Humility, understanding what it really means, or giving it a personal face, is a bit of a tough one for us. Typically, it conjures the picture of someone who is quiet, reserved, and readily lets others have their way. While some of those characteristics may be obviously present in the person who is truly humble, that picture is not the full definition.
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less” C.S. Lewis.
Some of Jesus’s disciples were arguing about who was to be considered the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. To give some definition to the subject, Jesus called for a little child to use as an illustration. Matthew 18:1–5 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,
Peter gives us some of the same thoughts as he encourages us in times of adversity. 1 Peter 5:6–7 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
On the one hand we are to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, an expression equivalent to submitting with a spirit of humility to God’s sovereign dealing with us. On the other hand, we are to cast our anxieties on Him knowing that He cares for each of us. The anxieties that arise out of the adversities that God’s mighty hand allows into our lives. We are to accept these adversities but we are not to be anxious about them. Our tendency is just the opposite. We seek to escape from and resist the adversities while clinging to the anxieties that these adversities produce.
The way to cast our anxieties on the Lord is through humbling ourselves under His sovereignty and then trusting Him in His wisdom, love and mercy. Humility should be both a response to the adversity and a fruit of the spirit that is produced in our lives as a result of the adversities.
Paul was very clear that the primary purpose of his thorn in the flesh was to curb his tendency of pride in his life. 2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. If Paul had a tendency of pride, surely, we do also. We can put it down as a principal: when God blesses us in any way that might engender pride in us, He will along with the blessing give us a “thorn in the flesh” to oppose and undermine that pride.
There is a law of physics that states: “for any action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” We will be made weak in some way through one or more adversities in order that we might recognize that our strength is in Him and not in ourselves. We can choose how we will respond to such a thorn in the flesh, it is our choice. We can become annoyed with the adversity for months or even years or we can accept it from God humbling ourselves before Him we will in due time experience the sufficiency of His grace for: James 4:6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Proverbs 3:34 Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.
John tells us that there were three reasons for sin. One of those reasons is pride. 1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.
What adversity have you experienced in your life where you failed to be humble?