Be afflicted, and mourn

What comes to mind when you think of humility? Think of the actions or lifestyle of a humble person.

Is it graceful? Is it poised? Does it exhibit class and refinery?

I believe most of us would say yes to all those questions. Humility is the epitome of etiquette and grace, charm and affableness. Humility- putting others above oneself- is at the very core of politeness. People who exhibit humility are in every way leading the world in manners and conduct.

Humility is respectable.

Humility is graceful.

Humility is poised.

Humility is also commanded by God. In James we are told, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” James 4:10

Such a wonderful promise. Just before this promise we find another such comforting verse. It says, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” James 4:8

This verse really describes what is necessary in our lives. Drawing nigh to God, and cleansing and purifying ourselves. In between these verses is a verse that I often notice as overlooked.

It doesn’t sound pleasant, and it’s not such a wonderful comforting idea. But it is absolutely essential to understanding humility.

It says, “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.”

Take a moment and read that verse a second time.

Does that sound like the victorious Christian life? It may not, but it definitely is.

It probably doesn’t sound like a chapter of our lives we want put on display. Being afflicted, mourning, weeping- these are all things that are nothing close to pleasant. We would’t show that side of us to the public, we wouldn’t feel so happy about posting about that on social media.

 

In essence, the path to humility is frought with unpleasantness. It is far from picture perfect moments. It is a stranger to comforts and pleasant feelings. The path to humility is affliction (hard toil), is is weeping, and it is mourning.

The Bible tells us to Humble ourselves in sight of God.

We put that on plaques and signs in our home. Do we read it with joy and forget what it means? Humbling yourself in the sight of God is not something you can do without being changed. It requires surrendering your pleasant and happy thoughts, and getting down to see the filth that you really are.

Giving up your dignity.

Weeping over your sin.

It is for the moment grievous, but for all eternity is is supreme joy.

God says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”

If you are willing to mourn over your sin, and be afflicted over it; God will raise you up.

Won’t you humble yourself today?

God doesn’t need you

We often think of prideful people as having a high sense of self-worth. This is not the case. It’s not something that you see often, but only occasionally when you glimpse the form through the chinks in the armor, you see how insecure prideful people are. That bully is scared of being worthless. So he beats another kid to show how he is superior. That guy who throws his talent in everybody’s face, is doing it to make sure he get’s approval. Why? He’s not sure he’s worth something without it. It goes on.

Prideful people lack self-worth because true self-worth comes only from God. Think about it! By what standard can you judge yourself worth anything if not by God’s?

Who are you to say that you are worth something? And what makes the person next to you worthy enough to pass judgment? God’s esteem is the only standard.

In Matthew 3, John the Baptist calls out to the Pharisees and Sadducees. These religious leaders were proud because of their genealogy. John the Baptist said, “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Wow, is that an eye opener or what?

John the Baptist said quite simply: God doesn’t need you!

God’s not interested in who you dad was, or who your great great granddad was. He’s interested in who you are. No talents, special abilities, or even lineage can give you worth in the eyes of God. So what does God want?

The Bible tells us: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:” 1 Peter 5:6

When you submit yourself to authority and submit yourself to God’s will and desires, God will exalt you in His timing. God wants someone who recognizes that they are nothing. When someone comes to God understanding that they are nothing, God will lift them up and show the world their infinite worth!

 

 

Are you worthy for service?

Have you ever been in a position where you didn’t feel worthy to serve God in a certain way? Maybe you were asked to pray over the meal surrounded by Christians you thought to be more spiritual than yourself. Or perhaps you were invited to lead devotions, or preach at a service? Perhaps you are a new parent, and you are overwhelmed at the idea of raising a child?

Whatever it may be, I’m sure we have all at times felt unworthy for service. We don’t feel like we are enough. We aren’t skilled, or spiritual, or free of sin or faults.

John the Baptist felt this exact same way.

He was baptizing repentant sinners in the river when Jesus Christ came to him for baptism. Immediately, John was taken aback. He did not consider himself worthy to even put on or take off his sandal. John had such a high respect for Christ, he felt so unworthy.

But was John truly seeing the world correctly? He wasn’t.

John was looking at himself. His unworthiness. He was not looking at Christ and Christ’s needs.

Our Christian life is not about us. It’s not about our needs. It’s about Christ needs. In Matthew 3:15 Jesus said to John, suffer or allow, “it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” Christ needed to be baptized. It wasn’t about the worthiness of the man, but about the necessity of the service.

