Being humble used to come easy for me until I realized something was missing. 🙂 Here’s how I’m navigating those seas these days.
More than once, I can remember consciously humbling myself before God. Usually, just because I knew there was a promise attached to my obedience. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” Who doesn’t want to be lifted up, right? It was as easy as just mouthing a few words to God and just waiting for the treat. Kind of like a dog who does tricks for pay.
Then my thinking changed after reading the book of James. Yes, God can lift you up, but first there may be more required than just talking with him about how humble you are or sorry.
Remember when you were a child and you wronged somebody? Remember what your parent or teacher did? They made you apologize to the other child….out loud. In most cases, more than once, because your face didn’t line up with your words. You were apologizing on the outside but on the inside you were clearly not sorry and it showed in your body language in the form of a pouting face. So then the parent or teacher would say something like, ‘This time, say it like you mean it!’.
To this day, do you find it hard to apologize to someone in person. If you were honest, the answer is yes. It’s not easy.
This is no joke. We’re out to sea in a life and death battle and we have the potential to accelerate or devastate our relationships with God and others. The choice is ours. We can insist on our own rights or lay them down for the good of others.
Yet for some reason, we find it easy to humble ourselves in the sight of an invisible God, yet difficult to apologize to a person. James knows this. All throughout his book, he encourages us to put shoe leather on our faith; to live out our faith wisely and practically. So in chapter four, it makes perfect sense that we’re to exercise humility in a visible manner, out loud in word and deed.
In the beginning of chapter 4, James talks about how wars start to churn. Usually they start because someone insists on their own way. In many cases, neither person is wrong, just selfish. For example, in some cases it’s a matter of each country wanting oil. The only way to stop the war is for one party to surrender their rights for the good of others.
So when is the last time you apologized for wanting your own way? When you do, you’re not telling the other person they’re right, you’re telling them, ‘look, I value our relationship more than my ego.’
Virtual humility on the other hand is easy because you can experience it on your own. You just have to mouth a few words to God and it’s done. There is no accountability and you can be sure of a 100% success rate. Real Christianity is messy and requires faith. Real Christianity requires turning up the volume on our humility.
This played out in real life recently when I met a guy who is going through a divorce. When I told him I was sorry he had to go through such a thing, he responded by saying, “It’s not so bad. She’s been gone a month and now there’s nobody to tell me what I can and can’t do. In fact, I’m looking forward to repainting all of the rooms we couldn’t agree on over the years!”
What? You just ended a relationship with the most important person in the world and you’re glad because you won’t have to fight over paint chips anymore? What about your children, let alone the vows you made? I was reminded of the teenager who told his parents he didn’t want anyone telling him what to do, so he was going to move out of the house and join the Army!
James was right. Being selfish may seem like no big deal, but it has the potential to destroy everything in sight! Why not surrender our rights while there’s still time and salvage our futures before they sink and wash up on shore.
You see, when we’re selfish, we don’t just miss out on what God has for us today, it’s also a good way to kiss tomorrow goodbye and any hope we might have of a bright future. As a pastor, I haven’t talked with many guys who are still excited because they can pick out their favorite paint color twenty years after their divorce. However, I have talked with more than one guy who said he’s pretty sure he could have worked things out if he had been a little more forgiving and a lot less selfish
On the sea of life, there are decisions we make that will not send us to hell, but they do have the potential to make our lives hell on earth. Why not come down from our look-out while there’s still time to serve others. “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:23-24.
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