“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:10. Here is given an instruction with a promise attached to it but what does it mean to be humble? Some definitions are: modesty; the lack of pride and arrogance; courtesy, and meekness. It is to be submissive to God, who is our legitimate authority.
Some benefits of humility that are named in the Bible are: honor, wisdom, eternal life, unity, rewards in heaven, just to mention a few. Abraham Lincoln said, “Being a humble instrument in the hands of our Heavenly Father, I desire that all my words and acts may be according to His will and that it may be so, I give thanks to the Almighty and seek His aid.” And, “True humility is not an abject, groveling, self-despising, spirit. It is a right estimate of ourselves as God sees us.” Tryon Edwards said, “After crosses and losses, men grow humbler and wiser.” And D. L. Moody said, “Some people talk of how humble they are, but a lighthouse does not have a trumpet blown. It is its own witness.” “The proud man counts his newspaper clippings, the humble his blessings.” Spurgeon said, “The more fit a man is for God’s work, the lower he esteems himself.” These words of wisdom truly reflect the Bible’s definition of humility and the benefits it reaps.
Only humble people recognize their sinful state and their great need of God’s forgiveness, His grace and His mercy. God promises to hear their prayers, forgive their sins and heal their land if they will humble themselves and pray. (II Chronicles 7:14.) Jesus’ disciples once asked Him who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? He called a child to stand among them and said, “Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:4. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6. He also said not to think more highly than you ought to think but consider that God has dealt to everyone a measure of faith so no one is more important than the other. (Romans 12:3.)
Humility is part of the Christian experience. It is part of walking with God. “Many have so beclouded their own minds with self-importance, that they have been very confident, where they would do well to be distrustful and cautious. If men could see how easily self and spiritual pride become woven with supposed devotion to the work of God, and how, when this takes place, they are left to mar the work, and set the weaver’s pattern all awry, they would pray, ‘Anoint mine eyes with the heavenly eyesalve, that I may see all things correctly.’ [Revelation 3:18.]
“Unless there is increased humility of heart and purity of action, things will be done that will lead to a whole train of mistakes.” The Upward Look, 95.
“Nothing is more essential to communion with God than the most profound humility. ‘I dwell,’ says the High and Holy One, ‘with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit.’ [Isaiah 57:15.] While you are so eagerly striving to be first, remember that you will be last in the favor of God if you fail to cherish a meek and lowly spirit. Pride of heart will cause many to fail where they might have made a success. ‘Before honor is humility,’ [Proverbs 15:33; 18:12] and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. [Ecclesiastes 7:8.] … Few will humble themselves as a little child, that they may enter the kingdom of heaven. …
“This is why the Lord can do so little for us now. God would have you individually seek for the perfection of love and humility in your own hearts. Bestow your chief care upon yourselves, cultivate those excellencies of character which will fit you for the society of the pure and the holy.
“You all need the converting power of God. You need to seek Him for yourselves. For your soul’s sake, neglect this work no longer.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 50, 51.
How Do I Get It?
The necessity of having humility has been established, but how do you get it? It is the desire of the Lord that everyone should be saved. The experiences of the children of Israel were designed that their hearts would be humbled and they would confess their unfaithfulness to the Lord and return to the true God. Deuteronomy 8:2–3 says, “And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, [and] test you, to know what [was] in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not. So he humbled you, allowing you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know; that he might make known to you that man shall not live by bread alone, but man lives by every [word] that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”
“God brings His people near Him by close, testing trials, by showing them their own weakness and inability, and by teaching them to lean upon Him as their only help and safeguard. Then His object is accomplished. They are prepared to be used in every emergency, to fill important positions of trust, and to accomplish the grand purposes for which their powers were given them. God takes men upon trial; He proves them on the right hand and on the left, and thus they are educated, trained, disciplined. Jesus, our Redeemer, man’s representative and head, endured this testing process. He suffered more than we can be called upon to suffer. He bore our infirmities and was in all points tempted as we are. He did not suffer thus on His own account, but because of our sins; and now, relying on the merits of our Overcomer, we may become victors in His name.
“God’s work of refining and purifying must go on until His servants are so humbled, so dead to self, that, when called into active service, their eye will be single to His glory. He will then accept their efforts; they will not move rashly, from impulse; they will not rush on and imperil the Lord’s cause, being slaves to temptations and passions and followers of their own carnal minds set on fire by Satan.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 86.
