Proverbs 15:33 The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.
We are generally impatient creatures. We also tend to see things through the lenses of the world which are considerably different than how God sees things.
As an athlete we recognize that if we work hard there should be results. If all goes well, we get good results and we get the recognition that we deserve. Generally, we say we are not looking for honor, but if we look deep and honestly into our hearts, most of us would have to admit that we are seeking to be honored, at least to some degree (i.e. getting our dues). There is a rush that comes from the roar of the crowd. NBA All-Star Dwayne Wade said: “Yes, it’s true – I love the roar of the crowd. When the fans are with you, their voices come together in a big booming rush of sound that you can actually feel in your body – almost like a wave that lifts you and carries you past your own limits.”[i]
If we are honest, it feels good to stand on a podium or get interviewed with a write-up in the paper or online. Again, if we are honest with ourselves, we’d also prefer for this honor to come sooner than later.
However, it is important to recognize that being honored by man and being honored by God are two very different things. Man generally honors based on outward things such as beauty, riches, power, or athletic ability. God has little time for any of those things and honors man based on their heart.
David was honored because God considered him a man after his own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). As you read the story of David you will see that he was far from perfect and he was humiliated a number of times. One of the most incredible examples of this comes from 2 Samuel 16:5-14. Take the time to read this passage. Try to comprehend the humiliation David (the King!) must have felt from his interaction with Shimei who cursed him and threw stones at him, and the humility and restraint David showed by not retaliating, even when one of his attendants begged to wipe this fellow out. David, however, understood that this was a natural consequence for his sin, and he had to humbly walk through this interaction. David responded to his attendant saying: “Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today.” (2 Samuel 16:11b-12). David knew that this humiliation was necessary before he could be fully honored by God.
Are you eager to be honored? It is important to note that you will not be honored by God until you have reached a point of sufficient humility to be at a place where you can handle honoring. Have you been humiliated? Have you been humbled? Recognize, as Solomon so clearly states in this Proverb, that honor from God will not come before you are humbled. It is another one of the great dichotomies of God.
Very practical wisdom for a young Christian athlete is this: “don’t even look or expect honor and praise from others”. In fact, relish the time where you may be living in obscurity because there is a weight that comes in the spotlight and you do not want to rush God’s timing. Learn first to be humble. “The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 15:33)
[i] A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball (ed. Harper Collins, 2012) – ISBN: 9780062136183