What if humility is more than just putting yourself last?
If we follow the example of Jesus closely, we find that in its deepest form, humility is a way of life in which God comes first. As the story goes:
“…After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” – John 6:14-15
Suppose a crowd of people watch the way you live and believe God has great plans for you. That you know that is your calling –and you know that they are going to make you king. And you withdraw because you are choosing not to be king.
Paul lives a similar example:
“…there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?” – 1 Corinthians 1:11-13
Apollos and Cephas didn’t always or 100% agree with Paul on everything. So, in that sense, shouldn’t Paul have wanted people to follow himself specifically? At the same time, all men were followers of Christ, so why did it matter if men followed any man to follow after Christ?
Paul, like Christ, did more than put himself last here. He did more than what we think of as humility, saying “no, no, glory to God” or “who, me? I’m nothing in comparison…” Instead, Paul put the Lord first. He continues on, describing the Gospel and its power.
In both these passages, Jesus as man and Paul as man embrace humility as a position in relation to God instead of a position in relation to themselves, this world, or those in it.
Being king or being leader, even when encouraged and even when forced upon on them by man, was not an option. Because in these cases, to be king or to be leader was to try to be as a man, something God didn’t orchestrate.
That, there, is one of the most tempting things all of us face.
Temptation is not just about craving ugly sins like inappropriate relationships or gossiping about people. We face daily the temptation to:
· To choose the wisdom of man over the foolishness of God.
· To choose the way that is familiar over the way that seems lost.
· To choose to act on what we know to be true in our hearts before we know it in our lives.
You see, Jesus was going to be king. Indeed, He was king already. Paul was a great leader, with many followers. He had every right to baptize. He had every reason to feel accomplished and to accept the honor men bestowed upon him.
We, too, sometimes know these things in our hearts. We know what we’re actually really good at. We know what makes us special. We know, at times, what the Lord is preparing us for and training us up in.
But we get ahead of ourselves. Like children who can’t reach the next step demanding that we can do it ourselves, we often stumble and fall our way through steps the Lord has for us because we don’t let Him go first. We don’t want to accept what the Lord has made us and is making us into in His timing and His way, too.
Would Christ have been blameless had he been forced to be king and posed such a divisive threat to world powers? Would Paul have been a true agent of faith and the Gospel had He allowed it to become his version and “his” gospel?
Like these men, humility has to come when we look at temptations that even seem right, godly, and even as though they are natural occurrences. Humility has to keep us from doing as men what God has for us to do in the Spirit. We must be willing to put His Way first- before our way, and before the way of others. That is pleasing God, not men. That is humility in recognition of our position before Him.