Archive for May, 2010

Learning Humility

May 20, 2010

“Lord, help me live a humble life.”  What a scary prayer.  God certainly has ways of humbling us.  I could get sick.  I could have financial setbacks.  There are many ways to learn humility.  Many of them are quite painful.

It would be so simple and so pleasant if I would just learn humility on my own.

I discovered humility a few years ago.  I thought I had made the acquaintance long before that, but I was confusing humility with arrogance.  How do you do that?  I don’t know.  But, I did.  Had you asked me then, “Are you a humble person?” I would have said “Yes, it’s a sin not to be,” while thinking to myself, “I’m not a sinner.”  Though I had preached part-time for years and had a Bible degree from Freed-Hardeman/Lipscomb, I was oblivious to the concept of humility.  Maybe I was too much into conservative politics, or materialism, or just me…but I was clueless.

Then God helped me out.  A couple of trials got my attention and brought me to reality: I wasn’t as big and bad as I thought I was.  Then I began to read my Bible more.  Then I began to appreciate the life of Christ more.  Then I began to see that every page of the Bible was about Jesus.  Then I discovered Philippians 2 and the concept of Christ-likeness as self-emptying.  Then I began to do better.  In my early fifties, I finally grew up.  Or, at least I started growing up.

What is humility?

Humility is realizing that I am not the axis on which life turns.  It is having a proper understanding of that abused word “rights.”  A humble person understands that he doesn’t have any rights.  He understands that as a sinner he has forfeited all of his so-called rights.  He finally comes to understand that, in spite of what others are preaching, he is not being denied his “rights” because he doesn’t possess any to be denied.  The rights are God’s.  What I’ve got is grace.

Humility is finally climbing out of yourself.  It is seeing in the Bible what God has done for us through Jesus Christ, though we are totally undeserving.  It is beginning to get some kind of grip on Philippians 2 and what Jesus did for us in emptying Himself.

5Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2.5-8 NASB)

Humility is letting someone else have the credit when I know it should go to me.  Humility is helping someone who is socially different from me though I know I may be ridiculed for it.  Humility is not retaliating when I am injured.  Humility is being patient when others are not, forgiving when others won’t and when forgiveness is not deserved, forbearing when others should do better than they do, and filtering my opinions out of the teaching of Jesus.  Humility is forgetting that I have the kind of feelings that might get hurt.  Humility is hard.  It is only for those who are strong through Christ.

How do you have humility?

You have to want it.  Jesus is the perfect model of humility.  If I am serious about wanting to be like Him, I will want to be humble.  Remember how He associated with society’s outcasts.  Remember how he served His disciples, recall the footwashing scene.  Focus on the Cross.  Focus on what He has done for you.  Where would you be without Him?

You have to practice it.  Start incorporating the traits of a humble person into your life whether you feel like it or not.  Look for opportunities to be humble.  Become angry at your ego.  Count the number of times you are offended and try to get it down to zero.

You have to live it.  This means do it over time.  I would start with one day, maybe even part of a day; say an event where you will be around other people.  Maintain a calm, humble manner.  Success on that occasion will give you confidence to try again.  Eventually, put the pieces of days together into days and string the days together into a lifetime.

How does a humble person feel?

You will feel less threatened.  You now perceive that you have less to lose and your relationships will become generally less adversarial.  You will feel calm.  Humility is a great stress buster; for you and those around you.  Lowering the stress level in a situation is a strong positive.  You will feel energized.  With all that stress gone you will find that you actually feel assertive in a wholesome way.  Fear is gone because you don’t have to be so protective of yourself.

What does God say about humility?

God likes a humble person.  He has a history of responding favorably when people humble themselves and seek a relationship with Him as He invites and directs in His word.  Here’s God’s advice:

Proverbs 3:34 NKJV 34 Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble.

Matthew 5:3-5 NKJV 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

James 4:6 NKJV 6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

1 Peter 2:23 NKJV 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;

1 Peter 5:5 NKJV 5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”