Hudson Taylor was scheduled to speak at a large Presbyterian church in Melbourne, Australia. The moderator of the service introduced the missionary in eloquent and glowing terms. He told the large congregation all that Taylor had accomplished in China, and then presented him as “our illustrious guest.” Taylor stood quietly for a moment, and then opened his message by saying. “Dear friends, I am the little servant of an illustrious Master.”¹
Humility is not a fashionable word to throw around. You don’t hear many people talking about it; it is very rarely spoken about from the pulpit; and if one says they are humble, it usually means they are not.
I knew when I wrote about PRIDE last week that I was obligated to tackle the tough topic of humility next. On a personal level, I desire to be humble, but I fear true humility is way beyond my reach. I feel more comfortable writing about topics I have some degree of knowledge about. Humility can’t be bought or achieved by intellectual means. It can only be obtained as we grow closer and closer to the Lord Jesus Christ. So, because the Bible addresses humility, I will attempt to give some perspective on it.
Photo Credit: Greene Family
Michael M. Smith, the author of Becoming more like Jesus, defines humility as a trait that is “indispensable for growth in Christian character – for becoming like Jesus.”² As believers, we are called to be humble people. 2 Chronicles 7:14 states, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
To become humble we must be willing for the Lord to peel pride off our character and be totally God-centered like the Lord Jesus. However, we each have areas in our lives that usually hinder our quest for humility. And, we usually do not like sharing this personal information with others lest they glean something into our character that we don’t want them to see. As you read the next few paragraphs, think about some of the triggers that affect you from becoming more Christ-like, i.e. jealousy regarding a friend’s fabulous vacation; pride because your child received a higher SAT score than their peers; or coveting the larger, custom home of a co-worker.
Characteristics of Humility [a humble person]
- Asks for forgiveness and says, “I’m sorry” quickly;
- Rejoices and praises others, but not themselves;
- Follows Christ's example the best they can;
- Possesses Authenticity;
- Listens to God
- Possesses a grateful/thankful spirit;
- Gives generously;
- Shows modesty regarding their achievements;
- Enjoys serving others;
- Loves others;
- Possesses the 'Fruits of the Spirit';
- Enjoys seeing God in everything;
- Projects sincerity;
- Holds wisdom close by;
- Retains control over their tongue;
- Waits patiently upon God;
- Admits faults easily;
- Overlooks the failures of others;
- Enjoys giving others credit that is due them;
- Understands that they have so much to learn in the spiritual realm;
- Accepts personal responsibility;
- Desires daily encounters with God;
- Longs for a touch from the Holy Spirit;
- Agonizes over sin;
- Compares themselves to the Lord rather than other people;
- Recognizes their need for continual repentance; and
- A humble person will NEVER boast about their humility.
Jesus – A Biblical Example of Humility
The Bible has many examples of humble people: Samuel, Esther, David, Daniel, and more. But, the most humble person in the Bible has to be the Lord Jesus Christ. He washed the feet of his disciples. [John 13:12-17] He gave his heavenly father all glory and honor [John 5:19,30,41] But, the biggest act of humility anyone could give, is that he submitted to God so fully that he took the form of a servant, humbled himself, and became obedient to the point of dying on the cross for our sins. His love for God and us was that strong.
It is one thing to talk about how to recognize a humble person, but we need to get to the point where we pursue or desire to pursue that kind of life ourselves with our entire heart and soul. But how?
Pursuing a Life of Humility involves:
- A willingness and desire to rid ourselves of pride and be humble like Christ;
- Praying for humility;
- Faith in God’s ability to humble us;
- Studying His Word continually;
- Depending daily on the power of the Holy Spirit;
- Following His leadings;
- Living a disciplined life free from sin; and
- Understand that God expects us to be humble.
|Look to the Father|
Photo Credit: Greene Family
Humility does not appear overnight. It is a trait that takes time to develop. We need time to grow into a person who is permeated with wisdom and grace. We will be tested to see if we will follow Him in many different circumstances. We need time to be taught what is right and wrong. We need time for the Word of God to blend into our life and character. But, as we experience more of God, we will find following him much easier as days pass by. With His grace, God’s strength will be perfected in us. As we find ourselves falling more in love with God, His Word, and our time communicating with Him, we will grow in humility. We might not even notice it, but others will. Look for opportunities to practice humility. Pray for those opportunities. Let’s stop tooting our own horn and let God have His way with us because he really is our "Illustrious Master."
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. Proverbs 11:2
Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:7-11
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:3
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Romans 12: 10-16
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:12-13
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7
Oh Jesus, I confess my proud spirit to you right now. Please give me the discipline to develop my character to become more like you. I desire your presence in all areas of my life. Make my prayer life and Bible reading be filled with your Holy Spirit’s leading, so I can be the person you designed me to be. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
¹Wiersbe, Warren. Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching and Preachers. 7 Dec. 2015. p. 243.