“How Do I Struggle With This?”
A few years ago, I went on a trip out to Seattle in the dead of winter. When I boarded my plane, it was 80 and sunny out here in Austin. But when I landed at my destination, the clouds were gray and overcast. The high was just barely pushing 34 degrees, but slated to drop into the below-freezing territory. I didn’t want to be there, but I had to be there. It was my brother’s bachelor’s party – Seattle was his choice. The thing is, if I’m being honest, I thought him getting married might never happen – But it was finally happening! My brother had met someone, and after dating for a few years, they were getting ready to tie the knot. I was super excited for him. But to celebrate, my brother, Tim – He wanted a camping trip – in Seattle, in the middle of the coldest time of the year. Now I haven’t been camping for a minute. The last time I did something close to camping was probably in the 6th grade. Not glamping, not backpacking.
Straight up camping. With the real tents and all that. Now Tim’s reassured me and the rest of the groomsmen – He’s got everything covered.
“We’ll have good food.”
“I’ve got the tents” – he didn’t mention that they were open-air tents meant for the summer..
“I’ll bring everything we need.”
“There’s even on-site showers.”
He tells me you can pay for them, “they’ve got hot water, just bring some coins.”
So before I leave, I make sure to pack some coins. Tim picks me up, it’s about a 1.5 hour drive out. The sun’s starting to set, but we finally make it there. The temperature’s dropped – it’s hovering at 32 degrees. Freezing. As we roll up, I ask Tim – where’s the shower? He points out a building.
So I get out of the car, unzip my bag, grab my towel, my clothes, and of course, my coins. I make a b-line to the showers. The place looks completely out of my element. The light’s flickering. You can hear the wind howling through the window cutouts. But I gotta shower, so I kick off my shoes.
My feet hit the cold, hard tiles of this little outhouse structure. I find the coin slots, pop in my coins. 2 quarters, 10 minutes. I can’t wait for the hot water. I turn on the faucet, give it a couple seconds to warm up… and then I jump in. AGHHHHH! AGHHHH!! Cold, icy, frigid water gushes out of the faucet head! And the only thing I can think of is… (and God forgive me) I hate this! I hate you Tim!
“How do we all struggle with this?”
Now, of course, I don’t really hate Tim, but with our history and our VERY different personalities, something as small as this could have easily caused a major rift in our relationship. The straw that broke the camel’s back. That last little rock that caused the entire pile of rocks to crumble. For some of us, that’s what can happen in nuclear, family relationships, or any relationship. But whether you’re close to someone by blood or by proximity, all of us have experienced relationships going south, connections getting severed and subverted. Why? When we look at the world around us, it doesn’t take long for us to see the relational cracks and fissures that exist between us. We probably all have stories of tension, heartbreak, and relational confusion. It’s both amazing and cruel how quickly we can turn on one another. In one instance, we’re family, friends, neighbors, confidants, even star-crossed lovers. And then in the next, the drop happens.
You know what I mean….
Phone calls get screened.
Your number gets blocked.
Text messages go unanswered.
Whether they drop you or you drop them is besides the point.
They’re ALWAYS in the wrong. We’re ALWAYS in the right.
One of the primary reasons relationships and ventures break down is because of our PRIDE. You know, that thing that all of us will struggle with from time to time. Pride is what happens when we’re arrogant, when we’re closed off to feedback and input, when we think ourselves better than those around us.
Pride leads us to dehumanizing ourselves and others. We live in a society where we’ve normalized treating each other as OBJECTS. We judge each other as lesser objects that hold little, if any, real value instead of seeing each other as people with innate value. Instead of beholding each other as individuals who carry the imago dei, the image of God within them. In our pride, we make people into these cheap, throwaway things, almost like fast fashion.
● They stole my fruit-by-the-foot candy, I’m gonna take their bike!
● They hurt you in the slightest of ways – nevermind that there was some miscommunication – you’re out the door, not to be seen or heard from for another month or another year.
