Even casual Bible-readers can quickly detect God’s high regard for the humble. Tragically, many proclaiming themselves “Christian” these days appear to have either glossed over or mentally redacted those passages entirely.
Before we get started, the great danger inherent to writing about humility is my being perceived as proclaiming the equivalent of “Humility & How I Achieved It” which of course completely negates everything I’m saying.
Let me hasten to assure you I have not “arrived” at this virtue — I’m still very much a work-in-progress a full 20 years after my serious journey towards humility first began. If you have any trouble accepting my claim at face value, simply ask my wife who can and will gladly provide abundant and compelling supporting evidence! 😀
So I guess you could subtitle this article “A Lesson on Humility From One Who Battles Pride.”
Our Reaction to Arrogance Echos God’s
You ever encountered a rebellious teenager who has “copped a ‘tude” and mouthed off at you? If you haven’t yet, simply wait long enough and you absolutely will (back in my childhood, drastic and painful retribution quickly followed. Your mileage may vary)! Since we are created in the likeness and image of God (Genesis 2), why would we think God feels any differently?
Now imagine the infinite patience, mercy, and grace required to deal with literally billions of clueless, rebellious teenagers all dancing around with their spiritual fingers stuck tightly in their ears, shouting, “La, la, la, la!” You now have a faint glimpse of what our loving Creator handles second-by-second with mankind.
Mind-boggling, isn’t it!
Misconceptions About Humility
Misconception #1: Humble = Worthless
One of the many disservices man’s religion has inflicted upon us is it’s conflation of humility with worthlessness.
This is absolutely antithetical to the Bible, period.
As I have already discussed extensively in a previous article, all human beings have inherent value and significance simply by existing because The Almighty has clearly and unequivocally declared it so by word and action. Truth be told, some of the most arrogant people on this silly planet are those who stubbornly insist on regarding themselves as worthless and insignificant despite God having quite clearly told them the exact opposite.
Misconception #2: Humble = Weak
Neither does “humble” mean “weak” or “mamby-pamby.”
Jesus described Himself as “humble” (Matthew 11:29) yet His many “up-in-their-business” confrontations with the Pharisees as well as His driving out the money-changers from the Temple with a whip could hardly be characterized as wimpy. That doesn’t even begin to touch on the fact He carried His cross to Golgotha after enduring horrific torture none of us could imagine experiencing, much less enduring.
Neither were His disciples Caspar Milquetoasts once they had received the New Birth (John 20:21) and been baptized in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Wimps don’t endure life-threatening hardships including floggings, stonings, death, imprisonment, and shipwreck or boldly speak truth to power on multiple occasions. All but the Apostle John were martyred for their faith. They tried to include John in that list by boiling him in oil, but the man supernaturally couldn’t be cooked. In their desperation to get him out of both their hair and the public eye, Rome exiled him to the Isle of Patmos where he later wrote the Book of Revelation.
Weak? Mamby-pamby? Wimpy? I don’t think so!
Which leaves us asking the musical question: what is humility and how do we get it?
My Own Journey Towards Humility
Setting the StageMy journey began unbeknownst-to-me-at-the-time in the mid-1990s when I first encountered a book entitled “The Final Quest” by Rick Joyner.
As I’ve stated on my “picks” page in the Miscellaneous Ramblings bookstore, this one book has by far had the most significant impact upon my walk with God outside the Bible. This article substantiates that claim, so read on!
At that point in my life, I lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I was a lazy, arrogant, self-absorbed, self-directed, pornography-addicted, narcissistic, rageaholic. My badly troubled marriage was a hollow shell held together only by “thou shalt not divorce.”
While my ex certainly had her own set of issues back then, the primary source for the vast majority of our relational problems was that bozo staring back at me in the mirror each morning. As a husband and father, I was absolutely no treat to live with.
Several of the marriage counselors we engaged in our futile attempts to make things better placed most of the blame squarely where it belonged: me! One counselor got so exasperated, he actually took me aside out of my wife’s presence and rebuked me with the literal words, “Stop being such an a – – hole!”
Need I say more?
So when I first encountered that book, I was a MESS. My prayer life was virtually nonexistent. My walk with God was a shadow of what it could or should have been. I had a near-encyclopedic head-knowledge of much of God’s Word, but had zero fruit to show for it.
