Lesson IV: The Most Important and Essential Attitude: Humility
Psalm 139:23-24; Ephesians 4:1-2; 1 Peter 5:1-9
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:6-7
The big problem we have today in evangelical Christianity today is the lack of desire to be fed, to grow, or to be humble. We all tell our people to come as they are, but we mistakenly think we can stay as we are. The result is a lack of quality teaching and discipleship in the Church that has left it weak, helpless, and nearly useless. Christianity-real Christianity that is-is so much more. It is a radical, revolutionary transformation from the existential core of who we are to who we are called to be by Christ's empowerment. This is a miracle, a metaphysical transformation by the work of the Spirit. But, to grow and change our attitude requires action on our part, that of putting off what inhibits us and putting on what He gives us. To further facilitate this, we must participate and partake in it. And, that is where the discipline of the faith comes in. Our further walk in Christ necessitates our learning and knowing more about Him. This step is crucial before we can advance, no matter how long we may have been a Christian or how far we may have walked thus far. Our spiritual formation that shapes our attitude still requires our continual surrender, and our humility is a must.
The principle attitude for the Christian life is humility. If we commit to the precepts of His Word, then this most precious attitude of humility should flow from us. Being humble minimizes arrogance, removes pride, and makes us a person who is pleasing to Christ. This means we become a person that He can use-fully and powerfully. It is our fallen nature and weaknesses that cause us to think we are better than we are, which, in turn, causes us to strive to lift ourselves above others and God. Such an attitude places us in a useless and destructive place before our Lord and others. On the other hand, humility enables us to recognize our indebtedness to God, and puts off whatever blocks our closeness to Him. It is admitting to others, and most importantly to God, that He is responsible for our salvation and our achievements. Humbleness will enable us to be teachable people, willing to have a good attitude of submission and servanthood. The distinguishing mark in us will be an attitude that comes from our confession of sin and remembrance of how Christ served and saved us!
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. Proverbs 3:7
Being humble means being able to share with one another beyond our own agenda and needs. Being willing to cooperate creates an environment of trust and encouragement in relationships. In a church, people are drawn to join and belong where neither pride nor arrogance are present. When we are selfish and stingy with our sharing, an atmosphere of distrust is created. Who wants to be a part of that? How we react to the non-Christian environment will distinguish us as Christ-like or hypocritical; whom do you think our God desires? Whom do you think will be contagious with the faith?
Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. James 4:10
Humility is not equivalent to self-hatred, spinelessness, or having a "poor me" attitude. It is not having hypocritical agreements with the opinions of others or accepting the fads of our time. Humility does not diminish us; rather, it lifts up God. Our regarding others as important will encourage them. Humility only takes away our bad characteristics; the power of God will then be released in our behalf. We will not be satisfied with our life and experiences, as we will want more of Him and less of ourselves. We will refuse to become complacent and when we have come as we are, we will not live as we were; we will realize that we need more from our Lord and align ourselves accordingly. Maturity and humility will cause us to realize our desperate need no matter how starved or how well fed we think we are (Isa. 55:1; Phil. 3:1-14). And, that need is for more of Christ in our lives. We come to Him stripped of all we are-our education, our accomplishments, and of what we want. We all come to Him in need of a Savior and a Lord. And, we must realize our need or we will not desire more; and, if this is so, we will not grow more. If we are not growing, we are not being impacted and thus not impacting, and all that we are and do will be negatively affected. When we come as we are, but then slide down in our growth, we stay as we are.
When we refuse to embrace this attitude of humility and apply it to our relationships, the result is not good. Arrogance and pride will overrun our relationships and cause a deficiency in our relationship to Christ as well as destruction to people. These are the attitudes that say that one is superior to another, even to the extent of regarding others with contempt, as if they were unworthy of any relationship or interaction with us! When we stay as we are, we will have contempt even for a friend, let alone a spouse. Our relationships will not grow, nor will they survive. There is nothing you can do to rescue them unless you repent of your disorder and dysfunction before they become malignant. If you think, oh, no big deal; I have to have a healthy self-esteem, you are right; but, when self comes to center stage, we tend to lift our self-interests and our self-sufficiencies over others-even over God. This may seem necessary by some who think, hey, I am number one! However, as number one, we are in a category all by ourselves-alone and disconnected from life and effective relationships. That kind of thinking will cause one to end up in misery. Doesn't sound so good now, does it? Just think how it is for the other people who are in your life now. This rotten, dysfunctional attitude will convince you that you are self-sufficient; however, it will break down, further blinding you from seeing your need for redemption. It will also blind you from seeing your need for growth in spiritual matters. Therefore, self becomes the god, and any work of the One True God is muted and put aside. Any relationship that would be healthy will quickly die.