● They drag you out to Seattle, there’s a hot shower, they say…
I know this might sound a bit bleak, but too often, in our pride, we’ve become too comfortable with doling out discomfort, deleting deep relationships, and driving ourselves into a void of isolation. We start creating these narratives, these stories in our mind.
We’re in the right, so we can write off their perspectives. “They said that, they did this! Can you believe it?” Or maybe we get too hard on ourselves: “I did that thing – again! I’m never gonna get it
right.” We’re either the tragic hero who can’t catch a break or we’re eternally the helpless victim. And it’s subtle, but when we opt for this black-and-white way of thinking and living, our egos – how we see and think and understand ourselves – They either begin to grow or to shrink.
We’ll either inflate our ego at the expense of another – “there’s no way we would ever do that thing or say that thing”, and so we set ourselves above others. OR we’ll inflate their ego at the expense of ours – ‘I can’t believe I fell for that again, how messed up am I”, and we end up thinking too lowly of ourselves. Shame and defeat become our story.
In both cases, we’re thinking of ourselves TOO much. And as a result, pride rules the day. We judge ourselves and we judge others and we end up adding more relational brokenness to a world already spinning out of control.
“What does God say about this issue?”
In the book of Daniel, we see another way that’s possible for us, for humanity. As it turns out, we don’t need to be destined to our over inflated or under inflated egos and the relational drops that often follow them. Not just in Daniel, but throughout the scriptures, we see God’s heart for helping his people develop humility, true humility. I know that word can conjure up all sorts of meanings and associations for us. Humility, of course, is the thing that seems to escape us, no matter how hard we aim for it.
I once heard someone say: “I want to write a book on humility.” Their friends asked them why, and they said, “Well, it’s bound to be a bestseller!
Humility can be celebrated in one breath and then derided in the next.
The word humiliation actually shares the same root as humility. And that’s what’s gonna happen on Throwdown Sunday when I serve some humble pie! But seriously, humility comes with many definitions and understandings. The definition of humility that I’ve learned to love is the one we share here at Gateway: Humility is confidence in who God is and who God says I am – no more, no less.
So today, we’re gonna break down this definition as we spend time in Daniel chapter 4.
I know I’m sharing our definition of humility first, but what you’ll see is that the scriptures actually spell out this very definition for us!
Throughout this series, we’ve been walking through the Book of Daniel:
● We’ve seen how Daniel and his crew – exiles living under the Babylonian kingdom that
isn’t their own – find favor among God and humanity.
● Despite enduring forced assimilation, they keep true to who they are in God.
● And because of God’s faithfulness and God’s presence, we see Daniel become an
interpreter of the king’s dream and a leader among the Babylonians.
Today, in Daniel chapter 4,
We’re going to unpack and discover how God formed humility in Daniel and in King Neb
And how God wants to form humility in you and me.
Daniel 4 opens with these unexpected lines:
4:1 King Nebuchadnezzar,
To the nations and peoples of every language, who live in all the earth:
May you prosper greatly!
2 It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God
has performed for me.
For some reason, Daniel isn’t the narrator of this chapter.
Nebuchadnezzer is our main guide. He’s the one “telling” the story.
And he’s actually acknowledging and celebrating the God of the Jews!
● That’s the surprise of this chapter: the King of Babylon actually praising God. Instead of
praising his local deities, the Babylonian gods, Nebuchadnezzar worships the God that
the exiles in his kingdom worship. Why?
○ Worship is a sign of humility. It rightly positions us as creative beings who hold
incredible capacity to cultivate beauty and goodness. And in the same breath, it
acknowledges our incredible limitations, that we recognize: “I don’t control as
much as I’d like to believe I do, but there is Someone who is in control of this
universe who loves me and works for our good.
● And all of that’s well and good. But why is the Babylonian king worshipping the Jewish
God? How did Neb get here?
Chapter 4 is all about Nebuchadnezzer’s journey,
How he starts off with this overinflated ego,
And yet somehow discovers humility.
