom will never fade away.” So this week as you feel pride filling up, take your eyes off yourself and place them on Jesus. And you will be satisfied as your filled with his eternal glory. To him, be praise, thanks, honor and glory forever and ever.