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

Source of contention

Have you ever known a group of bickering people? Bicking people who complain and argue and fight can be found everywhere. They are in public, in church, even in our homes. If we are honest, most of us could say that we find the phenomenon of complaining and bickering in ourselves.

But what is the source of complaining and bickering and fighting? People complain because they don’t have something. They fight because they don’t have something. But the question is, do they truly need what they lack? Do we truly require what we desire to do God’s will?

James 4:1 tells us where contention and bickering come from. It says, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” Lust is the source of contention and bickering and fighting. Unnatural and sinful desire.

Think about that for a moment. Realize: every time you complain or fight or bicker you are responding improperly to a desire in your life. Think about some bickering children who are fighting over a toy. They have placed their desire for a toy over their desire for righteousness and peace. Think about adults who are agitated about sitting in traffic. They have placed their desire to “arrive” at their destination on time, over their desire for righteousness, meekness, and peace- and ultimately over their relationship with God.

Now, there are times when we must take a stand and have some confrontation. But those instances are not usually regular occurrences. Most of the time, when we are fighting, we are fighting for our own selfish reasons and our own lustful desires. Let us ask the Lord to help us righten our desires, so they are aligned with God’s will. Let us not bicker and fight by reason of our lust. Let us work together to build a legacy of peace and unity in the body of Christ!

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” – Philippians 2:3

“Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:3

Do you have a heart?

Have you ever known someone that was really annoying? They were rude, unsportsmanlike, selfish, and didn’t seem all that intelligent? Perhaps this person did more and more to reduce their value in your eyes. Over time, you didn’t care what that person thought or felt, and pretty soon, you didn’t give one iota about their well being either.

I must confess, I’ve been there. There have been some times that I have had so much disgust for someone that I almost hated them. I honestly believe that this sort of miserable condition is what Proverbs 11:12 is speaking of when it says,

“He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.”

That word despise really carries the meaning of “to value as nothing.” It’s easy to devalue people who don’t treat us the way we want. It’s natural to love less those who disrespect us, but the God has something very profound to say about this. He says that such a person who devalues his neighbor is devoid of wisdom.

But it doesn’t end there. The Hebrew word translated as wisdom, is translated over 500 times as our word “heart.” So let’s put this in a literal way. If you don’t value or love your neighbor, you don’t have a heart.

On the other hand, if you are a person of intelligence and understanding, then you will hold your peace. You will be silent. You will keep the peace. Perhaps you will even love them.

Those are some pretty intense opposites.

I challenge you, search your heart. See if there is someone that you do not value as God values. It is not a healthy thing to harbor feelings or attitudes that do not coincide with God’s view. In case we didn’t get the full picture from this scripture, God spells it out in Proverbs 14:21 when He says, “He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth.”

Don’t allow selfishness and pride reduce you to devaluing another.

Have a heart,

or ask God to give you one.

Learn from His, and avoid your own

Many times a believer will come to the place where they think pretty well of themselves. They cease to compare themselves to God and His righteousness, and the compare themselves with others. They start to pride themselves on what they bring to God. God’s laws aren’t important to them anymore. God should be happy with what they have deemed him worthy to receive. They are full of pride, and they will be destroyed.

Such was the condition of king Uzziah, when he tried to offer incense in the temple. This king was given the throne at age sixteen. He became a great commissioner of the army and he built many devices for war that helped Israel greatly. He honored the Lord and did what was right, but he failed to rid himself of the sin of pride.

Perhaps he was prideful at the beginning, or perhaps pride came upon him later, but when Uzziah became a strong king he lifted himself up with pride. 2 Chronicles 26:16 tells us, “But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense.”

This act of burning incense was reserved only for the sons of Aaron. In fact, several priests went after Uzziah and tried to stop him, but he would not yield. His heart was not right. In his pride, he wanted to worship God how he wanted, and not how God commanded. When the priests tried to stop him, Uzziah became extremely angry.

At that moment, God gave Uzziah leprosy.

Uzziah was cursed with this horrible disease until the day of his death. Think of this king in all his glory suddenly having to live in isolation. His glory was gone. For the rest of his life, he lived with a disease with no cure.

This is what God thinks of pride. And this was God’s punishment.

Fellow Christian, I challenge you. Don’t ever lift yourself up with pride to the point where you are not concerned about God’s commands. Seek to humble yourself, always. God does not think well of pride and He will not tolerate pride in our lives. There will be consequences. He tells us in Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goeth before destruction,”

I encourage you, seek to humble yourself before God. Uzziah failed to, and he was destroyed. Learn from his destruction, and avoid your own.

If your pride helps you do good, is it still wrong?

Pride is an interesting thing. Do you know that pride can actually motivate you to good works? It can! It’s happened in my life several times. Let me explain . . .

