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Micah 6:8

Walk Humbly with your God

 

There is a mistaken impression that chastity is the most despised, difficult and disrespected of Christian virtues. Actually, it ranks second – to humility.

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.[1]

The nature of the humble man

The 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.

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?

Constant communication with God.

Humility 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:

  • WALK 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.
  • Walk 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.
  • Walk 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 traveling companion.
  • Walk 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.
  • Walk 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.
He must increase; I must decrease

A 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.

But 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.

Temptations against humility

Satan certainly understands the value of humility to the saint. Here are two of his techniques:

  • There 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.
  • There 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.

If 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.

Times to be humble

It 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.

All 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.

Humility and Surrender

Why, 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.

The 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.

So 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?”

A 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:

“To 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.”


[1] I am indebted for much of this lesson to C. H. Spurgeon – and if ever there was a man who taught well and was praised for it, Spurgeon was that man. His thoughts are carried forward here, with gratitude.

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