The Saving Grace of Humility
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Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”—1 Peter 5:51
He who desires close communion with Christ should remember the word of the Lord, “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” Stoop if you would climb to heaven. Do we not say of Jesus, “He descended that he might ascend”? So must you. You must grow downwards, that you may grow upwards; for the sweetest fellowship with heaven is to be had by humble souls, and by them alone. God will deny no blessing to a thoroughly humbled spirit. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” with all its riches and treasures.
When a man is sincerely humble, and never ventures to touch so much as a grain of the praise, there is scarcely any limit to what God will do for him. Humility makes us ready to be blessed by the God of all grace, and fits us to deal efficiently with our fellow men. True humility is a flower which will adorn any garden. This is a sauce with which you may season every dish of life, and you will find an improvement in every case. Whether it be prayer or praise, whether it be work or suffering, the genuine salt of humility cannot be used in excess.—Charles Spurgeon
Weakness is blessed because it ensures to us more of the sympathy and help of Christ. … The heart of Christ goes out in special interest toward the weak. Paul could well afford to keep his “thorn” with its burdening weakness, because it made him far more the object of divine sympathy and help. Weakness makes strong appeal to the divine compassion. We think of suffering or feebleness as a misfortune. It is not altogether so, however, if it makes us dearer and brings us nearer to the heart of Christ. Blessed is weakness, for it draws to itself the strength of God.
St. Paul tells us that his “thorn” was given to him to keep him humble. We do not know how much of his deep insight into the things of God, and his power in service for his Master, St. Paul owed to this torturing “thorn.” It seemed to hinder him and it caused him incessant suffering, but it detained him in the low valley of humility, made him ever conscious of his own weakness and insufficiency, and thus kept him near to Christ, whose home is with the humble.
Spiritual history is full of similar cases. Many of God’s noblest servants have carried “thorns” in their flesh all their days, but meanwhile they have had spiritual blessing and enrichment which they never would have had if their cries for relief had been granted. We do not know what we owe to the sufferings of those who have gone before us. Prosperity has not enriched the world as adversity has done. The best thoughts, the richest life lessons, the sweetest songs that have come down to us from the past, have not come from lives that have known no privation, no adversity, but are the fruits of pain, of weakness, of trial. Men have cried out for emancipation from the bondage of hardship, of sickness, of infirmity, of self-denying necessity; not knowing that the thing which seemed to be hindering them in their career was the very making of whatever was noble, beautiful, and blessed in their life.
Many of the people who have done the greatest good in the world, who have left the deepest, most abiding impression upon the lives of others, have not been those whom men called the strong. Much of the world’s best work has been done by the weak, by those with broken lives. Successful men have piled up vast fortunes, established large enterprises, or won applause in some material way; but the greatest influence that has made the world better, enriched lives, taught men the lessons of love, and sweetened the springs of society, has come largely, not from the strong, but from the weak.—J. R. Miller2
“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence”3—That He might get all the glory, because then you know it wasn’t man!
Abraham had to learn it wasn’t Abraham; it was only God. Moses had to learn it couldn’t be Moses. David had to learn by looking at Saul, and becoming a disgrace himself, that he couldn’t make it on his own. Elijah had to learn it wasn’t Elijah, but God.
By the time God’s ready to make you really great, He makes absolutely nothing out of you, so there’s nothing left of you at all, and it’s only Jesus. When He can get you out of the way, then He has a chance! When you become nothing but a tool and a channel, nothing but a little diamond of dust, then God can really use you! But He has to break and humble and melt you in the fire, purge you, purify you, sift you, beat out the chaff. He has to beat the hell out of you till there’s none of it left—crucify the flesh, till it’s dead as a doornail—mortify the mind, till it’s almost gone—so that Jesus can live and think and move in you! Did God make a mistake? Or is all this necessary to make us what we ought to be?—David Brandt Berg4
Humility comes before honor.—Proverbs 15:335
For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”—Isaiah 57:156
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.—Matthew 11:297
Published on Anchor October 2013. Read by Bryan Clark.
Music by Daniel Sozzi.
2 The Building of Character (Thomas Y. Crowell, 1894).
3 1 Corinthians 1:27–29 KJV.
4 Originally published January 1971.