Even though I am a big fan of sports in general, one of the biggest hang-ups for me while I’m watching a game is to see or hear a player who is cocky. I do understand that sometimes those actions might be more fooling around than anything else but certainly in most sporting events there is more than enough self-absorption and cockiness to make one nauseous. Probably the athlete who comes to mind as the most boastful, at least openly, was the boxer Muhammad Ali. One of his many boastful quotes was, “I’m not the greatest, I’m the double greatest. Not only do I knock ’em out, I pick the round.” In contrast, one of my favorite football players of all time was Barry Sanders, who would usually just calmly hand the football off to the referee after scoring a touchdown.
Someone else who had a humble opinion of himself was the Apostle Paul, who writes in 1 Corinthians 15:9-10, “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” I love that phrase, “by the grace of God I am what I am.” No self absorption, no patting himself on the back. No, instead Paul wanted to give all of the glory and honor to God for what he was and was able to accomplish. In fact, while Paul calls himself the “least of the apostles” in this passage, years later in 1 Tim. 1:15, he writes that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” Wow, he went from least of the apostles to chief of sinners. His self-confidence is going the wrong direction! Actually, it was going the right direction. He recognized that in himself “dwelleth no good thing” and that any good people could see in him could only be attributed to God working in his life. May we too have that proper perspective of ourselves.