When humility is functioning in our relationships, we will be able to accept our human limitations and be dependent on Christ as LORD. This will transfer to how we relate with others because we will be able to recognize the other person's strengths, weaknesses, worth, and relevance in our relationship with him or her. We will understand that we do indeed need Christ more in our lives so we can deal with the "others" in our lives. How we treat people and how we are treated comes directly from our humbleness. We will be able to produce one of the quintessential helps in creating a successful Christian life-surrender (Gal. 2:20-21! However, this cannot happen if we are full of pride. Pride closes the door to everything!
If you still do not think you need to be humble, then consider Christ. As LORD, God, and Creator of the universe, He humbled Himself. He is God! He gave up His lofty position in Heaven to become human-one of us. He lived in our place in perfection, something we could not do; then He died, absorbing God's justified wrath on our behalf. So you, a mere person who feels that, hey, I do not need to be humble, will cause eternal consequences and even obstruct your own salvation. How can you accept God if you think you are a god? We can never say to Him, but Lord, you do not understand, because He does. Do you? When you do understand, you will begin to be much better at developing and maintaining a healthy attitude that will point to Him and last a lifetime!
Having a good attitude will contribute greatly to all of our relationships, so we will be able to work on ourselves, and see our place in Christ. Our good Attitude from our humility will also contribute the essential exercise of our Lord's principles on how we lead and manage our churches, the practicing of "Servant Leadership." We will be able to communicate and commune with others more effectively, especially in learning how to listen, which will build a stronger relationship with God, and which will affect all we do in life and the life of our church. Then, it helps in earning His favor and blessing, as we can see so clearly from Scripture (exception being His grace and love, which we cannot earn).
Attitude is not just about our behaviors; it is the indicator of what He has done in us. Consider these thoughts and how they can help your spiritual formation, and continue to grow so your attitude reflects your desire to be more like Christ:
· When we come as we are, then stay as we are, we negate our growth in Him. We will be building our faith from the materials from our own nature and desires, and not His nature and desires, which are best (1 Cor. 1:30).
· Christ needs to be more than just an academic idea or a mere hope. He must be our reality as we acknowledge His holiness and the reality of our repentance (1 Thess. 4:3).
· Humility comes from our correct understanding of who we are in Christ and how we are to come before God.
· Humility does not mean we are to hate ourselves; rather, it means we have a right respect and relationship with God (Prov. 3:5).
· Our attitude toward God will greatly affect our attitude in how we communicate and operate. These will be revealed by the motives of our heart. We learn humility through the spiritual disciplines of being in His Word, and practice, before God, our dependence on Him, the seeking of His will, and being in prayer. Our motivation is the realization that we are saved by grace and kept by His love (1 Kings 8:58; Psalm 25; Mark 1:7; Luke 9:23; 18:9-14; 22:27; Romans 12:3; Eph. 4:1-3; Col. 1:18; Phil. 2:8; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:3-5).
· Deciding to stay as we are is foolish in a Christian worldview. It comes from the irrationality of imprudent Christians who do not use wisdom and who do not desire to learn and/or grow. These people rather choose to seek folly, thus bringing adversity upon themselves.
· Humility comes from our submitting to the sovereignty of God (Proverbs 1:24-33; 6:16; 8:13, Isaiah 57:15; 66:2; Micah 6:8).
· In order for us to submit, we must remove our pride by "clinging" to the cross, confessing our sins, and seeking forgiveness from God and others whom we have offended. Our discipline in the faith will help strengthen our walk as we continue to grow in Him.