Remember this next time you have an opportunity for service. God didn’t choose you because you were worthy. He chose you because He needed someone. You are never worthy enough to lead a devotion, pastor a church, raise a child, or serve in any other way. God simply offers you the opportunity to serve Him.

“whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

Government corruption- it’s here to stay

There is a valuable gem in Ecclesiastes 3, if you read too fast, you will miss it. It says, “And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.”

To make it short, in the government, and in the lives of believers- there was sin.

Solomon’s observation isn’t a yin yang idea, it’s about the prevalence of sin in earthly life. In this life, we will never escape sin. It’s not up for debate, no matter how righteous you are, no matter how hard you strive for right living, you will fail. This extends to all areas of your life, and it’s not just limited to you.

Others will fail as well.

This isn’t something we like to ponder, but it’s something we can learn from. If we know that people are flawed just like us, we can expect them to make mistakes. Instead of hating them, or getting angry, we can practice patience- knowing we have just as many flaws.

This applies to people in authority as well. Solomon spoke of sin in the lives of the righteous, but also in places of judgment. The police, the judges, the politicians- all of these will have flaws. They will have sin. They will have wickedness.

Does this mean that we give up on our government and our personal lives? No. But neither do we become endlessly frustrated at the sight of sin. God requires our our patience and perseverance in order to conquer sin in our lives. He also calls us to pray for everyone in authority.

Sin is not acceptable, but knowing that it’s unavoidable can be a comfort to us when we fail. God expects our very best, and that means we never stop the fight against sin in our lives. But God also understands that we are incapable of sinlessness. If we come to Him in humility and repentance, He will never turn us away.

“For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” Psalms 103:14

 

The patient wait

What stirs the heart of God? What brings the interest of God? In what is God pleased? What causes God to move to action? These questions could be answered by many different qualities found in righteous people, but I honestly believe that a person’s patientce combined with expectation or hope is most effective in bringing God’s intervention.

Proverbs 40:1 says, “I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” Notice the action that David took. He waited patiently. In our fast paced world, we don’t like to wait for things. We want it now, or we want something else that we can have now. These impulses are deeply rooted in pride and selfishness. Think about it, humility brings us patience. Many people would wait all day to meet a famous actor or politician. Why? Because they find that person worthy of their time. But many times people fail to recognize the God of the universe as worthy of their time as a mortal being.

In order to patiently wait, David had humility.

One interesting thing about this verse is that the Hebrew word for “patiently” and the Hebrew word for “waited” are exactly the same. The word carries more than one meaning and in Hebrew, its interpretation is intensified by it’s repetition.  One other meaning in this word is to expect or hope for something. Honestly, you don’t have to be an amazing scholar to recognize that the only reason that you would wait for something, is that you actually expect it. I mean, who waits for something that they know is not going to happen?

So two qualities of David’s heart are portrayed by his waiting: his humility in his willingness to wait, and his expectation (faith).

And what was the answer? God inclined to him and heard him. We see such an equation repeated over and over in the Bible. When people humbly stand in faith for God to move, He moves. When they humbly ask and believe, He answers. Over and over again.

So how about you? What do you need from God today? Are you asking in humility? Do you ask God for something, and then soon give up because He doesn’t answer immediately, or do you patiently and expectantly wait for His reply?

I challenge you, whatever you desire from God: deliverance, wisdom, ability, strength, health, patience, etc. , ask Him. Ask in humility, and ask in expectation and He will answer.

When your soul’s restored

There are promises in the Bible that require no action from us. God is true. God is faithful. God will reign for all eternity. Whether we serve the Lord or not, those truths will remain. Those promises are sure. Even when they affect us, like, God will judge the world in righteousness, those promises require no cooperation from us. But many if not most of God’s blessings, require our cooperation to come to fruition. Not that God is incapable of bringing them to pass without our help, but that He chooses not to act unless we are in submission to Him.

Two such blessings are found in Psalm 23:3. The verse says, “He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” First, God restores our soul. This has the meaning of to turn back or to return. When we are weary and burdened in this life, God has the ability to return us to strength. He restores our soul to it’s liveliness, and vitality. Second, He leads us in the paths of righteousness. Think about this for a moment, God didn’t have to lead us at all. He could simply say, “Be righteous.” And leave us to our own devices. But that is not His way. He chooses to say, “Come this way, child, and I will lead you.” He leads because He loves, and He leads to show other’s His goodness and glorify His name.

