My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA. I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.
During the last article, we journeyed through what humility is. It’s elusive if you seek it in your own strength, but necessary to promotion and receiving honour. CS Lewis said that humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. Self-focus and self-effort only bring the very opposite of humility, even if your prime focus is to BE humble. That brings you to religious pride, which can be a very dangerous counterfeit to true humility. For those looking for authentic faith, this is a definite turn-off for many seekers who want to come to church. True humility is not entitlement or selfishness in any way. Again, that points to pride, in thinking you deserve something much more than someone else does.
Last year, I discovered a novel series about Andrew Murray, a 19th century dominee who was part of the Cape Awakening in the 1860s. He wrote a lot of wonderful books that are still available today. He struggled with pride and self-sufficiency and learned the way of surrender and humility. The novel writer, Olea Nel, shares about Andrew’s life in Graaf Reinet, Bloemfontein, and will eventually get to his time in Worcester. In her third novel, she shares about a religious elder called Venter. Venter was a “proud, psalm-singing Dopper, originally from the Northern Cape. “Doppers,” he was told, “do not strut about showing their newest wears. That’s pride on display and against the Bible’s teaching. No, Dominee, Doppers strive to be humble.” [Andrew] had smiled inwardly at this retort because, contrary to his assertion of being humble, he wore his threadbare jacket with great pride.” [He] couldn’t help thinking how appropriate the nickname Dopper was. They were like candle snuffs, always snuffing out what they regarded to be novelties.” They didn’t like the ‘new’ hymns of the church, but sang from the book of Psalms. [Someone explained to Murray] that for the Doppers to feel free to sing hymns, they required marginal notes to be included alongside the verses, in the same fashion as they appeared opposite the Psalms in the old Staten Bybel of 1637.” It is very easy in the struggle to be humble to fall into its counterfeit – false humility and religious pride. Ultimately, this not only is anti-humble, but it is anti-Holy Spirit. It would seek to shut down anything new that the Holy Spirit may want to introduce.
So what are the stumbling steps to humility? Some blocks are subtle, like self-effort and self-focus. Other blocks include pride, ambition, arrogance, and offence. Sometimes we forget who we are in the context of God and the world. Downton Abbey fans can imagine Mrs. Hughes asking an out of turn maid, “who do you think you are?” But it’s true. Who do we think we are? Self-made people who run in circles and smugly smile and look down on others? People who denigrate ourselves in self-hated? I attended two Pastoral Care Ministry Schools with Leanne Payne in the 1990’s. At one of these schools, Leanne shared that self-hatred is actually a form of pride. It’s considering yourself worthless, when Jesus chose to die for you. He sees you of infinite worth, and worth saving. So we will journey through pride.
Ah, pride. The very worst of the seven deadly sins: it’s deep and devious. It’s also the sin that caused Lucifer to fall from heaven. And it’s the one that we must give up first to come to faith, since pride holds you back from receiving what you need most: God’s love. The strongest scripture about that is one that the song “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord” is about. This passage was written by Jesus’ half-brother, James, the head of the Jerusalem church. Listen to his words from James 4:14-16: “As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”
This scripture is not against laughter and joy, but rather not to let these be tainted by pride. This is about repentance, after all. Pride is like poison that ruins everything it touches. Is it any wonder that God hates it. Proverbs 11 notes that “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility, comes wisdom.” Proverbs 16:18 states this in even stronger terms: “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” One example of this is the story of the Prodigal Son. In Luke 15, the younger son wanted his inheritance early. He went off and squandered it. He thought he was better than his dad and wanted his own way. But after he was reduced to extreme poverty, where he was forced to eat pig food, he came to his senses, and returned home. Like this prodigal, we also can be given the grace to return home as a loved child, not as a servant.
We also need to turn away from selfish ambition and pride. Jon Bloom shares that selfish ambition is a sin that always seems to be “crouching at the door” as it did with Cain in Genesis 4:7. This was the motivation that caused the first murder. Bloom shares that “it contaminates our motives for doing just about anything.” It even shows up in a holy moment like the Last Supper, as it did for Judas in Luke chapter 22. But Luke also shows us how Jesus frees us from the suicidal slavery of selfish ambition. Bloom shares that Jesus’s final meal before the cross was perhaps the most ironic time the Twelve debated over who was the greatest. Jesus was and is the greatest human being who would ever walk the earth, the Founder and Perfecter of their faith.” Yet, He shared dinner with them. He was the only one in the room without sin. He washed their feet, he served them, instituted the new Passover of communion, and he loved them. Bloom shares that “this was no time for any disciple to assert his own greatness, except the greatness of his sin. What’s more ironic is what ignited the debate. Jesus had just revealed that one of them that very night would willingly participate in the most spectacular sin in history: the slaughter of the Son of God. And yet somehow the introspection and inquiry that followed ended up in a competition over who was greatest.” What a contrast!
