A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven (John 3:27)
The bondage and exhaustion of self-promotion and pride
There will be seasons of productivity and seasons of quiet. There will be seasons of ministry and seasons of quiet. If we are so caught up in the quiet seasons, the times God has ordained for us to be small and unseen, then our energy is all expended in our desires to be seen and heard, in inflating our status before men to match our inflated egos. Rather than sitting and receiving, we strive for something that is not sustainable or deeply satisfying, and moreover, will become a cruel master. If you hold anything with a measure of idolatry, including ministry, giving it more significance than it deserves, it will consume you. Not only that you, you miss out on what should have been a God-ordained restful, joyful and peace-filled season of recharging.
The only deeply sustainable thing on this earth is our character and who we are (big statement, and I haven’t thought through it enough, but there it is), and God is always at work on that, everything else comes and goes. The test of the purity of one’s heart – is how you hold ministry/money/status when you have it, and how you hold these things when you don’t have it. On our character will this rest. On the purity of our hearts will this rest.
So the most important thing continually, is steadfastness and obedience. Do to all things well (including the small and secret and unseen things), at all times. I believe this is what it means, in part, to be a humble person. And in His time, we will be lifted up, not that that even matters any more. Following Jesus was never supposed to easy, but it is remarkably simple – it is simple steadfastness/faithfulness and obedience.
Here we see the nature of Jesus’ testing in the desert – Satan wanted to give Jesus his destiny, but not in the way or timing that God would want it. Instead Jesus quietened his soul, rested in complete obedience and trust in God’s plan. And perhaps it was more costly (in the short term), but it was also infinitely more beautiful and right and produced fruit that will last an eternity. So the humility of Jesus – his obedience to death on a cross was used by God to redeem a race from the ashes. Something which we will wonder at for 10 000 years, and 10 000 after that.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul (Psalm 131:2)
The freedom and identity and rest found in humility
And so begin to see that the humble person is not someone that does not have a sense of identity or purpose or worth. But rather he/she is someone whose identity/purpose/worth is rooted and grounded in something far more substantial, far more sustainable, far more steadfast than the prideful, striving and idolatrous person. Neither is the humble person someone who cannot be successful or productive. Actually, he most probably is very successful…or he mightn’t be, and it matters to him not an ounce. And in that, there is so much freedom and so much peace to be had for a person walking in fullness of humility.
At risk of introducing too much, but for the sake of clarity, here is a statement that may seem contradictory to everything said so far, but it really isnt: the humble person will pursue the fullness of their passions and deepest desires with a fullness of tenacity. To do anything less is to live under a false humility which is ultimately prideful because you are saying that you know better than your Creator how you were supposed to live and function. To do anything less is selfish because you are depriving the body and the world of the critical part you were supposed to play in it’s redemption and perfect function.
May he give us the grace to walk in the steps that only he has walked in before us. May we see a generation living in fullness of humility, with quiet souls, living in fullness of trust, and fullness of simple obedience to the only wise and good master.
A primer on humility: (mis)Conceptions in beginning to think rightly about humility