I have had to learn a lot about humility in the last year. I have learned how much God can honor being truly humble before Him. And I have also seen the damage that false humility can do to your walk with God and in relationships.
But I found this article today. It's actually a lot longer than this, but here are some excerpts from it. I'm not exactly 100% sure why I'm posting this, but I know I sure always need reminders about the fact that "He will guide the humble in what is right and teach them His way." --Psalm 25:9 (and there are hundreds more of the like). So may this be a gentle reminder for me. And if it encourages you too, that's great!
There's an idea floating around today that has to sicken the heart of God. It's this idea that true humility means you have to conjure up a kinder, gentler version of yourself so we can all just get along. It's a humility that says you have to straddle the fence, not offend anyone, and "make nice" with everyone. What a phony-baloney load of crap that is! I'm searching the Scriptures, and I can't find anyone like that, at least not anyone who was serving God. Am I to believe that John the Baptist was not humble because he confronted the Pharisees and called them a bunch of snakes? Did Paul lack humility because he appeared to be unkind when he sharply confronted the Judaizers in Galatia and hinted they should all do themselves bodily harm? And in the Old Testament the Prophets of God probably never understood the concept. Where was Elijah's humility when he confronted Ahab and Jezebel, and slew the false prophets of Baal? Surely Elijah wasn't putting forth his best efforts to get along.
In religious circles, humility is something the pious try to wear on their shirtsleeves where everyone can see it. They walk around saying things like, "I just want to love everyone", "I just want to serve", or "Let's not be critical, we're all brothers and sisters in the Lord". They always have a kind word. They'd be mortified if they were ever accused of offending anyone. They're usually "called" to promote unity in the church (talk about futile ambition). They also have a false sense of humility.
Jesus must be our example. He was direct, confronting, divisive, sometime sarcastic, evasive, critical, assertive, uncompromising, and bold. He was soft, loving, compassionate, merciful, and unassuming. He could be patient, then, seemingly impatient. At times He was relaxed, other times He was agitated. He sometimes marveled at the good qualities He saw in people, but then he was disappointed. He could accept people who were unacceptable, or go into an righteously angry rage. He was the Son of Man and showed many sides of His humanness. From the world's point of view, He could be very un-humble. But aside from all that, He was totally focused on the Will of the Father, fiercely loyal to the Him, and blindly obedient. And that was His humility!
Oh, that I could be that humble! Humility takes real courage. As I've already mentioned, it requires loyalty, perseverance, and blind obedience to God. Humility is not for wimps. The namby-pamby need not apply. Compromise is not a characteristic of the truly humble. Those who fear the opinions of men, instead of the opinion of God will never even come close to it. In fact, those who exhibit true humility towards God will always run afoul of men's (ones of the world) opinions. God has convinced me that He, in fact, uses true humility in His servants to confound the world and bring glory to Himself. After all, the world is opposed to God. And when you put all religious pretense and deception aside, true humility becomes the dividing line that separates the servants of God and the enemies of the cross. There is a natural tension there, and true humility is what God uses to make the sparks fly.
Humility doesn't come easy. You'll never be truly humble if you think you are. You'll never be humble because others say you are. I don't know how long it takes to become humble. And I don't know what God will require of us as He forms this humility in us. I can tell you where I believe the process starts. It starts in following the instructions of Jesus found in Mark 8:34. Here's a paraphrase from The Message.
"Then Jesus turned to the crowd that had been following Him and said, If you intend to go the same way I'm going (the way to the Father), you'll have let go of your own self-interests every day and submit your life completely to God. You'll have to take up your cross every day as well, so you can die to self - your flesh has to go. And you'll have to follow Me continually. I'll have to show you the way, you'll never find it on your own."
True humility comes when you're dead to self and alive to God. It manifests when your own self-interests are gone, and you're focused only on the purposes of God. Like Jesus, we prove our humility through our willingness to die. Humility will probably take us places we don't want to go, to do things we don't want to do. But, we'll go. And, we'll be obedient. If we know in our heart and in our spirit that God has raised us up, trained us and hardened us, not for our purposes, but for His. And we won't abuse people just because we want to or because we can. The very idea will be repugnant. And, we'll be obedient to a Holy God, regardless of the cost.
I'm reminded of the verse in Revelation 20:12 that tells us that the day will come when the books are opened and we'll be judged according to what has been recorded in the books. When my name comes up, I hope it says something about my willingness to be obedient.
*Folks...I originally wrote this post on 1-16-09. For some reason, it never posted and just showed up in my drafts.