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God's

Job Description

Part 2 - How Do We Humble Ourselves?

By Dennis Pollock

In our previous study we looked at what I call God’s job description. This is found in the book of Job when God appears to His complaining servant and asks Him such questions as:

  1. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
  2. Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place?
  3. Can you send out lightnings, that they may go, and say to you, ‘Here we are!’?


God goes into great length describing the various things He does in the universe, and making Job acutely and painfully aware of his own puniness, weakness, and limitations. In revealing Himself thus, God is essentially giving a job description for what it is to be God. He sustains all things, directs all things in the heavens and in the earth, and rules over all. This is the Almighty; this is who He is and what He does.

Located within this amazing and lengthy declaration we find a fascinating statement: “Would you indeed annul My judgment… Look on everyone who is proud, and humble him. Look on everyone who is proud, and bring him low” (Job 40:8,11,12). The point we made in our last study is that, if we really believed this, if we fully recognized just how opposed God is to pride, and how vigorously He works against the proud, their plans, and their goals, we would do everything in our power to keep ourselves in a posture of humility. For truly, God “resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

In this study, I want to look a little deeper into the process of humbling ourselves. We need to see that humility is not merely a feeling. It does not come by us trying to somehow capture the feeling of humility. There are definite things we can do, actions we can take, and understandings we must gain in order for us to walk in humility. And the Bible clearly encourages us to do these things. We are told: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10). James is not saying that we should sit around trying to feel humble. We are often told that love is an action word, and that is true. In the same way, there are steps to be taken, things to be done, and insights to be gained which will make humility more likely to appear in our hearts and lives.

Truth

The first thing we must understand is that humility is based upon truth. We don’t find humility in trying to think of ourselves as less than we are, but rather we grow in humility as we see things, ourselves, and God as they truly are. Proud people are deceived people, possessing an inflated sense of themselves with little recognition of just how weak and fragile they truly are. The great antidote for pride, therefore, is truth. And that is precisely what we discover when we open the sacred Scriptures and begin to read. We learn about God, who “holds our breath in His hands and owns all our ways” (Daniel 5:23). We discover, as Nebuchadnezzar did, that:

His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom is from generation to generation.
All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing;
He does according to His will in the army of heaven
And among the inhabitants of the earth.
No one can restrain His hand
Or say to Him, “What have You done?” (Daniel 4:34,35)

As we read through the Bible with reverence we experience an entirely new view of the world, of ourselves, and of God. Our values, attitudes, and perceptions are transformed and we find ourselves seeing things more and more as they truly are. Jesus referred to this accurate perception simply as truth, and told Pilate that He had come into the world to “bear witness of the truth.” In His prayer just before facing the cross, Jesus asked the Father to sanctify His disciples with truth, declaring “Thy word is truth.” It is not so much merely reading the Bible that brings this about, but rather drinking it in, consuming its precepts, insights, and values until we begin to think the way God does. And as this happens our estimation of ourselves and our own abilities and achievements diminishes, while our view of God is greatly magnified.

Regardless of how great our successes, how abundant the praise others may have heaped upon us, the size of our bank account, the number of our friends, or the brilliance of our career, through God’s word we recognize that it is God alone who has made it all possible, and that we owe everything we own, all we have accomplished, and every level to which we have attained, to Him. This results in both gratitude and humility. It also produces a certain healthy fear (or awe if you like), knowing that He who gave us all we have could easily take it from us in an instant. But even if we manage to keep all we have into our elderly years, the time will come when every one of us will surrender it all to our Creator in death. The Psalmist spelled this out plainly when he observed:

Do not put your trust in princes,
Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.
His spirit departs, he returns to his earth;
In that very day his plans perish. (Psalm 146:3-4)

Prayer

Child prayingAnother means by which we humble ourselves is through prayer. Actually prayer and humility are mutually reinforcing. Humble people pray, and praying people become humble. And the more you pray the more humility you typically gain, and the more humble you are, recognizing your own weakness and utter dependence upon God, the more you pray. This is the very reverse of what we call a vicious cycle – I guess we could call it a blessed cycle.