Bottom line? I was a worthless asset in God’s plan to further His Kingdom.
Enter The Final Quest
A customer of our graphic design business recommended this book, describing it as “compelling” and “transformative.” Since she was a book editor for a Christian publisher as well as a friend, her opinion carried some weight with us — this was high praise indeed!
So we bought a copy and read it.
Two concepts reached out and grabbed me by the heart in that first reading:
- The standards God uses to judge value and success are completely alien to the utterly corrupt ones we use as human beings — even as Christ-followers.
- The author had prayed for God to judge him strictly in this life so he would not receive harsh judgments in the next.
Somehow or another, I managed to pray something along the lines of #2 in the list.
And So It Began
All God had been waiting for was my permission for Him to start messing with my business. Once He had it, He almost immediately started answering that prayer by popping my bubble of complacency.
First on His agenda? My sex addiction.
Here’s how that played out. One weekday morning as I woke up typically late, I was stunned to discover my wife had left me.
No histrionics, no ultimatums, no goodbye, not even a note; zip, zilch, nada, gone. She and the minivan had simply disappeared into thin air!
In time, she rented her own house, bought her own car, and, as things with me steadily worsened as I floundered about trying to cope with the major paradigm shift of my new reality, both our son and foster-son eventually moved out to be with her instead.
For awhile, we continued to operate our home-based business together, albeit in separate households. Leading up to her departure, my side of our business operations had steadily been drying up and I was simply too lazy to do much to remedy the problem — she ended up carrying the entire financial load.
As my share of the income-stream dwindled, I started working occasional short-term jobs through a temp agency. I eventually began seriously hunting for a permanent position while collecting unemployment benefits. To meet my weekly quota of applications, I sent out my resume in response to any IT- or graphics-related newspaper ad (remember those?) I came across whether I truly wanted the position or not — or was even remotely qualified for it.
The Move to Wichita
Not long after my wife left me, a tech company in Wichita, Kansas called me to set up an interview. It turned out to be one of those “throw-away” applications I had submitted merely to maintain my unemployment payments. Amazingly, they made me a nice enough offer including relocation assistance that I accepted it.
So I packed up my stuff and moved 3 hours northwest into a nice townhouse. My new digs were large enough to house the family in anticipation of our son’s visits and, as it turned out, the later reunification with my wife. Once I was there, she relinquished her rental home and moved back into our house, immediately putting it on the market.
By the providence of God, I was exactly where He wanted me!
I started attending the church where I first encountered our newest contributor here at Miscellaneous Ramblings, John Foster and his wife Stacey. As I did so, I immediately became aware of the church’s counseling center which has continuously operated to this day. Dr. Troy Reiner, its founder and director, is by far the most gifted and anointed Christian counsellor I’ve ever encountered.
Christ-centered support groups meet every Wednesday night in lieu of a mid-week service. Alcoholism, drug-abuse, codependency, anger management, sex/pornography addiction, abuse recovery, weight-loss, you name it, they have a meeting for it! Groups meet in every room of the church, including the pastor’s office. Because the State of Kansas’ legal system recognizes the validity of faith-based counseling solutions, people can receive their court-ordered treatment there.
Sooooo… I joined the sexual addiction group. Over time, I received two major revelations:
- While I was truly a mess, I wasn’t half as screwed up as the rest of the guys present. I found hope in that despite the fact I had been addicted from childhood.
- I already possessed many of the keys required for my recovery: the Word of Faith teachings I received for over a decade. I had simply never thought to use them to open this particular prison door.
So I did the work needed to recover. Things got better. My wife eventually sold the house in Tulsa and moved to Wichita. We began couples therapy with Dr. Reiner immediately upon her arrival. After a time, she moved back in with me. Our marriage improved drastically (though not to where it was invulnerable to the fatal attack lurking a few years down the road).
I loved our time in Wichita. It remains my all-time favorite city to live in for reasons way too numerous to recount here. If the Lord ever gave us permission to return, I’d gladly move back there in a New York minute!
In retrospect, it felt like I was basking in God’s favor as my life moved onto a far firmer footing.
Our Move to Tampa
In 1998, I was laid off from my second job in Wichita, one I truly loved: webmaster for an industry-leading electronics manufacturer.
