Recovering the Lost Art
Well, here we are. New Years resolution time. Maybe those who are slightly more disciplined are going beyond resolutions by setting goals.
Some folks even have a word for the year. I have done this myself. I first discovered this at a Christian website that is all about choosing a word for the year and keeping it front and center. I didn’t choose a word for this year, but as I was thinking about this topic I decided to check it out.
The site has a page that helps you choose a word. Artistically adorning this page are all kinds of words in different fonts, sizes, and directions. There are probably 50 different words like; faithful, grateful, obedient, confident, patient, discipline, focus, healthy, joy, you name it. You can even click on the words to reveal little boxes with names of people who chose this word and why they chose it.
In all of these words, there was one word I didn’t see; Humility.
I get it. It doesn’t have the same feeling of gratification as something like confidence or focus or even gratitude. Saying you have achieved humility is just awkward. How do you even know if you have achieved it?
(This post is adapted from this message Doug taught at his home church, Seacoast Vineyard from the booklet Humble King by Vineyard Resources)
In Philippians Paul says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Phil. 2:3-4)
In 1 Peter 5:5, Peter tells his readers, “In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
I like this idea of clothing ourselves, and apparently, Paul does also. He uses this imagery in Galatians explaining that when we were baptized, we “put on” Christ. And in Romans, he tells believers to clothe themselves in Christ as he discusses behavior for Christ followers.
If we look at our Philippians passage we can see that if we are going to clothe ourselves in humility there are some things we may need to remove first. It says, “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.” Putting on humility while not removing those two things is like trying to put on your underwear over your jeans. It just doesn’t work and nobody wants to be around you.
There are a couple of ways to break through vain conceit and selfish ambition. I recently had the opportunity to practice one. Sarah pointed out to me that I had not been able to see a particular person for who they are for quite some time. When Sarah brought this up to me, Holy Spirit then helped me to see how I had gotten to this place and what I needed to do. In my interactions with this person, particularly places where we disagreed, I was only able to see the situation the way I viewed the world. We are wired differently. They are wired primarily for connection. That is a high need for them. So in other words, before any discussion of disagreement over a subject, it is important for them to know that I see their heart first.
In our interactions, I was unable to get past any misstatement of information. The heart was of secondary concern to me. In other words, I was not valuing them above myself. My way of looking at the world held more value than theirs. The whole time, a period of years, if I had been able to value them above myself, I would have been able to bring up what I saw as misinformation later.
So, I apologized to this person for not valuing who they were. In this way, I was able to strip off some vain conceit in my life so that humility had a truer fit.
If you think that you are beyond such things as selfish ambition just look at the disciples. In Luke 22:21-27, at the scene of the Last Supper we see ambition rear it’s head, even in a deeply holy moment. They have just taken the first communion and Jesus tells them that the one who has his hand on the table with him is going to betray him. It’s a serious moment! And the disciples begin to wonder who it might be.
BUT, in the very next verse, you read this, “24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.” What?! At a time like this, they decide it should be a conversation about who should be the greatest? This is selfish ambition at its worst. But look at what Jesus does. He doesn’t go ballistic on them, which may have been appropriate. He helps them see the folly in their ambition. He explains that the kings of the Gentiles are the ones who lord power over people. They are the ones who are concerned about who is greatest. But, in the kingdom that He is bringing, the one who serves is the greatest. He doesn’t get angry. He doesn’t call down fire in exasperation. He sees that they don’t realize their own heart motive and walks them through it.
The beauty of it is that He will do the same for us. We often use Loren Cunningham’s definition of humility. He says, “Humility is a willingness to be known for who you truly are.” If we are willing for God to show us our own ambition and conceit, we can be different by the end of the year. If enough of us decided to, as Paul says, “in humility value others above ourselves,” we could see a cultural shift. We could take Jesus as our example. Humility could be THE word of the year for 2019. But, if nothing else, we could see the people we are around everyday change because we decided that instead of reacting, we would put on humility and show them value.