Seven Aids to Finding Humility... and Keeping It
- Friday, July 01, 2011
As I write this, something just happened. A few days ago, an online pastors' service picked up an article from my website and forwarded it (with my approval of course) to over 100,000 on their mailing list. Ever since, my mailbox has been clogged with comments and responses, almost entirely favorable. However, this morning a negative note came. A layman let me know he was the type of church member I was addressing and that I was entirely wrong. I answered him and should have moved forward. But since, I've gone back and reread his note and even printed it out. His criticism will linger with me far longer than the endorsements.
Okay, so we have all these influences converging on little old us to keep us mindful that we are puny, dependent, limited, weak, ignorant, and sinners.
A gospel song expresses it like this--
I thought number one would surely be me;
I thought I could be what I wanted to be.
I thought of myself as a mighty big man.
But I can't even walk without You holding my hand.
Question: Why do we have to keep learning these lessons? Why does pride become such a dominant, malignant factor in our lives?
Answer: Because we live under a constant barrage of forces that neutralize humility.
Here are seven of these forces that work against humility:
1. Our ego
We are born self-centered and, unless something intervenes (like a spanking or discipline or instruction), we grow up full of ourselves, thinking the world revolves around us. That may be the essence of original sin, that we are all about us.
My friend Jerry Clower used to say, "People say I have an ego. Listen, friend--if you don't have an ego, go get you one. Because you're going to be needing one in this life!" He meant the kind of self-awareness and confidence that accompany success in life. That's the good ego; the bad ego is pride, self-centeredness.
2. Our successes
No one wants to fail; everyone wants to succeed in life. And yet we learn far more from our failures than from successes and accomplishments. Let a young writer publish an early book and receive great acclaim and he/she automatically thinks of themselves as a great author. However, if the aspiring writer receives a series of rejection slips that drive him to work at his craft and perfect his manuscript, he can become far more than otherwise.
In the ministry, few people are as full of themselves as young pastors who have achieved acclaim early. After watching them preen and listening to them prate, one finds himself hoping they will be humbled in order to be of genuine service in the Lord's work. My opinion is that no one in the ministry ever amounts to anything without being broken at some point.
3. Our underlings
Our groupies, our fans, our employees, our admirers--call them what you please. Sycophants. Many of these attempt to curry favor in order to use us for their purposes.
4. Our forgetfulness
God sent us failure and humbled us, but we quickly forgot the lesson and soon were back to speed with our ego running the show.
The Apostle Peter wrote of various Christlike virtues, then added, He who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins (II Peter 1:9).
5. Our enemy, Satan himself
Jesus told Peter that the devil wanted to sift you like wheat. For one called "The Rock" (Matthew 16:18), we get a picture of Peter being turned into sand. Satan is forever trying that approach with us today, in two primary ways: by running us down, destroying our confidence and faith, and by puffing us up, making us believe in our self-sufficiency.
6. Our blindness
Even without successes to puff us up, we still find ourselves carrying inflated ideas of who we are. Where does this come from? We are clearly turning blind eyes toward reality. The Old Testament prophets and our Lord Jesus spoke of those who have eyes but will not see (Matthew 13:13ff).
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