Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 4:1-12 in the New Living Translation (NLT). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: In the passage this week, Paul speaks of boasting. He suggests that if we could somehow get into God’s good graces by doing all the right things, we would have something to boast about. But, as he reminds us in the book of Romans, we really don’t have anything to brag about when it comes to our spiritual prowess. We’ve all fallen short of the Glory of God.
One of the greatest braggarts of all time was Muhammad Ali. Here are my 10 favorite boasts of his:
1. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see. Now you see me, now you don’t. George thinks he will, but I know he won’t.”
2. “I’m young; I’m handsome; I’m fast. I can’t possibly be beat.”
3. “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.”
4. “If you even dream of beating me you’d better wake up and apologize.”
5. “Braggin’ is when a person says something and can’t do it. I do what I say.”
6. “I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.”
7. “I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.”
8. “I should be a postage stamp. That’s the only way I’ll ever get licked.”
9. ”He’s (Sonny Liston) too ugly to be the world champ. The world champ should be pretty like me!”
10. “I’ve wrestled with alligators. I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning. And throw thunder in jail.”
Muhammad Ali could boast like this because he was truly the greatest boxer—maybe the greatest athlete—in the world for a long span of time. Then he got beat. By someone who few people had ever heard of.
The kingdom of God doesn’t work like the sporting world. Jesus smashes the idea that we can somehow achieve greatness by the things we bring to the table. He teaches that the greatest people (according to the world) will be the least in the kingdom, and that the least will be the greatest. He takes a child and stands him or her in front of all the important disciples and church leaders and says, “Unless you become like this child, you can’t even have a piece of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
Isaiah 64:6 reminds us that even our righteousness, the very best we have to bring to the table, is nothing more than a filthy rag. We have nothing at all to brag about. All we can do is be thankful that we are forgiven and accepted in the Kingdom. Not because of what we have done, but because of what He has done and is doing for us.
Recalibrate: How has God’s grace rescued you from thinking too highly of yourself?
Respond: Pray for a childlike faith that will lead you to a deeper appreciation for others.
Research: Read The Desire of Ages, Chapter 48, “Who is the Greatest?” (Hint: It’s not Muhammad Ali!)
Remember: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3, NIV).
Mark Witas is the lead pastor at Pacific Union College Church in Angwin, CA. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Mark has served as a youth pastor, Bible teacher, college and academy chaplain, and lead pastor in the United States and Canada for the last 33 years. He has also authored four books: Born Chosen, Live Out Loud, Portals, and Just Jesus.
Jumping off things into the arms of someone who loves you is so much fun. Start with something small, like a curb, and hold your little one’s hand as you jump off together. If your child is ready for a higher platform you can try a chair or a park bench—let your child jump and be ready to catch them. Always say, “Let’s do this together, I’ve got you!” Go on an adventure. Find places to explore together, help your little one along. God says to us always “Let’s do this together, I’ve got you. Believe in Me and everything will be all right!”
Make an obstacle course out of things around your house. You can line up chairs to use as a tunnel. Place pillows as stepping stones and brooms across chairs to step over. When your obstacle course is finished, ask a friend or family member to blindfold you, spin you around four times, and then guide you through the course. Take turns—give them your blindfold and this time you help guide them through. Did you believe your friend would help you through the obstacle course or were you worried they would make it more difficult for you? Believing that God knows what is ahead and has a plan to get us through life is a choice we can make every day. What obstacles are you facing that you would like God to help you through?
When I was growing up, skateboarding was my life. I did it every day, every moment I could. I hated going to the skatepark though. Every time I went, I was reminded of how terrible I was at skateboarding. The reason I was so bad is that instead of having fun and skateboarding my heart out, I spent all my time comparing myself to the other skaters. Many of us have been conditioned to live this way. We spend so much time trying to be the greatest and the best. Today I find encouragement in the fact that the Kingdom of Heaven is different than the kingdom of this world. I don’t have to be the greatest or the best at anything. I just need to know the One who is the greatest of all time! Jesus calls us to rest in what He has done. He is the greatest, He is the best, He has done it all.