But as a good doctor cannot cure unless the patient is willing, and the one who leads with none following is only taking a walk. God cannot restore us or lead us without our cooperation. We must come to Him to be restored. We must humble ourselves and choose to follow if we are to be lead by God. This is not always an easy choice, but it must be done if we are to enjoy the pleasantness of true fellowship with our Creator.

I pose this question to you, Will you come to your Savior to be restored? Will you follow that He might lead? It is the only way to a happy and fulfilled life. Won’t you make that choice today?

Take the path that the world has labeled insane

Contemplate the fact that when God calls you to serve Him, He calls you to deny your own flesh and the entire world system that surrounds to follow Him while changing inwardly to the point of bringing death to your most intimate and base desires. When you realize that, you conclude naturally that you need God’s help in order to follow Him.

In Philippians 2:3, God commands: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory;”

If we think about what is natural for an unbeliever, and what people without Christ do, we find that almost everything that is done by unbelievers IS done through strive and vain glory.

Worldly people spend their lives complaining, competing, worrying, bragging, arguing, fighting, and living in agitation.

If you live your life constantly looking out for yourself and trying to prove yourself and make sure you get “what you deserve,” then you are living like the world. Your lifestyle is not only one of disobedience, but also one of incredible stress and agitation.

God says, “Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory. . . “

How are we to live then?  We are to live in “lowliness of mind,” while we “esteem other better” than ourselves.  When you’re humble, you don’t have anything to prove. If you consider someone to be better than you, then you aren’t concerned if they think the same. And if you deny your desire for vain glory, and live to see God glorified, then you never need to obsess over whether or not the credit is going where it’s due. God will get all the glory no matter what. Just a side note: Living humbly is living peacefully.

 

Gods’ command to us is to conclude that our benefits, and our comfort, and our pleasure, and our fair share of (whatever we “deserve”) are all inconsequential to the Glory that God deserves. The next few verses in Philippians 2, call us to have the mind of Christ and humble ourselves to the point of death.

Unless you’re facing martyrdom for your faith, I don’t think God is calling you to literally die. It’s a word picture. Think about it, does anybody want to die? Most people want to live. In fact, if a person desires death, they are usually unstable.

God’s calling to us: to deny ourselves, would appear like complete insanity to the world.

In fact, God tells us that, “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18

So I challenge you, surrender to the call of humility unto death. Take the path to lowliness that the world has labeled insane. Choose to forfeit your “rights” and live a life of peace and obedience. You can’t do it by yourself, so God has promised to help you. All you must do is decide.

“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:13

What if God is waiting for you?

If you gave most people a chance to be rich, they would take you up on it. I mean, who doesn’t want money? Money gives you power, choices, and most likely a better level of comfort. Who doesn’t want respect or honor? Most people like to be respected. And almost everyone prefers life instead of death. The Bible gives us two things to incorporate into our lives to find riches, honor and life.

It’s quite simple, Proverbs 22:4 tells us, “By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life.” That’s it. One verse, and if you’re not careful, it is easy to overlook. No more comment is made on the subject. Since we know that the Word of God is true and valuable, we can recognize the value of this one verse.

If you think about the world, they run after riches constantly. The constantly scramble on top of one another trying to get to the top so they can have  brief moment of fame and the idea of respect. Lastly, most worldly people are trying to find meaning in life, and trying to prolong it without every quite enjoying it as much as a servant of God can.

Sadly, many Christians join in on these pursuits without realizing that God has called them to a higher purpose. Yes, riches, honor, and life are all desirable things, but God has designed us to seek after more. We are not called to run after the things that the world clamors for. God wants us to run after Him. He tells us to take action. The action is in two parts, but those elements are related.

He wants us to humble ourselves, and fear Him. Those things aren’t difficult or complicated to do, they’re just not what humans usually want. Humans want glory and honor. But God calls us to honor Him. Humans desire that others be lowered, but God calls us to lower ourselves.

When we decide to willingly surrender our “honor,” and recognize God’s power, and conform our life, then God tells us that He will reward us with honor, and money [power], and life.

There are some that claim that it is not God’s will for every Christian to be rich. Well, I’m sure it is possible, but you cannot deny that God has rewarded many of His servants with riches.  And whether or not the previous claim is true, I honestly believe that a there is a large amount of Christians who do not have riches, honor, and life because they have failed to humble themselves and fear the Lord.

