Humility? Not my problem!

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

There's an important lesson in the story of a young pastor, fresh out of seminary, who walked into church to give his first sermon, Bible under his arm, oozing self-confidence.

It did not go well. He stumbled, lost his train of thought, and saw a couple of people nod off in the front row. Half an hour later, he slouched off the platform feeling like a complete failure.

As he hurried out of the church, one of the elders was heard to say, "If he had walked in the way he walked out, he could have walked out the way he walked in!"

Haven't most of us had that kind of experience at some time in our lives? We may have boasted, "Humility? Not my problem," only to find to our chagrin how much we need this quality!

We might agree that many of the greatest men and women of history have been those of humble mind, without taint of pride, arrogance, conceit, or personal domination. They have responded readily to the Apostle Peter's call, "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time" (I Pet. 5:6). When successful in an enterprise, they have thanked God for His gifts of wisdom and intelligence, and have moved on to the next good work, recognizing that they are merely instruments in the hand of an omnipotent, loving Father.

Nowhere has humility been any more truly demonstrated than in the life of Christ Jesus, who openly admitted, "I can of mine own self do nothing" (John 5:30). He recognized that intelligence came from God, and relied on Him absolutely for wisdom and guidance. This strengthened him to overcome the temptation to use his undoubted gifts of mind and person for mere self-glorification in the kingdoms of this world.

Similarly, it is as you or I gain a true sense of humility that we begin to see ourselves as we really are, the reflection of our Maker, governed and protected by God. Humility compels us to recognize our personal inability and turns us consistently to the infinite ability of Spirit. And it's as our thought opens expectantly in this way that we are presented with wonderful opportunities to help and comfort others.

The Bible implies that lack of humility is sometimes manifested physically as a lack of health or enduring prosperity. This is well illustrated in the story of Naaman the Syrian, recounted in the fifth chapter of the book of Second Kings. This great soldier sought a cure for his leprosy. And he was insulted when the prophet Elisha was not impressed by his reputation or his retinue, and insisted he bathe in the muddy waters of the river Jordan, instead of in the swift, clean mountain streams Naaman knew well.

Naaman's pride would have led to serious delay, but perhaps it was his innate sense of discipline that persuaded him to listen to the reasonable advice of his faithful servants. It wasn't until he had humbled himself completely, by bathing not just once but seven times in the Jordan, that he was cleansed of pride and self-love, and his healing of leprosy came, too.

Humility overcomes timidity as well as false pride. There is added comfort in this, and we shouldn't allow self-abasement or sanctimoniousness to counterfeit a humble nature. Also, we need never fear that humility - which relates to the true, spiritual sense of self-worth, to a heart at peace with itself - can lead to suffering. It is only through humility that we'll ever climb the heights where the grandest lessons of life are learned.

In her writings, Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, turns readers time and again to the recognition of God as the source of all power, self-worth, joy, and goodness. For example: "Humility is the stepping-stone to a higher recognition of Deity. The mounting sense gathers fresh forms and strange fire from the ashes of dissolving self, and drops the world" ("Miscellaneous Writings," Pg. 1).

Limitations of all kinds drop away more easily as we commit ourselves wholeheartedly to knowing and demonstrating God's nature - doing His will, and bearing witness to Him in daily living. It will then become natural for us to walk out of every experience with the gratitude and humility with which we walked in.

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