I’ve even read of examples from Heidi Baker, one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. But even she has had moments. During the conference season of several years, she heard other speakers whose style featured what she called “notes and quotes.” She was temporarily swayed twice to adopt that style, since she was smart enough to wow the audience with just as much intelligence. However, both times she was stopped from sharing in this way.
The first time, she was glued to the floor by the Holy Spirit in front of the bookstore. She just wanted to go into the store and buy the right books, speed read them and share that way. She wasn’t allowed to, and instead when it was time, shared what the Holy Spirit wanted her to share – something deeply profound that often bypasses the mind, right to the heart. The second time it happened, she managed to prepare a talk, using a pastor’s library. But then she again was glued to the floor, and had to be carried onto the stage. And her talk notes were spread everywhere. She became a fool, and then was used to deliver the message that she was given, when she let go of her pride to receive it.
Sometimes we can be caught up in a blinding power of pride that can slip in when we’re not expecting it. In Heidi’s example, it was when she compared herself to the other speakers. One of my Ottawa pastors, Shawn Gabie, says that “Comparison is a calling killer.” It blinds you to your own calling, your own style, and your own message – that very message that the Holy Spirit puts in you to share. Our friend and colleague Mella often says that we need what the Holy Spirit says through each other. So in my case, you are receiving counsel from the Lord with the flavour of Laurie-Ann. Other times, it’s with the flavour of Tony. But always remember who is really speaking. We don’t always recognize it until stops us and pierces our hearts. Don’t be preoccupied with your own place of prominence in what God will do, or be distracted by the style of another ministry.
One prophetic worship leader has a beautiful ministry in poetry and dreams. Her name is Julie Meyer. She has several words on humility, and a dream on judgement, some of which is already happening. Leaders in the church have been exposed of their secret sins, politicians are exposed in secret scandal. This is all part of rivers of righteousness bringing justice, despite the world growing cold and ultra-liberal in other ways. Julie shares, she believes “the eyes of the Lord are searching for those who embody and embrace humility. Even in the conference world, you come into contact with great pride.” She says that the Lord is “really looking for those that delight in the lowest places.” She had a dream, that made her excited. She saw the Lord just take the Body [of Christ] and knead it like dough. If you’re the dough, it doesn’t look fun. But his eyes were always very joyful. In the dream he said, “Those who are at the front, I’m sending to the back; so they can learn with GREAT joy, [and] how to have delight at the end of the line.
Then he said, those at the back, I’m going to move to the front, because I want them to learn to embrace humility. There are those at the front of the line that live their lives in the greatest of humility. Their position will not be touched. There are those at the back of the line that live their lives in great pride and ambition. This is not good. Their position would not be touched. He said that those who feel that they are irreplaceable, will be the first ones replaced. I tell you, because his eyes are searching for righteousness. The church right now does not look any different from the world. [Yet] he is stirring the sound of an abundance of rain. With every raindrop that falls to the earth, the Lord is saying, I’m giving you grace upon grace. What he said was this, ‘it’s not like you have to climb the mountain of holiness in one day.
But he said, ‘do this. It’s day by day, step by step, choice by choice, and yes by yes. It’s one day at a time, one step at a time, one choice at a time, one yes at a time. What that means, I just that this knowing, because I don’t know that I can live totally holy the rest of the week. It’s my heart, but I do know that my next choice today can be a yes for God. And I do know that even that after that choice, I can make another choice that’s a yes for God. In this dream, it was so awesome, because he said, ‘If you live this simple rule, day by day, the things that tripped you up yesterday, you will tread upon tomorrow. He wants us to pray. As much as you want to defend, it is a time to go low, because it’s going to happen, so go low and pray. We [must] pray and really press into the Lord, without offense. It’s time for us to be without offense and absolutely love and passionately position ourselves at the end of the line and learn great delight there. We can have great delight at the back of the line, in the lowest places, because that’s how Jesus Christ lived; and that’s how he wants us to live. I believe that we’re in for the best of times and the worst of times. I believe that he is speaking clearer than he has spoken before. I want to go low, I want to love back. I want to encounter him, and we need to go low and pray.”
