21st December 2014

The secret strength of humility

Humility isn’t something we generally pursue with great vigour! But it’s the very thing that Peter encourages us to do in chapter five of his first letter. Counting others as better than ourselves is not necessarily something that comes naturally to us – sometimes we think that the problems are in those around us, before we realise that often they’re with us!

Wayne Grudem describes humility like this: “The term humility speaks of an attitude which puts others first, which thinks of the desires, needs and ideas of others as worthy of more attention than one’s own.”

Humility is a rare commodity. You didn’t suddenly become humble the minute you became a Christian! There’s a lot about humility in the Bible, and we are encouraged to clothe ourselves with humility, to “in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3), which means it is possible for us to grow in this area!

Humility is an attitude, but it is usually expressed in what we say and what we do. It is expressed in our words and the little things that we do. It’s usually when the pressure’s on, when life gets a bit difficult, that we see what’s on the inside as it starts to come out.

Being humble isn’t being a doormat. It’s not thinking you’re worthless or of little value. CS Lewis wrote: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” True humility is knowing we can be peace-makers and we don’t need to fit for our rights or jostle for position. Jesus is the ultimate example of humility and strength.

The opposite of humility is pride. Tim Keller says: “Pride is the carbon monoxide of sin. It silently and slowly kills you without you even knowing.” Pride is never far from any us. It can surface in everyday situations, such as when we’re driving and someone else tries to edge in front of us!

So how do we kill off pride and allow humility to grow in our lives? Peter tells us six things we need to do and six things we need to know. Firstly, he says: “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility” (1 Peter 5:5) – humility is a choice we make.

Why should we choose it? Because “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (verse 5). When we choose humility, God’s grace floods in.

Peter also tells us to “humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God” (v6). Though we may not want to humble ourselves to the person in front of us, we choose to humble ourselves under God. We do it with God in mind, knowing that “at the proper time he may exalt you” (v6). It’s about trusting God that He will raise us up at the right time, that He has our backs covered.

Anxieties rush to the surface as we humble ourselves. Fears and doubts come in. We worry that if we don’t fight for ourselves, we’ll be overlooked or taken advantage of. But Peter says we should cast our anxieties on God “because he cares for you” (v7). When we allow ourselves to be shaped by knowing God as our Father and live in the good of His love, there is immense security so we can be humble and put others first.

We’re also instructed to “be sober-minded; be watchful” (v8). We need to be alert to what is going on around us, including spiritually. Why? Because we have an adversary (v8). Pride opens the door to the enemy’s schemes. It’s a lot easier to trip up a proud person than a humble person.

We can resist temptation – we don’t have to give in (v9). All of us mess up and fall at times, but we don’t need to. God has given us all we need to follow Him. It’s a faith battle. Do we trust His plans and purposes? One of the key tactics of the enemy is to isolate us, but Peter says that what we’re facing is the same as what our fellow Christians are facing too (v9). One of the most encouraging things is to know that I can push through because I know others have.

Suffering is mentioned 19 times in 1 Peter. But he says that once we have suffered for a little while, God “will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (v10). If we say kind words and encourage people; if we wash up even when it’s not our turn; if we buy the milk for the staff room even though no one else does it; when we do these things, our humility speaks volumes to those around us.

Humility is expressed in the everyday actions and words of life. As we go into a new year, make that decision that you will clothe yourself with humility. When we do so, the grace of God rushes in.

Paul Mann

Posted by Paul Mann










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