Humility ... 2
Being trusting and dependent promotes sonship
The basic role of children is to trust, respect and follow their parents’ directions as they grow up. They rely on those who are more knowledgeable and wiser, to teach and show them how to live wisely. They listen, imitate and confide with their parents. They are quite capable of believing the things they are taught, and they are loyal followers. They look to their parents for approval, they need that safe place of belonging that a parent can provide, and of course, they thrive on love when they receive it.
Similarly, a child that respects its parent’s authority and responds with obedience is notably appreciated by its parents. Christians too, are called to have childlike attitudes of trust, obedience and dependence upon God, by doing the things that are pleasing to God. Humility can remain with us, regardless of our status or level of self-confidence in life, if we accept that we are all the subjects of God’s gifts of grace.
It’s normal for children to be reliant on someone stronger or more resourceful, who cares for and helps them. They count on adults to provide for their needs, and remain relatively carefree because of it. Like children, Christians are to be child-like and worry-free in their trust of God; and even adult Christians need to maintain a child-like level of trust that pleases their Father in Heaven. Being trusting and worry free is a condition synonymous with contentment. Christians are to balance their trust and obedience to God with contentment.
As well as requiring and accepting discipline from their parents, children naturally accept the cards they have been dealt, and can be easily satisfied as long as their needs are met. They are innately wired at hoping that good is in their future if they are so encouraged. Despite children’s apparent weaknesses and vulnerabilities, they can maintain their contentment relatively easily; knowing there is someone stronger than they are who will watch over them and with their best interests at heart. Christians can do the same and take rest in their Father’s works and joy in His unfailing love. A high level of trust and dependence promotes sonship, as God pours out His guidance and blessings on His children’s lives. Like many of the Lord’s servants that we read about in the Bible, we will come to realize that our future is ultimately in God’s hands much more than it is in our own. We can trust God even if life turns sour and despair floods in, or fires rage and overwhelm the soul; it is by calling on a Father who deeply cares, that He will become our shelter and our peace. Those who are obedient will hope and trust that following God’s ways will produce the best outcomes, a good future and a harvest of blessings in due course.
However, because we know all humans are fallen beings, and know ourselves to be untrustworthy on occasions as well, most of us have learnt not to trust others. We would like to trust others but we are too often reminded it is unwise to do so. When trust in caregivers is abused and numerous promises are broken and lines are crossed, children learn just as easily not to trust, and can grow to become jaded and wary. If they can’t trust those they can see and hear, how are they to trust someone they can’t see and can’t hear, like God. It’s normal for children who have been hurt and disillusioned in the past, to want to protect or control their reliance on others. So as children of God, it’s essential we have those trust issues healed and become re-aligned to God’s faithfulness. Only faith in God’s love can help to restore trust. Christians are to grow out of distrust as they grow into a wise and godly mindset. Trust and dependence go hand in hand, whereas distrust, independence and selfishness grow off each other.
It’s only possible to trust God completely if we believe that He always knows best and does what is best. When we can let go of our past, give God the benefit of the doubt for things we don’t understand, and learn to trust in His ways more and more, then eventually, we will come to completely trust Him, and be able to live more care-free, joy-filled life. It’s then that we can enjoy a relationship where we rely on Him to care and provide for us as we follow Him.
Building trust takes time. It means eliminating bad attitudes and alternative methods. For some Christians it’s going to be a rocky road of conversion. The Apostle James wrote to some believers who were still acting like spoiled brats: “You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:2-3 NASB) Failing to trust God's ways can lead us to making poor decisions, straying from the right path, and by taking things into our own hands, we make mistakes and act sinfully. Whereas trusting God properly, as obedient children do, means having our attitudes aligned to the way the Kingdom operates. By acting righteously and asking with the right motives, we can receive that which God has promised. Trusting God for success will go hand in hand with getting the basics right so that we act with integrity, not with impropriety.
Every father wants their child to be successful. It is clearly God’s desire to bless His children abundantly through wisdom, prosperity and success. Whether we are materially successful or not, we don’t want to build our lives with the wrong foundations, wrong values and wrong motivations. Success in God’s eyes is different from the world’s ideas of success. Attaining wealth and position where the ends justifies the means is not as important as attaining it with godly wisdom and integrity. As people grow older, the fruits of their labor will be forthcoming, and they may well accumulate wealth and financial security. Christians included. But nothing in this world is guaranteed, and everything can be only a moment away from trouble or ruin. Homes, businesses and relationships can fall apart if not given adequate forethought and integrity. Because they are potentially transitory things they are not the source of our trust and security.
“Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.” (Luke 6:47-49 NASB)
Wealthy or not, successful or not, we still need to rely on God for His help in many different ways with life’s changing circumstances. Following the guidance of God’s ways will assist us to avoiding many troubles especially from issues of immorality and poor judgement. Good behaviors are protection in themselves. Realizing that we need to be dependent on God, humility becomes a fundamental trait that underpins all of life’s endeavours.