Tests and trials are God’s appointed methods for learning humility so we can have a closer walk with Him. It is at those times when we are powerless, that we reach out for help outside of ourselves and look for a higher power. It is only when you recognize that you have a problem that you seek for a solution. God allows some experiences, which we might call “eating humble pie” or “eating crow” for us to learn the lessons that we need to trust in Him.
An Example to Follow
Jesus exemplified humility. At His last supper He humbled Himself and served His disciples, washing their feet and serving them, leaving us an example so we would learn humility and love for our brothers and sisters in Christ as we celebrate the communion service. “These ordinances are regarded too much as a form, and not as a sacred thing to call to mind the Lord Jesus. Christ ordained them, and delegated His power to His ministers, who have the treasure in earthen vessels. They are to superintend these special appointments of the One who established them to continue to the close of time. It is on these, His own appointments, that He meets with and energizes His people by His personal presence. … These ordinances are established for a purpose. Christ’s followers are to bear in mind the example of Christ in His humility. This ordinance is to encourage humility, but it should never be termed humiliating, in the sense of being degrading to humanity. It is to make tender our hearts toward one another. …
“The object of this service is to call to mind the humility of our Lord, and the lessons He has given in washing the feet of His disciples. There is in man a disposition to esteem himself more highly than his brother, to work for himself, to serve himself, to seek the highest place; and often evil-surmisings and bitterness of spirit spring up over mere trifles. This ordinance preceding the Lord’s Supper is to clear away these misunderstandings, to bring man out of his selfishness, down from his stilts of self-exaltation, to the humility of heart that will lead him to wash his brother’s feet. It is not in God’s plan that this should be deferred because some are considered unworthy to engage in it. The Lord washed the feet of Judas. … It is not for them to say, I will not attend the ordinance if such a one is present to act a part. Nor has God left it to man to say who shall present themselves on these occasions.” Pastoral Ministry, 170.
“Therefore, if there is any consolation of Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, Fulfill My joy by [being] likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. [Let] nothing [be done] through selfish ambition or conceit; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for your own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you, which was in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men: And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient even to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:1–8.
In Jesus’ life, not only did He come as a servant, but He humbled Himself and became a man. But not only that, He came as a poor man. He came from the wealth of heaven, being one with God, and not only did He come as a man, He gave Himself to the point of death, and then not only to the point of death, but to the point of death on a cross. That was a cruel way to die. And so we see an example of ultimate humility in the life of Christ.
“Jesus came to this world in humility. He was of lowly birth. The Majesty of heaven, the King of glory, the Commander of all the angel host, He humbled Himself to accept humanity, and then He chose a life of poverty and humiliation. He had no opportunities that the poor do not have. Toil, hardship, and privation were a part of every day’s experience. ‘Foxes have holes,’ He said, ‘and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head.’ Luke 9:58.
“Jesus did not seek the admiration or the applause of men. He commanded no army. He ruled no earthly kingdom. He did not court the favor of the wealthy and honored of the world. He did not claim a position among the leaders of the nation. He dwelt among the lowly. …
“He was the Prince of heaven, yet He did not choose His disciples from among the learned lawyers, the rulers, the scribes, or the Pharisees. He passed these by, because they prided themselves on their learning and position.” The Ministry of Healing, 197.
“I present before you the life of self-denial, humility, and sacrifice of our divine Lord. The Majesty of heaven, the King of glory, left His riches, His splendor, His honor and glory, and, in order to save sinful man, condescended to a life of humility, poverty, and shame.” Testimonies, vol 2, 490, 491.
“The more one sees of the character of God, the more humble he becomes, and the lower his estimation is of himself. This indeed is the evidence that he beholds God, that he is in union with Jesus Christ. Unless we are meek and lowly, we cannot in truth claim that we have any conception of the character of God. Men may think that they possess superior qualifications. Their splendid talents, great learning, eloquence, activity, and zeal, may dazzle the eye, delight the fancy, and awaken the admiration of those who cannot read beneath the surface; but unless humility and modesty is linked with these other gifts, self-glorification and self-exaltation will be seen. Unless each qualification is consecrated to the Lord, unless those to whom the Lord has entrusted gifts seek that grace which alone can make their qualifications acceptable to God, they are looked upon by the Lord … as unprofitable servants. ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God thou wilt not despise.’ [Psalm 51:17.] … Those whose hearts are melted and subdued, who have seen the glorious manifestation of God’s character, will show no heedless presumption. … Self will be lost in the consciousness they have of God’s wonderful glory, and their own utter unworthiness. All who value a happy and holy walk with God … will leave nothing undone if only they may gain a glimpse of His glory. In every place and under every circumstance, they will pray to God that they may be allowed to see Him. They will cherish that meek and contrite spirit that trembles at the word of God.” Sons and Daughters of God, 68.
