I’m writing these 3 posts based on thoughts I’ve had over the years concerning lasting change. What is the difference between the times we are really able to make a lasting change and the times we seemingly try with the same amount of energy, but are unable to make it last? The first thing I mentioned was “will.” We have to be willing to pay the price the see the changes take place – no matter what that price may be… now on to number two…
I don’t think I’m really able to express the importance of this one strongly enough. The times I’ve seen true change happen, the quality of humility was very evident in the person who did the changing. Here’s what God has to say about it…
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (James 4:5-6)
Walk through that passage with me, slowly.
- God – the Almighty. The One who created all that is and keeps it all in motion. He opposes proud people.
- Logical thinking here – is that the type of opponent we want?
- Humble yourselves – it’s OUR responsibility to ensure that we are properly humble before Him. We’ll unpack some of what that means in a second.
- He WILL lift you up – it seems that James is saying that just as God is an opponent of those who are proud, He’s also an advocate for those we are humble. Sorry Benjamin Franklin, but it seems “God helps those who cannot help themselves.” (Music triva – 100 points – What accomplished country singer/songwriter wrote a song by that name?)
It seems pretty clear that humility is the way to go – if you care at all about having God in your corner. Let’s take it a bit farther… did you notice that James didn’t say Christians were excluded from that truth? In other words, God will even oppose a Christian who is proud.
So if God opposes the proud, what is considered “proud?”
Here’s where it gets difficult, because we all tend to whitewash ourselves to the extent that it is next to impossible to see ourselves rightly. And pride is like termites – it’s there, eating away at you without you even knowing it. But to be proud in the way God is speaking of is to be too confident in your own abilities, too sure of yourself – as opposed to being dependent on God. Maybe I can give an example that will be helpful.
Proud people typically have a very hard time admitting their needs, wrongs, or short-comings. In marriage counseling it’s often the hardest part to convince an insensitive husband or a nagging wife that they really are insensitive or nagging, because their pride will not allow them to see themselves in such a negative light. Proud people often are so sure that their way of thinking about a certain issue is the right way of thinking that they won’t really listen to other opinions with a genuine desire to understand and find the truth. Pride isn’t about truth, it’s about self-protection. That’s why the Lord says in 1 Corinthians 10:12 that pride comes before a fall (a disaster, a hardship, a huge mistake). Pride leads us to continue doing things the way we’ve always done things – come hell or high water… and often both are what show up on our doorstep.
To contrast, what is a humble person like? Contrary to popular belief, a humble person is not a doormat for others to walk on. A humble person is not one who walks through life denying their strengths for the sake of seeming humble. Take a look at Jesus. He humbled Himself and we are told to have the very same attitude – but that doesn’t mean that He downplayed who He was or backed down when faced with a difficult situation. If He had, we’d all still be in our sins because He wouldn’t have followed through with the agony of the cross.
A humble person is one who is willing to see themselves realistically – however flawed or competent that may be. A humble person is willing to hear somebody else out – to consider that the perceptions other people have about situations, and about them, may be right. A humble person is willing to figuratively bow before the people they have injured and confess their wrong. A humble person is wise enough to know that they don’t, and never will have it all together. Once you realize that, you can more easily be real with other people. They’ve known for a long time that you aren’t perfect, only now you’re able to admit it…
Are you beginning to see why God is an advocate of humble people? Here’s how I see it…
When you couple the truth that God has given us a will (from the last post) with the quality of pride, you get a person who will do anything and everything to out-do, out-last or out-fight someone else (co-worker, spouse, etc.). It has nothing to do with reality, or truth – it only has to do with self-preservation. But when you combine the truth of human will with the quality of humility, you get a person who is willing (their choice) to change and to be changed. That’s because they are willing to look at the cold, hard truth about who they are – to confess it, and admit that they need change. That’s why lasting change can’t come in the life of a proud person. The proud person will never do that, because they think the way they are, disfunctions and all (though they have an exruciatingly hard time admitting they even have disfunctions), are OK just like they are.
#1 – you have to be willing to do whatever is needed to change. #2 You have to humble yourself before God (and your spouse if it’s maritial conflict that is going on). These are the first 2 steps to seeing lasting change in your life begin.
I’ll probably get to #3 on Monday…
Have a great weekend…