“The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility.” -Proverbs 15:33
Have you ever wondered what it really means to be humble? How does a truly humble person look and act? How do I respond when someone publicly compliments me on something I have done? What are my actions and emotions when confronted by a co-worker or colleague with a mistake I have made? How do I react when my spouse or someone close to me says something that hurts or offends me?
I am moved by Andrew Murray’s take on humility: “Man’s simple consent to let God be all, and to surrender himself to God’s working alone.” As an apprentice of Jesus, we are called to live a life centred in recognition that everything we have and all that we are has been given us by God. The humility and sense of nothingness that arises from this joyful ‘laying down of self’ is not something that God can simply impart to us (‘Lord, grant me humility’), and it is not something that we ‘bring’ to him. It just is. It is the natural order of creation. The lives of humility and meekness to which we are called by Jesus are the only natural response to our simple acknowledgement of our position in God’s creation and our willingness to yield authority to God.
The depth of this profound truth is easily missed. Many of us have been followers of Jesus for several years. Perhaps like me, you have known the Lord for a long time and are only just beginning to realize that the meekness and ‘lowliness of heart’ spoken of by Jesus (Matt. 11:29) is meant to be a distinguishing feature of a disciple.
Humility does not often come naturally. Like most virtues, it must be desired, learned, and practiced. An effective practice to learn humility might be to spend time with a Christian who you feel models Christ-like humility. We might also spend time in meditation on the very clear and numerous lessons Jesus gave his disciples on humility. You could also search out some of the devotional classics that Christians have been encouraged by over the centuries, and learn from the spiritual ‘greats’.
“Is it any wonder that the Christian life is so often feeble and fruitless, when the very root of the Christ-life is neglected, is unknown? Is it any wonder that the joy of salvation is so little felt, when the one thing in which Christ found it and brings it is so little sought? We must seek a humility that rests in nothing less than the end and death of self; that gives up all the honor of men, as Jesus did, to seek the honor that comes from God alone; that absolutely makes and considers itself nothing so that God may be all, so that the Lord alone may be exalted.”
-Andrew Murray, Humility, p. 27.
Are you dissatisfied with your depth of relationship with Jesus? Do you reflect on your life and wonder if you are being effective as a disciple, and if God is actually ‘using’ you? Thank the Lord he has given you this dissatisfaction (instead of lukewarm apathy) with the present state of things, and ask him to teach you humility. Begin by deciding to know nothing more than Christ and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering. Don’t be discouraged when you find this difficult. Ask the Lord to show you the areas of your life over which you have firm control and have not surrendered to ‘God’s working alone’. Be prepared to no longer demand that people treat you as you think you deserve to be treated.
For Further Study/Meditation: Gen 3:5; Phil 2:5-9; Col 2:7, 19; Luke 22:27.
Humility, by Andrew Murray. He ministered in the towns and villages of Africa for many years, and is widely known for his prolific pastoral writings and publications. He lived from 1828-1917.