Can you not see our God, ready to bless His servants with abundance, but holding back because He knows that their heart is not right, and such a blessing would turn them away from Him. Or He waits because He knows that such a person would not glorify Him with the riches He would give, but would only attempt to satisfy their own lusts.

What if God is waiting for you? What if His heart is breaking because He desires a deeper relationship with you, but you are holding back? What if He longs to bless you materially as wells as spiritually so that others might see His goodness and glorify Him with you, but He holds back because you have not obeyed.

We may never know what God might have given us if we had obeyed sooner, but we can decide to obey now. We can choose to humble ourselves and fear the Lord. Such a choice will not only bring a deeper and more meaningful relationship with God, but will also bring His blessings of riches, honor, and life.

Then one day, it could be said of us, as it was said of David: And ______  “died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honour”

But the verse doesn’t end there-

It continues with: “and Solomon his son reigned in his stead.”- 1 Chronicles 29:28

David feared the Lord, and was rewarded. But David left a legacy. Solomon, his son, took the throne after him. And Solomon followed his father’s footsteps in fearing the Lord. The Lord rewarded Solomon with greater— well, I’m sure you know the story.

“Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.” – 1 Chronicles 29:12

When you’re caught up in your arguments

Ever had one of those times when you know that you’re right. Someone has offended you or they have mistreated you and you just aren’t gonna take it anymore. You don’t have to be nice to them. You don’t need to behave. You’ve had it.

Recall having that list of arguments in your head? Over and over, you rehearsed it like a speech. You went down the list of how they were wrong and you were right. All day you stewed. Boiling up steam like some eager contender at a starting line, you were ready to spout out all your reasons as soon as they ________.

I’ve been there. I know the feeling.

In the heat of the moment, your arguments look so solid. Your case looks so important. But in reality, all your anger and frustration is nothing but a bunch of hot air. Your condition is not the condition of some horribly wronged victim, but likeable to a child that throws a tantrum when things don’t go his way.

I’ve found that when I focus on myself, I’m the most important thing in the universe to me. I’m looking out for myself. And I’m the victim. But when I focus on the Almighty King and see things from His perspective, I see something far different. I see all of humanity as a race loved by God. A world full of people who are voluntary victims of sin and corruption. And suddenly, my troubles don’t seem as big. Disconnected from my own selfishness, I become in touch with the Holy Spirit’s prodding to love and forgive.

My arguments blow away like tumbleweeds in the desert, and I am left with nothing but a Christlike compassion.

James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord.” I honestly believe that taking our eyes off of ourselves is only one part of this command.

I challenge you, next time you find yourself in a disagreement and you are certain that you are the injured party, remember what Christ did for you. Remember what Christ did for them. Remind yourself that your comfort isn’t all that important and ask God to give you a clear perspective. There are some cases that are serious and must be addressed, but I’m sure you will find that most of the time a dispute can be solved by a little forgiveness, a little understanding, a little compassion, and above all a little love.

Let us not be focused on ourselves, but let us set our eyes elsewhere.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2

God endured so much for every one of us. Let us pattern our lives after His selflessness.

What is in thine hand?

Uselessness is something we all feel at some point in time in our lives. We’re humans. Yeah, that’s kinda depressing, but I have some news for you. If you walk in the power of Christ, then you don’t have to ever feel useless. God empowers you to do anything and everything that you need to do.

Our God is awesome.

Let me give you an example. When Moses was commanded by God to bring an entire enslaved nation out of Egyptian bondage, he felt kinda small. He wasn’t sure of himself, or of God for that matter.

He protested and told God that he didn’t think that Israel would believe that he was from God. Exodus 4:2 gives God’s response, “And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.” God then instructed Moses to cast it down and then God turned the rod into a serpent. He showed Moses that he could use anything.

God knew what was in Moses’ hand. God knows everything. I would imagine, in my own head that is, that God was giving us a vision of how powerful He is. It’s kinda like one of those cheap slight-of-hand tricks when the guy’s like, “Pick a card, any card.”

In a way, God was showing how great he was. But it was no trick. God’s power was and is real.

God was showing how great He was, and He still demonstrates His power today.

God wants to use you for great things. He has a plan in your best interest. All you must do is trust Him and follow His lead. God doesn’t need great skill, talent, riches, fame, or beauty. Don’t forget, He created all that. God wants you. He wants to use you for greatness. He wants to show His power through you.

He doesn’t need much. He needs a willing servant.

Are you willing?