THE SECRET TO GOD’S BLESSING
“… And all of you serve each other with humble spirits, for God gives special blessings to those who are humble, but sets himself against those who are proud. If you will humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, in his good time he will lift you up.”
I Peter 5:5-6
For God to bless us and our work, humility is absolutely essential. And the strange thing about the subject is this: on one hand we all say we want to be humble servants of Christ, and yet at the same time few of us have given much serious thought or our full attention as to what being humble really means. So, instead of learning Christian humility, we simply add certain words and phrases to our speech which we hope will make us appear humble: “Oh, I’m very sorry,” or, “Please excuse me,” or this one, “It’s OK! Don’t mention it—it’s nothing.” But truthfully, while we say it, secretly we are congratulating ourselves for appearing humble, which, of course, is pride!
In these verses above Peter mentions humility three times and warns against pride once. God says, “I hate pride and arrogance” (Proverbs 8:13, NIV). Stronger language cannot be found in the Bible. John Stott says, “Pride … is itself the essence of all sin.”
Simply said, the Lord resists the spirit of self-confidence and the attitude of self-reliance. Andrew Murray called pride “the root of all sin.” John Calvin said a proud person is worse than someone drunk! Let us say it this way, God wants to bless us with good things and put His hand of blessing on our work, but that only comes to the humble whom He can trust not to steal His glory. (read Isaiah 42:8)
A. W. Tozer said about this same subject, “Nothing that comes from God will minister to my pride or self-congratulations.” We must refuse to lift ourselves up in honor. God demands modesty of the heart. We choose—we lift up ourselves or let Him lift us up! Spurgeon’s comment was simply worded like this, “The cure of boasting is to boast in the Lord all day long.” (more about this before we are finished)
It’s not wrong to say, “I wanted to do my best, and I believe God helped me and I am fulfilled in His service,” yet always, we know some, maybe many, could do it better. In the end Biblical humility is not to think less of yourself, rather it’s thinking of yourself less. It is to be given over fully to the task to honor Jesus Christ. Self-forgetfulness is the focus, with a modesty of the heart. Such humble people often blush when words of praise are said about them because, to them, while it may be true, it is also unthinkable to take self-centered pride in it.
Peter spoke of being “clothed with humility” and the meaning is that, like clothes we wear, it’s humility that people should notice about us first. Do people have that impression about you? Our clothes are the first thing we put on in the morning and we would never appear in public poorly dressed or naked! Peter is saying, let humility have that important role in our lives.
What then are practical expressions of it as we, together as one, serve?
I. THERE IS SOMETHING TO RESIST
We must refuse to pamper any tendency for self appreciation or advancement. It’s the highly secretive but corrosive idea of “What can I do to get noticed?” This leads to a tendency to a development of a self-made reputation built on performance. But wait, that is done not to honor Jesus but to honor ourselves. That’s the flaw!
Here two kinds of pride must be examined. Wholesome pride says, “Jesus deserves my best and I give it to Him.” It’s not for any other reason but to honor Him. Unwholesome pride says, “Very secretly, I hope people compliment me for the excellence of what I do.” Notice, it is an all too common, premeditated secret desire—centered in self.
Two words stand in contrast: glorified or crucified. Is the ego in me glorified or is it crucified in me? And the key is ego—do you understand ego? “E” is for edging, “G” is for God, and “O” is for out. Do I sense any desire to put myself in the spotlight? That’s pride identified! We must check and silence that arrogant voice from within that says, “I should be appreciate and deserve to be recognized for what I have done, and they should be openly thanking me for it! Furthermore, we will find out, if I am not given special attention, why, that proves people around me don’t appreciate me!”
We must seek to silence the chorus that advances self-promotion. It is a secret urge, if we are honest, we all have had from time to time. We have thought, “Others get applauded—then, why not me?” How can that be from God? Yet, it’s too common in church life today. The missionary from Ireland Amy Carmichael said, “Those who think too much of themselves don’t think enough!” The only mirror that draws our attention is the one with a crack or that has a flaw in it.
II. THERE IS SOME MATTER TO REQUEST
Lord, help me to see myself as You see me—always let us sincerely say to God, “Help me, Lord, to know how to retreat from conceit!” John Stott once said that conceit is near to insanity! Like the woman who claimed to be the reincarnation of Mary the Mother of Jesus (she lives in a mental hospital!). Insanity and pride are almost twins! The person who tends to give themselves airs of importance simply exhibits all their evidence of impotence! It’s a sign of weakness.
