(Above is one of the images from Laurie-Ann’s first prophetic colouring book, “Colouring with Jesus.”) We hope to publish this very soon in Worcester, South Africa).
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 our last article, we continued our journey on hope. During the first installment on hope, we discovered many of the places where hope is mentioned in the Bible. Hope is mentioned 190 times, especially in the book of Psalms. The Psalms are full of passages on hope, and advise readers many times to have hope in God. This hope is not a wispy wish, but is something as strong as a rope on a life preserver. Hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised. It ties in with trust in God’s promises. Hope doesn’t have a specific time-line, but it is future based, while faith believes more in the NOW. Still, hope is an essential stepping stone to faith.
I conducted a survey of my Facebook friends to gauge their view of hope. Many of the answers were very powerful, including my friend Brenda. She shared that she believes hope is “that inner joy with motivation to expect that promised thing to manifest at any moment! Everyone seems to have their favourite scripture on hope, and the one that often comes to mind is Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” That hope includes restoration, healing and more.
Then we went through ten ‘take-aways” on hope, to help us remember when we hit hard times. Hope moves us forward, so we don’t get stuck in our wallowing. Hope gives us the energy to move. You CAN do this. Let’s encourage each other with hope to move on. Hope lightens our darkness, so we can see our way forward. Hope increases the faith that we have.
Hope is contagious – and this is where community spirit comes in. The folkies love this aspect of hope for a great song. But it IS true. Hope brings healing – especially to the heart. Hope and depression do not mix. Hope is practical. It does not sit passively, but works for the better. Hope purifies us in the struggle, and especially in persecution. Hope stabilizes us in the storm, so we become stronger. And hope defends us against lies that drag us to doubt and despair. So we do have a hope and a future. We need only ask God for it. He’s had it for us all along. There is another way to grow in God that takes hands with hope. And that is humility.
Humility is often understood as meekness, lack of vanity, modesty and lack of pride. While humility may seem outwardly modest, it’s not just a lack of vanity or pride. Humility is not synonymous with meekness, which is a fruit of the Spirit, though they are related. Is meekness humility with added long suffering and perseverance? Or are both a form of strength with a gentle touch? Perhaps. We’ll journey over that another day.
Humility is strong, not weak. Jesus’s humility is a huge example for us, as is shown in Philippians 2:3-5. “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” With these statements the Apostle Paul shares what some call the Philippians Hymn – an ancient creed that showed the depth of Jesus’ humility by how far he went to rescue us. Due to this extreme love and self-sacrifice, he was given the highest honour. Humility is actually a prerequisite for honour.
Here is the whole creed, from verses 5-11. “May you have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;7 rather, he made himself nothing; by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself, by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place, and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
I love this scripture so much, that I had it recited at our wedding. To me, it’s the very core of our faith and the nature of Jesus. It’s love in the clothes of humility. That’s part of who Jesus is. But what about us? How can WE grow in humility? Honestly, I don’t think it’s something we can do on our own – it must be grown IN us. When we are left to our own devices, we can be anything BUT humble. If we try on our own to outwardly mimic humility, it’s fake. And then you could brag about those humble acts, and be shown for the actor you are. You want to be real.
There’s a reason why humility is a fruit of the Spirit, although the word humility comes up alongside the words “meekness,” “kindness,” “forebearance,” “long-suffering” and gentleness, depending on which Bible translation you use. Fruit takes time to develop. Since humility is a key virtue in relationships, this is exactly where it needs to grow. Pete Miller believes that true humility is a quality that many Christian men and women desire. He says it’s “not a value to be concealed, as if it expressed weakness; but rather, it’s a precious gift that should be revealed. Humility is the (very) opposite of pride, which caused Lucifer to be cast out from the presence of God.”
The apostle Paul says in Ephesians 4:2, to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Humility is the very opposite of selfish ambition or vanity. We are to value others above ourselves. While it’s important to remember others, it doesn’t mean that we are to treat ourselves badly. John the Baptist said in John 3:30, that He (or Jesus) must become greater and greater, and I (as in John), must become less and less. John wasn’t putting himself down – he was putting his ministry in perspective to prepare the way for Jesus. So how do we value others and ourselves in proper perspective?
It means that we need to think of ourselves less often. CS Lewis said that humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. Most of us are pretty self-focused for different reasons. Humility is the ability to realize that and remember the person next to you. We also need to see others through the Holy Spirit’s perspective. Mama Heidi does this when she stops for the one, or her divine appointment of that moment. She is given the insight and compassion to see them as not just someone in need, but someone that God really loves. And in that moment, you actually feel God’s love for that person. This has happened to me many times with children, but also with others that I’ve met. Each time it’s deeply personal and intensely compassionate.
Becoming humble means that you don’t need to always be right in a discussion. You don’t need to be bolstered by other people’s approval. You can be generous to the other person when they disagree. Pete Miller shares that “people who are genuinely humble do not draw attention to themselves, or attempt to advance a personal agenda. Although the biblical definition of humility shows lowliness of mind, it is NOT frailty, or timidity. There is no fear or cowering. Humble believers recognize they don’t know it all, and they seek to know God, who is all-knowing. Humility makes us teachable, and willing to submit to God’s instruction. The humble Christian is not a doormat or a pushover. They confidently put their trust in God, and do not act arrogantly.
Humility also means that you are not entitled to certain successes that others may have. These successes may be well-paying jobs, a valued role in the town or church, or may even be a happy family enjoying well-earned holidays. We need not be envious of these, for we may have different experiences. These are blessings from God, not entitlements. They aren’t our identity. Humility also means that we deepen our relationship with God. CS Lewis shared, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” Humble people actually look UP. What they see is the vast love of God for his creation, and this alters how they see everyone else.
