Humility is Much More Than Just a Word

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The bible teaches us that we should be humble and there are many passages that encourage humility. Still, it isn’t surprising that many people don’t live a humble life. This world is dominated by arrogance and pride and many people may not even understand that these are exactly the opposite of humility. I’ll confess that I often act in ways that are not humble, as they should be.

We all succumb to pride occasionally, so it is something that we need to continually work on; being humble. Mind you, some kinds of pride are good if your attitude is right and if thanks is given to God. Personally, I’m proud to have such a loving, understanding and forgiving Father. That is justified pride. I’m proud to have a healthy garden, though I acknowledge and give thanks to God for making it that way. My efforts would be nothing without his blessing.

What does the word ‘humble’ mean, anyway? According to Dictionary.com, the word comes from the Latin word “humilis”, which means “lowly, insignificant, on the ground.” Thus, when we kneel in prayer to God, we are humbling ourselves before Him, although in a very minor way. Again, this is the opposite of arrogance. An arrogant person tends not to bow down, though the time will come when they will.

Humility is important enough that it is mentioned many times in the bible and the bible gives strong indications of the advantages of being humble. Here are only a few examples:

Psalms 18:27 You [God] save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.

 

Psalms 25:9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

 

Psalms 147:6 The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.

 

Psalms 149:4 For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.

 

Matthew 23:12 and Luke 14:11 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

 

James 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

This is all well and good, but many people who honestly try to be humble may not realize when they are being prideful. Here is a very common example; suppose a person tells another, “I’ll meet you there tomorrow at 10 o’clock.”

How does that person know that God doesn’t have other plans for the next day? God’s will comes first, so it is arrogant to presume that our plans will take precedent. They will not and cannot take precedence over the will of God.

Chances are good that a Christian wouldn’t mean to be arrogant. To be humble, though, the statement should be more along the lines of: “I’ll meet you there tomorrow at 10 o’clock, God willing.” Notice that the inclusion of just those two words puts the decision in the hands that it belongs in; God’s. Thus, this is a humble statement.

This is a minor example. There are many common examples of a lack of humility that are stronger and more pointed. Anytime you look at someone and think that they should be wearing something nicer or different, you are elevating yourself and are being arrogant rather than humble.

“You should learn how to drive!” is also an arrogant statement, presuming that the person making it is in a superior position that makes them qualified to judge. Bzzz…wrong! Only God is superior enough to be able to judge.

It is easy to see that many things that we say and do are not humble. This can then be considered as a work in progress. We have an excellent example of humility. The actions and words of Jesus were humble, though Jesus was the one person who would be justified in being somewhat less than humble. He taught as much by his actions as his words.

It would be very valid to put this down on our daily prayer request list; asking God to help us to be more humble than we are and to be mindful of our acts of arrogance and pride when they occur. With a greater awareness, perhaps we can walk the path of humility. I am guilty of not being humble like I should be and continually pray that my actions can show more humility. After all, everything that a Christian does is a direct reflection upon our Lord. Would we not want to be more like him, that the reflection would be an accurate one?

How often do you catch yourself lacking in humility? Do you even think about it during your day to day life?


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Deals and No Deals With Our Father

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Have you ever been in a bad situation when it looked like there was no way out,  so you tried to strike a bargain with God? It is safe to say that most Christians have, or at least have thought about it. I certainly have. Despite what many people might think, the Bible doesn’t tell us that we shouldn’t or can’t attempt to make a deal with God. Even Abraham made a deal with God. For that matter, God has also made deals with Satan. Before thinking that Brother Rex has lost it all, let me explain.

Do you remember the story of Job? Job was a God-fearing man who loved the father. He had a good and comfortable life. However, Satan made the claim that the only reason he loved God was because of the things God had blessed him with. He said that if all those things were taken away, Job would turn away from the Father. God made a deal. Satan was allowed to make things hard for Job in any way, but God made the deal that Job couldn’t die through any action Satan took. Naturally Satan was proved to be wrong. Even with everything taken from him, Job still praised God and still both loved him and followed him. The point is that God made a deal. Making deals isn’t wrong, because nothing God does is wrong.

All this said, should we try to make deals with God? Well, that depends entirely on the deal and the circumstances.

You may have heard of soldiers who prayed, “Father, if you get me out of this, I promise never to swear, to read the bible every day and to go to church every Sunday, without fail.” Such a deal wouldn’t be testing God, because we know that he can and often does deliver us from the darkest circumstances. However, if you really look at the deal, you will probably see how unwise such a bargain would be.

First of all, the deal is self-centered and selfish. The focus of the deal would be on the person, not on God. Second, it is impossible to keep the deal. The soldier in this illustration is elevating himself to the position of God by saying that he will never swear, will read the bible every day and will go to church every Sunday. He doesn’t know what might happen in the future and since he took God out of the equation, he virtually dooms himself to failure. Third, he is trying to make a deal that would benefit him and in return, he’d do what he should be doing anyway.

