"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up." James 4:10.
Being humble is an admirable quality in God’s eyes. And we lovers of God want to be humble. It not only pleases God, but, according to the scripture, will result in God’s lifting us up.
We all want to be lifted up, right?
But what, exactly, does “lift up” mean? Does it mean that if I bow down on creaky, aged knees, that I won’t be stuck in that position forever or injure myself in the process?
Yes, probably, but it means much more, according to the seventy-some translations of this verse that I read this morning.
If we humble ourselves before God, He will exalt us, honor us, give us purpose, encourage and help us, enhance us, lift our heads so we can stand tall, give us a high position and set us on our feet once more.
To be frank, I am a little uncomfortable with the idea of being exalted and I’d like to discuss with Him the high position He has in mind before accepting the post, but as to the rest of the benefits of humbling myself, I am all in.
So how do I humble myself before God? I need specifics.
I found 12 ways and the corresponding Bible verses listed on the Billy Graham Evangelical Association website. My remarks are in parentheses:
Routinely confess your sin to God (Luke 18:9-14). All of us sin and fall short of the glory of God. However, too few of us have a routine practice of rigorous self-honesty examination. Weekly, even daily, review of our hearts and behaviors, coupled with confession to God, is an essential practice of humility.
Acknowledge your sin to others (James 3:2, James 5:16). Humility before God is not complete unless there is also humility before man. A true test of our willingness to humble ourselves is willingness to share with others the weaknesses we confess to God. Wisdom, however, dictates that we do so with others that we trust.
Take wrong patiently (1 Peter 3:8-17). When something is unjust we want to react and rectify it. However, patiently (listening and thoughtfully) responding to the unjust accusations and actions of others demonstrates our strength of godly character and provides an opportunity to put on humility.
Actively submit to authority…the good and the bad (1 Peter 2:18). Our culture does not value submission; rather it promotes individualism. How purposely and actively do you work on submission to those whom God has placed as authorities in your life? Doing so is a good way to humble yourself.
Receive correction and feedback from others graciously (Proverbs 10:17, 12:1). In the Phoenix area, a local East valley pastor was noted for graciously receiving any negative feedback or correction offered. He would simply say “thank you for caring enough to share that with me, I will pray about it and get back to you.” Look for the kernel of truth in what people offer you, even if it comes from a dubious source. Always pray, “Lord, what are you trying to show me through this?”
Accept a lowly place (Proverbs 25:6,7). If you find yourself wanting to sit at the head table, wanting others to recognize your contribution or become offended when others are honored or chosen, then pride is present. Support others being recognized, rather than you. Accept and look for the lowly place; it is the place of humility.
Purposely associate with people of lower state than you (Luke 7:36-39). Jesus was derided by the Pharisees for socializing with the poor and those of lowly state. Our culture is very status conscious and people naturally want to socialize upward. Resist the temptation of being partial to those with status or wealth.
Choose to serve others (Philippians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 4:5, Matthew 23:11). When we serve others, we are serving God’s purposes in their lives. Doing so reduces our focus on ourselves and builds the Kingdom of God. When serving another (person) costs us nothing, we should question whether it is really servanthood.
Be quick to forgive (Matthew 18: 21-35). Forgiveness is possibly one of the greatest acts of humility we can do. To forgive is to acknowledge a wrong that has been done us and also to further release our right of repayment for the wrong. (Forgiveness does not require any actions on the part of the offender. Don't wait for an apology or an admission of guilt.) Forgiveness is denial of self. Forgiveness is not insisting on our way and our justice.
Cultivate a grateful heart (1 Thessalonians 5:18). The more we develop an attitude of gratitude for the gift of salvation and life He has given us, the more true our perspective of self. A grateful heart is a humble heart.
Purpose(fully) to speak well of others (Ephesians 4:31-32). (We may think) saying negative things about others puts them “one down” and us “one up,” (but in reality it is judgmental and damaging to our Christian walk.) Speaking well of others (and to others) edifies them and builds them up. Make sure, however, that what you say is not intended as flattery (or as manipulation).
Treat pride as a condition that always necessitates embracing the cross (Luke 9:23). It is our nature to be proud and it is God’s nature in us that brings humility. Committing to a lifestyle of daily dying to ourselves and living through Him is the foundation for true humility.
Years ago, Mac Davis sang a song, “Oh, Lord, It’s Hard to be Humble,” and the words ring true. Humility is a rarity in our self-centered, highly competitive world.
On the football field, winners sometimes give God the glory for their victory, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if the losing team would smile with sincerity and congratulate the winners and give God the glory for just the ability and opportunity to compete?
Lord, there are lots of misplaced values in our world today. Help us, O Father, to value what is valuable to You and to walk humbly all the days of our lives to Your honor and Your glory. Amen.