It can be said that pride in the heart is man’s greatest enemy. It was chiefly pride that brought about the fall of Satan as well as the fall of our first parents in the Garden of Eden. Among other things, pride robs us of our service to God, our happiness, our comfort and our peace. It also divides families and churches. It is no wonder therefore that the apostle Paul, in his epistles, exhorted believers to be humble: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (Eph 4: 1-3); “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philp 2: 3-4).
Humility is one of the most difficult Christian virtues to attain. Why? It is because of our sinful, depraved nature. One writer aptly commented: “Humility does not descend from the skies. It cannot be achieved without thought and reflection. It is a thinking act in which we curb proud thoughts and responses. Of course, it can only be produced by the help of the Holy Spirit, in answer to prayer. But there is a mental action for us to take.” I agree with this writer’s thoughts. While we depend on the Holy Spirit to help us, we must do our part as well. What practical steps can we take to cultivate a spirit of humility? How can we walk “with all lowliness and meekness” of heart and mind?
o Remember that we are but sinners saved by grace
We are unworthy of a personal relationship with the living God, unworthy of belonging to His family and unworthy of Heaven. We are but vile, wretched sinners who deserve the eternal damnation of hell. But we thank God for His grace that has called us unto Himself: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” (Eph 2: 4-5). The apostle Paul elaborated further on God’s amazing grace: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2: 8-9). Indeed, there is nothing we can do to merit our salvation. It is all by grace and none of self. Remember – humility starts at the foot of the cross. Brethren, let us understand and appreciate God’s grace in saving us. May we respond appropriately with a humble and contrite heart.
o Consider our own inadequacies and past sins
In his article, “How to be humble”, Dr Peter Masters gave some wise counsel: “How are we to deal with the self-satisfaction and pride which quickly gathers if we think too much about those things that God has enabled us to do for Him? Or how do we handle our gifts and abilities? Perhaps someone has built the largest class in the children’s outreach work, or been immensely successful in some other area of service. How is humility to be maintained? The answer is simple. Balance the good against the bad. This anchors our feet to the ground. We should remember the embarrassingly foolish mistakes we have made, and reflect in shame on our unworthy motives. We should consider all the personal inadequacies revealed by these things and then praise God for His power and blessing.”
It is sometimes good to look back to how we had lived before our conversion, and to how God has dealt so kindly and graciously with us. Think also of how we are indebted to those who had first shared the Gospel with us and those who had nurtured us spiritually. As we look at ourselves and the abundant life we now enjoy as God’s people, we will realise there is nothing we can be proud of.
Constantly bear in mind that we have our daily struggles with sin because of our depraved nature. Think of our many faults and how others have to accommodate us. These thoughts will help us to maintain a lowly mind.
o Watch out for proud thoughts and responses
Pride constantly rears its ugly head, so that we cannot be complacent even for a moment. Strive to consciously curb any lofty thoughts of self. It is hard not to be proud especially when we have many gifts and talents and are inclined to despise others who are not so blessed. When we are tempted to think highly of ourselves, let us remember the many exhortations from God’s Word to be humble: “Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud” (Prov 16: 9); “By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life” (Prov 22: 4); “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (Jas 4: 6); “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (I Pet 5: 5). (…to be continued)