True Humility

Daily Readings: Joshua 3-4, 2 Corinthians 10, Psalm 58

By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

 You are judging by appearances.

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

2 Corinthians 10:1-5, 7, 13-17

One of the biggest fears that hold most people back from fully living out the calling God has for all Christ followers is the fear of rejection. The fear of being judged, talked about, smirked at and dismissed. The fear of not being enough.

In 2 Corinthians today we see Paul dealing with this fear actually manifesting itself amongst the church he planted in Corinth. It is obvious from reading this portion of Paul’s letter that there has been some grumbling amongst the church about Paul. Certain people have been stirring up anti-Paul sentiments.

“Who does this Paul guy think he is anyway? His teaching is really pretty weak and timid. I didn’t find him all that compelling while he was here and now he is trying to be the ultimate authority? He sure is talking a big game now that he is gone!”

I know personally, this would be one of my greatest insecurities realized.

“This guy sure thinks highly of himself!”

It is a pretty tough critique to just shrug off, even for the most mature, grounded and centered follower of Jesus. None of us likes to feel judged and having our intentions be the very thing that is being picked apart is one of the worst feelings there is.

I don’t mind if someone wants to critique my knowledge, delivery, presence, etc. However, having my motives and integrity questioned, that stings…

I think we can all relate to how Paul probably felt when putting pen to paper at this moment. We have all been there at some point in our lives. In today’s world, the fear of coming off wrong in a world that is quick to label Christians as hypocrites, bigots, judgmental, etc. can be a bit overpowering.

“Maybe it is just safer to focus on my own relationship with Jesus, going deeper with friends who already know Christ, and just leave it at that!”

I love Paul’s response today.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

I can almost see him shaking his head with a smile and saying, “Look, as you are all focused on my delivery, I am going to be over here absolutely DEMOLISHING STRONGHOLDS of the enemy. I am just going to continue helping people find freedom from the things that have held them captive through saving faith in Jesus. You keep worrying about worldly concerns, I am going to keep breaking chains and setting captives free!”

The way he closed this section of his letter really spoke to me as well.

But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

People in today’s world are always going to question motives.

“Are they just trying to build their own brand? Are they just trying to get their own following? Are they just using ‘Jesus’ to advance their own agenda?”

Sadly, there are many times where the answer is yes. However, even Christians with the purest of hearts will have their motives questioned if they are confidently speaking about their faith long enough. It is inevitable.

We can’t control the thoughts that others are going to have about us, but how we choose to respond is up to us.

Paul says, “This really isn’t about me.”

Paul wasn’t out there trying to build “Paul’s brand”. He wasn’t basking in his fame and notoriety. He was focused on continually building the kingdom. He was focused on the harvest.

If we let the opinions of other people build our confidence too much, it is easy to make sharing the good news all about us. And on the opposite side, if we care too much about those opinions, we frequently never even get started.

C.S. Lewis said that, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”

Striking that balance where we are unafraid to share about Jesus confidently, but not fall into the trap of making it all about ourselves is tough. However, true humility is not something we can obtain by chasing after it. In fact, if we are thinking about whether or not we are demonstrating enough confidence or enough humility, we should stop for a moment and laugh, realizing that we are still thinking too much about ourselves!

Both pride and under confidence are from the enemy. And he is incredibly good at his job!

We need to turn all of it back over to Christ, get out of our own heads, and just be in the present moment. The moment we are in is where the magic happens.

True peace comes from true humility, which only comes from completely turning our ego over to Jesus and focusing on his will instead of our own.

Paul demonstrates that for us today.

This is so incredibly challenging, but being self-aware enough to recognize when we are straying down the path of under confidence or pride, is the first step. When we are self aware, we can catch ourselves and immediately ask for God’s help at the moment it is happening, instead of asking for forgiveness later.

This true humility Paul models for us, and which C.S. Lewis so articulately describes, has immense power to impact others. An army of Christians demonstrating this true humility has the power to change the world.

Thought to ponder

What are warning signs I can be self-aware of that could signal to me that I am heading down the path of making things all about me? Knowing our typical triggers and what the first step down that path usually looks like has a huge impact on our ability to turn back to God in the moment when the enemy first starts to attack and tempt us to focus on ourselves!

Staying humble

Daily Readings: Numbers 27-28, Proverbs 8, 1 Corinthians 4

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.  We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment. I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children.

1 Corinthians 4:8-14

There are some letters from Paul back to churches that he planted where you need to look a tad deeper to discern exactly what was happening in that particular church at that particular time. The Book of 1 Corinthians is not one of those books! It is clear throughout Paul’s first letter back to the church at Corinth that a large number of church leaders have become quite pleased with themselves and the successes they have been having and that this arrogance is beginning to cause divisions within the church.

I have heard it said that you judge a person less by how they handle failure and more by how they handle success. I have seen this to be true over and over again.

This is such a critical thing to remember as marketplace missionaries. It is easy, during periods of abundance, to feel like God is smiling down on us and that our walk being in line with his will in our lives is the source of all of these blessings. That is close enough to accurate to feel biblically sound, but far enough away to be extremely dangerous.

It is true that all of our blessings come from God. This is undeniable and a fundamental truth that is so important to remember as a Christian. Anything that we have here on earth is a blessing that we should show constant thanks for.

However, when we begin to say, “Look at how closely I am walking with Jesus! No wonder things are going well! God is blessing me because of what a faithful follower I have been!” pride can very quickly set in. We begin to feel like these blessings are something that we have earned and are entitled to “because of our amazing faith”.

It is pretty easy to see this happening in the church Paul planted in Corinth.

Paul has some pretty sharp words for them and challenges them to think twice before embracing this logic.

I have many friends and family members that are working diligently as overseas missionaries in incredibly difficult locations to minister to. They have far fewer luxuries, face constant threat, and from the outside looking in it would appear that they have far fewer worldly blessings than we have. In some of these regions of the world it takes years to break through to even a handful of people. If, in the meantime, things are going relatively well over here on our side of the Atlantic in terms of income and we have also seen numerous people coming to Christ, does that mean we must be walking more closely with Jesus and that is the source of our blessing? Does that mean that we are doing a better job and preaching a truer version of the gospel message that is breaking through in a more powerful way?

Arrogance is a dangerous poison to allow into the lifeblood of a church. Once we begin to view a specific pastor, church leader, author, speaker, etc. as the key to why the church is thriving, we take the focus off of Christ. We take the focus off of the gospel.

The best leaders within the Christian community operate with humility. They understand that they are simply vessels for God to utilize and not the authors of the message itself. A key distinction.

Many sin issues we struggle with, as Christians, are far easier to diagnose than pride. It is much easier to know if you are struggling with jealousy, lust, anger, etc. Pride is sneaky. Pride disguises itself well. Pride is one of the most useful weapons the enemy has to take well meaning, actively engaged Christians off course.

Paul offers us the same warning that he offered to the church at Corinth.

As marketplace missionaries, especially when things appear to be going well, it is a warning worth listening to!

Thought to ponder

When have I recently fallen into an attitude that might have resembled the attitude of self-righteousness seen in the Corinthians? When this occurs, how can I refocus on Christ and giving him the glory?

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