Chapter 2. Getting in Position - Humility
There was a day that a king asked God for the wisdom to be effective as a leader. The Bible records the story in 2nd Chronicles. The king's name was Solomon, and God answered his request. He became known in history as the wisest of earthly leaders.
God went beyond Solomon's request to describe his great love for the people and his knowledge of their behavior patterns. Predicting their disobedience, God put before Solomon a simple formula...four responsibilities to which, when exercised in full, God promised to respond with forgiveness and blessing.
Here is God's specific statement, "Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place." (2 Chronicles 7:14-15).
The people of God were assigned these four responsibilities as part of a restorative process...
1. Humble themselves
3. Seek God
4. Turn from sin
These four responsibilities, when viewed in a broader scriptural context, form a model for a believer desiring to learn the position that Jesus taught his followers is the most effective way to live..."remain in me." We will examine each responsibility as essential to the process of getting into position in the presence of Jesus and staying there.
We start with humility.
"Humble themselves," that was God's first instruction to the king. It is the first step to effectiveness in the position.
Humility cannot be properly approached apart from attention to its antithesis, pride. Both are the subjects of a great deal of attention in the Bible.
Proverbs 29:23 - "A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor."
Proverbs 22:4 - "The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor and life."
Proverbs 16:19 - "It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud."
Proverbs 16:18 - "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling."
Proverbs 18:12 - "Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honor."
Proverbs 11:12 - "When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom."
Proverbs 15:33 - "The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes
Empty of self.
The word, "humble" derives from the Latin humilis with the meaning of low, lowly, and at its base means "of the ground." You know of "humis," the bean concoction often served with mediterranean style foods. That bean came from the ground..."humilis." The same word that describes the lowly bean is praised by the Bible as one of the highest virtues of human character...lowly, in the ground. Are you beginning to get the point?
Stop and read the sidebar excerpt from C.S. Lewis. He deals with pride in a particularly pointed way that is beneficial to your understanding of the importance of humility. Click the text box for an audio of his full chapter on the subject...it is worth your time and will deepen your insight into the critical matters of pride and humility.
"Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you." James 4:10
"Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time." 1 Peter 5:6
"Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:4
"Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted." Matthew 23:12
"And he said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'" Luke 9:23
Your position of effectiveness in the presence of God is attained only when the first responsibility is met..."humble yourself in the presence of the Lord."
Here's a picture that drives the concept home. Consider being prostrate before God...stretched out with your face in the dirt. It is a position of complete submission. You are unable to act in any way to exercise your will. It is the posture of surrender...the perfect picture of humility.
I will venture a guess that most who read the paragraph above find themselves reacting negatively to the concept. Indeed, the idea of complete surrender is contrary to human nature...pride, self-preservation.
That is the point. The Bible is clear. Getting into position starts with humility...the emptying of self. God does not suggest humility in his presence. He commands it.
Only as you deny your self-interest, your pride, your will can you come into the presence of God.
When you read something from the Bible, you are reading God's Word. It is alive with his Holy Spirit. Treat it accordingly. Before you read, clear your mind of anything other than seeking God in the words. Ask him to show you what he wants you to understand.
A focus on humility may be uncomfortable...it cuts across your natural grain of pride. Embrace the discomfort and explore it. Ask God to show you areas of your life in which pride is present. It won't take long. He will bring it to mind. Now, ask him to lead you to proper humility in that area.
So...Why is humility necessary?
Let me give you a familiar piece of Scripture to consider, then you answer the question, "Why?".
“Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one."
Now...why does God require humility of you in order for you to get in position in his presence?
Here are some keys to inform your answer.
Describe the character of God based on the scripture above.
Find indicators related to authority.
Find indicators related to ownership.
Find indicators related to power.
Find indicators related to God's purpose.
I hope you will wrestle with thie question, "Why". The matter of humility before God is critical In short, apart from humility, you will not be in position. So, stay with this. Come to your own answer to my question, "Why?".
Listen to this after you have formed your answer to my question.
Here's another important question...Can confidence and competitiveness coexist with the virtue of humility?
That question requires some close examination. Certainly, those two characteristics are commonly viewed as favorable in a leader. So, how do they it fit in the question of how to properly play the position?
Consider this hawk. He would seem to be the perfect illustration of confidence and competitiveness. In truth, he is neither. He is a beautiful creature with an instinct to hunt and the tools to do it effectively. He acts in response to his hunger and instinct without thought, decision, or assignment of moral or spiritual qualities.
It is not so with you. You are a moral and spiritual being endowed with the freedom and responsibility to choose how you will use the formidable tools with which you are equipped with purpose and effectiveness. And, you are accountable to God for your choice of action.
Your human nature is tuned in a particular way...you are naturally confident and naturally competitive. Before going further, you really need to read C.S. Lewis' work on pride if you did not get around to it earlier. Click here.
Your spiritual nature, initiated the moment you became a Christian, is tuned differently from your natural self. It introduces a desire for godliness and a way to attain it in your life's equation.
In effect, God changes the question and the examination of its answer. So, rather than asking, "Can confidence and competitiveness coexist with humility?" the questions become, "If I exercise humility, in who or what am I placing my confidence...my efforts or God's?" and "Am I competing against someone, or am I in pursuit of God's directed purpose?"
Do you begin to see the point?
Unqualified, "confidence" and "competitiveness" will be about you and your will to power. Qualified spiritually, those traits become suspect as God changes the direction of your intent from self-fulfillment to humble surrender to his assigned purpose and effectiveness.
You are a follower of Jesus. Remember the "Light in the Star" story. Your only job is to follow him closely as he leads you into effectiveness. "Humble themselves," that was God's first instruction to the king. It is the first step to effectiveness in the position.
I will wrap this chapter with an illustration on the virtue of humility...a story from the life of Corrie Ten Boom.
At the end of the matter, humility is a question of who gets credit...you or God.
"Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you. With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever, for your love for me is very great…" Psalm 86:11-13
You are a follower of Jesus. Your only job is to follow him closely as he leads you into effectiveness. "Humble themselves," was God's first instruction to the king. It is the first step to effectiveness in the position.
Ok...now click over to Chapter 3...