is a mistaken impression that chastity is the most despised, difficult and
disrespected of Christian virtues. Actually, it ranks second – to humility.
is, in its simplest terms, a clear recognition of the honest truth – the truth
about who and what you are, and who and what God is. When you see the
greatness of God and measure yourself by it, humility is the obvious correct
reaction. But we are so attached to our pride that we’re sure there must be an
exception list somewhere (and we’re on it). It is necessary, therefore, that
we understand it thoroughly.
nature of the humble man
first thing we can say about the humble Christian is this: it’s part of his
character. If a man does justice, and loves mercy, it is almost certain that
he will walk humbly with God. Why? Because it’s impossible to truly do
justice without recognizing who God is; it’s impossible to truly love mercy
without knowing the merciful God.
has so ordered things as to make this a necessity. Otherwise, our pride in
being saintly would overwhelm us, and we would dispense quickly with mercy and
justice. This is why you seldom see a just and merciful Christian who is not
also humble. How, then, is this achieved?
communication with God.
is not something one acquires by magic. It is mastered by being constantly in
touch with God. If he is there as your guide, humility comes more easily. But
it is a constant process:
humbly with your God. It is not just a thing of meditation and prayer,
but also of the doing. It must be shown in the activities of life.
HUMBLY with your God. Remind yourself as you go that God is your constant
companion and guide, so that when the temptation comes to take credit for
your works, you know the one way to point.
humbly WITH your God. Side by side; in close friendship and adoration.
Do not put God in a corner of your mind; rather, make him your constant
humbly with YOUR God. Do not rely on what others have said about him;
you cannot use your parents’ fellowship with God for this. You must have
your own fellowship with Him; make him your own.
humbly with your GOD. Remember that he is God; you are his servant and
friend, a joint heir with Jesus – but he is still God. If you want to
communicate with God, you must first acknowledge who He is.
must increase; I must decrease
curious thing happens as you walk with God this way. Gradually, sometimes
imperceptibly, you seem smaller and smaller in your own eyes. He becomes
greater and greater. This is normal. If this doesn’t happen, you are
deceiving yourself. If you don’t notice this, you are a clanging gong.
if this does happen, you are actually growing in Christ. God resists the proud
but gives grace to the humble. The more humble you become, the more that God
will work through you.
certainly understands the value of humility to the saint. Here are two of his
is the temptation of the older brother. You will remember the
story of the Prodigal Son – and the attitude of the older brother when the
kid came back. Why should we see such joy for such a sinner? The cure is
to see things through the Father’s eyes; we see the sinner; He sees a
child coming home.
is the temptations of genuine righteousness. You may indeed be
doing great things for God. It may indeed be correct that the person
you’re dealing with is much more of a sinner. The cure is simple:
remember that your righteousness is not because you chose God; it is
because God chose you.
you will live in the righteousness of God, then humility will be much easier.
Live in your own righteousness, it becomes a parody of true humility.
to be humble
is easy to say that humility is something we should have at all times. This is
true; but we as human beings are tempted in various situations to “put all
humility aside.” Here are some situations in which humility is usually required
– and always useful:
- When God ‘s grace is strong within you. If you have seen his power
working through you to bring others to Christ, for example, it is then
that you need to humbly point them to Him. Be sure that others know it is
not by your own might or power, but by His Spirit.
- When God has given you a mighty work. D. L. Moody noted this about
Moses: he spent his first forty years being a somebody in Pharaoh’s
palace; the next forty years being a nobody in the wilderness; the last
forty years showing that a nobody can be somebody – with God.
- When you are asked to perform menial work. A story is told about Thomas
Aquinas. A monk in his abbey was sent to town to pick up some supplies.
He was told to “grab the first monk you see and tell him to help you.”
Aquinas was the first monk. His commandant chided him for walking slowly
– until he noticed the respect the townspeople were giving his feeble
companion. Aquinas was the greatest man of his age, yet complained of
this not at all.
- When you study his word. Do not try to fit his words to
fit your theory. Have the humility to have your theory fit his words.
- When you have received mercy. When God has been gracious to
you, either in the matter of forgiveness or even in the matter of healing,
whatever the gift, know that he is God the merciful. Praise him for it.
Know that it is his gift, not your merit. (Really, there are people who
are so proud of having received his mercy).
- When no one sees. As you pray in that closet, remember that this is the
privilege brought by grace. As you meditate upon his word, remember who
you are. You are dealing with things too high for you. You can deal with
them only through Him; things over your head are under his feet. (And
where does that place you?)
- When you are dealing with sinners. In church discipline, teaching
or preaching, humility is most necessary. Spurgeon tells us that he once
gave a sermon he knew not to be his best work. He asked forgiveness; he
redoubled his efforts and preached a grand one the next Sunday. He also
asked that God use that poor sermon. He tracked the results of his two
sermons. He could not find one person who had come to Christ by his grand
sermon – but there were 51 people who were baptized because of the poor
one. Remember in whose power you must work. Only he has power over sin.
- When you are dealing with your brothers in Christ. Remember that they, like you,
are sinners saved by grace. Do not look down on them; rather, come along
side them, as the Holy Spirit comes along side us.
- When you are abased, or when you abound. Does it really matter what your
circumstances are? If your circumstances change “the real you,” I would
suggest the “real you” isn’t.
of this may be summed up on one little point. Your service to God is often
described as “fruit.” We are cautioned to stay “in the vine” so that we will
bear “much fruit.” As you do, remember: the branch that bends the lowest
bears the most fruit.
then, is humility so hard for most of us? It’s because it means surrender to
our Lord. Our pride sticks with us; we will surrender this, that or the
other, but we will not surrender all. We are in rebellion against the
king of kings; that which will not surrender is guarded by our pride.
king of kings offers us gracious terms: if we will surrender – all – to him,
he will be swift to forgive, swift to heal the wounds, swift to bring us into
the love of his family. If we will surrender – all.
I must encourage you, then, to surrender all to him. I am your teacher; this
is the right way, and I counsel you to walk in it. But you might indeed ask,
“What about you? Don’t you long for the praise you get as a teacher? What
about your humility?”
fair question. You may see the results, or lack thereof, in my life. Those
who have listened to me for years will know the good news and the bad news.
But I would leave you with these words. They are from John Chrysostom, bishop
of Constantinople, around AD 400. These words, I think, express best what this
teacher really wants in this matter:
me it is nothing when I am applauded and well spoken of. There is only one
thing I ask of you-to prove your approval of me through your works. That is how
you can speak well of me, and that is what is going to do you good. This, to
me, is the greatest honor. I prefer it to a material crown. I do not desire
applause and being well spoken of. I have one request to make-for you to listen
to me in quiet attentiveness and to put my advice into practice. This is not a
theater. You don't sit here in order to admire actors and to applaud them. This
is a place where you must learn the things of God.”