Key Verse: Hos 13:5-6 “I cared for you in the desert, in the land of burning heat. When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.”
Pride is disastrous to any relationship. How would we like to live with someone who thinks he/she can do anything better than anyone else?
“Honey, honey. You are doing it all wrong. This is how you should do it.”
“You better leave this to me. I can do it better than you.”
“Isn’t it good to be married to a spouse like me? I am better than all those other spouses.”
God hates those who are filled with pride. Prov. 8:13 “To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behaviour and perverse speech.” We can’t be a friend of God if we think too highly of ourselves.
A Town of Readers?
Humility is such an elusive virtue. Once you think you have it, you don’t, or you wouldn’t think you did. You’ve heard the story of the boy who received the “Most Humble” badge and had it taken away because he wore it?
Something similar happened to me just the other morning. I had retreated to a nearby town to work on this book. The village is a perfect hideaway: it is quaint, quiet, and has great food.
I’d gone to a café for breakfast when I noticed that people were staring at me. As I parked, two fellows turned and looked in my direction. A woman did a double take as I entered, and several patrons looked up as I passed. When I took my seat, the waitress gave me a menu but not before she’d given me a good study.
Why the attention? Couldn’t be my fly; I was wearing sweats. After some thought I took the mature posture and assumed they recognized me from my book jackets. Why, this must be a town of readers. And, I shrugged to myself, they know a good author when they see one. My appreciation for the village only increased.
Giving a smile to the folks at the other tables, I set about to enjoy my meal. When I walked to the cash register, the heads turned again. I’m sure Steinbeck had the same problem. The woman who took my money started to say something but then paused. Overwhelmed, I guessed. It was only when I stopped in the rest room that I saw the real reason for the attention-a ribbon of dried blood on my chin. My patch job on the shaving nick hadn’t worked, and I was left with my own turkey wattle.
So much for feeling famous. They probably thought I was an escapee from a Texas prison.
Oh, the things God does to keep us humble. He does it for our own good, you know. Would you set a saddle on the back of your five-year old? Would God let you be saddled with arrogance? No way.
This is one piece of luggage God hates. He doesn’t dislike arrogance. He doesn’t disapprove of arrogance. He’s not unfavorably disposed toward arrogance. God hates arrogance. What a meal of maggots does for our stomach, human pride does for God’s.
Traveling Light, Max Lucado, 2001, W Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved.
Pride is what made the devil rebel against God:
Isa 14:12-14 “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”
King Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful Babylonian emperor. He had conquered many countries and his palace, as well as his city called Babylon were splendors to behold! However pride was his downfall.
Dan 4:29-33 “As the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.”
Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird. “
His kingdom was taken away from him and he lost all his sanity. Only when he finally humbled himself was his reign restored to him and was he able to acknowledge the Most High and have a relationship with Him.
Dan 4:34, 36-37 “At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever… At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”
Pride is disastrous to any relationship!
Question 1: Can one have a close relationship with someone conceited? Why or why not?
Humility and the fear of the Lord go hand in hand.
Ps 25:9 “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.”
Ps 25:12 ‘Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.”
God enjoys having a relationship with those who are humble and fear the Lord. In essence those who are truly humble fear the Lord, and those who truly fear the Lord are humble.
Moses for example feared the Lord and was humble as well.
Num 12:3 “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”
Moses also declared Deut 10:20 “Fear the LORD your God and serve him.”
The people of Israel however didn’t fear the Lord (they were afraid of Him instead) and were far from being humble! The same was true about the devil and king Nebuchadnezzar.
Deut 5:29 “Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!”
Deut 1:43 “You rebelled against the LORD’s command and in your arrogance you marched up into the hill country.”
Humility and fear of the Lord are linked together, it seems one cannot exist without the other.
Prov 15:33 “The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.”
The opposite to fear of the Lord and humility is rebellion and pride.
Prov 22:4-5 “The reward of humility and the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.
Thorns and snares are in the way of the obstinate and willful; he who guards himself will be far from them.” AMP
Question 2: What is the opposite of humility and fear of the Lord?
Jesus humbled Himself more than anyone else.
Phil 2:5-8 “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross!”
He is our example and we should be following in His footsteps. Only when we are truly humble and fear the Lord, having accepted him into our life, will we have access to Jesus as our friend.
Phil 2:9 “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.”