What the soldier should do is quite a bit simpler and it is a provision our loving Father put into place. It is part of the reason he allowed his son to be killed to begin with. That is, we all have a direct line of communication to God, by praying in the name of Jesus. Instead of trying to strike a bargain, the soldier should simply say something like, “Father, in the name of Jesus, I pray that you will get me out of this mess.”

While the bible doesn’t say that we can’t make deals with God, quite often when we find ourselves in bad situations, we try to make deals that are doomed to failure, when we never had to make a deal at all. God loves us! He does things for us all the time, even when we don’t know about it. If you are in a dire position, pray for help, in the name of the Lord. In fact, Jesus instructs us to do exactly this.

John 14:13

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

I’m not saying that there will never be circumstances when it would be wise to make a deal. However, consider it carefully first. If you aren’t selfish, ask for it in the name of Jesus. God will hear the plea and he loves to help us. By doing this, you are putting the focus where it belongs; on Jesus and our heavenly Father. Isn’t it wonderful to have a Father who loves us so much?

Have you ever tried to make a deal with God that you couldn’t keep? As I’ve said, I have. I later needed deep prayer to ask for forgiveness. The failure was mine, not the Lord’s.


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Lead Us Not Into Temptation

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Most Christians are probably acquainted with the phrase, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (or “from evil”, depending on the bible version). It is from the Lord’s Prayer and is found at Matthew 6:13. Have you ever stopped to really think about that first part?

God doesn’t tempt us, so what does that mean, “lead us not into temptation”? The answer is that God doesn’t tempt us, but the deceiver does. Every day, there are numerous temptations all around us. The temptations can be everything from minor to major, but when you really think about it, there really isn’t such a thing as a minor temptation.

Temptations lead us astray and open the door to sinning against God. What is more, once we’ve crossed that threshold, it becomes easier to sin in the same way.

Watching TV programs or movies we know we really shouldn’t, reading books that encourage bad thoughts, going places we know we shouldn’t go, participating in actions that aren’t in line with God’s will; all of these things are temptations. We can approach it with the best of intentions, but the temptations have a habit of eroding our resolve.

Our actions invariably follow what is in our hearts. If our hearts are filled with the thoughts and love of God and the teachings of Jesus, there is no room for temptations to produce unclean fruit that can dwell there. However, by putting us in a position where the temptations do cause a stray thought we should not have, we are allowing Satan to put a chink in that armour God has given us. A pin-hole leak can become a crack, and the crack can become a torrent.

This is the meaning of Proverbs 4:23.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life”

Under the control of Satan, the world certainly doesn’t make it easy on us. There are some temptations we simply cannot avoid if we are to live our lives without closing ourselves away. How do we fight the temptations that are unavoidable?

The bible makes that very plain. Jesus has already defeated Satan and he rejected numerous temptations in the process. Naturally, few of us are as wise as Solomon, who wrote proverbs, and we certainly aren’t as wise as Jesus. However, the bible also says that we should ask God for wisdom. James 1:5 says

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

It naturally isn’t just wisdom the Father wants us to ask for. God knows how we are tempted every day. He knows our hearts. The temptations we face are nothing new to Him. He has always been willing to step in and strengthen us when we are tempted. It requires only two things for him to do this. We first must ask for his help. God will never force his help upon us. We must also have faith that he will deliver that help. The second part isn’t as hard as some non-Christians might think. It is a promise of God and God has never broken a promise to us.

So exactly how do we ask God to strengthen our resolve against daily temptations? The bible is also explicit in that. We should take it to him in prayer. He hears all prayers and he delivers. Asking is important, too.

Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Isn’t it fantastic that we have such a loving God who has made it possible to not only get guidance from His word by reading the bible and who is also so very approachable; willing to forgive us and help us when we ask?


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An Answer to Troubles and Light in the Darkness

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Someone will read this who really needs it. I don’t know who, but there is someone who especially needs to hear this today.

Day after day, we are all surrounded with troubles, obstacles and things that cause anguish, confusion and strife. As Christians, we may even ask why God isn’t preventing the problems we face. This is wrong thinking, but it is a natural tendency because we are all flawed and sinful beings. God doesn’t create the troubles and obstacles; these are things of the world. Where our heart is will cause the fruits we receive from it. In Matthew 15:18-19 (NIV), Jesus says:

18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

From our hearts, we get our thoughts and our words, and it is the wicked thoughts that become sinful actions. Thus, the troubles and obstacles we face daily are created within our own hearts. They are reflections of the desires placed there by the great deceiver and defiler; Satan. They don’t come from God. Remember that the bible explains that God is love.