The Scriptures present a seemingly child-like approach in the well-known verse: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding”. (Proverbs 3:5 NASB) There are a number of ways this could be applied, but most obviously it relates to obedience. Don’t ignore God’s guidelines to suit yourself. It also relates to our circumstances where we can’t tell what God is doing. In matters of faith, wisdom and morality, we must have steadfast confidence in doing things His way as we understand them, while at the same time using all our God-given abilities of knowledge, wisdom and discernment as we mature. Success with integrity requires a combination of being “God-smart” and “street-smart”. By knowing what the big priorities are, we can effectively work with God to get the everyday things achieved well, within the complexities of life.
The challenge of a child of God who is maturing in the faith, is to establish a right balance between what they are learning of God with what they already know and do in the world to live productively. Trusting God’s ways enough to closely follow them is always prudent, and it provides an anchor of morality that ultimately allows us to become independent, confident and proactive in a responsible and unselfish manner. We trust His ways are best, we adopt His values and obey His guidelines. When we maintain obedience to God’s values, we also stay reliant on Him and close to Him in spirit.
The spiritually high position is the one where faith, neediness and dependence produces closeness, modesty and affection towards God and His will and His nurture. Qualities like holiness, righteousness and goodness are highly prized. The low spiritual position, however, relies on material assets for physical support and security, creating an unhealthy reliance and a superior or conceited feeling that diminishes the spiritual dependence and closeness that comes with a trusting relationship and reliance on God.
If our goal is to be spiritually rich through Biblical wisdom and integrity, we must remain humbly submitted and close to God. Conversely; worldly success, with its conceit and reliance on wealth can distract our perspective from the many important and God pleasing truths, and is not a spiritually safe place to be. “The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high (spiritual) position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.” (James 1:9-10 NASB) No amount of wealth can glorify your soul when your body withers and dies. It’s all left behind and you move on, but the soul that has pleased God while living a holy, righteous and loving life in the mortal flesh has substance on which to assign spiritual glory in eternity.
Sinatra’s famous song, “I Did It My Way” is very well liked. Many people will relate to its sentiment. However, adults who have been relying on themselves for a long time may think they know it all, so can be tempted to trust their own reckless instincts, methods and values instead of turning to God’s values for guidance about what is right and wrong, and the best way to live. For Christians, there are some problems with this of course. Firstly because it’s like saying “our way is better than God’s way”, and secondly because it’s not so much about independence and looking after ourselves which is good, as choosing to please ourselves, which may be just plain ungodly, selfish and not always responsible. Failing to submit to the care and instruction of the wise, and being misled by our own independence and selfishness, can often lead to downfall if not a series of regrettable mistakes.
Even the Apostle Paul was not immune to the dangers associated with success. While being a leader of the new church, he realized he was in danger of becoming conceited over the many great revelations he had been given. It became necessary for some intervention. God allowed a form of an affliction to disturb him, that Paul called a “thorn in the flesh”. The problem was a lesson in humility for Paul, as he was unable to resolve it himself. Then He realized, when God would not solve the problem for him, that humility with suffering was more important than deliverance with pride. God’s grace works the same for everyone, but more blessings flow to the humble. Despite his awkward circumstances, Paul still trusted that God’s hand was always outstretched to help. In his work as an Apostle, Paul had received many blessings from God in order to carry it out, but he would face many difficulties in the process. In time the problem could be accepted as just another unfortunate aspect of life, or as an important lesson. Like every father who looks after his young children knows, like God’s, their “power is made perfect in weakness”. (2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB)
The Apostle Peter’s advice to us is similar to Paul’s resolve: “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.” (1 Peter 5:6 NASB) And when you have been exalted, stay humble. Eliminate pride, don’t be conceited, lest you require discipline; for God disciplines those He loves, for their good. “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 NASB, 1 Peter 5:5 NASB) Whatever the problems caused by “the thorn” actually were, Paul’s uncomfortable, painful, annoying or humbling predicament had the effect of keeping Him grounded spiritually by making him more reliant on God. As one whose suffering was humiliating, Paul could hardly boast in his abilities, achievements, or status. His message was not to be a testimony of what God had done to help his situation, but what God had done for all mankind through Christ. Paul's job was not to preach only when things were fine, but also when things were cloudy. Paul chose not to boast in anything other than what Christ had done for us on the cross, for that is where God’s grace ultimately meets and solves everyone’s primary dilemma, and hence how God's plans are able to work together for good.
By being obedient children we are pleasing to God and we are given responsibilities. Christians are not only called to be sons but also stewards. We are to manage both our faith relationship and our responsibilities. Responsible people take on roles that require trustworthiness and accountability, and in this respect Christians are to aspire to become the “head” and not the “tail”. Maturity is a natural process in life and results in independence, and it is a vital part of growing up. Independence includes the growing ability to take on responsibility based on abilities and what has been learnt.
Positions of responsibility require leadership over others, problem solving and decision making, and quite often are well rewarded. Responsibility thrives on integrity, and true integrity comes from a healthy respect for God and godly principles. In achieving positions of responsibility, Christians are warned not to be too proud and self-ruling, but to continue to defer to godly wisdom and be bound by sound Christian wisdom, values and principles. In being followers of Christ we are not to think we can step out in front of Him or away from Christian values. We are never going to outgrow God. We don’t know what lies ahead, but God does. For personal guidance we are to develop the ability to listen for the Spirit’s leading when appropriate, which is practiced by being close to God, and open to being led. When one is conceited the ability to be guided is quite diminished.