In the past, I’ve realized that I have a problem. (such as laziness) Then, instead of repenting with "sackcloth and ashes" and asking God to help me, I decide, "I’m gonna fix this problem!" I set up standards. I make decisions. I enforce resolutions on myself. I will work hard. I will not procrastinate. I will . . .

You see, I decided to fix the problem, without God’s help. It’s not on purpose, but in my heart, I think that I can handle this. Pretty soon, I’m failing at life. I’m no longer procrastinating, but I’m not finding much joy in anything either, and I’m not growing closer to God. In reality, I decided to change, not because I wanted to serve God, but because I wanted to have a good opinion of myself. My actions are feeding my pride and not glorifying God. When I get the sense that God isn’t fully pleased, I’m like, "What’s wrong God? I fixed the problem! I’m trying to serve you! I’m working hard. Why do I feel like I don’t have your blessing?"

I’ve used my fleshly pride to work against my fleshly action of laziness and in the end, I’ve effectively just traded sins. That’s not gonna please God. I’m still in sin. Serving God out of pride is sin just like any other sin.

Have you ever wondered how the Pharisees managed to obey so many of their made up rules? They served God out of pride.

In Luke 18, God tells a story of a Pharisee and a publican. The Pharisee served God according to the outward showing of obedience, but in his heart he was prideful. The publican was humble about his faults. In verse 14, God says of the publican, "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."

How about you? Do you serve God out of pride? Are you "proud" of all the holy things you do? Or are you humbly seeking a true relationship with your Savior?

I would submit to you, God is not interested in righteous acts that come from an unrighteous heart.

Humble yourself. Ask God to help you. Seek to know God and grow close to Him. He is the one that can change you so that your life will please Him.

After all, It’s God that works in us, both to will and to do, of His good pleasure. (Phil 2:13)

Content to hear the boss praise you?

Believing on God is not always the most sociably acceptable thing to do. It isn’t always “easy” and it often requires certain sacrifices. Or maybe we should call them, “realignment of priorities.” As almost any Christian, we would say, “God is first,” but to we live that way?

In John 12, many Pharisees believed on Jesus, but they didn’t confess. Why? “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:43) You see, these men wanted the praise from others. They forgot the person they should have been living to please. They focused on the people around them, and not on God. Their perspective was wrong, their priorities were skewed, and as a result they never experienced God like they should have.

How about you? Are you hesitant to share things about your faith with others because you are wary about what others would say? Do you change your actions, or compromise to please others around you? How about this? When you go to work, are you content to hear the boss tell you that you did a good job when you know you could have done better? Are you striving for the praise of men, rather than the praise of God?

I would challenge you, ask God to show you if you love the approval of men more than you love His approval. If you do, in any way, make a conscious decision to change your attitude. Remind yourself of the person you should really strive to please. Ask God to help you seek for His approval alone. If you live for Him alone, you will never regret it.

“How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” – John 5:44

You can’t accept it? Why not?

“Oh, I couldn’t accept that.” or how about, “Oh no, you shouldn’t.” These phrases, and others like them have proliferated our culture. It seems to be the polite thing to reject a person’s hospitality. Why? Where did that come from? Honestly, I don’t know, but to reject someone’s hospitality for no reason isn’t just rude, it’s downright wrong.

1 Peter 4:9 tells us to “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.” Romans 12:13 tells us that we should be “Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.” Now, I will ask you a question. How can a follower of Christ give to others and extend hospitality if it is constantly being rejected? Why is the rejection of hospitality viewed as something acceptable?

God commanded that we should give to one another. He told us to be hospitable. Even in secular culture it is reported that “It is more blessed to give than receive.” If that is true, then allow people to be blessed by their kindness. Accept what they give, and give God the glory for it.

I would encourage you, the next time someone shows you kindness accept it graciously. Don’t resort to cliché or fake rejections of their kindness. Thank them, Praise the Lord, and remember that they will reap the fruits of what they do. Then, don’t allow them to get all the blessing. Find a way to give to others and be hospitable. After all, God promises:

“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” – Luke 6:38

Doing the hard thing, and shutting your mouth

There are some people who just never shut their mouths. They are proud and rude and they don’t let others have a say. As Christians, we should never exemplify that lifestyle. But even if we don’t, we can still be in error. God’s Word gives some incredible instruction on speaking, instruction we would all do well to heed.

James 1:19 says, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:" I know for myself, I am always ready to speak. Maybe I am typing this devotional for myself, but I would ask you to consider yourself. Are you slow to speak? Are you ready to listen to others, or do you cut them off to voice your own opinion?

I think if we are honest with ourselves, most of us would say that we need help in this area. I would challenge you, ask the Holy Spirit to develop humility in your heart. Ask Him to teach you to be slow to speak and swift to hear. If you listen more, you may learn things you would never have learned by talking. And if you talk less, you may refrain from saying things you shouldn’t.

"In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise." – Proverbs 10:19