I love this story!
Because it’s my story and your story.
● For some of you here today,
● You might wondering if faith and God is even for you.
● Maybe you’ve been hurt by toxic church leaders or people who claimed to be Christ
● Maybe it’s been a long time since you’ve truly connected with God.
What would it look like to connect or reconnect with the God who loves you?
What does humility have to do with it?
Humility is Confidence in who God is
If true humility starts with confidence in who God is,
Then we gotta die to the confidence we have in ourselves, our overinflated egos.
Not only that, it also means we gotta experience God first.
We can’t have confidence in something we don’t believe in.
Nebucadnezzer discovers confidence in God the hard way.
We already know that he receives dreams from God – He experiences God!
But Neb struggles with dying to his own self-confidence.
In chapter 4, Neb has another dream that concerns him.
A dream that eventually teaches him and guides him toward God.
Daniel 4:9-18: I said, “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods
is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me. 10 These
are the visions I saw while lying in bed: I looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle
of the land. Its height was enormous. 11 The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the
sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it
was food for all. Under it the wild animals found shelter, and the birds lived in its branches; from it
every creature was fed.
13 “In the visions I saw while lying in bed, I looked, and there before me was a holy one, a
messenger, coming down from heaven. 14 He called in a loud voice: ‘Cut down the tree and trim
off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the
birds from its branches. 15 But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in
the ground, in the grass of the field.
“‘Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants
of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an
animal, till seven times pass by for him.
17 “‘The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the
living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to
anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’
18 “This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means,
for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of
the holy gods is in you.”
There’s a lot going on in Neb’s dream!
We’ve got this large tree.
It’s strong and sturdy and it stands taller than all the other trees of the world.
And not only that – there’s fruit, and other living beings find shelter under its branches.
But then messengers from heaven announce that it needs to be cut down.
After the tree that is cut down it becomes this man who wanders the earth like an animal.
It’s a trippy dream!
So Neb calls Daniel in and asks for his help.
Have you ever had a dream or an impression from God? What did you do with it?
At this point, even after several dreams, Neb still doesn’t acknowledge God.
Despite all these experiences of the divine, there’s no trust in God.
He just wants his worries addressed and his ego soothed.
And maybe that’s where some of us are today.
Daniel steps in and gives him the interpretation:
4:25 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass
like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you
acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to
anyone he wishes. 26 The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your
kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, Your
Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your
wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”
Part of Neb’s issue is that he has refused to acknowledge the King of kings.
Despite God showing up in miraculous ways,
Daniel interpreting his dreams,
Shedrach, Meshach, and Abednego being rescued from the fiery furnace,
The King still sets himself up as THE king (emphasize)
His confidence is in me, myself, and I
He’s the head honcho. The poster child of an ego that’s gotten too big.
He’s the one who’s worthy.
If you remember, he even builds a statue so that others will worship him and his image!
And despite Daniel’s interpretations and warnings in this new dream (reference vs. 27).
The King keeps going his own way – head gets bigger and bigger.
And as a fickle king ruling over the world’s most powerful empire at the time,
We can only imagine how many people suffered….
Until one day, the dream comes true:
4: 29-30, 33: 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?”
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.
Neb is driven from his kingdom,
He loses everything, and he becomes like a wild animal roaming the earth.
It’s a stark and stirring reminder that if we don’t learn humility, we might face humiliation.
This isn’t God’s heart for you and me.
Which is why God keeps wooing you and me to learn humility.
Now, it’s easy for us to stand back, point fingers at Neb, and judge the dude.
But if we’re not careful,
We’ll end up consuming his story instead of considering his story.
● How often are we hard of hearing?
● How often do we push God away, or act as if we don’t need him, even when he’s given us
dreams and visions, even after encounters and experiences of God’s goodness?
Now I get it – Most of us will never build a statue of ourselves.
But we’ll exercise our own confidence above God’s pretty much every day.
