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God has made it pretty clear that he is dead set against the proud. It isn't that he is mildly irritated with the proud; he is working to bring down the proud. Anyone who proudly thinks he can grow a church on marketing and a magnetic personality is in for a shock. You can grow IBM with fast processors and good marketing. You can only grow a church by relying on God to work through you. If you are not relying on God you can grow an organization, but it will not be a church. It will be something far worse. The stench of Phariseeism. The stuff of the flesh. It is wood, hay and stubble. It will not make it through the fire. Without humility, you will find yourself on the opposite side of a tug-of-war with God, and God has very strong arms. It is very important to approach the work of the ministry with humility
Popular teaching says you cannot be humble and know it. This is poppycock. If you cannot be humble and know it, how can you know if you are being obedient to the command to humble ourselves before the Lord? If we can't know whether we are being obedient, how can God expect us to obedient? According to this line of thinking, the less you think about whether you are being humble the better.
Another mis-truth about humility is that humility states that the highest virtue is to forget about yourself altogether--to lose yourself in the service of God and others. God sent his son to bleed for you. He never intended you get lost. If I gave the blood of my son for you, I sure wouldn't want you to think I wanted you to get lost. Humility is not forgetting about yourself altogether. It is not losing yourself in the service of God and others. This talk of losing yourself is the stuff of codependancy, not humility. Codependancy loses itself in the service of another. This is not biblical love.
Paul said "Each of you look not only to your own interests, but to the interests of others." The assumption being that you will look to your own interest. But, you won't stop there; you will also look to the interests of others. Looking after our own needs tends to come more naturally than looking to the needs of others. Still, taking care of yourself is a necessary part of effective ministry. It is wrong to neglect yourself so that you are not fit for the long haul. It is wrong to ignore your responsibility for self-care
I have heard preachers say, "I'd rather burn out than rust out." Why are those my only two options? There is another way. We can live out. We can take care of our own interests and the interests of others. We can humbly take care of our own needs and look to care for the needs of others.
Humility is a rather simple thing. It is a belief. Like all beliefs, it is not merely intellectual assent. It is truth that matters. It is a belief we hold deeply in the center of our being. It is a belief that affects us emotionally. It is a belief that He is the vine and I am the branch. It is the understanding that I am deeply, profoundly dependant on God. It is a realization that the world does not revolve around me. It is a theocentric understanding of life. It is an understanding that I have equal worth before God with every other person on planet earth; no more; no less. I can hold these beliefs and know it. I can be humble and know it. In fact, to be obedient to God, I must be.
Humility is understanding that I am cut from the same bolt of cloth as homosexuals and drunks and preachers who crawl in bed with their secretaries. Humility shakes its head and say, "Except for the grace of God, there go I." Humility realizes I am capable of anything. I am capable of the worst of sins. I am cut from the stuff as the worst of them. This is why Paul could say, "I am the worst of sinners."
Pride gasps and says, "Oh, how could they?" Humility says, "This demonstrates what the Bible says about us is true. I am capable of that too. I must be careful now that I am standing lest I fall."
Humility drinks deeply from the chalice of grace. Humility stands in grace because it understand deeply that it needs grace. There are two kinds of people that grace will not touch: The first group believes they are beyond the reach of grace; the second take grace for granted. They assume grace. They even think they deserve grace. Grace that is deserved is no grace at all. Only the needy receive.
Humility usually has to be learned through pain. This is why pain is such an important part of the saintmaking process. Most of the people that God has used greatly are people he has broken at some point in their life. He wrestled with Jacob at the Jabbok river. It is too easy for us to get the idea that we can do quite well with out grace, thank you. This attitude is utterly disgusting to God. If you are a country mile from having this attitude, beware. As God's spokesman I say to you, "Beware!" God is coming after you. He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. He is coming to get you, and he is carrying a big stick. It will not be pretty.
Only the humble can truly worship. Proud people are not all that excited about God. As far as they can tell, God had not done all that much for them. That is OK in a way. They don't need much from God. They certainly do not need Him to forgive them of much sin. They have not done much wrong. Only little things. So they think. Jesus reserved his most scathing rebuke for the likes of these. Proud people do not enjoy God in worship. They don't really enjoy anything.
Humility is not an add-on. It is not an extra. It is not a nice to have. You cannot grow a church without humility.
Humility can co-exist with confidence. In fact, only the humble are truly confident. The humble say, "Without him I can do nothing," and, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Not a bad prayer to pray every Sunday morning:
"God I stand in a posture of humility, understanding that without you, nothing of lasting spiritual value can happen. I understand that I am cut from the same bold of cloth as the worst of sinners. I understand that I am capable of the worst of sins. I stand in need of your grace. I stand before you only because of your grace.
I also stand in confidence, coming boldly before the throne because of grace. I stand in the strong confidence that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I stand in the strong confidence that I am accepted by you. I stand in the confidence that greater is he who is in me than he who is in the world. Use me, today, to storm the gates of hell and take back the captives that you bought with your blood."
1. One a scale of one to ten, how would you evaluate your confidence?
2. One a scale of one to ten, how would you evaluate your humility?
3. Is it a bigger battle for you to stay confident or to stay humble?
4. Do you agree with the idea you your confidence can be at "ten" and your humility can be at "ten" at the same time?
5. What is the difference between confidence and pride?
6. What are some things that contribute to your confidence?
7. What some things that tend to make you less confident?
8. Suppose someone were to say, "My new year's resolution is to become more confident." What steps would you suggest they take?
9. What does confidence have to do with doubling your church every five years or less?
10. What does humility have to do with doubling your church every five years or less?
11. Let's talk about humility. Do you agree with the idea that you can be humble and know it?
12. What exactly is humility?
13. How do you work on becoming more humble?
14. What are some verses that speak to the sin of pride?
15. Why do you think God is so offended by pride?
16. What key events in your life have helped you to learn humility?
17. What events have strengthened your confidence?
18. How do you teach humility to others? How do you develop humility in your congregation?
19. How do you teach the people in your church to be confident?
20. How can we pray for one another this week?