I am now in my 40th year of full time ministry and my 59th year of full time life! Seems and feels more like about 35. He renews our strength and restores our youth! One thing that living to this point in time has done; it’s given me some experience, and as we all know, experience is the best teacher.
There is something that God has shown us in His word over and over again regarding the success of life in the heart of the believer. It is the unattainable quest of one enormously essential trait…. humility. That’s right – the dreaded H word! God has seen fit to order the bulk of blessing for His children through the avenue of profound lowliness. The stickler about this is the fact that when you believe you have finally achieved this level of spiritual maturity, you are guaranteeing yourself that you most assuredly have not. Let us ponder this fragile subject.
Two Types of Humility
What I have come to realize over these many years of trial and error living is that there are two types of humility – Perceived and Authentic. Perceived humility will gain you the favor of man, but authentic humility will gain you the favor of God. Now I would be lying if I denied the benefits of the former and only talked about the latter. For it is important to gain the favor of man – it’s just not the whole ballgame. I have watched countless times when taking the low road in dealing with people has brought huge blessing my way. I believe it’s in line with “considering others better than yourself” and since that is a heaven principle God blesses it. However, it is possible to have the appearance of great humility before man and still possess a very proud heart that only our Creator can detect. Does that statement hit you like it does me? Just while typing this I am brought to remembrance the incident of the two men in the bible who went to the temple to pray. The first, a Pharisee, basically said, “thanks God for making me better than the losers around me”. He was seeing the good in himself in relationship to others (who merely sinned differently than he did!) The other man, a typically greedy and dishonest tax collector who had obviously come to repentance of his ways, chose authentic humility and cried out with a bowed head, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I can easily lose count of how many times in any given week, in a religious moment I subconsciously think like the first man. No one knows it but God and me, and often not even me! Friends, this is reality and it stinketh! God help us to see ourselves for who we truly are – sinners in daily and desperate need of a Savior.
Have This Attitude….
I have long loved the passage of Paul’s admonishment in Philippians 2:5-11; “Have this attitude in yourselves that was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, He did not regard that as a thing to be grasped.” Selah. Now think about this; if you created this entire planet, all of the millions of creatures and splendor that nature boasts, wouldn’t you sort of like to be recognized when you came for a visit? Yes, He laid it down, all of it, every ounce of glory due Him, and took on the form of a servant. Because of this, God highly exalted His name above every name. Amazing. How humble was Jesus, living on this soil that He Himself made? Well, John the Baptist saw Him walking toward him in the Jordan River and recalled, “I would not have known Him….except for the Holy Spirit that was upon Him.” Did you catch that? Jesus was basically unrecognizable. How many times have you heard people speak of a famous preacher of past or present fame, and say things like, “he had such a presence about him that you knew when he walked into a room”? Compare that with John basically saying he wouldn’t even have known who Jesus was when He walked up to him, but for the heads up God had given him to look for the Spirit upon Him. I don’t know about you but I sense a whole different level of humility when I consider these things shown us by the Son of man. And by the way, this doesn’t only apply to us as followers of Christ. When I preach on this topic I often use the example of Mohammed Ali, considered the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time. Along with his talent and strength as a fighter, Ali had the sharpest, most proud and arrogant tongue of any athlete I have ever known. I’m sure his ego finally cost him his title, but more than that, for the past many years he has not even been able to speak because of a reaction to Parkinson’s disease. How ironic. Friends, make no mistake about it – you will be humbled if you do not humble yourself. There are no free passes. Is there a cost? You betcha. Aint NO glory in humility, at least not the authentic kind. Many take the road I’m talking about and expect to see the favor of God show up, only to be greatly disappointed when it does not. Sometimes things even go from bad to worse. This is most likely due to God needing to truly make your heart more like His own, which is a different process for all of us. But, have no fear – in due time, if you have humbled yourself under His mighty hand, He will surely exalt you. He promises that in His word. Regarding reaching a lifestyle of continued and true humility, I have a long way to go. I have had many ups and downs of life, both professionally and personally. As I look back, my greatest victories and seasons of blessing have come when my heart has been in the softest and lowest of places. Conversely, my seasons of greatest defeat have come on the heels of secret pride and unearned entitlement. There’s no way around this truth in life; God is forever opposed to the proud (I see His hands in front of Him pushing the proud away) but gives manifold grace to the humble (open arms welcoming us near Him).
There is much more to this subject than I have space for here. God is having me share on this many times of late. Find one of our concert dates and perhaps you will hear a more complete version. In closing, my life verse is Micah 6:8 – He has shown you what is good and what the Lord requires of you; to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” This verse should be a 24/7 challenge to us all. It’s a full time job in itself, and it’s the only place in the Word where I find God “requiring” anything of us. Humility is a requirement for every believer, and it’s obedience leads to success. God has forgiven our every sin - past, present and future. He has given us bountiful blessings, everlasting love, and favor for a lifetime. For all of this He requires one thing…humility. Where are you in the process? Do you truly want the favor of God in your life? Ask yourself these questions: Do you spend more time thinking of yourself or others? Do you let praise come from someone else’s mouth or do you waste time praising yourself in front the company of friends or work associates? Even more, do you bypass that immature act while still secretly thinking it in your heart? Do you really value your fellow man above yourself and seek to be a servant to him? Yes, again I repeat, I have a long way to go on this road to walking humbly before my God. May His fire burn a new desire in us as followers of Him who showed us what true humility was really all about. There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, no not one, no not one.