Julie shares another of her dreams in a song. This dream showed an encounter of heaven, similar to what the Apostle John had in the book of Revelation. In this context, Julie saw a coming fire and water visitation where we need to go low. Going low means humility, but in the context of this dream, holiness and justice came like judgement from heaven to earth. It’s too easy to fall by our own pride and selfishness, and point at others who are being exposed in scandal, whether in politics, the church or in the secular world. This isn’t about fear, but about humility. At the core of the dream Julie shares, “I saw people looking up at this wick burning and coming to planet earth. I saw people fall face down. I saw people go low. But the people that remained standing were burnt like coal. I kept asking, why? I kept hearing ‘go low, go low.’ Humility. Pray. As justice rolls, go low. Go low. The angel is sent with a message, and all the people of God humble themselves and pray. Go low so as not to be consumed.” Wow. How important it is to remember that we can easily fall, but for the grace of God.
Arrogance also stumbles our walk into humility. Tony and I learned about this when we attended Harvest School. Most people recoil away from arrogance, usually by anger and self-defence. Arrogance can show as racism, anger and snobbery. It’s ugly, and grieves the Holy Spirit. One of the Harvest School speakers was RT Kendall, who is very wise. There were two of his talks that hit home. One was on absolute forgiveness. The other was on a balance of Word and Spirit, where he talks on the division in the church between charismatics and Bible based believers. We need to be both so we grow well. But in this context, he shared how we need to be like doves, gentle and humble.
Yet many of us are like angry pigeons. Pigeons are a nuisance. Yet the only difference between doves and pigeons is their temperament. Physically they are exactly the same bird. The Holy Spirit has been depicted in scripture as like a gentle dove, and when Jesus was baptized, he sat on Jesus’ shoulder in that form. Kendall shared that the Holy Spirit wants to do that with us as well, but any sign of arrogance, pride, and the like grieves him, and he distances himself. So when we become more humble, the Holy Spirit’s presence is more evident in our lives.
We need to journey past offence, or even better, don’t take offence at all. RT Kendall spoke about forgiveness, which is essential in getting past offence. But you can consciously choose not to be offended in the first place. Going low is not just humility. It’s also refusing to be offended. Patricia King calls this choice taking our place in a “love war,” where the love of God within you is being tested. Some people really do press all our buttons, and get us upset. Their brokenness provides evil forces to use them to test you. But the key to stop that threat is love in humility. And the action of humility is service.
So we journey into servanthood like Jesus. Jesus taught us that if you want to be great, you must be the servant of all. The kingdom is opposite to the world – the first becomes last, and the last becomes the greatest. This service and humility is not a one-off thing that we muster for in our own strength. That’s not humility. That’s religion. I recently began reading a book in preparation of our upcoming home visit to Canada. It is called “Re-Entry – Making the Transition from Missions to a Life at Home” by Peter Jordan. It was about the reverse culture shock returning missionaries feel, but it was also about the danger of not using your mission work as a badge of honour. This false badge would be used to be served rather than to serve. Jordan says that “A returning missionary should come home humble, not haughty. If your experience on the mission field has matured you, it should work itself out in your life through more patience and less criticism. Beware of criticizing your church. One of the best ways to make the adjustment back to life in the local church is through being a servant. Christ took on the form of a servant. The meaning of the words in the original Greek make it very clear that Christ did not come into the world pretending to be a servant, or as an actor acting out the role of a servant. Rather, He WAS a servant.” Servanthood is the model [that] God wants [us] to follow.”
Humility is the core of remembering who Jesus is and who we are. We are not worms to be stepped on, but we are also not equal partners with God. Heidi Baker shares from “Living from the Presence,” that we need God, the great I AM; not an equal partner. We need Somebody who can absolutely fix us, the One who has control, who can change hearts, finish what He began in us, and is able to present us before the throne without fault with great joy in His presence. We need Almighty God; the one we depend on every day in Africa. Without Him, we could never exist with all the crises we encounter.
