We have begun a study on our need to practice godliness. Our key passage was 1 Timothy 4:7-8, “Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” God has called each of us to exercise ourselves and train ourselves in godliness. We considered three keys to our pursuit of godliness: (1) we must make a commitment to godliness, (2) we must be ready to learn and improve ourselves in this pursuit, and (3) godliness requires repeated practice. If we cannot begin with this footing of making a commitment to godliness, having a willingness to change our lives to meet God’s character, and repeatedly practicing at godliness, then we are not truly training ourselves to be godly.
In this lesson and in our future lessons in this series, we will zero in on particular characteristics of godliness. This morning we will consider the nature of true humility.
I. The Humility of God
A. God’s view of the humble
Let us notice how God views those who are humble. “For this is what the high and lofty One says-he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15).
Notice again what God says, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?’ declares the Lord. ‘This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word‘” (Isaiah 66:1-2).
God commends humility in His people. In fact, God declares His own loftiness and states that only those who are humble and contrite in spirit will be esteemed by God. Isaiah 57 says that we will live with God if we have a humble heart. This alone should awaken our attention to our need to become humble.
B. The humility of God
It is fascinating that the God of universe, creator of all things, and with all power, knowledge, and might showed us humility. God has no reason to be humble, yet that is His very character. In speaking about Christ, Paul said, “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). God displayed His humility repeatedly to us.
Consider the birth of Jesus and the humble beginnings of the Son of God. Being born of earthly parents who had no stature, royalty, nor power in this world was a great act of humility. Jesus ought to have been born of great powerful kings! Jesus born in a no name place like Bethlehem and slept in an animal’s food trough as a crib. He lived a life that showed His humility. He did not have a home of royalty, fit for a king. He had no home at all! He washed the feet of His disciples, the very act of a servant. God has shown us what humility looks like so that we can put that characteristic in our lives.
C. God’s promises to the humble
It is amazing all that God has promised to those who will humble themselves. The infinitely high and lofty One who lives forever promises to dwell with them, to esteem them, to give them grace, to lift them up, and to exalt them. See these promises for yourself.
“But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14). So here are the promises of God toward us if we will humble ourselves.
As we have mentioned before, humility is practiced. It is not simply a mental attitude. Our actions define if we are humble or if we are exalting ourselves. Let us consider the various relationships where we need to practice humility and then we will talk about how to practice humility.
II. Humility In Our Relationships
A. Humility before God
Humility first must be practiced before God. If we cannot begin with humility toward the great Creator and Lifegiver, then we will fail in practicing humility in our other relationships.
Humility toward God begins with having a high view of God’s person. If we see God as He truly is, in His majesty, power, and holiness, then we will be humbled before Him. Every time man was privileged to be brought into the presence of God in the scriptures, man was brought low. Moses bowed to the ground and worshipped. Isaiah cried out “Woe is me!” Ezekiel fell face down to the ground. John fell down as though dead.
Practicing humility cannot begin properly and will not be successful until we see God in the proper light. Until we see ourselves coming into His throne room and beholding His majesty, we cannot put ourselves in the proper frame of mind.
Once we have God in the proper frame of mind, we can begin to practice humility toward God. The essence of humility toward God is obedience. This is what Paul argued for us in Philippians 2:8. How did Jesus humble Himself before God? Paul says by becoming obedient. Obedience is humility toward God in practice. Disobedience is to exalt our own knowledge and desires above God and is, therefore, ultimately rebellion toward God. This leads us into the next area where humility must be practiced.
B. Humility before God’s word
Since obedience is humility toward God in practice, then humility is required on our part toward God’s word. God’s word is the only way we know what is right and wrong, what is pleasing to God and what is rebellion to God. The person who is truly humble before God is also humble before God’s word. Consider again what the Lord said to Isaiah in Isaiah 66:2, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” Notice that we are trembled at His word. We must practice humility in regards to the commands of God.
Practicing humility toward God’s word is to have a responsive heart to the words of God. We must have a willingness to have our characters molded as we study the word of God. We must acknowledge where we fall short and obey God’s commands. Too often we want to dispute what we read in the word of God, instead of simply obeying what we read. Practicing humility means that we do not try to justify our actions before God. Rather we change our actions to conform to God’s will.
Our humility must not only mean we are willing to change our conduct, but also means we are willing to change our doctrine. How easy it is to think that we have settled all the issues and doctrines of the scriptures! Therefore, anyone who disagrees with us must be wrong. We become impatient with those who do not readily agree with our understanding of the scriptures. But we must have a spirit of humility toward our beliefs as well.