The Puritans expressed it with great force; it needs to be repeated, “A vain mind is as bad to God as a vicious life!” Of all our human weaknesses, pride, arrogance, and vanity will be the last to leave us. Therefore we need to constantly wage war against it, making a request of God—it’s a matter of serious and sincere heart-cry:
“Lord, forgive me of the elements of pride in me that I do not even recognize to be present!”
To be totally honest, it’s a prayer we all need to pray continually.
The idea of praying about “unknown sins” is not misguided. So many things we do that are offensive to God are the result of our ignorance. Added then, is the need of listening to godly advice and counsel. Of course, this comes from Peter’s words, often coming through the lips or pen of an authentic servant of Christ. An attitude of openness and being receptive to it is essential. George Duncan of Scotland points out that listening or accepting a loving reprimand requires humility itself! Proud people don’t listen.
In the text from I Peter it says, “… submit yourselves … be subject one to another …” and a further warning from the same George Duncan, who said, “There is nothing that human pride resents as much as rebuke.” Notice, “serve each other with humble spirits.”
I must be on watch, asking God for impressions because the enemy will never stop working to bring me down using pride, his entrapment of my heart! It will mean that I cannot be blessed and I am made unfit to be used by Him. “Tell me and show me, Lord,” must be repeated regularly. Let us admit, in all of us there is a vast area of knowledge of spiritual truth and godliness we have yet to grasp. Always we need to grow in grace if we want God’s “special blessings.”
Many of you who have heard me speak have heard me regularly quote C. H. Spurgeon, who said, with some wit and much wisdom:
“If we think we can do anything of ourselves, all we will get from God is the opportunity to try.”
Here is a bold prayer request for all of us to utter to God, “Lord, help me to hate pride in me as much as I hate it in others.” Let us seek to be “humble and contrite in spirit” (Isaiah 66:2).
III. THERE IS SOMEONE TO REFLECT
We focus on Jesus and we see the very picture of pure humility. We see it in His simplicity and certainly His attitude to others. For example, when was the last time any of us thought, “I would willingly wash their feet”? Jesus did that! We see His authenticity and how constantly He humbled Himself showing us what it meant to be a servant.
The moon does not shine of itself, but it shines because it reflects the sun. It should be the same with us. Jesus should be the radiance of our life; we are to reflect Him! Christ-likeness is what God desires and He also makes possible, a humility that is like Him. But Christ-likeness is not found in an all-out effort to simply copy Christ. To try only that leads to failure and frustration. After all, how could I just copy His example? — I do not have that ability! Never!
Yet, being humble exactly like Christ is what we all really desire; so what is the secret? Let’s emphasize it—it is this:
It happens by my allowing the indwelling Christ who came into my life at conversion to be all that He is in all that I am expressing Himself in all that I do, all for His glory!
Let’s all read those words again, slowly and thoughtfully!
It is, as Paul said, “not I but Christ”—it is allowing Jesus to fill and flood my life with Himself. So that, it’s not me at work, it’s Him at work through me. Please, oh please—think that last sentence through carefully. Yes, it’s true, it’s not what I do for Him, it’s really what He does through me!
So, humility comes when I recognize that exchange and say honestly, “But I did not do it, He did it through me!” so I boast not in myself but, as Paul said, “we boast in God.” Let’s read it thoughtfully, “As it says in the Scriptures, ‘If anyone is going to boast, let him boast only of what the Lord has done.’” (I Corinthians 1:31, TLB)
And finally, Paul purposely repeats himself in his other letter to the church in Corinth saying, “As the Scriptures say, ‘If anyone is going to boast, let him boast about what the Lord has done and not about himself. When someone boasts about himself and how well he has done, it doesn’t count for much. But when the Lord commends him, that’s different!” (II Corinthians 10:17-18, TLB)
Humility of the heart is to constantly boast about God and fully believe, “We’re just God’s servants,” so we are to faithfully reflect the Lord Jesus in life.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
I Peter 5:6, NIV
It starts in our authentic humility and it ends in His blessing and honor.
Jesus reminds us those involved in the most humble service “will certainly not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42, NIV) And finally, “the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does” (Ephesians 6:8). So then, that’s the secret to God’s blessing.