When we press into God’s Presence seeking intimacy with Him, if we have some seriously wrong ideas about Him, our relationships will be tainted and stymied. … [Our view of him would be distorted and false] See God for who He is and respond to him accordingly. This will change everything.”
Humility means active submission, but not grovelling. Humility and submission are partners. Scripture tells us that we are to submit to one another in lowliness of mind. The Apostle Peter shares in 1 Peter 5: 5-6, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” When we are submissive and “clothe ourselves with humility” we can create peace and unity with others. We are not to be so proud and high up that we can’t accept correction and constructive criticism. Neither should we be of the mindset that our own opinions and thoughts always are better than the others. Such thinking won’t lead us to spiritual maturity.
At the same time, being submissive and humble does not mean in any way, shape or form that we are to bow down to other people. We are not to be a doormat or to fall into people-pleasing. The Apostle Paul was very clear when he said that we are to serve God and God alone. He wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:23. “God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world!” He also wrote in Galatians 1:10, “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”
Humility also does NOT mean lack of self-worth or self-esteem. Humility gives inner strength. Lack of self-worth seems more like a bruised, broken and traumatized spirit. This is something that the Lord can heal as he makes us strong as our identity as a child of God. Confident and loved children do not put themselves down, yet they are teachable. It’s important to be submissive in accepting correction, being teachable and not thinking of ourselves as superior, we need to please God with our lives. This should be our focus: to humble ourselves under God’s will for us; to live to keep his commands, and especially not try to meet human demands and expectations.
Humility does not mean that we are silent, or passive people. We can serve the Lord with zeal, diligence and be what Paul calls in Romans 12:11, “fervent in spirit in serving the Lord.” This means we use our spiritual gifts, talents and abilities for him. This is done within the context that these gifts are not entirely for our benefit. God desires to be able to use us to his glory and purpose. Nellie Owens shares that “humility is that we use our talents and capabilities under God’s direction and leading. We need to give him the honour and glory for all that is accomplished in and through our lives. He uses our actions, works and even our story to impact lives. 1 Peter 4:10-11 shares: “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.”
And finally, humility is the key to progress in your spiritual walk. It’s the key to promotion. At the same time, it can be a key to progress in employment. What employer trusts a prideful employee? Humility opens doors to learning lessons without pain. Humility opens the door to honour. Proverbs 15:33 shares that the “fear of the Lord teaches wisdom [and] humility precedes honour. And so this is the same humility that Jesus shows in Philippians 2, as I shared in my last article.
When we allow humility to grow in our hearts, wonderful things happen, even in difficult times. You are given the grace to overcome. You are given the deepness of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Like RT Kendall’s illustration, the dove will not depart from your shoulder. Instead of grieving him, you’ve invited him to stay with you. Nellie Owens shares that if we are of this humble mindset, we will make unbelievable progress in our Christian lives! God pays very close attention to our hearts, and he’s eager to strengthen those who desire to live for him in this way. Isaiah chapter 66:1–2 make this point. “This is what the Lord says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you build me a temple as good as that? Could you build me such a resting place? 2 My hands have made both heaven and earth; they and everything in them are mine. I, the Lord, have spoken! “I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at my word.”
And so the journey into humility requires climbing down. Imagine going kloofing – hiking into narrow mountain valleys. The hiking journey gives added strength physically, mentally, and spiritually. And this journey takes in all that, as well as re-molding you emotionally, volitionally and spiritually. Your choices become stronger as you choose the low road, which curiously is the highest road of all. Along the way, you shed pride, selfish ambition, arrogance, offence and self-focus. And on the path, you discover who you really are and who you are meant to be. The servant becomes the star.
May the Holy Spirit bless you deeply with true humility, and strength from inside you. When you are tempted to go the way of pride, remember you have a choice. Choose the best way.
Lord, I ask you to bless each person reading my words – with a deep realization that you have blessed us in so many ways. Touch our hearts with the realization that you are making a home there. Your gentle knock is at the door of our hearts. Lord, we let you in. Come and spend time with us. Transform us deep within. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I’m also continuing cancer treatments here in South Africa. We return to Canada to resume treatment in April 2020. If you feel led to learn about L-A’s story and/or to pitch in you can visit our medical campaign page. You can also send whatever amount you’d like to sow to our Paypal: https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod
If you’d like to hear this article in audio format read by Laurie-Ann, visit our podcast page and scroll down to #52.
Enjoy! Please let me know if this blessed you!