To speak or write about humility is a humbling experience. If you meet someone who presumed to know enough about it to speak on the topic you might think they were disqualified. Preacher’s are often invited to speak for a church and they are allowed the freedom to choose their own topic. On other occasions they are assigned a topic. I was recently asked to speak for a college retreat on the topic of humility. I would not have chosen that as my topic. One of the leaders of the retreat asked me to put some of the thoughts from my lesson on my blog. I do so at his request with great reservation in my mind. Please allow me be clear from the beginning. I do not write these words as one who considers himself an authority on humility. I write these words as a fellow pilgrim walking on a path set for us by our humble savior. If you are interested in reading something that is excellent on humility I highly recommend C.J. Mahaney’s book, “Humility - True Greatness.” Some of my thoughts for the presentation and for this article came from that book.
History, as well as contemporary examples prove to us that humility will work in every area of life. Humility even at times attracts the worlds notice. However, there’s something even more astonishing than that. Humility gets God’s attention. In Isaiah 66:2 we read these words from the Lord, “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” This should be our primary motivation and purpose for humility. Humility draws the attraction of our Sovereign God. If we could understand the background of this passage we would see a rich meaning. God is addressing the Israelites, people who have a unique identity. They possessed both the house of God (the temple) and the law of God (the Torah), yet God says of them that they did not tremble at His Word. Like those of us who are children of God today, they had everything going for them except what was most important. They lacked humility before God.
We all want our Father’s attention, and we want the Grace of God. Did you know there is something you can do to receive more of God’s grace. It is the same thing you do to receive God’s attention. James 4:6 says that God gives grace to the humble. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not those who help themselves that God helps, “God helps those who humble themselves.”
So humility is something we need and it is something which is important. What is humility? Mahaney defines humility as “honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” This is an outstanding definition. We will never fully humble ourselves until we understand who we are and who God is. We must evaluate ourselves honestly to see if we are growing in the humility that draws God’s attention and attracts His grace.
If humility is our greatest need and our greatest friend, pride is our greatest enemy. Pride is what happens when we fail to recognize the holiness of God and our sinfulness. As much as God blesses and loves humility, He hates pride (Proverbs 6:16-17). Proverbs 8:13, God says, “I hate pride and arrogance.” Proverbs 16:5 says, “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord, be assured, he will not go unpunished.” Pride causes us to contend for supremacy with God. It can be seen in so many places. It can be seen among the rich and poor, among the educated an uneducated, among the old and young. Some confess pride, but they are not convicted concerning pride. In the same passage that says God gives grace to the humble, it also says, He opposes those who are proud (James 4:6). This verse indicates that God’s opposition to pride is immediate and constant.
So, if there is going to be transformation in our lives, we must work to restrain pride and manifest humility. John Stott said, “In every step of our Christian growth and maturity, and throughout every aspect of our Christian obedience and service, our greatest foe is pride, and our greatest ally is humility.” I am persuaded that we need to consider every day how we can weaken our greatest foe and strengthen our greatest enemy.
Please consider a few practical ways that we can weaken pride and strengthen humility. I share them with you as a list. Please think of my list, not as requirements, but simply as recommendations. The goal here is not to promote some list of strict rules and regulations. These are for your reflection. After weighing there value, you need to custom-design your own list. Allow me to impress this on you. You should have a list. Each day we should plan to defeat our greatest foe and cultivate our greatest friend.
REFLECT REGULARLY ON THE CROSS OF JESUS. One cannot develop the wrong kind of pride while standing beneath the Cross of our Lord. It was on the Cross that our Savior exemplified humility at it’s greatest. Paul reminds us, “...He humbled Himself and became obedient, even to death on the Cross...” (Philippians 2:8). The words to the old Hymn say, “When I survey the wondrous Cross, on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.” Jesus was crucified on that Cross because of me. It was His love for me (John 3:16) and it was my sin that placed Him there (Romans 5:8). I cannot stand at the foot of the Cross and develop an arrogant, self-serving attitude about my life.
CONSTANTLY ACKNOWLEDGE MY NEED FOR GOD. The wise King Solomon said a long time ago, “...In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Jeremiah understood perfectly our need for God when he declared, “I know, O LORD, that a man's way is not in himself, Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23) As much as we may think of ourselves we cannot make it through this life on our own. We must have the help of our loving Father. Peter knew exactly what he was talking about when he wrote, “Cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
CONSISTENTLY RECOGNIZE THAT GOD IS THE GIVER OF ALL THAT IS GOOD. God is the Great Giver. He gives, as well as sustains life (Acts 17:24-25). He gives us every good gift that we possess (James 1:17). He gives us rich spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3). God wants us to enjoy the blessings that He showers upon us, yet He wants us to remember who gives them to us (Deuteronomy 6:10-12).
STUDY GOD’S WORD DAILY. As we study the Word of God we will see how much emphasis God places on humility in our lives. As we study the Bible will see how He hates pride (Proverbs 6:17) We will learn from the example of wonderful men and women of faith as we see how humility strengthened their lives or how pride destroyed them. Most importantly we will witness the humility of Jesus, the greatest example of humility that this world has ever seen. We should study the doctrines of sin and grace. These two great doctrines of Scripture will help us keep a proper view of God and ourselves. Some have convinced themselves that God’s Word is outdated and that our advanced means of education is more important than Scripture. They believe we no longer need to study the Bible, rather we should listen to the “scholars.”
CONTEMPLATE THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD. The more we learn about God, the more we will recognize His greatness and our weakness. We should study HIs omniscience, His omnipotence, and His omnipresence. We should grow in our love for the Sovereignty of our God. Most of all we should grow in our knowledge of His Holiness.
LEARN TO LAUGH. God has blessed us with the gift of laughter in a world filled with sadness. Jesus came so that we could live the abundant life. We will do well to surround ourselves with people who will bring joy and laughter to our souls. Our world is filled with so much sadness and we should do what we can to find all the joy we possibly can find (Philippians 4:4).
These are only a few suggestions. Please feel free to share what you would place on your list. I know it will be helpful to those who read this blog. Allow me to close with just a few comments to church leaders. I love preachers. Some of the greatest men I have ever known are preachers and elders. My closest friends through most of my life have been preachers. Brothers, it is vitally important that those of us who lead do our best to model humility. Some of the most humble men I have ever known are preachers. They do not boast and brag. They reflect credit away from themselves and direct it toward the Lord and toward others. Sadly, some of the most arrogant men I have ever known are preachers. They are always talking about what the great things they have done or are doing. They view themselves as experts about seemingly everything. They set themselves up as the model for how to grow churches, how to raise families, how to train leaders, and a host of other topics. May God help us to always remember that He is the expert and we are always the students, that He is responsible for the growth of churches and for everything good in our world.
Dear God, help us to humble ourselves daily before You. Help us recognize our sin and Your Holiness. Dear Father, please forgive our prideful, arrogant ways. Help us, Lord to grow in humility as we follow our humble savior.