When’s the last time you weighed the evidence for humility in your life? Don’t worry, this is not the setup for a guilt trip. 😉 Self-examination is a good thing, and it’s necessary for mindful living. Incidentally, have you ever wondered why humility matters?
I used to think I was humble enough, but I was missing it entirely. The meaning of humility and the blessings of embracing it are often misunderstood. It wasn’t until reading Humility, the book by Andrew Murray, that I grasped the importance of this underrated virtue.
Join me, in an exploration of personal humility — what it is, why it matters, and how to cultivate it in your life.
WHY HUMILITY MATTERS — THE BOOK BY ANDREW MURRAY
HUMILITY: WHAT IT IS
Humility is central to life in Christ. It also keeps your heart soft — an essential state for spiritual and personal growth. But what is it, exactly?
Using the Bible as his guide, seasoned author Andrew Murray defines this enigmatic virtue in Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness. In summary, humility is:
1. DEPENDENCE UPON GOD
The attitude, the heart of humility, is inextricably linked to dependence upon God. It has everything to do with abiding in Him, moment by moment:
The life God bestows is imparted not once for all, but each moment continuously, by the unceasing operation of His mighty power. Humility, the place of entire dependence on God is, from the very nature of things, the first duty and the highest virtue of the creature, and the root of every virtue. And so pride, or the loss of humility, is the root of every sin and evil. — Andrew Murray, Humility
2. THE HIGHEST VIRTUE?
To re-iterate from Murray’s previous quote:
Humility is … the first duty and the highest virtue of the creature.
Humility — the highest virtue? Let’s examine this further. It was Christ’s love that led Him to embrace jaw-dropping levels of humility (see point #4 for more on this). The Bible declares (and demonstrates) that God is love. (1 John 4:8) Having examined the biblical references, I must differ from Murray here, and name “love” as the highest virtue.
But, consider how inseparable the two virtues are. Can you show love, without humility? Can you be humble, while lacking love? Humility is a close second. Note that pride, humility’s converse, seems to be the only sin which precludes repentance. If human pride remains unyielding, eternal separation from God is inevitable.
God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. — 1 Peter 5:5
3. A SENSE OF NOTHINGNESS
According to Andrew Murray:
Humility is not a something which we bring to God, or He bestows; it is simply the sense of entire nothingness, which comes when we see how truly God is all, and in which we make way for God to be all.
There’s nothing selfish or self-ish about humility. No self-sufficiency, self-reliance, self-satisfaction … you name it. Replace the word self with God, and that’s where deep fulfillment and dependency dwell.
Self has nothing good in it, except as an empty vessel which God must fill, and its claim to be or do anything may not for a moment be allowed.
Tough words! But can you see, dear reader, how self is a cruel, capricious master? Freedom comes when you surrender to Jesus. He is the best Master.
4. EMBODIED IN JESUS
When Jesus came to earth, He brought humility with Him. His desire? To make us partakers of it; and by its means, to save us. He humbled Himself, gave up the glory of heaven, and arrived on earth as a helpless human baby.
And that’s not all. Humility brought Jesus lower still:
Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage. Rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! — Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV & NKJV)
The humility we see in Jesus was always there, eternally. Humility, co-mingled with love, is what brought Him to us.
5. INSEPARABLE FROM FAITH
Humility is simply the disposition which prepares the soul for living on trust. And every — even the most secret — breathing of pride, in self-seeking, self-will, self-confidence, or self-exaltation, is just the strengthening of that self which cannot enter the kingdom [of God], or possess the things of the kingdom, because it refuses to allow God to be what He is and must be there — the All in All.
This blends well with point #1 — complete dependency on God. Without faith, you are walking by sight, which is self-reliance — the opposite of dependency.
6. PROOF THAT GOD IS ENOUGH
Jesus says: “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” — Matthew 11:30
Accepting the yoke of Christ is a crucial step in letting God be enough in your life. In taking His yoke, you yield control of your life and trust in Him to lead you. Being yoked to the Lord demonstrates your total reliance upon Him. You know He will meet all your needs. A submissive heart provides soft clay for the Divine sculptor. This unyielding earth is essential, for He wants to shape the character of Jesus within you.
HUMILITY: WHAT IT IS NOT
1. NOT SOMETHING YOU BRING TO GOD, NOR SOMETHING HE GIVES YOU
As Murray illustrated earlier, humility is not something which you bring to God, or which He gives to you. Rather, it is a sense of entire nothingness, which comes when you see how completely God is all, and in which you make room in your life for God to be all.
2. NOT THINKING POORLY OF YOURSELF
Surprised? Humility has nothing to do with having a mean opinion of yourself. It’s not self-hatred at all! In fact, the word self should be an immediate clue that something’s out of sorts.
Therefore, stand tall. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see yourself in light of the truth, keeping the proper perspective. You’re standing, but you’re standing next to Jesus. No pride allowed.
Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself one way or the other at all. — William Temple
WORSHIP: THE “HOW” OF HUMILITY
But how can you do this? How can you stop fixating upon your self?
By renewing your mind. Focus your thoughts on the One who is worthy of eternal adoration. Worship Jesus! Praise Him! Fill your mind with His presence. You can do so by:
- Reading God’s Word.
- Abiding in Him.
- Talking with Him (and listening!).
In the words of Gary Ingrig, “It is worship that drives out arrogance and pours in love.”
THE FRUIT OF HUMILITY
So what are the results? What does a life of godly humility look like? How do you know this virtue is being formed within you?
- When you’re connected with Christ (abiding in Him), you lose all self-will and self-focus. The iron fist of self-anything has lost its grip on you. Your only desires are to know God and do His will.
- Insecurity gives way to confidence. This is not confidence in self, but in God — in who He has made you to be, and His power working through you. You aren’t lured by a craving for human approval, personal comfort or possessions.
- You are no longer defensive, but instead teachable. The fruits of patience and kindness grow plentifully in your life.
- You are free, in Christ! His yoke offers freedom — to rest in who you are, whose you are, and where you are in life. No matter your lot, God is enough.
WHY HUMILITY MATTERS — WATER FILLS THE LOWEST PLACES
In conclusion, here’s an illuminating illustration.
Are you a visual learner? I am. Pictures are much easier for me to remember than words. What follows is an image I carry with me always, in my mind’s eye. It serves as a humility “refresher”, when I’m wrestling with pride. This is my favorite quote from Murray’s book, Humility (available on Amazon):
Water always fills the lowest places first. The lower, the emptier you lie before God, the quicker, the fuller will be the inflow of His glory. To be merely a vessel is therefore the greatest honor — to receive, enjoy and show forth God’s glory. You can only do this if you’re willing to be nothing yourself, that God may be all. And the exultation He promises is not — cannot be — any external thing separate from Himself. All that God has to give or can give is only more of Himself.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please leave them below. Blessings to you. — Ali 😊
I’ve read the book humility 2 times already but it seems like the wisdom it provides leaves me as soon as I close the book. Thanks for the reminder of forgotten lessons.
You are so welcome, Luis! Spending time to write this review was a great refresher for me too. Thanks for reading, and have a blessed day. 😊