Maybe God gave you a vision, a dream, a passion,
But then you run out the door with it and pretend it was all ME.
● “I made this happen. I know what to do.”
And we won’t even take a second to thank God and to ask for more of his guidance.
Pride’s the reason why we’ll burn out and fade out and flame out.
And when everything goes down the drain, we ask ourselves –
God I thought you wanted me to do this, to pursue this.
● “Yes! I did, but I always wanted to do this with you, together.”
● “You just took the blueprints and left me at the door.”
Do you realize that God isn’t just the giver of visions and dreams?
He IS the vision. He IS the dream.
God is the one who is always with you. Emmanuel, God with us.
But we gotta acknowledge him, trust him, and allow him to lead.
That’s where humility begins. Every day.
Confidence in who God is – He is God, and I am not.
And we can only be confident in God if we know him.
Spend time in the scriptures and in prayer.
Now let’s flip our focus from Nebuchadnezzer and look at Daniel for a second.
Where Neb stumbles, Daniel stands strong.
And it’s because Daniel has HUMILITY.
He has confidence in who God is.
But not only that, he also has confidence in who God says he is.
Humility is confidence in who God says you are
Daniel, if you remember, is living as an exile.
That fact alone could have driven him to a place of false identity.
If Neb has an overinflated ego, Daniel probably had challenges with an underinflated ego.
Yet he follows God, trusting that God will show up.
And it’s this relationship with God that ultimately shapes his identity and his voice.
● It’s the reason he keeps showing up with courage and kindness, even when he has every
reason to stick it to the man
● It’s the reason why he can stare down fear and overcome the threat of death, even
though life has dealt him a bad hand of cards.
● It’s the reason why he can serve others. He even serves his enemies and serves under a
tyrant king. He endures the humiliation of exile and assimilation. He doesn’t crumble. He
stays true to himself.
It’s because he is a man on his knees. Someone who has learned humility.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen what a difference it makes in the life of Daniel:
In chapter 1, Daniel starts a resistance movement, but he does it with respect.
1:12-13 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and
water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal
food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.”
2: 24 Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of
Babylon, and said to him, “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I
will interpret his dream for him.”
It’s on his knees that Daniel develops confidence in the God who is always faithful.
It’s on his knees that Daniel discovers and re-discovers who he is in God.
Who God created him to be. Who God calls him to be.
And ultimately, WHOSE he is.
He isn’t ultimately an exile. His circumstances don’t define him.
He is a beloved son of the most high God.
Someone with a particular story and context.
Someone with a voice that can speak truth in love to the powerful.
Friends, our circumstances can sometimes be difficult.
But they don’t have the final say.
When we know our calling and our creator,
We walk in a humble confidence wherever we go, despite what we’re facing.
Instead of smiting our enemies, we can learn to seek the good of our enemies.
We’re not easily offended or knocked off course, because we’re not pandering to people.
In humility, there’s a freedom that God gives us.
Do you know your calling and your Creator?
God is inviting you today to trust and know him!
When we know God in this way,
We walk in a humble confidence.
Just like Daniel did.
● It’s not that we become doormats.
● But it’s also not that we become puffed up people who never falter.
Humility is confidence in Who God is and who God says I am – no more, no less.
Remember, Neb’s got a big head.
But eventually the King of Babylon learns humility, too.
After his years of wandering like a mad animal-
Can you imagine how bad the dude smelled after 7 years of acting like an animal?
Neb’s sanity returns, his kingdom is restored.
And he lives to tell the story. It’s a story of humiliation but it ends with his humility.
Neb learns to see himself accurately – not too large but also not too small.
And as the narrator of this story, he ends the chapter the same way he starts the chapter –
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.
35 All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”
36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for
the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne
and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify
the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who
walk in pride he is able to humble.
For Neb, it’s an incredible and unexpected turnaround.
He learns humility – confidence in who God is and and who God says he is – no more, no less.
And what happens for Neb can happen for you and me – without the years of wandering.