When my close friend, the founder/president of Life Christian University, heard I was available, he invited us to move to the Tampa Bay Area of Florida so I could work for him. We took a trip down there to spy out the land and felt like God was in it, so we moved to Florida where I became LCU’s Director of Communications & Information Technology.
Things went extremely well for several years.
Professionally, I redesigned their course catalog and student handbook, degree certificates, and official transcripts; built their first website; designed all their forms (establishing a form design pattern still in use, I might add); converted the university’s computing environment from Windows to macOS (we remain an all-Mac shop to this day); and wrote the first version of Cyber-Registrar™, the database application we use to manage our student records. 24 years and 3 versions later (v5.0 is currently in development), that software is still in use, all those versions written by yours truly.
Ministry-wise, I also earned my Associates and Bachelors degrees and began work on a Masters in Christian Counseling. I was licensed as a minister, later ordained. I launched a Bible-based support group which was bearing significant fruit in the lives of our participants and my work there had earned the respect of my counseling professor. I was also being used in the charismatic gifts in our church’s services.
Am I proud of all those accomplishments?
Could I have pulled any of it off apart from the Lord?
Not a snowball’s chance in… well, that place! 😀
Bottom line? Life was GOOD!
The Other Shoe Drops
All that being said, God still needed to address 3 remaining near-fatal spiritual and character flaws in me:
- My adulterous heart
Though clean and sober regarding things sexual, I constantly fantasized about being married to other women I encountered, something I had struggled with my entire life. Largely due to this, our marriage remained fatally rotten at its core, thus leaving me vulnerable to Satan’s next major attack in 2001.
- My prayerlessness
I knew intellectually what the Scriptures say about prayer, faith, and other related topics, but little of it was in my heart. That head-knowledge quickly became extremely practical when my net worth was whatever I could find in my wallet at any given moment.
- My colossal ego
My head was so big, it would have fit in proportionally with the faces on Mt. Rushmore. I was completely convinced I was God’s Great Gift to the ministry in general and Christian counseling specifically, absolutely confident I had all my ducks in a row, head-to-tail, and evenly spaced.
Besides, neither are germane to the topic at hand (for those of you who may have been lulled to sleep during my interminable storytelling, that topic is humility. Remember humility? This is an article about humility. 😀 )
Humility Through Humiliation
Those 3 words summarize the following 7 years or so as God allowed me to repeatedly crash my arrogance upon the Chief Cornerstone of His Son until it eventually broke and I humbled myself at His feet once and for all.
I just ran across a verse in the OT today describing that process. In 2 Chronicles, it recounts the conquering of Jerusalem by the Egyptian king Shishak and describes why God permitted that defeat as well as how He was going to use it:
…Since the people have humbled themselves, I will not completely destroy them and will soon give them some relief. I will not use Shishak to pour out My anger on Jerusalem. But they will become his subjects, so they will know the difference between serving me and serving earthly rulers.2 Chronicles 12:7b-8 NLT (emphasis mine)
Bottom line? Serving an earthly ruler (myself) sucks!
Once that issue was settled between us, things calmed down and God started blessing me again. I married my wife (a continual source of further lessons in humility to this day! 😀 ). I went back to work for LCU after a 7-year hiatus and have been there ever since. My relationship with my son was eventually restored. I started writing this blog and later became a published author. I finished my masters degree and went on to earn 2 doctorates.
God restored all those years the locusts of my arrogant self-lordship had eaten — and well beyond that!
Life again is GOOD!
What Does the Word Say?
The Bible verses on this topic could fill a book. Truth be told, they already do fill quite a few books, most of them found in the OT. Arrogance is closely associated with idolatry and even a cursory study of the Scriptures clearly demonstrates:
- The tight conceptual linkage between the two in the mind of our Creator;
- His displeasure with either/both of them, as well as;
- The tragic consequences experienced by those who stubbornly “went there”.
I’ve already discussed in detail elsewhere here at Miscellaneous Ramblings how our spiritual authority over the powers of darkness is directly dependent upon our humble submission to the Most High. I’ve also addressed how our ability to cast our earthly cares upon the Lord is equally contingent upon such an attitude.
