Some of you read the title of this post and wondered if you could bear anything about such a dated topic. Indeed one rarely, if ever, hears this word used in today’s world. I don’t know about you but whenever I rediscover an aspect of character so under-represented, it peaks my interest! Maybe here is a real clue to the sorry shape we’re in!
As I prepared material recently for a session on godly parenting, I ran across the link between humility and obedience in children. To parents, obedience in their offspring is a desirable thing. Correct discipline always teaches the wisdom of compliance as its end. But true obedience must be built through humility and respect rather than demanded through sheer authority. I’m sure you have heard about the child who was put in time out–made to sit on his chair in the corner–who stated “I may be sitting on the outside but I’m standing up on the inside.” Compliance alone is obviously not enough. Parents who deal with their children on such a surface level will not find a chair nor a corner that will suffice very long. They haven’t touched the heart of the problem.
This isn’t just a parenting issue. It is at the heart of how we see ourselves in relationship to God. Humility always precedes real obedience in the life of a Christian. You simply will not welcome His rightful position of authority if you are standing up on the inside. Humility is getting to the end of oneself, and you won’t be standing (figuratively speaking, of course) when that happens. It is interesting that “getting to the end of oneself” is also the main component in repentance.
You know if anyone ever learned anything about humility, it would be the Apostle Peter. Peter the Bold had a fairly lofty opinion of himself. He was a “can do” kind of person, always entertaining the challenge. Many positive words would describe his zeal but “humble” wasn’t on his radar at all, until that is, he learned humility when he saw his Savior die. Pride died for Peter that night too!
Evidence of this change is in the wisdom he shares in I Peter 5:5b-7:
” ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Peter begins by teaching a truth: Pride puts us in opposition to God.
In such a position you will always lose. By contrast, grace gives us access to all of God’s divine resources. In such a position you will always win!
The rest of the scripture advises us how to wisely respond to that truth. Humility, the opposite of pride, is the correct position before Almighty God. God’s mighty hand is symbolic of His sovereignty. We are to place ourselves “under” His control, bringing all of the questions and concerns we have about life. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, “under” is a lowered position. We are called to take the figurative pose of one who is weary of the battle and happy to surrender.
From that position of self-defeat, the great exchange happens. We give Him knowledge of our own insufficiency and He gives us everything we lack.
I don’t know about you but sometimes it feels good to throw things away. I was cleaning up my office recently and filled up two large trash bags with junk mail and old printouts that had taken up space on my desk for far too long. But the difference between cleaning up my office and the freedom that comes through our dependent life in Christ is clear as well.
A clean office doesn’t give me peace because the projects remain. The pressure to perform is still present, regardless of what the surface of my life looks like to others. I am not up to the challenge and through the eyes of humility I know that is true. God’s grace lifts off my performance-related anxiety. His ability fills me up as He tenderly ministers to my need. I am made complete in Christ!
All God’s children must remember that humility before God is key to receiving anything from Him. Outward obedience is an empty work if it doesn’t reflect a humble heart. Claiming the wonderful promises given in His Word can only be done if one knows they are undeserved blessings. Nothing can be placed in hands already full. . .
May our Lord, who cares so much for His own, renew our strength to live this life in recognition of the goodness of His grace which is sufficient for each new day. Grace & peace to each of you!
Walking in wisdom because of His mercy,