· God alone deserves the right to be exalted and honored. God is the only One to exalt us! This is an essential attitude we must assume before effective Christian character, maturity, or spiritual growth can be possible. Keep in mind that God's plan for our lives is far better than any desire-evil or good-we could possible have. His promise brings relief from persecutions, in this life and prepares us for our life to come.
· The application of humility is to trust Christ, and to keep praying, trusting that our Lord's love for us is real and true, which will encourage us more. God is merciful and is moved by our struggles; He does care (Ex. 2:23-25; 3:7-9; Jug. 2:18; 10:16; Psalm 107:9; Prov. 3:34; Isa. 2:11-12, 17; Ezek. 17:24; 21:26; Luke 1:52-53).
· Humility is mutual. When we are faithful and humble toward God and others, it builds our character and community (James 4:6-10).
· Humility does not diminish us; rather, it lifts up God. Seeing others as important encourages them. Humility only takes away our bad characteristics; the power of God can then be released in our behalf.
· The most important aspect is to keep our eyes focused on Christ, with racehorse blinders on to block off anything else (1 Pet. 4:1-11).
· By following His precepts, the church will remain healthy, free from the diseases of strife, gossip, arrogance, apathy, and envy (Rom. 13:11-14)!
· Surrender is crucial to humility which is central in doing His will; we cannot do either when "if" and "but" are part of our vocabulary and blocking His way (Psalm 40:8).
· If we are claiming Christ as Lord, we need to be living the life-not just talking about it or just showing up for the club meetings (church) (John 15:1-15)!
· The more you find God in the midst of your problems, the more you will find your problems irrelevant or disappearing (Col. 3:2).
· Humility requires a fixation upon Christ that is manifested in our obedience; the willingness to go all out in faith and prayer shows persistence and learning (Heb. 12:1-2).
· We have to know and practice humility that the Spirit can use to show others; seeing the Christian life exhibited in us is sometimes the means for people to catch what it is all about!
Thus, it is logical and beneficial to be humble in Him (2 Chron. 7:14-15; Prov. 3:34; 25:6-7; Isa. 2:11-12; 5:15; Matt. Mt 18:4; 23:12 Luke 11:43; 14:11; 18:14; 20:46; 1 Pet. 5:62)!
If we are claiming Christ as Lord, we need to be living the life, not just talking about it, or just showing up for the club meetings (church)! Be diligent and be your best for His highest in all aspects of your life!
1. Who has been the person in your life who has encouraged you in your faith formation? Why is such a person important? Have you been such a person to another? Why, or why not?
2. What role has humility played in your dealings with people? What about the people in your church?
3. Have you asked God to help you see if there are any unpleasant attitudes in you? What do you need to do to facilitate this? What does it mean that God asks us to lead in the way everlasting? What have you done about this?
4. Why is seeing others as important an encouragement to them? How do others encourage you?
5. Why is self-surrender so important? How does surrender pave the way to humility and visa versa?
6. Do you have presumptions and thinking that keeps you comfortable and stable? Can these presumptions get in the way of your spiritual growth?
7. How can you speak and model humility to others so they might be inclined to accept the authority of Jesus Christ?
8. Christ humbled Himself-and He is God! He gave up His lofty position in Heaven to become human-one of us. So, what gets in the way of our having humility?
9. Do you think that real Christianity is much more than a salvation prayer? Why would a Christian desire to stay as he or she is and not want to learn and grow? Or, why would a church desire to water down the message rather than teach and disciple its people (can you imagine how heinous this mindset must be in His sight, considering Matthew 28)?
10. How is Christianity a radical, revolutionary transformation from an old life of sin to a new life in Christ?
11. How does your spiritual formation affect how you think, which, in turn, influences who you are and what you do?
12. Have you asked God to look deeply into your heart? Why is this scary when He already knows? How can you give your anxious thoughts over to Him? How will that improve your attitude?
13. Humility requires our fixation upon Christ that is manifested in our obedience; the willingness to go all out in faith and prayer shows persistence and learning. So, what are you doing about this? How can you do better? How can your church help you in this?
14. Write a list of the things that give you comfort in the Christian life or church. Then go over that list and honesty look at it through prayer. Is there anything on that list that may seem great, but is keeping you from putting on Christ? Such as, is your role in the church giving you the comfort, or is it Christ living in you?