But though He’s aware of everything, He’s also searching for something in particular, something that acts like a magnet to capture His attention and invite His active involvement. God is decisively drawn to humility. The person who is humble is the one who draws God’s attention, and in this sense, drawing His attention means also attracting His grace—His unmerited kindness.

Think about that: There’s something you can do to attract more of God’s gracious, underserved, supernatural strength and assistance!

What a promise! Listen to this familiar passage again for the very first time: “God…gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Contrary to popular and false belief, it’s not “those who help themselves” whom God helps; it’s those who humble themselves.

This is the promise of humility. God is personally and providentially supportive of the humble. And the grace He extends to the humble is indescribably rich. As Jonathan Edwards wrote, “The pleasures of humility are really the most refined, inward, and exquisite delights in the world.”(2) We want to position ourselves to receive and experience those exquisite pleasures.

What Is Humility?

For me, Jim Collins’s book was an encouraging reminder that even in a world that celebrates the proud, humility is still valued. But books like Good to Great have severe limitations; they can take us only so far in understanding humility because they’re not rooted in a biblical worldview. Our definition of humility must be biblical and not simply pragmatic, and in order to be biblical it must begin with God. As John Calvin wrote, “It is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.”(3)

That’s where the following definition can help us: Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.

That’s the twin reality that all genuine humility is rooted in: God’s holiness and our sinfulness. Without an honest awareness of both these realities, all self-evaluation will be skewed and we’ll fail to either understand or practice true humility. We’ll miss out on experiencing the promise and the pleasures that humility offers.

But using scriptural truth, we can evaluate our lives honestly, and find out if we're growing in the humility that draws His gaze and attracts more of His grace.

Do You Have It?

So let’s ask ourselves: When it comes to the values we live by, what will others say about us one day? Will they testify that humility characterized our lives?

So many human ventures, so many grand designs of mankind, have been undermined because humility was lacking on the part of those involved. Yet humility holds out an amazing promise to those who will embrace it: God gives grace to the humble!

What are you building with your life? A marriage? A family? A business? A church? A career? In all your ventures, are you aware of your need for God’s grace to give your efforts lasting value? Do you long for God’s providential help and blessing? Then let’s allow the promise of humility to shape our lives and choices, so our children and others will one day look back and say of us, They had that. They had humility. They had what mattered.

Excerpt from Humility by C.J. Mahaney. Used with permission.

C.J. Mahaney leads Sovereign Grace Ministries, a church-planting ministry with a growing international family of churches. He also is the author of several books and a contributor to the Together for the Gospel blog. This column is adapted with permission from his book, Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah Publishers, Sisters, OR,).

1. Jim Collins, Good to Great (New York: Harper Collins, 2001), 27.
2. From the March 2, 1723, entry in Jonathan Edwards’s diary, Memoir of Jonathan Edwards, http://www.tracts.ukgo.com/memoir_jonathan_edwards.pdf (accessed August 3, 2005).
3. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), 38.