Eph 2:6 “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”
James 4:6, 8, 10 “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble… Come near to God and he will come near to you. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
Isa 57:15 “For this is what the high and lofty One says — he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
Question 3: Was Jesus ever conceited? Why or why not?
Now what is true humility?
Obedience and humility are closely linked together. Immediately after referring to humility James wrote: James 4:7 “Submit yourselves, then, to God.”
It makes sense. If we are to trust the Lord in all things, we need to humbly follow His advice even if it goes against human logic!
Prov 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
It is far easier to try to solve our problems on our own, depending on our own abilities and skills. However we soon learn that we are not as resourceful as we wish we were. Stress and sleepless nights become our companions. Handling things our own way comes with a hefty price tag!
However if we humbly come to Jesus for help and let Him be our guide in life, we will experience true rest and inner peace.
Matt 11:28-29 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
ii. Utter dependence
Being humble means to depend completely on God. However others around us may misperceive this kind of humility. Look for example at David, who at his father’s request brought some bread to his older brothers who were in a battle against the Philistines. When he arrived at his destination, David discovered that the Israelites had been cowering behind rocks for 40 days as they were scared to answer the challenge from a nine-feet Philistine named Goliath. Outraged young David exclaimed: 1 Sam 17:26 “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
His older brothers became infuriated with him. “Who does he think he is?” 1 Sam 17:28 “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.” They perceived him as an arrogant brat, filled with self-importance and conceit.
In reality David was far from being conceited. His trust was not in himself, but in God! 1 Sam 17:37 “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
David’s brothers trusted in their own strength, while David trusted in God. The first one were cowering behind rocks, the second one accepted Goliath’s challenge and defeated him, not in his own strength, but depending solely on the Lord.
Question 4: Can true humility be misperceived by others? Why or why not?
Humility or a complete reliance on God was exemplified in the life of the apostle Paul.
2 Cor 3:5 “Not that we are fit (qualified and sufficient in ability) of ourselves to form personal judgments or to claim or count anything as coming from us, but our power and ability and sufficiency are from God.” AMP
2 Cor 12:9-10 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
How often have I discovered as this being true. When I think that I have everything under control, unsolvable problems appear seemingly out from nowhere. However when I am completely desperate and have no solutions to the problems that I am facing, coming to Jesus fills me with supernatural divine strength and the situation gets resolved without any stress on my part. He is faithful!
The older the apostle Paul lived, the more dependent he became on God and the less he relied on his own strengths and abilities. The longer he lived, the bolder he became as He had discovered true friendship in Jesus, the Messiah.
iii. The Way we view ourselves
A humble person sees himself/herself quite differently than one who is conceited. The apostle Paul used to be conceited in his endeavors to eradicate Christianity. Once he met Jesus on the road to Damascus all his pride evaporated and instead He was able to put Jesus in charge of his life. All past ambitions he considered them as rubbish.
Phil 3:8-9 “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him.”
We can identify with what the apostle Paul wrote and agree with him that our life before we knew Jesus was garbage. But what about the accomplishments performed through the power of God once we have given our life to Him?
Phil 3:13-14 “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Amazing! The apostle Paul was not basking in memories of past experiences with God. He was anticipating for a more and deeper acquaintance with the One who was making a difference in His life.
10 years before his death, after having established numerous churches in Asia and Eastern Europe he wrote:
1 Cor 15:9 “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”
How can someone like the apostle Paul consider himself “the least of the apostles” and at the same time write:
1 Cor 15:10 “I worked harder than all of them.”
Isn’t that false humility?
Not at all if we look why he wrote this:
1 Cor 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
He credited all his efforts to the grace of God! He wasn’t the one who deserved the credit. He had only accepted the invitation to join God at His work and all things were performed through the One who lived in the apostle Paul. The same can be true with us when we accept God’s invitation!
7 years later, after having accomplished more than any other time in his life, he wrote the following to the Ephesians:
Eph 3:8 “Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
Now he considered himself even less than those who called themselves apostles, he saw himself as “the least of all God’s people”. In other words the apostle Paul considered himself even less than you and me! Wow!
Prior to his death he wrote the following to Timothy:
1 Tim 1:15 “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst.”
The apostle Paul considered himself as the worst sinner on this planet! He never lost sight of how much he owed to his Lord and Saviour Jesus!
Rom 5:10-11 “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Jesus was his everything and he longed and hungered for a closer and more intimate relationship with His maker. He depended on Him in all things, having humility and the fear of the Lord. Pride had no place in Paul’s life once he had experienced Jesus in his life.