If we allow God to reside in and to fill our hearts, His love and power begin to erode the power we have given to Satan. We give the power to Satan by giving in to the lies and promises he makes. Our desires are played so expertly that we are often not aware that those things we want are things that Satan has instilled within our hearts. Satan also understands better than we usually do that when God lives in our hearts, his power weakens. Because of this, one of his biggest goals is to do all he can to create a chasm between each of us and God.

Most Christians should and hopefully do know that there is tremendous power in prayer. This is a time when we are talking to God and in numerous ways, and in many scriptures, the bible encourages us to pray, particularly when we are troubled. Satan knows all of this, of course. Stoking the flames of desire and strengthening the sin in our hearts is a tool he uses expertly, but in an ingenious way. You see, our pleasures mean nothing to Satan. However, unacknowledged sin forces a wedge between us and our Father.

Psalms 66:17-18:

17 I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue. 18 If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;

So by strengthening the sin in our heart, he knows that God will not listen to our prayers. What is sin, though? Each person will define sin a little differently. It can be summed up, though. Sin is the glory of God that isn’t honored. It is the holiness of God that isn’t reverenced. The greatness of God not admired. The power of God not praised. The truth of God not sought. The wisdom of God not esteemed. The beauty of God not treasured. The goodness of God not savored. The faithfulness of God not trusted. The commandments of God not obeyed. The justice of God not respected. The wrath of God not feared. The grace of God not cherished. The presence of God not prized. The person of God not loved.

James put it in another way, very simply, in James 4:17:

Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

One of the problems is that Satan is a master deceiver and he is eloquent. He can present something in such a way that it doesn’t feel sinful. He does this constantly and with expertise. At times, we all fall for it in one way or another. I certainly have. When it comes to strong spirits, and I’m talking about the kind of spirits that come out of a whiskey bottle, I am an alcoholic. My mother and father were both alcoholics, which means that there was a 100% chance that I’d be an alcoholic before I was even born. I cannot have “a” drink, I must have one after the other if I drink that first one.

The sin isn’t in having a drink. Jesus drank wine and turned water to wine. The sin is the overwhelming desire in my heart to have that second, third and fourth drink. Kiss logical thought goodbye, because if I have that first drink, my heart focuses on having more. Time and again, though, I’ve succumbed to having that first drink. I delude myself into thinking that ‘this time’, I can just drink one drink and that there is no harm in it. At the wedding of my very best friend, he offered me a drink. My thought was, “He’s my best friend and it would be an insult to him if I refused. Besides, it is just one drink.”

Do you see the deviousness of Satan here? If the man is truly my best friend, there is no way he would be insulted if I declined and I’ve already proven to myself on many occasions that there is no such thing for me as one drink. If I focus on that desire in my heart, though, I’m forcing my love for God out of my heart. That is exactly what Satan wants. I now refuse to let it happen anymore. Instead, I pray to God and listen to what He has to say in my mind. It doesn’t always make sense. Sometimes it is something that is uncomfortable, just as it is for me to admit to everyone who reads this that I’m an alcoholic. Sometimes I’m told to do things that I don’t believe I can do and my only response that I can make is to have faith in the Father, because he will never tell me to do something that I cannot do. At times, there is no answer that comes into my thoughts at all.

This is the position that many Christians face every day. I’m not talking about the drinking, but of praying and not receiving any answers in your mind; no inspirations from our Father. For a sermon to be written, it is vital that the reverend or pastor receive an inspiration from God, otherwise the words have no meaning. So what do you do when you have sin in your heart, repent for that sin and pray for help in overcoming it, but don’t ‘hear’ anything in your mind from God?

Friends, that is when you do the last thing that Satan wants you to do. You open the bible and start reading. The bible is the word of God and He can and does speak to you in many ways. One of those ways is contained within the passages that occur between Genesis 1:1 and Revelations 22:21. In fact, that should be one of the first resources you use when you have troubles and even before you realize that you have them. Nobody is telling you that you have to be a bible-thumper or that you need to try to cram the bible down anyone’s throats. I hope that nobody even tries to do that, because it can turn more people away from God than it brings to Him. Open the bible and read, that is all you have to do. Continue to pray, secure in knowing that God will help you overcome the sin that you’ve acknowledged and will inspire you in his Word, while conquering your troubles. I detest absolute statements and I just made one, so please read it again. That didn’t come from me, whether you believe me or not. It is a promise of God and it is biblical. Please don’t let yourself become discouraged, because the message is one of joy, love and astounding grace.

The bible contains the answer to your troubles and it will light your way in the darkness. Not one of us is without sin and we can’t avoid sin. God knows this. He gave each of us a beacon, though. Always, always remember that God never turns away from any of us. We can turn away from him, but He is always there and will help us when we falter and fall. Here is one final scripture that is so tremendous that I will leave it to you to read it for yourself, and yes, it is my way of encouraging you to read the bible: Matthew 7:7.

Jesus is awesome!


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