Archive for the ‘Humility’ Category

We can learn much from the past. Or, we can ignore it and risk committing the same mistakes over and over again.

In some cases, I have learned from my prior mistakes. One example was when I was searching for a wife. In the early days of my search, I tried to pretend I was an exciting, adventurous, and fun-loving man. The only problem was I was actually a serous-minded and slightly introverted person.

However, a pretty sorority girl thought I was what I pretended to be. I think I could have married her if I had kept up the charade. But I knew I couldn’t. So, I ran away.

I resolved I would never do that again. I would learn from my past – and I did. In my next serious relationship several years later, I was authentic – maybe too authentic. I freely shared my faults and made no attempt to go out of my way to impress her. I even took her ice skating on our first date, which I had never learned how to do. Boy, was she impressed! She figured I was genuine if I was willing to demonstrate such weakness. She eventually became my wife.

One reason we don’t learn from our foolish mistakes is because of the human tendency to cling to our foolishness. “You cannot separate fools from their foolishness, even though you grind them like grain with mortar and pestle” (Proverbs 27:22, NLT). We have an innate tendency to stubbornly repeat our mistakes. It hurts our pride to admit we are wrong, so we don’t. We can become like “an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive instruction (Ecclesiastes 4:13, NAS).

Another reason we don’t learn from the past is we don’t remember it. Recently I was reviewing my journal from ten years ago. To my surprise I was dealing with similar issues then as I am today. First, I was surprised life hadn’t changed that much. But I also gained perspective about resolving my challenges today through reviewing what worked from the past. Journaling our thoughts, feelings and behaviors and then reflecting on them, can help us correct our mistakes and not repeat them. “I considered my ways and turned my feet to your direction” (Psalm 119:59, NLT).

A third reason we don’t learn is we don’t want to change. We don’t want to grow but feel comfortable. But the irony is when we choose to follow Jesus, he will change us. Sure it’s painful. But God promises us that “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful, yet to those who have been trained by it,  afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11, NAS). But are we willing to pay the price for peace?

One way we can learn from the past is from the Bible. God says, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4, NLT). Many teachings and examples of wise and foolish behavior are given to us in the Scriptures.

We can also learn from the experiences of others, especially mature Christians who have grappled with similar challenges.

Most of all we can ask God to give us an open and teachable heart. We need God’s help to soften our hearts to changes he wants to make. He calls to us when he says “Today when you hear my voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled” (Hebrews 13:5, NLT). May we learn from the past so our lives will grow and better reflect the love, joy, and peace he wants to give us.

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Being A Nobody Can Be Good

Most of us want to be a Somebody. If feels good when others look up to us and show us respect. It reassures us that we are important, loved, and accepted. However, others of us seek being a Somebody through doing a significant work to help people, even though few notice.

I have sought to be a Somebody since my teen years. Not so much to be famous or rich but to accomplish something that would be a benefit to mankind. I pursued that dream of being a Somebody by providing some leadership to developing the Minuteman Missile Program, thus playing a small part in helping win the Cold War. I also sought the dream of being a Somebody in providing leadership to a church that God would use to transform many lives. That didn’t seem to happen but I trust my efforts weren’t wasted. And in the last few years I have pursued the dream of being a Somebody by seeking to bring a deeper spirituality to the national church through a book, blogging, and teaching what I learned in seminary. This also has been disappointing, but I’m trusting that a few lives have been deepened through my efforts.

Did these pursuits make me a Somebody? No. Even if the results had been better these efforts would not have made me a Somebody. What I’m learning is that what makes me a Somebody is being important to God. Being a Somebody to people will never be as great. Yet, most of us never get beyond the rat race of trying to be a Somebody in the eyes of people.

Why Be a Nobody?

Being a nobody in the eyes of people helps us seek importance from God. We can be deceived by our busyness, titles, and reputation to regard ourselves as a Somebody through our own efforts, instead of depending on God to make us a Somebody. This often leads us to try to be a Somebody to people by gaining power, fame, and fortune. But God says to us, “But if you long for these things, you will be trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that will plunge you into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9, paraphrased).

Accepting being a Nobody in the eyes of people, frees us more to pursue godliness, loving others, and growing in our faith (1 Timothy 6:11). We will be seeking to please the One to whom we are a Somebody.

