I’m speaking a few moments this morning on the subject “Jesus Christ: My Self-Esteem Booster.” I think I wrote one of the first books on the importance of self-esteem from a psychological and a theological perspective many, many years ago, so I’ve lived it. There’s nothing we all need more all the time than self-esteem. We need it as children. I can be somebody. We need it in our years of preparation and education. Self-esteem. I think I can make it. We need it in our career development. We need it in the passing of years and I am confident we will need it at the last chapter and know where we are going for the ultimate self respect to be accepted by Jesus and welcomed by Him into His eternal home.
So you need self-esteem boosting. We need it all the time because every stage and phase of life offers remarkable and distinctive challenges to your dignity. You feel there are times when you can’t do what others expect you to do, or feel inadequate for the job that you find yourself in today? A student? Or on your first job? Or to perform in the career where you are being hired and paid to do a job. It’s human nature to feel scared, fearful, and anxious. The “I Can’t” never totally leaves us. We never completely grow out of it. I think its one of the reasons God allows it so that we will never forget that we need Him day by day, phase by phase. Wow.
I was sent a photograph by my daughter Sheila, very interesting. It’s a picture of a pond, filled with alligators. In the middle of the pond, there’s this stand about three feet high and standing on the stand is a young girl. And it says “it’s hard to walk to the land on the edge of the pond if your pond is filled with alligators.” Some of you find yourself in that kind of a spot. I have more than once in my life. It’s God’s way of keeping us on our knees, dependent on Him. What we need is constant self-esteem that comes from God who made us, from God who has a plan for us, and from God who wants us to succeed for His glory.
I remember picture. The beggar sat across the street from an artist’s studio. From his window, the portrait painters sketched the face of this defeated, discouraged soul. But he made one change. He stretched the skin of the man’s face to give him a look of iron will and fierce determination. Into the dull eyes he put the flashing glint of an inspired dreamer. And when the painting was finished, he called the poor man to see it. The beggar came and looked, shook his head. ‘Who is it?’ he said, as the artist smiled quietly. Then suspecting that he saw something of himself in the portrait, he hesitantly questioned, ‘is it your portrait of me? Can it be me?’ And the artist shook his head, said ‘that’s how I see you.’ And straightening his shoulders, the beggar responded, ‘if that’s the man you see, that’s the man I’ll be! Because God looks at you and He looks at me and He sees beautiful persons to call us into being the persons He wants us to be.
Remember, who are you? Where did you come from? From birth through childhood, through the high school and college years. Who gave you the belief that you could be somebody? There were self-esteem boosters, yes, I had mine. I remember back in high school the music teacher, Miss Isles. She believed that I could sing. I didn’t know that. So as a freshman, she trained my voice to sing in a very high falsetto as a tenor and put me in the high school quartet. It gave me confidence on stage. She didn’t know where that would lead, but I’m here today because of her.
In college, my voice changed to a very low bass, and I was put into a male quartet of Hope College. We were good. We gave concert tours, and they sent us out to a far away place called California to promote the college. We gave concert tours all the way and when I came here, I’ll never forget the day they drove us to the beach and I stood with feet in sand; the beach. And I saw the ocean. Wow. I was impressed. I remember saying I’m going to come and live here. I want to live in California. And that became my calling all because it started with Miss Isles in a little Newkirk High School in Iowa who taught me to sing in a quartet. Self-esteem boosters.
Oh then, the one that made the biggest difference was Milton Hinga, a history professor at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. I remember the day he said in history class, ‘how many of you have started your term papers?’ And nobody raised their hand. Oh I remember that time. He said, ‘well let me tell you the most important thing you may ever hear.’ Well every eye focused on him waiting breathlessly for this great pronouncement. He spoke softly but firmly. ‘I don’t care if you flunk. I don’t care if you forget everything that I ever teach you in this class. But I never want you to forget this next sentence.’ After a dramatic pause, he shouted out, ‘beginning is half done!’ Wow. Wow.
And I had the idea years later to come here to begin a church. Talent? I don’t know. Money? No. Members? None to begin with. But dream the dream that God has put within you. And then John Crean came into my life and he heard that I’d come to build a church. They said get started. Your biggest problem is inertia; not doing anything. Then he said three words that burned through me. He said, ‘you want to build a church? Dig a hole!’ Oh, I shook my head, and we dug a hole, which is still here beneath this floor. Beginning is half done. I think its one of the hardest jobs I ever did because when you dig a hole, you got to go the whole way, no matter how long or how much it costs. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, John Crean, my family, my wife, my son and my four daughters, my 19 grandchildren, my fellow pastors, you my fellow church members, the congregation, all of you gave me self-esteem, the belief that I could succeed.
The story of Zacchaeus is a remarkable one in the bible. He heard that Jesus was coming through Jericho one day, and he wanted to see this miracle worker. He was too short to see the crowds but he saw a tree on the side of the road, and he walked to the tree and climbed it, found a place in the branch where he could look down and see this short Jesus. You want to see Jesus? Find a way! Look for a branch. Find Him and He will tell you you can do it. He will be your self-esteem booster as He has been for me all my life.
I’m wondering how many of you here know or remember the name Ethel Waters, raise your hand. That’s quite a few. Well she was one of the greatest artists of her time, gone now, but she became a good friend of mine. She was an enthralling life. She was born with tremendous odds. Born an illegitimate child. Raised in the poverty of a ghetto. She had nothing going for her. But I’ll never forget the time she gave her witness. She said I’ll never forget when I met Jesus Christ. I was told that He knew me, and loved me, had a plan for my life. Wow. That’s when I knew I was important and I could make a difference. Jesus was her self-esteem booster, and He wants to be that to you and to you and to you, to every one of you. You are a human being. You have a brain. You can think. You’re living in a free country. You can make a decision to be what God wants you to be. Believe in Him. He will be what He’s been for me, my self-esteem booster.
I invite you to become a close friend of Jesus Christ. I am, have been. He’s alive. Talk to Him. He’ll hear you and He’ll give you what God wants you to be: a bright light in a dark world. You’ll come from nowhere and go somewhere. You may be a nobody but you’ll become a somebody. You’ll be a bright light in a dark world.
Let us pray: Oh God, I think of the people who boosted my self-esteem again and again. Mother, a cousin, a teacher, a church member. They come from out of nowhere even before I knew them and You have helped them to get Schuller to believe that he can be what I want him to be. Thank You, Lord, and work in the minds now that are quiet and listening. Each one is praying - what is Your will for my life? What is the plan You want me to see for my tomorrow? Thank You, Lord. Dreams are being born, lives are being shaped, futures are coming alive, hallelujah, amen