We are foolish and full of pride if we think our views are always correct. How arrogant we are to think that we have nothing to learn and that we have all the right answers. This does not mean that we are to be wishy-washy about our beliefs or not have positions of understanding in the scriptures. But we must always have an open mind to the scriptures for we may find we may have an incorrect belief. To think that anyone who disagrees with us is simply wrong is arrogant. God has not seen it fit to make our minds the depository of the sum total of His teaching. Humility towards God’s words means that we will be willing to change our beliefs in the face of the light of the scriptures.
C. Humility concerning ourselves
Humility toward God and His word ought to lead us to take a humble attitude toward ourselves. We must be humble about our own abilities and attainments. We must always realize that all our talents come from the hand of God. Paul said it this way, “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by God’s grace I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not ineffective. However, I worked more than any of them, yet not I, but God’s grace that was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10).
Notice where Paul ascribed all of his hard work: to the grace of God. We must also remember to credit our hard work and attainments to the grace of God. Moses warned the people of Israel to not forget to do this as they entered the land of Canaan. “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18). As we can see, humility is not thinking badly of oneself but rather attributing the glory to God who has empowered us to attain what we have. While humility toward ourselves revolves around giving God the glory for all that we have, the practice of humility extends into submission to others.
D. Humility towards others
We must also practice humility toward other people. This humility is only seen by submitting ourselves to each other. Paul instructed, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). Peter said, “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (1 Peter 5:5).
Perhaps Paul explains this attitude the best in Philippians 2:3-4. “Do nothing out of selfishness or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” This gets to the heart of what our attitudes and actions must be if we are practicing humility. First, we can do nothing out of selfishness. Quit thinking about ourselves first is the essence of this powerful command. Second, we must consider others more important than ourselves and look out for their best interests.
We recognize that we must first adopt such an attitude within ourselves. When we start thinking about how things are affecting us, we must discard those thoughts and replace them with thoughts about how things are affecting others. If we all did our part, all our needs would be met because we would seeking out each others’ needs first instead of our own. A marriage will only work properly when we are seeking out the best interest of the spouse. A friendship will only work properly when we are seeking out the best interest of the other person. A church will only work properly when we are seeking out the best interests of others here. Our focus cannot be about ourselves. Instead, we must always focus on the well-being and interests of others.
The practice of this attitude is submission. Practicing humility means that we will yield to the wishes of others. I believe this practice of humility toward others involves at least three aspects.
- Serving one another. As we noted at the beginning of this lesson, Jesus showed humility by washing His disciples’ feet. Jesus showed His humility by always looking out for His disciples’ best interests. Jesus went the extra mile for these men. Service is doing things for others that you know they would appreciate being done. Service is not doing what you would want done for yourself. Service is not about doing something so that person will do something in return. Service is only about doing what we know would be helpful and pleasing to the other person.
- Learning from one another. Practicing humility means that I am willing to listen to you and learn from your example and from your words. As we have discussed, we want to think that we have all the answers and have no need to be taught by someone. This attitude is pride and not humility. We need to be willing to learn from each other, by what we see each other do and by the words that we say to each other. This point is critical in our studies together. We must realize that the purpose of our Bible studies on Sunday morning and Wednesday night is not to make everyone believe the way we believe. We are here to learn from one another, to challenge our thinking, and adopt the proper beliefs according to the scriptures. We are not here to win arguments but to seek the truth. We share our ideas and beliefs and measure them to the scriptures until we come to the unity of the faith.
- Honoring one another. Finally, we need to honor one another. We must respect each other and care for each other. We must treat one another as human beings with the respect and value that God has placed upon every individual. We are not allowed to scorn each other because someone has a weakness, because someone is younger or older, or for any other reason. Our service and submission is about being respectful to one another, even to those who we think are undeserving.
Jesus exemplified this by honoring each of us by sacrificing His life for us. We did not deserve that great sacrifice. Jesus died for us out of love and honor for each of us. Just as Christ honored us, we are to honor one another with the same self-sacrificing love.
Paul said in 1 Timothy 4:7-8, “Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” We must train ourselves to be humble to God, humble to His word, humble toward ourselves, and humble toward one another.
Practicing humility requires us to renew our minds and change our thinking so that we can see our proper standing before God. When we make this attitude change, we can serve one another, learn one another, and honor one another as God has commanded.