Being a Nobody to the world helps us to develop our humility. We depend more on God’s grace to be a Somebody rather than on our achievements.

A final benefit in being a Nobody to others is that it helps us to focus on doing God’s will, not what will increase our reputation to people. How well we follow God’s will is the standard God will use to judge our works, not how much others respect us.

How to Be Content Being a Nobody

So then how do we live contently doing our little thing in a world of feverish activity driven by the desire to be Somebody? Moses looked ahead to the joys of heaven as “he chose ill-treatment with the people of God rather than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25, NASB). He gave up being a Somebody to people to be a Somebody in heaven.

Or we can avoid comparing the glory others receive from people to our own. We don’t want to measure ourselves by ourselves and show we don’t understand that God uniquely created each of us for specific good works. Some of those good works make us Somebodies to others but most of them are unnoticed or undervalued and make us Nobodies to most people.

Finally, this war belongs to God. Only his power will win it. He allows us to be a soldier in his army. Whether as a general or a private we are honored to fight on the winning side. May our focus be on the Somebody we serve and trust that he has already made us special beyond all human comparisons.



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When God Says No

Yesterday morning, God said no to me a couple of times regarding being involved in specific ministries. I wanted to do these ministries because I enjoyed them and thought I had something to offer. But God said no.

He said no to mentoring a young med student in courting a girl. He also said no to mentoring a group of young Christians in their faith. He spoke to me through circumstances and counsel.

But why would he say no to me? Why does he say no to us when we want to do good things?

Reasons He May Say No

One reason he may say no is to make us humble. His no helps us realize that we have limits and that God has the ultimate say about our life. This can help keep us from pride, arrogance, and pretense.

Another reason he says no is to give us something better later. In my life, God’s noes have resulted in a better wife, a better church, a better career, and a better character. But at the times of the noes, I was hurt and sometimes devastated.

An unknown confederate soldier captures this idea well in the following statement on prayer:

“I asked God for strength that I might achieve. 
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey. 
I asked for health that I might do greater things. 
I was given infirmity that I might do better things. 
I asked for riches that I might be happy. 
I was given poverty that I might be wise. 
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men. I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God. I asked for all things that I might enjoy life. 
I was given life that I might enjoy all things. 
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. 
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.”

How We Can Respond To His No

One important thing we can do is to look to his promise – “I will cause all things to work together for good for you” (Romans 8:28, paraphrased). We may not have any idea what the good is, but we can rely on the fact that he has something better in mind.

God said no to Paul when he pleaded with him to take away his “thorn in the flesh.” God had something better for Paul – godliness. God told him, “My power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT).

Another we can do is to make the most of the no. Paul wanted to go to heaven long before his time, but God said no. However, he decided to make the best out of the no by working hard to help Christians grow in faith while he was still here (Philippians 1).

A similar thing happened to me nearly two years ago. I had just awoken from major heart surgery in which I had almost died. In that moment, he impressed upon me the following words:

“I’m not letting you into heaven now, because I’m not done with you. I still have things I want to do in you and through you.”

It would have been easy for me to crossover into a world of joy, peace and painlessness forever. But God said no.

May we learn to accept God’s no. He has our best interest at heart. His no today will lead to a better yes tomorrow as we continue to follow him (Romans 8:28).

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I don’t think I have fully appreciated how important it is to be humble. I want to be successful. I want people to respect me. I want to be comfortable.

But do I want to be humble?

I guess I’d rather be humble than proud.

But do I realize how vital it is to my welfare to be humble?

Why Would We Want to Be Humble?

Jesus and Moses were humble while on earth-and they had a lot to be proud about. But why should we be humble too. God gives us several reasons why. These include the following:

“ I command you to be humble” (Ephesians 4:2, paraphrased).

“You need to be humble in order to receive My strength” (2 Corinthians 12:9, paraphrased).

“You need to be humble before I will honor you” (Proverbs 18:12. paraphrased).

“You need to be humble for Me to use you as I have planned” (1 Corinthians 1:28-29, paraphrased).

The dictionary defines humility as the absence of pride and arrogance. We know pride is not good, but will humility make us think that we are a doormat for the world?


Look at Jesus’ example. He knew he was God Almighty while on earth- yet “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7).

