Thursday, December 9, 2010

Humility Redefined

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:5-7)

Be subject to? Humble yourselves? These are not familiar pictures for North American Christians. We don't bow down before the Mayor, the Governor (resisting political comment here in Illinois) or the President. Nor should we. But we do have a King. And our proper place before Him is one of humility and lowliness. When I think of Jesus and who He is (Creator, Redeemer) and who I am (created for His worship, blood-bought sinner), I am naturally -- make that supernaturally -- brought low where I belong. So I get verse 6 of I Peter 5 and by extension verse 5 since as followers of Jesus we are to be like Him (Christian = little Christ).

But Peter goes after something seemingly altogether different in verse 7. And I am guessing it is a point of struggle for many Christians. Here Peter tells us that humility before God is exemplified by calling out to God in prayer, by quickly and regularly turning our cares and anxieties over to God. (See Matthew 11:28-30 for what Jesus says about carrying His yoke versus our burden.) An outward and upward call and cry of total dependence is a big part of humbling myself before God. A lack of prayer, a lack of "Help me, Jesus!" in my life is an everyday indication of a sinful pattern of pride and self-reliance.

Years ago, Pastor James referred to 1 Peter 5:5-7 in a message. It wasn't the core passage of the message that night, bit it struck me -- so much so that I memorized it. I didn't know why then, but I soon would. (Think Hebrews 4:12)

At the time, I was leading part of a large program at work. This was a role I was excited about and a program that would have a significant impact on company systems and processes. There were many executives on that program. It was very competitive and did not have a clear hierarchy of leadership. This program and role I was so excited about quickly became one of the worst times I had been through at that company. I talked to God about just wanting to quit and asked Him a lot of "Why?" questions. Honestly, I wrestled with Him in prayer and quiet times for 2-3 weeks. After dealing with the whole thing sinfully in attitude and action, I took God at His word in 1 Peter 5:5-6.

God kept me on that program for a while longer. And in the strength of the Holy Spirit, I practiced verse 6 -- "humble yourself under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you" -- numerous times. I can remember being in a large conference room with the whole project team in the room or on the phone as a co-worker took credit for something I helped lead. And instead of my sinful reaction from weeks before, I looked down at the conference table, briefly closed my eyes and recited 1 Peter 5:5-6 and gave it to God. I chose to trust Him. No need to exalt myself no matter the temptation.

As silly as it may seem, what I failed to connect at the time was verse 7. What I was doing was casting my anxieties upon God. He has been patient and has taken me through many trials -- even as I write this -- to teach me to truly cast my anxieties upon Him. That means calling out to Him -- in my quiet times, immediately when issues come up at work, when He entrusts ministry to me. I am learning to view the weight of the situations God has me in -- whether family, job and/or ministry -- as a blessing. That weight pushes me to cast my anxieties on the Lord and to call out to Him regularly, "I cannot do this, Lord, without You. Help me!" That is the humility Peter describes in this passage. While it is not natural for us, it is what we are called to do. And it comes with an amazing promise of Almighty God exalting us. But remember it has a condition of casting our cares upon Him.

Will you call out to God? Will you give Him the anxieties you are carrying right now? He is waiting.