Question 5: What is true humility? Have you experienced some of its aspects in your life? Give specific examples if you can. How can you become more humble?
Assignment: Reflect about the three aspects mentioned about humility (Obedience, Utter Dependence and The Way You View Yourself). Find some Biblical examples for each. Which one of these three is your greatest challenge? Prayerfully approach your Forever Friend and ask Him to give you wisdom and guidance to fully experience the meaning of true humility.
James 1:5-6 5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
Strive for this kind of humility throughout the upcoming week, depending solely on Jesus as your guide.
Empty handed leads to Fullness from God
Rom 5:3-5 “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
Have you ever wondered why thousands upon thousands of people are healed through the power of God’s Spirit during outreach crusades in Third World countries, while only hundreds (sometimes even less) are healed during similar crusades in the Western world? Why the difference?
When I bought this up in prayer to my Forever friend, His answer surprised me: “The difference between the two groups is that the second group does not come to me empty handed. Their hands are so full, that I cannot bless them!”
Is this why I can’t seem to find one story about Jesus healing a Pharisee in the Bible? Their hands, too, were quite full — Luke 18:11-12: “The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'”
We can’t be fully blessed if we are not empty handed! Corrie ten Boom illustrated this powerfully when she narrated her encounter with a former SS officer who had been quite cruel towards her sister Betsy who died at Ravensbruck concentration camp. When he approached her after the war and asked her forgiveness, she wanted to spit in his face, as deep down she was disgusted by what he used to do. However, instead she cried out to the Lord and claimed the promises of Rom 5:5. God’s love filled her up and she reached out to that former soldier, embraced him, and forgave him in the faith. Humanly, this was impossible. But it was possible in Corrie’s life because she always approached her loving Heavenly Father empty handed. When we come empty, God can fill us up with His presents from above.
Just last Sunday I experienced the power of the promises from Rom 5:5. After supper my family and I were heading for worship, when all of a sudden I noticed that Donovan’s bird named Mexico, had something wrong with his head. After further investigation, my youngest son confessed he had accidentally stepped on him an hour earlier. He hadn’t told us, but apparently he had told his brother. My reaction to this event will be examined a bit closer next week, as God had wonderful messages to teach me and anyone else in similar situations like mine.
But back to Mexico, Donovan’s bird. He didn’t look too good, and there didn’t seem to be anything that could be done about it, as the vets were all closed for the night in our region. There was nothing left to do but lift him up in prayer.
However, after we prayed for the bird, I still felt uneasy. I poured out my heart to God and asked for His guidance. Empty handedly, I approached my Heavenly Father and He opened His doors from Heaven. He encouraged me to open my Bible to the text I was going to study that night. The text was Romans 5! When I read verse 3 to 5 in the Message version, God spoke loudly out to me. The text says:
Rom 5:3-5 “We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary — we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” (from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)
Wow! I felt compelled to share this powerful text with my children. As we were pouring over this text, we felt joy filling us up and we started to praise the Lord and sing praises to the Lord. We thanked God for giving us the opportunity to go through the experience of this trial, and we patiently waited for what He was going to do next. Donovan spent the rest of the evening singing songs of praise over and over again. Even when I went to tuck him in bed, he was still singing to the glory of the Lord.
Can you guess what happened next? Does God send anyone away who comes empty handed to Him? Nowhere in the Bible did Jesus turn someone away who came empty handed. The impossible became possible. Mexico survived and was doing better the next morning! Praise be to God!
We brought Mexico to the Vet the next day. The vet’s words about the situation were as follows: “That bird is LUCKY to be alive!” Well, we all know that luck had NOTHING to do with it! Thank you Lord! Isn’t God awesome?!
My friend, how do you approach your Father in heaven? Are your hands so full that God cannot bless you? Drop those things. They are temporary anyway. Come to Him empty handed and praise Him for always coming though even when you are in your worst troubles. Patiently wait for Him and stay alert for what He is going to do next. You won’t have enough containers to hold everything He will pour into your life though His Spirit.
No problem is too difficult.
Do you have a problem with unforgiveness? Claim Rom 5:5.
Do you have a problem with getting along with others? Maybe even your spouse? Claim Rom 5:5.
Come to Jesus, trusting and praising Him. He will give you rest over your life’s storms!
John 3:30-31 “He must increase, but I must decrease.” NKJV