Likewise, we are part of the Royal Family, and have nothing to prove. This frees us up to be treated like a servant while knowing who we really are – sons and daughters of God Almighty. Only being humble will enable us to live in this reality.

How To Be Humble

So, how can we become a humbler person?

A friend of mine expressed his determination this week to be humble, despite enjoying much ministry success. In one year of attending his church, he is now preaching the Sunday sermons in the pastor’s absence and is the leader of the men’s ministry in a medium-sized church. One thing he is trying to do to remain humble is not thinking about how much success he is having.

I suggested that he also remember that God has given him that ministry. He is enabling my friend to do it. Thanking God regularly for his work will help him realize that “apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). My friend remembering this will help him to remain humble.

We all need to remember that, “What do we have that we did not receive from God, but if we did receive it from God, why do we boast as if we had not received it from God” (1 Corinthians 4:7, paraphrased).

Another way we can stay humble is to realize that we can never be loved, respected, and accepted enough to be satisfied unless God meets these needs as a gift, not something we earn by doing something. That humbling! The pride in me wants to earn things like importance.

A final thought regarding how to be humble is to apply the Bible to our life. God says, “If all you do is to pile up Bible knowledge in your head, you will become proud” (1 Corinthians 8:1, paraphrased). And we don’t want that to happen!

May you join with me in becoming a humbler person. Let’s practice some of the suggestions above as we cooperate with God in the miracle of becoming humble.


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Broken Things

I told some church leaders this week that one of the biggest reasons I thought that God was using their church so much was because they were broken people. They knew they could not do it, but God could. They lived the truth that “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Someone once said, “God loves to use broken things.” One of the biggest obstacles that we have to being used by God is our determination to run from our brokenness. How can God use us if we refuse to acknowledge our brokenness and allow him to empower us?

We often refuse to accept the truth that we cannot do one thing that lasts for eternity without God using us. ”Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). But we continue striving to make things happen. We refuse to recognize that only God can make things happen. God tells us to “Ceasing striving and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

I think that many of us are deceived into thinking that we are strong, good, and capable people, all by ourselves. We think we can do great and mighty things, with just a little help from God. We often miss the truth that without God leading the way we are “miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelations 3:17) in accomplishing God’s work.

One big reason that many of us are deceived is that we have been trained in moralism. This training leads us to believe we are pretty good in our own strength.  It leads us away from living in our brokenness. It leads us to refuse to accept the reality that “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit “ (Zechariah 4:6).

Peter was ready to be used by God when he was broken. He realized that he could not serve God in his own strength when he denied he knew Jesus three times (Luke 22:62) Then, God used him to lead 3,000 people to Christ.

What a gift God gives for us to know and accept our brokenness. May we be like Paul and embrace our brokenness (2 Corinthians 12:10). May we be deceived no longer. God wants to use broken things!

An Application Exercise

Thank God for the things in your life right now that make you feel broken. Ask God to use this brokenness to transform you and to minister to others.


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Yesterday was my annual “Freak Out” session when I visited the doctor for my annual physical. You see, I suffer from “White Coat Syndrome,” which means I get scared when I am being checked out by the doctor. So, as usual my blood pressure was sky-high (it returns to normal after I leave the doctor’s office), and I felt embarrassed for being so scared.

Recently, I sought the Lord to try to understand why this happens to me. As a result, one thing became clearer to me. I have been trained to fear weakness in myself, and to exhibit weakness to others because I fear rejection. Since I regard high blood pressure and being afraid as weaknesses, I fear my rejection and the rejection of others.

However, in recent years, God has been helping me to live more in the reality that no matter how high my blood pressure goes, or how scared I am, I am still accepted by him. It does not matter at all what I think or what others think of my performance. I am still acceptable and okay to God. His acceptance is what counts.

So, yesterday when I received my usual high blood pressure reading and felt embarrassed for being weak in my eyes, I repeated to myself over and over again that I was still accepted and loved by God. I did not need to beat myself up for being weak because my acceptance by God did not depend on being strong. This reduced the pain of being weak.

After the physical, I wondered why God has not enabled me to overcome this weakness in my life through his power. I then recalled Paul’s struggle about his “thorn in the flesh” that God left in his life to keep him from becoming conceited.  This made me think that perhaps why God has left this weakness in my life is to remind me of my desperate need for his support to live each day. By depending on his support, I will be strong!

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