In both articles, I cited the following verses where James and Peter identically paraphrase Proverbs 3:34:
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.James 4:61 Peter 5:5
The key words here are both evocative and compelling in the Greek lexicon:
- proud (huperephanos)
- showing one’s self above others, overtopping, conspicuous above others, pre–eminent; having an presumptuous estimate of one’s means or merits, despising others or even treating them with contempt, haughty, cavalier
- resist (antitassomai)
- to range in battle against; to oppose one’s self; to resist
In other words, the all-powerful Creator of everything we see Who perfectly knows the hearts and minds of all of us — takes notice of our arrogant attitudes (no matter how thoroughly we have deluded ourselves) -AND- then sets Himself in battle array against us in each and every case until we give up.
Gee, I wonder who’s going to win that matchup? Ooopsie!
An aphorism I coined years ago is this:
Lordship is proven only when there is a difference of opinion between you and God — and He wins!
There is no sliding scale here: deliberate disobedience in 2% of your life is 100% rebellion in God’s eyes.
If you’ve got a problem with my conclusions, I didn’t make any of it up.
He said it.
- Out loud
- Without equivocation
- To many people
- Throughout history
- Without one single exception
After careful, exhaustive examination of the Scriptures, I can assure you with absolute certainty that God has never lost a battle without exception. He is infinitely stronger, infinitely smarter, and infinitely more patient than any of us could ever hope to be.
The solution is ridiculously simple to describe, yet requires the grace of God to pull off: repentance.
The following Greek word is translated “repent” throughout the NT:
- repent (metanoeo)
- to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins
So repent [change your inner self — your old way of thinking, regret past sins] and return [to God—seek His purpose for your life], so that your sins may be wiped away [blotted out, completely erased], so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord [restoring you like a cool wind on a hot day];Acts 3:19 AMP (emphasis mine)
Repentance is both an event and a journey. In other words, our initial repentance event occurs when we surrendered to Jesus as Lord. However, that is merely the beginning of our journey of repentance. We walk out that odyssey by deliberately and repeatedly choosing to do things His way instead of our own.
That activity progressively infuses His ways of assessing and doing things into our very beings, replacing what otherwise comes to us naturally. The $10 theological term for this process is “sanctification.”
A Lifestyle of Repentance
We engage in this exercise by:
- Surrendering to Him as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1)
- Not allowing ourselves to be pressured into conforming to pop culture narratives (Romans 12:2a) or religious expectations arising from our doctrinal heritage/alignment, for that matter.
- Being transformed by His Word and Spirit into thinking, acting, and reacting like He does in our relationships (Romans 12:2b)
- Boldly coming before God’s throne of grace to seek mercy, grace, and help when it all either appears impossible to pull off — or we have miserably failed (Hebrews 4:16)
In other words, repentance is nowhere close to the dead religious works defined by man’s religion:
- Do this, don’t do that
- Cut this off, grow that out
- Don’t touch, don’t taste
- Beat our breasts
- Flagellate ourselves
- Light candles
- Crawl across broken glass
- Make pilgrimages
- Do penance
- Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
Instead, repentance is a life-style of humility before the Most High, letting His standards of thinking and behavior replace our fleshly ones.
Yes, repentance requires that we walk away from our pet sins and ask His forgiveness. But once that’s done, we’re to leave that junk — along its attendant guilt and shame — in our rearview mirrors and place our laser focus on Jesus, “the Author and Perfecter of our faith.”
Therein lies joy and freedom!
The Practice of Daily Surrender
One of the ways I fuel my personal movement towards humility is by re-centering my focus on reality. How? Through a daily affirmation/confession of surrender. So my morning prayers begin with something along the lines of:
Lord, I humble myself before You and surrender to You because You are Lord and I’m not. I roll the cares of today over onto You because You care for me. All my needs are met through Your riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Satan, you may not steal, kill, and destroy in my life today in the name of Jesus! Shut up and get out!
What have I just accomplished in the spirit realm?
By faith, I have:
- Reinforced my consciousness this is God’s day — not mine! — to run.
- Positioned myself to receive God’s promises.
- Asserted the day’s pecking order: God, then me, then the powers of darkness who must cease and desist their attacks upon me.
That practice has been working swimmingly over a decade and counting. My last words on this planet will be probably be something along those same lines.
- It’s humanity’s only acceptable response to God.
- It’s vital to our walk with Jesus.
- It’s inescapably at the forefront of all His dealings with us.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honorJames 4:10 NLT
Thanks for reading!