When I think about how I’ve been able to do well and last in the ministry I inevitably have to talk about humility. Of all the unnatural but necessary virtues that the Spirit has been hard at work developing in me, humility has been one of, if not, the most unnatural yet essential. I’ve found humility to be a very tricky and elusive quality, because just when I think I have it, I’ve actually just lost it. As soon as I think I’m humble, I’m not. In fact I just became proud. But without humility, there is no grace, and without grace, there is no mercy. And without mercy, well there’s just no way I can make it.
Humility is not primarily an attitude toward oneself but towards God and others. It’s a willingness to let God be God and acknowledge my dependence on him. It’s the willingness to accept God’s correction and discipline when I fall short and blow it. It’s a willingness to let God be my defender against my critics and instead forgive those who have offended or harmed me. It’s not contempt for self or a divinely sanctioned inferiority complex. Humility isn’t denying my strengths, talents or gifting.
Humility is an essential prerequisite to experiencing the grace of God. He “resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” It’s something I choose to be over and over, day by day, one life situation at a time. It has involved recognizing my totality inability to accomplish anything worthwhile and lasting apart from God’s grace. That all I am and have is from God and that I’m the fortunate object of God’s undeserved love. It’s being able to say along with Paul, “…by the grace of God I am what I am.”
Humility has been helped along in my life through honest prayer. I’ve learned to put humility into practice by routinely confessing my sins to God and others. Prayerfully responding to wrongs done to me with patience and longsuffering. Prayerfully submitting to the God-given authority and leadership he’s brought into my life. By graciously receiving correction and seeking constructive feedback. By admitting my mistakes and trying to learn from them. By deferring to others and regarding others better than myself, choosing instead to serve others. By being quick to forgive. By cultivating a grateful heart. By trying to speak well of others and never seeking to promote myself at the expense of others. By having an accurate estimation of myself and not taking myself so seriously that I can’t laugh at myself. And of course, allowing the Spirit to examine my heart and root out pride when it crops up.
Pursue humility with Jesus as your example and you’ll avoid the landmines of arrogance and self-righteousness that are hidden throughout the ministry.