This story appears in FCA Magazine’s May/June 2017 issue. Subscribe today!
The old Esso (now Exxon Mobil) gas commercials had a slogan that’s remained with me to this day: “Put a tiger in your tank.” Even as a kid who couldn’t drive yet, the image of being fueled by something as powerful as a tiger stuck with me.
Tigers fascinate me. One of the most exotic creatures God made, I marvel any time I come close to a “tamed” one at the zoo. And I’m even more impressed with the skilled trainers who literally risk their lives to interact with them. It must take such courage and confidence to step into a cage with an animal whose fierce and natural instincts could easily overcome any human being.
Observing a tamed tiger in the presence of its trainer is a perfect example of how even the greatest power can be harnessed under the proper care. In many ways, it illustrates the biblical trait of humility. Many of us associate humility with weakness. But when true humility is lived out biblically, it is a tame tiger in the presence of its trainer—power under the control of the Holy Spirit.
That’s certainly not weakness.
In the sports world, where I’ve spent the majority of my life, there’s no doubt that humility is not the norm. It truly is the exception.
That was also the case for the Apostle Paul in the first century. In Ephesians 4:1-2, he exhorts the Christians in Ephesus (and us) “...to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.”
In the largely pagan world of Paul’s day, humility was regarded as distasteful. Pride was more highly prized. In fact, humility was not even a term found in the Latin or Greek vocabulary of that day.
As I see it, humility is accurately seeing God for precisely who He is, which then gives us accuracy in how we view ourselves and others. It comes by believing and receiving the Gospel of Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit to repent and be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 14 reminds us that, whether it is a king or Satan himself, when pride exists and remains it will eventually demote and destroy us. Furthermore, Proverbs 6:16-19 identifies things God hates. The list begins with haughty eyes, which is a proud, arrogant demeanor. Honestly, I don’t want to be anywhere close to something God hates. Yet, still, I’m often guilty of a proud spirit.
We seem to breed and foster pride in our sports-driven culture. We define success almost exclusively with statistics, records, honors and awards—usually in comparison to others. Don’t get me wrong, these things in themselves are not sinful. But our pursuit to exalt ourselves (or our children) can create an insatiable desire to use things to do just that.
I’ve seen it plenty of times throughout my coaching career. Whether it’s disgruntled players unhappy with playing time or resentful parents voicing their opinions, everyone is an expert on their stats and skills and how they’d best do the job. Be it from a player or parent, I’ve heard plenty of pleas for more playing time, and it usually reminds me of the mother in Matthew 20:20-28.
James and John, the “Sons of Thunder,” were two of Jesus’ disciples. And they had a very concerned mother. She asked Jesus for more “playing time” for her boys, that they could sit on the right and left of Jesus in Heaven—the most prominent places in the Lord’s Kingdom. Jesus basically told her God the Father must make that decision, and then followed by saying they would have the privilege of suffering for the sake of the Kingdom while they were here on Earth.
Talk about offsetting the desire for personal recognition and advancement with a dose of humility.
Later, in Acts 12, we read about James being martyred for his faith. And then Revelation 1:9 reveals that the beloved John was exiled to the island of Patmos because of his testimony of Jesus Christ. Just as the Lord had promised their mother, James and John experienced the “privilege” of suffering for the sake of their faith in Him.
Both James and John are true heroes of the faith. And both learned—through direct interaction with Christ—that a well-trained, tame “tiger in the tank” is power under control. It’s developed daily by submission and denial of our flesh through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
We would all do well to learn from their example and all those in the Bible who put their fame and glory aside to instead exalt the living God, no matter the consequences in this earthly life.
In our sports culture, we’d be best served to follow the motto of humility in Proverbs 27:2 (KJV): “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.”