Cultivating True Humility: The Foundation of Spiritual Influence

As I have studied God’s Word over the last several years and sought to grasp His great heart more and more through prayer and waiting upon Him, I have confidently come to believe that the deliberate cultivation of a spirit of humility is one of the most critical of attributes a follower of Jesus can pursue. In this hour, God is calling forth believers who shine brightly with humility and meekness.

He is seeking those willing to be emptied of themselves in order to have the full life of God possess them. He is after Message Bearers who give up their rights in order to be a humble witness among a people group bound in lies and deceptions for hundreds of years.

Why does God put so much emphasis on humility? Because it is the bedrock of all spiritual influence! Jesus’ ways are never like ours. In His kingdom the way up is down. Humility is thoroughly counter-cultural – both for the one to whom the call to cultivate is committed as well as to the unbeliever who observes and watches such a person.

There is nothing that stands more against the sinful human nature then humility and meekness. There is nothing as unnatural as living this way. As a result there is nothing as powerful as a life marked by this grace. The only way to faithfully grow in it consistently is to throw ourselves entirely upon Jesus and to receive the lavish humility and meekness that He possesses for us. Pride, the antithesis of humility, is the original sin.

No wonder humility and meekness is so difficult to lay hold of. It cannot be attained through self-effort. It is only through the overcoming life of Jesus Himself that we can ever put down our filthy pride and hope to walk as we ought in this arena. In this article we will look in detail at a powerful few verses unveiling some ideas to help us in pursuit of greater humility and meekness.

1 Peter 5:5-7 states:

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.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

Mutually Submit

First, we are called to mutually submit ourselves to one another. This characterizes all followers of Jesus. No one is exempt. Every believer is to first seek to become a great follower. Even leaders are called to live in mutual submission with other leaders and to the great leader, Christ Himself. Doing so postures our hearts in a spirit of interdependence that can guard us from succumbing to the temptation of pride.

No believer is an island and mutually submitting requires us to cultivate a spirit of humility. For humility is God’s way of unveiling grace upon the human heart. It can come no other way.

Be Clothed

Secondly, we are called to be clothed with humility. Humility is to be all-encompassing. It is not to be seen as just another one of many characteristics but is to actually be the anchor of all of them. To be clothed is to be completely covered by something. Humility is to consume us through and through. Our aim is to be fully clothed with the same mind and attitude of humility that marked Christ (Philippians 2:5-8).

This humility is never a weakness. Some have falsely equated humility with weakness. Instead it is an attitude of dependence and complete reliance upon God alone in life and ministry. It is the very humility of Jesus being given the freedom to shine itself through our little lives. True humility is actually the greatest strength a believer can possess as it is a life lived through increasingly becoming less and less and allowing Jesus to truly rule and reign over every area.

The greatest pride is to think that we can attain anything in the Christian life apart from Jesus Himself accomplishing it in and through us. As we deliberately surrender (and continue to do so) each area of our lives to His glorious leadership, we are cultivating humility.

Face to Face with Pride

Thirdly, we see that pride is the greatest enemy of a godly life. The spirit of Christ cannot prevail upon a proud heart. It must be crucified and then continually crucified over a lifetime. It is an insidious area of sin that will relentlessly seek to bring down a follower of Jesus. It is an incessant enemy which must be ever watched and kept from having its way. There are layers of unperceived pride in even the godliest of people.

The Lord, in His mercy and grace, periodically allows us to come face to face with these areas and offers us the chance to repent and again receive His empowering to go on in this pursuit of humility. What are some of the ways He might do this? Let me highlight two. The test of being overlooked is one.

How do we respond when another gets a role we wanted or is promoted while we were not? When someone is honored while we are not? When another outshines us? Jealousy and envy often arise in such times. This is God’s grace revealing an area of pride to us. A second way might be the test of criticism. What is our reaction to criticism? Do we immediately respond by defending and justifying ourselves? Does it arouse hostility within? Do we internally criticize the one who criticized us?

To do so is the surest proof of the life of pride within. Humility takes criticism from wherever it comes and actually has a thankful heart about it as it recognizes that maybe there is some nugget of truth that can be gained from such criticism.

Grace Dependent Upon Humility

Fourth, we see in these verses the power of God’s grace. The grace referred to here is the enabling, empowering, equipping ability of the Spirit which He gives to us to accomplish His purposes in life and ministry. The point that Peter is highlighting here is that such grace ONLY comes to the humble.

Apart from cultivating true humility we take ourselves out of the running of being a candidate for His extraordinary enabling, empowering and equipping. Apart from such graces we are left to ourselves and cannot hope to be effective and fruitful witnesses of God’s great love. This is why cultivating true humility is so critical to spiritual influence.

Humility unlocks God’s grace which is essential to effectiveness as God’s Message Bearers. This doesn’t mean we possess perfect humility, without ever faltering and exhibiting pride, but that when we do we quickly repent and get our hearts right with God. It means we possess a bent towards humility at the heart level which the Lord knows when He gazes inward at our hearts.

His Promise

Fifth, we see God’s promise that if we cultivate a spirit of true humility, He will exalt us in due time. He is able to do this knowing that we will not be affected at the heart level by this. We will not be buoyed with pride because those things have already been dealt with, though we will need to fight off such temptations at each phase of life and ministry.

These are believers who are steady and not given over to heightened emotional excitement when promoted or deep depression when demoted. Humility allows a heart to find its right foundation and not base itself upon fleeting issues that stoke the pride of the spiritually immature. It is critical for younger believers to buy into the reality that cultivating true humility is possibly the most important thing to pursue.

The Ability to Cast

Sixth and lastly, Peter instructs that when humility is cultivated we are able to fully cast our cares, concerns and anxieties upon Jesus. This involves a full surrender of these things. We don’t cast something onto someone apart from giving it fully over to them. We roll these things off onto the Master. We then receive of His yoke in place of the yoke we previously held regarding our petty worries and fears.

Humility opens up the door to allow us to trust the Lord in His goodness. It recognizes that He really is who He has said He is and that He really will keep His promises to us. Pride keeps us from trusting Him in this way. In our pride we hold onto our anxieties and worries instead of allowing Him to be the bearer of such things, which has always been His passion.

This care produces great confidence in His divine abilities to take care of every detail and concern of our lives. His overwhelming care causes a steadiness to arise in our hearts and as a result there is an inner peace and rejoicing that emerges.

Let us together seek to become a people in radical pursuit of true humility. It is a virtue that is entirely pleasing to the Father. May we make it our aim to intentionally work to see this cultivated in our hearts and lives.

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