By looking to Jesus and what He did for us at the cross of Calvary, all the desire for self-glorification will be laid in the dust and there will be no self-exultation, but there will be true humility and appreciation for the gift that has been provided. “The light reflected from the cross of Calvary will humble every proud thought. Those who seek God with all the heart, and accept the great salvation offered them, will open the door of the heart to Jesus. They will cease to ascribe glory to themselves. They will not pride themselves on their acquirements, or take credit to themselves for their capabilities, but will regard all their talents as God’s gifts, to be used to His glory. Every intellectual ability they will regard as precious only as it can be used in the service of Christ.
“Christ’s humiliation in clothing His divinity with humanity is worthy of our consideration. Had this subject been studied as carefully as it should have been, there would be far less of ‘I’ heard and far more of Christ. It is self-esteem that stands between the human agent and his God and impedes the vital current that flows from Christ to enrich every human being. When we follow Jesus in the path of self-denial and the cross, we shall find that we do not have to strive for humility. As we walk in Christ’s footsteps, we shall learn His meekness and lowliness of heart. Very few thoughts should be devoted to self; for we can never make ourselves great. It is Christ’s gentleness that makes us great.
“God’s faithful, humble, believing people will cut the idolatry of self out of their hearts, and Christ will become all and in all.” Our High Calling, 114.
If we have a desire to be humble we need to walk in Christ’s footsteps. Humbleness is not something that we can manufacture by ourselves. It is a by-product of depending on Jesus, accepting the trials and experiences that come our way, knowing that they are designed to teach us humility, to teach us to look to Him for help and for guidance.
A Unique Portrayal
During the reformation two men of learning went from England to Prague. They had received the light of the reformation and they wanted to spread it, so they began with an open attack on the Pope’s supremacy. They were soon silenced by the authorities but being unwilling to relinquish their purpose, they took other measures. They were not only preachers, but they were also artists. They proceeded to exercise their skill and in a place open to the public, they drew two pictures. One of the pictures represented the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem, sitting meekly upon an ass and followed by His disciples in travel worn garments and naked feet. The other picture portrayed a pontifical procession; the Pope arrayed in his rich robes and triple-crown, mounted upon a horse, magnificently adorned, preceded by trumpeters, and followed by cardinals and prelates in dazzling array. There in the form of pictures was a sermon which arrested the attention of all classes of people. They very well understood the message portrayed of Christ, how He came in His humility, and how the church in that day, the church in Rome, had fallen so far short of that, and had a very fancy entrance as compared to how Christ came in His humility.
In Matthew 23:11, 12, it says, “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be abased; and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Again in the sermon Jesus preached on the mountain and recorded in Matthew 5:3, He said, “Blessed [are] the poor in spirit: [or those who are humble] for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Peter admonished the younger people to submit to their elders. (I Peter 5:5, 6.) And the wise man, Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord [is] the instruction of wisdom: and before honor is humility.” Proverbs 15:33. Also, “Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, and before honor is humility.” Proverbs 18:12.
“Before honor is humility. To fill a high place before men, Heaven chooses the worker who, like John the Baptist, takes a lowly place before God. The most childlike disciple is the most efficient in labor for God. The heavenly intelligences can co-operate with him who is seeking, not to exalt self, but to save souls. He who feels most deeply his need of divine aid will plead for it; and the Holy Spirit will give unto him glimpses of Jesus that will strengthen and uplift the soul.” Desire of Ages, 436.
Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived and the most prosperous king of the children of Israel. He said, “I am [but] a little child.” I Kings 3:7. The Lord blessed him.
Jacob recognized himself as unworthy as he prayed to the Lord in Genesis 32:10. He said, “I am not worthy; I am the least of all.”
Abraham knew his unworthiness as well. While pleading for the righteous people in Sodom, he said, “Behold, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord, but I [am but] dust and ashes.” Genesis 18:27.
In the temple one day were two people, a Pharisee and a publican. Both of these men were praying. The Pharisee prayed with his head raised high and said, “I thank God that I am not like all these other men. I have all these things, I do all the right things and I’m so glad I’m not like that tax collector over there!” (Luke 18:11.) The tax collector, so humbled with the recognition that he was a sinner did not even lift up his face toward heaven and said, “God be merciful to me, I am a sinner.” Jesus said, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified [rather] than the other: for every one who exalts himself will be humbled; but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:13, 14.
It is only when we realize our own weakness that we are strong in the strength of the Lord.
“No man can empty himself of self. We can only consent for Christ to accomplish the work. Then the language of the soul will be, Lord, take my heart; for I cannot give it. It is Thy property. Keep it pure, for I cannot keep it for Thee. Save me in spite of myself, my weak, unchristlike self. Mold me, fashion me, raise me into a pure and holy atmosphere, where the rich current of Thy love can flow through my soul.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 159.
Though it may seem oxymoronic, when you are down, God lifts you up even though your circumstances may not change. God creates in us something that we cannot do for ourselves.
His Strength in Our Weakness
Gladys Alward, according to this world’s standard of achievement, was not anyone special. She did not possess any particular talent, nor was she well educated, but God used her in spite of her circumstances. She was born in England of the working class, the daughter of a mailman. She did not excel scholastically, and she did not know classical languages or possess an exhaustive knowledge of the Bible. She was raised in the Anglican Church, though she was not a particularly religious person early in her life. When she was eighteen she attended some revival meetings where the preacher expounded on giving one’s life over to the service of the Lord. That message struck a chord in her heart which produced a desire to serve as a missionary in a mission field. She was a parlor maid, an occupation she undertook with little chance of realizing her call, but having spent the last four years serving others, it surely gave her a unique insight to a servant’s heart. In her mid twenties she applied for the China Inland Mission on a probationary position, but she was rejected. However, no one can frustrate the will of God or reject for service, those called of God.
She determined by whatever means possible, to follow God so she continued to work and to save her money and after four years at the age of thirty, her opportunity came in the person of an aging missionary, Mrs. Jeannie Lawton, who was looking for a young assistant to carry on her work. Mrs. Lawton was in China. Gladys did not have the money to travel by ship to China so she put her affairs in order, and with her passport, her Bible, her tickets, and two pounds nine pence, set off over a perilous over-land journey to the inland city of Yangchen. This was a place where few Europeans had visited, and where the local people did not trust foreigners. Here she met with Mrs. Lawton and set about planning the best way to attract an audience to hear the message of Jesus.
The city in which they lived was an overnight stop for mule caravans, and the building where they lived had once been an inn, so they determined to do some repairs and restore its original purpose, offering food and care for the mules along with hospitality, food, and a warm bed for the drivers, at a fair price. It is reported that Gladys would run out and grab the halter of the lead mule and lead it into their courtyard, the other mules following with their drivers going along for the ride.
In the evenings after serving a meal and before bed, the women would gather their guests and tell them stories about a man named Jesus. In this fashion the gospel message began to be proclaimed, not only at their inn, but by the drivers who carried the stories to their next stops along their journey. She spent many hours each day learning to communicate in the vernacular of the locals until she was finally able to speak with them. This was something that the China Inland Mission thought she could never do, because she had not proven herself previously to have done well scholastically.
After a short period of time, Mrs. Lawson fell and was seriously injured causing her to die a few days later. Gladys, along with the Chinese cook, who was also a Christian, determined to continue the work there. They began sharing the gospel in the surrounding villages, and during their travels became aware of many unwanted children. Her missionary work then turned in a different direction, care for the unwanted little ones. This care was not limited only to the children. During those years, China was under attack by Japan, and many Chinese soldiers were wounded. Her inn became a refuge for 20 orphans and as many as 30–40 injured soldiers at a time. As the war continued and intensified, her children numbered about 100. She had by this time become a citizen of China and because of her activities, and the war, she was forced to leave her home. She set out with her children, on foot, and took them over the mountains to a safer province about 100 miles away.
Amazingly, she was able to continue her ministry there in China until 1947 when the communist regime took over and all missionaries had to leave China. This woman is witness to what God can do through someone who recognizes her own weakness and allows God to work through her. She once said, “My heart is full of praise that one so insignificant, uneducated, and ordinary in every way could be used to His glory for the blessing of a people in poor persecuted China.”
“But the meek shall possess the land and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.” Psalm 37:11. “The reward for humility [and] fear of the Lord [is] riches, and honor and life.” Proverbs 22:4.
The most humble, the least, the last, shall be the greatest. Christ is the embodiment of humility. He humbled Himself more than it is possible for us to do. “Therefore God also has highly exalted him, and given him the name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of [those] in heaven, and of [those] on earth, and of [those] under the earth; And [that] every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord, to the glory of the Father.” Philippians 2:9–11.
His desire is for us to realize our dependence on Him so He can exalt us and bring us back to the condition of what we lost in the Garden of Eden so He can take us home to live with Him for eternity.
A network engineer, Jana Grosboll lives in Derby, Kansas. She may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.