Humility is highly relational and VERY counter-cultural in so many places. We were shown this by the campus pastor of Hillsong Somerset West, on a recent visit. The morning brought load shedding, so the local pastor shared how to be a counter cultural Christian to the culture around us. He said that living in this fashion would cause people to take notice – being kind, in situations where there is just the opposite, having integrity where others are corrupt, and so many more. Yet I remember his example of humility as being one of the most counter-cultural ways of living out the gospel, even down to Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Try that in a gang-infested township. It doesn’t challenge the gangster’s authority, except to wonder why you are willing to hear them out.
Veronica Neffinger from Crosswalk believes that the very nature of humility seems counterintuitive to most of our cultures’ values. In the West, we applaud independence, assertiveness, fame, success and self-reliance. Humility “often feels like a paradox, but it’s consistent with Jesus’ teachings.” For example, listen to Matthew 20:16: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Or perhaps this scripture passage from Mark 8:36: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
So how can we learn to be humble? How can we have a teachable spirit? We need to first pray for it. I believe that our heavenly Pappa wants to give us good gifts. The apostle James reminds us in James 1:17 that “whatever is good and perfect, is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.” Neffinger believes that He wants to bless us with humility – because having a humble and teachable spirit allows us to experience more joy and peace. It opens the door for so many good things.
Second, we need to support leaders who are humble. It’s easy to honour them, but give them encouragement, and learn how they submit their leadership to God. You may even want to be mentored by them. I was seeking that form of leadership when I found my Iris papa, Brian, who leads the Iris affiliate church in Richmond, Virginia. It was his humility, as well as wisdom and compassion that impressed me – and still does. He had the Iris DNA. We’ve also learned from our own Iris base leaders, Johan and Marie, who are also gentle and humble, and yet strong and loving.
Third, imagine your worst enemy at the foot of the cross. This may be a person who has tormented you, or someone you’ve not yet forgiven. While our real enemy is not flesh and blood, sometimes a person can seem like our worst opponent. But if you actually pray for that person, you can begin to see that they need Jesus as much as you do. We all need lots of grace.
Fourth, study Jesus’ humility in the Gospel of Luke. Use a highlighter. Pay attention to how he lived his humanity in a humble way, even though he is God. Watch how he interacted with people.
Fifth, we need to “weed out” media that negatively affects how you act with others. Neffinger advises that “social media often has the tendency to make us envious, snarky and prideful.” Just look at Instagram with impossibly pretty faces in a perpetual pout. In my case I may see nasty, trolling comments on Facebook, or even on Quora. It’s important for me to put my phone away and take a break. This nastiness has a negative impact on us. We might rise up in pride and anger, when we need to be in the opposite. Offence can be very dangerous and opens the door to all kinds of bitterness and pain. So put on some worship music, ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse the junk from your mind, and choose the way of humility.
Mama Heidi Baker tells us at Harvest School, to go “Low and slow.” This means low as in humble, and slow as in stopping to learn and not force your way forward. While she means this in a missionary context, it’s also true with many people you meet. Some people may be so broken, so angry and so entrenched in their ways, that they cannot feel love. But they can recognize kindness and humility. They do know when they are at last being heard.
Sixth, we need to cultivate humility through the Holy Spirit. This takes time, so be patient as God works in your life. True Humility needs to be real, and not something we do in our own strength. Humility includes self-denial, for good reasons, not out of duty, but out of love. False humility looks like religiously denying ourselves. Most of us can spot that a mile away. Some examples of false humility include: Denying ourselves to make a point, denying ourselves to feel better about ourselves, and denying ourselves as an excuse to be lazy. This may look like a martyr complex, where a person says, “Whatever, we’ll do it your way,” when it’s clear that they still want their own way. It can also look like “I’ll do this because you want to do it,” rather than “Ok, let’s do it.” That’s more people-pleasing than being humble. The third example is not speaking your own opinion because we may be using a keep-the-peace mentality out of fear. Again, this is people-pleasing and not truly honouring. True humility involves being who God created us to be, and not either hiding our opinions, or cramming it down another’s throat. Humility is strong, yet gentle.
So humility is one of the inner keys in the kingdom. I’ve heard many pastors speak on the value of the ‘incredible upside down kingdom.’ This means that God’s way is often opposite to what we encounter in the world. Unfortunately, sometimes the world’s values in these matters are only too common in the church. Lord, please forgive us. It takes time to weed out the things that keep us from becoming like Jesus. Pride, haughtiness, arrogance, and unforgiveness are among the worst that hurt our relationships with each other, and with God. So we seek the low road of humility. And in time, we will be honoured too. Just look at Haman, the villain of the Book of Esther. He was the very opposite of humble when he tried to destroy the Jews of his time. He was brought low at the end, and the man he tried to destroy was honoured. That’s just one example in the Bible.
We’ll journey more through learning about humility next time. 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 that it’s God who gives you your talent, and opens your doors.
Lord, I ask you to bless each person listening to my voice – with a deep realization that you have blessed us in so many ways. You are the one who opens the good opportunities, and you are the one who give us talents in our work. You make us in all different ways, and it is good. Give us a realization that you made us deeply creative, thinking people, who are capable of great things. Let us not forget you when we create something beautiful, for you had a hand in it. Teach us to be humble, without having to go through the lesson of pride, tripping us up like falling over a rock on a mountain climb. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
If you’d like to hear this article in audio format read by Laurie-Ann, visit our podcast page and scroll down to #51.
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 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
Maranatha singers “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord”