To accomplish anything in life, we generally have to figure out the goal and take steps to achieve it. We know this is true in business, fitness, personal finance, and almost any other field of activity. But what about our Christian lives? This is a little trickier because God is at work in us to finish the good work He began, but we also have a responsibility to grow in Christ. So where’s the balance?
I think the place to begin is discovering God’s goals for our lives, and the only place to find this information is in His Word. For instance, in Colossians 3:12-14, Paul says, “As those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”
That’s a tall order, yet all these qualities are God’s will for our lives. This is what He is committed to accomplishing in us. Although it may seem like an overwhelming challenge, I think there is one quality in these verses that is foundational to all the others—humility. If we’ll pursue a humble spirit, all the other attributes will fall into place.
Humility is an attitude of total dependence on the Lord and the recognition that we are His servants, and He is our Lord. It’s a mindset that puts Jesus first, others second, and ourselves last. Our natural tendency is to protect and promote ourselves; therefore, humility is not something we can muster in our own strength. God develops it within us as we believe, know, submit to, and seek Him.
Although we should pursue a humble spirit, we must realize that we’ll never be able to look back and say, “I have finally arrived. I am now humble.” If we think this, we’ve lost it. There is no arrival with humility because it’s a lifelong pursuit, and the only one who can truly evaluate our progress is the Lord.
Humility is essential for those who follow Christ. First of all, there is no salvation apart from it. We must come to Jesus with a sense of sorrow, recognizing that our sins have separated us from God, crying out to Him for mercy, relying totally on Christ’s sacrifice, believing it is sufficient for our forgiveness. It’s impossible to come to Jesus with an arrogant attitude (James 4:6).
Second, we can never walk in daily fellowship with Christ as Lord without a spirit of humility. We have been bought with His precious blood and are no longer our own (1 Cor. 6:19-20). A true disciple is one who submits to Christ’s right to rule and govern every aspect of life. In fact, we count it a privilege to be under His authority and are committed to obedience, even when it’s difficult. And the longer we walk with Him, the greater will be our delight in submitting to His will.
Third, humility is necessary for our sanctification. This is the process whereby the Holy Spirit works in our lives through the Word of God to transform us into the image of Christ. Since Jesus described Himself as “gentle and humble in heart,” this is what God desires for us as well (Matt. 11:29). When we hang onto our pride, the work of the Spirit is hindered—and He’s the One who helps us understand Scripture and resist sin. We can’t even pray effectively if we don’t humble ourselves before God and admit that we need His help.
Since Jesus described Himself as “gentle and humble in heart,” this is what God desires for us as well
Fourth, a humble spirit is essential for good relationships. Remember the list of godly qualities in Colossians 3:12-14? Without a humble spirit, we’ll never be able to respond to people as God desires. A self-centered person is not known for being compassionate, gentle, kind, and patient with others. And people who focus on their rights see no need to forgive anyone who wrongs them or to make an effort to live in unity. The only way we’ll be able to live as God desires is if we humbly regard one another as more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3).
The pursuit of a humble spirit is not quick and easy. Our culture promotes selfishness and pride, convincing us that we must put ourselves first and seek our own pleasure and advancement. And as Christians, we may not even be aware of a self-centered focus, but it may be the reason we struggle with loving and forgiving others. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).
Humility requires a new way of thinking. We must direct our thoughts toward God. When we focus on His grace, goodness, love, and mercy toward us, we have no reason for pride but only for gratitude. As God becomes bigger in our eyes, we will become smaller. Yet amazingly, we’ll delight in our smallness and feel the safety and security of belonging to such a great and loving heavenly Father.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. It may seem like a burden to strive for humility, but in reality it’s a characteristic that frees us to feel an abundance of love and joy. Here at In Touch Ministries, we are deeply grateful for your partnership, and pray that peace will fill your heart as you serve the Lord and others in obedience to His Word.