I was working in the office at my church when I was 19. A series of unfortunate events led me to be there and not in college. Not that I minded too much, school was okay, but not my goal in life. I had been working for the church just over a year, and had planned to leave in late spring to head to an orphanage in Pennsylvania and run a summer program. However, the weather did not cooperate with my plans that winter. The make-up snow days and some other events gave the orphanage cause to cancel the summer program ~ after I gave my notice and the church had already hired my replacement. Now what?
Well, it just so happened that Major Ian Thomas from Capernwray Bible School had been invited to come lead a week’s worth of meetings at our church. Just coincidence, right? NOT!!!
As I was able to talk with Major Thomas over the week, he asked me about my immediate plans and I explained the situation. His reply? Perfect! Spring School at Capernwray in Carnforth, England will start in just a few weeks and you are coming. I was shocked at the idea. My folks were shocked at the idea. My friends were shocked at the idea. Basically everyone who knew me – with the exception of Major Thomas – was shocked. You see, I was a homebody. I didn’t go too far from friends and family, especially if I couldn’t get back home to those friends and family members easily. We were talking over two months – and no chance of getting home during the Bible School session.
But I prayed and I knew that was exactly what Yahweh was leading me to do! I wound up being there for over a year and loved it and was not homesick. Talk about the grace and provision of God. I had no doubt His leading was in that choice.
While I was there I had the privilege of sitting under the teaching of many godly men and women of God. One who stands out prominently in my memory is Dr. Alan Redpath. That man represents to me the most vivid example of a human being so surrendered to the Lord Jesus that time spent in his presence left you sure you had been as close to Jesus as possible here on earth. He lived and breathed the Word of Life. When I try to think of a true living example of humility, I picture Dr. Redpath.
How do you define humility? Have you given it much thought? The best meaning of humility I know is this: the intentional perspective of preferring another before oneself, intentionally putting consideration for another before consideration of oneself. So what does lack of humility and having humility look like?
Before you take any action, do you think of yourself first, or do you think of others? Do you even consider others in the choices you make? Most of the time, most of us just plow right into whatever it is we want to do. We speak before we think, and especially before we think of the impact our words might have on the hearts and minds of those around us. When we want to do something, we just jump right in. There is little consideration for the effect our actions will have, not only for those in our immediate circles, but also in the larger scheme of things – the ripple effect of action and reaction spread out far beyond what we could imagine, sometimes over a lifetime. These are examples of the pride and selfishness that are hallmark to the lack of humility.
When you live with humility, there is always that sense of forethought, of being aware of the people around you and purposely putting their needs before your needs, of caring so much about their state of being that you wouldn’t think of just bursting in and running over them with either your words or your actions. You display a preference for others that refuses to put your self ahead of some one else.
I believe there needs to be an undeniable basis for that preference of another before one self for true humility to be present. For me, that basis is Yahweh Himself. His Word teaches me that He alone is worthy of my worship. He is the object of my preference. Because Yahweh is who He is, I can confidently put Him first in my thoughts, my emotions, my words, and my actions. He is the One to whom I choose to surrender and to obey without exception. HE IS WORTHY!
And it is His command that I also put others before myself to demonstrate that He is first. His Word teaches me to lay aside my selfish ambition and my “rights” to my self so that He can pour Himself out through me in the lives of those He brings around me. Philippians 2 gives us such clear direction in this matter of humility. And this text shows us our very best example of what humility walking here on this earth looks like ~ in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.
So, when I am tempted to put my wants or even my needs to the forefront of my life, I am reminded to choose differently because of the life of my Savior within me. The Son of God chose to set aside the privilege and glory of heaven because He loves you and me so deeply. His commandment is that I am to love others just like He loves them therefore I must also put aside my rights and privileges in order to serve Him through serving others. That is true humility.
Humility is not debasing myself, it is not trying to conjure up some pitiful view of my not being worthy, it is not focusing on my weaknesses ~ in fact it is simply not focusing on my self at all, it is choosing to focus on Jesus, surrendering to Him, and obeying His command because I am so in love with Him obeying is exactly what I WANT to do! Humility is a direct byproduct of true love.
Here’s to love and humility. May you know the fullness of His Presence in your life as you fall more deeply in love with Him and welcome the expression of His character through you as you walk before others in true humility and fulfill His command! Peace and joy abound as you walk in humility.