What I love most about this part of Daniel’s narrative is that it’s told through Neb’s perspective.
Most historians and theologians understand Daniel to be the author of this book.
But instead of Daniel being the narrator in chapter 4,
Daniel makes King Nebuchadnezzar our guide.
Now, as someone who used to teach literature in the classroom,
I couldn’t help but notice this switch-up.
It’s both confusing and curious.
But if you study exilic literature.
What you begin to realize is that poetry, literature, art
All of these creative forms of expression can become acts of resistance.
When you’re creating under an empire that sees you as a threat,
Artists often need to find a subversive way to get their message across.
And in writing this narrative, Daniel finds a subversive way to take hold of his identity in the face
of a demagogue and an empire that sought to erase him.
What’s even more amazing is that it’s all true.
Nebuchadnezzer actually restores Daniel to his original name –
He calls him Daniel instead of Belteshazzar.
4:8 Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream.
It’s amazing that Daniel’s story has stood the test of time.
The Book of Daniel is a DYNAMIC reminder why humility matters.
The world may take away your identity, they may attempt to stamp out your sense of self, they
will try to rob you of the things that seem to most define you.
But in humility, there is a freedom that we have as Christ-followers.
Because when Christ defines us,
We truly can become unoffendable.
We can be free to love our enemies and even seek their own good, like Daniel does with Neb.
And we can find our voice and advocate for the things of God – mercy, justice, love.
We see this played out over and over again in the stories of exile in the scriptures and in our
more recent history.
It’s not just Daniel, but also people like MLK Jr. and Rosa Parks
What separates these heroes of faith is their humility –
They don’t stay stuck, struggling with whether they have a voice or a presence.
But there also isn’t a flaunting of who they are.
They don’t look down on others as if they’re better than everyone else. No,
● (Daniel) With boldness, They interpret the dreams of a sometimes furious and fickle
Babylonian King without flinching a muscle.
● (MLK Jr.) With creative vision, They give voice to a dream for a better and more just
● (Rosa Parks) With clear conviction, They take up space as a respectful but clear act of
defiance – not against humanity but against the forces that would seek to rob us of our
They don’t play to the crowds.
Instead, they’re truly living before an Audience of One – God.
Nothing else matters. No one else matters.
And because they’re not tied to the fickle opinions of others, they’re free.
Free to love, Free to risk, Free to love everyone life by life.
Free to follow God towards the things and people that matter to him.
“What should you do about this?”
And this is what God calls you and me towards today!
To discover freedom through humility.
Humility is confidence in Who God is and who God says I am – no more, no less.
Our circumstances – high or low – they don’t define us.
We’re not living for the crowds.
We’re living for the One who first loved us, the One who will never abandon us, the One who
calls us to love our enemies.
“How can we all live this out together?”
What if we knew humility in this way?
What if we didn’t put ourselves down, what if we didn’t need to put others down?
What if we stopped the toxic cycles of cancel culture and learned heathy conflict and
What if God settled our constant need to prove ourselves, whether it’s our overinflated ego or
our under inflated ego?
The kingdom of God is here, lifting each and every one of us here.
But it’s a kingdom that requires us to lay down our own kingdoms.
Will you open up your heart to let God teach you humility?
If there’s a reminder or a warning that you’re hearing from God today, will you respond to it?
Will you learn the way of God?
Friends, if we all said yes and lived this out,
Imagine what kind of life change we would see.
Dysfunction doesn’t need to have the final say in your life and in your relationships.
Shame doesn’t need to weigh you down, no matter what you’ve done or what’s happened to
You truly can love your enemies, just like Daniel does.
A humble person has nothing to lose, but a proud person stands to lose everything.
When you humble yourself, you can hold your head up high in confidence
Because it’s God who lifts you up
Without the need to prop yourself up,
You’re free to be a conduit of healing, of love, of freedom.
Let’s be people of humility this year and throughout our lives.
People who are confident in who God is and who God says they are – no more, no less.