Sometimes we worry that our prayers aren’t anointed enough or eloquent enough, or we don’t have enough passion or tears or fervor. And perhaps these should be concerns. But the very fact that we do pray, that we take time out of our day to talk to our invisible Creator is a powerful statement of trust and dependence. Proud people rarely pray. There is no need for prayer. They have it all under control – they are smart enough, capable enough, resourceful enough. They love to quote the saying, “God helps those who help themselves,” and they take great pride in helping themselves – even when logic may warn them that their own self-help is probably not going to get the job done.

Proud people don’t like the idea of help – from others or even from God. To them it is a sign of weakness and incompetence. They possess a great love for troubleshooting, problem solving, and brainstorming. God is not against these things. He gave us our minds and He expects us to use them. But He also wants us to pray, and to recognize Him in our difficulties and pressures. When we close our eyes and start telling Him about our situation, He is pleased. He is not surprised about our situation, of course. He saw these problems coming long before we ever did, even from eternity. But He knows that talking to Him about these things is a very, very good thing for us. It will do us good immediately, and lead to pleasant ends, which result in Him being glorified and us being increased in our faith and love for Him. “I love the Lord because He has heard my voice” (Psalm 116:1). Not, “I love the Lord because I fixed all my problems without ever needing to pray.” The Bible says, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:6).

There is complementary behavior to prayer which makes it all the more powerful and increases the humility factor. I am speaking of the practice of fasting. Some suppose that fasting is an Old Testament discipline that has little to do with New Testament believers. But Jesus tells us, “When you fast…” not if you fast” but “when you fast.” Our Savior expects us to fast. And fasting has a definite relationship with the humbling of ourselves. In Psalms we read, “I humbled myself with fasting” (Psalm 35:13). When Ezra led a group of Babylonian captives back to the land of Israel, he reported:

Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us… (Ezra 8:21).

I admit, fasting is a bit of a mystery. Why should it make a difference to God whether we eat nice meals or go a period where we abstain from food? Often when we fast our minds are drawn to our empty stomachs, and we pray with a sense of weakness and feebleness. It is hard to pray powerful, dynamic, forceful prayers when it feels like we are dying. And in a sense we are dying. When we fast, our bodies immediately go into decline. We have less energy, we get fatigued far more easily, and we produce less body heat. If we went on with the fasting long enough we surely would die.

Of course, God does not want us to starve ourselves, but He does seem to feel it is to our benefit to occasionally position ourselves in the place of weakness while we approach Him over critical junctures or great needs in our lives. Perhaps we won’t pray as loud or sound as impressive, but in our weakness God’s strength is magnified. And it is hard to maintain too much of a posture of pride when you feel weak from a lack of food. Humility comes a little easier. And again: “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” To humble, praying, fasting children our gracious Father gives the grace of deliverance, the grace of answered prayer, the grace of encouragement, the grace of open doors, the grace of the routing of the evil spirits that have taunted us and hindered us, and the grace of fresh release of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Grace comes to the humble and fasting is one of the means by which we may humble ourselves. From experience I can tell you that it is far superior to humble ourselves rather than having God humble us!

Words

Another area in which this fight against pride must be fought relates to our words. In Psalms we read, “With their mouths they speak proudly” (Psalms 17:10). In Hannah’s prophetic utterance in 1st Samuel, she takes time to address the ungodly, declaring, “Talk no more so very proudly; let no arrogance come from your mouth, for the LORD is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed” (1 Samuel 2:3). Since it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks, proud people are going to reveal themselves for what they are in the words that come out of their mouths.

As it was with prayer, so it is with humility and the words we speak. Humility and soft speech are mutually reinforcing. Humble people will speak with humility and speaking humbly leads to humility. We dare not presume to speak as though we are the know-all, end-all, do-all, totally competent-in-every-way people that we wish we could be. We most decidedly are not. In truth we are all weak, frail, dependent, fragile, mortal, flawed, and in desperate need of a Savior.

Praise God, that Savior has come. His name is Jesus Christ and He tells us, “Without Me you can do nothing.” But we are also told that we can do all things through Him. And as we lean on Jesus and make trust in and dependence on Him the all-consuming theme of our lives, we will see success, we will discover strength, and some may even consider us “strong” individuals. But we know better. We know and are assured that we are as weak as any, and that it is only through the strength of the crucified and resurrected One that we can reign in all things in this life.


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