Humility is one of three great qualities God is looking for in those loyal Philadelphians who worship Him. “O, man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8).
God is all-powerful. He owns the universe; all wealth, power and glory belong to Him. He alone is the life-giver. He possesses perfect righteousness and character. No one remotely approaches His magnificence; and yet, who does this great Being want to dwell with? “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15). Throughout the Bible, God repeatedly places emphasis on the need to remain humble.
Humbleness of Mind
Being humble is a state of mind; it’s the way we think and view matters in life. The Apostle Paul urged us to “[p]ut on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering” (Colossians 3:12). God, through Paul, is admonishing us to be humble, and not to think we are better than we really are. Of course, this is diametrically opposite to today’s modern psychology, which focuses more on building up the self, becoming more self-confident—loving, honoring and exalting the personal “self image.”
Christ was not self-confident. He said, “I can of my own self do nothing” (John 5:30). Paul further commented, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing …. O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:18, 24).
Obviously, it is not correct to have an “I’m no good and never will be” attitude. Through God’s power, His life-giving Spirit, we can gain true value. That is part of the miracle of conversion. Without the Spirit of God, we are likened unto worms (Psalm 22:6; Isaiah 41:14). With His powerful Spirit, however, we can become members of His Family. As has been revealed in this end time, our potential is awesome; God offers us rulership with Him over “all his goods” (Matthew 24:47).
A humble person recognizes his personal status in the growth process of conversion. We are not to think too highly of ourselves. “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3). After humbly submitting to God, we must continually realize that any good in us, anything of value, comes from God. Of and by ourselves, we can and will accomplish nothing of value without the direction of our Creator (John 15:5). But we ought never to forget these inspired words of the Apostle Paul: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
Obey God’s Law
In every decision we make, we either do God’s will, or we do our own carnal will. Whenever we do our own will, we exalt the self. God instructs us to do the very opposite of what our carnal will dictates. “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17). When we exalt God and His will, we abase the self and our will; when one is exalted, the other is abased. We exalt God and His way in our lives by obedience to His laws and the fulfilling of His will. In doing so, the self, which is contrary to God, is humbled.
Esteem Others Better
“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3). The Good News magazine made this comment about that verse: “Did Paul mean that he as an apostle should look on the members of the Church as being above his office, or that a pastor should consider his position less important than that of an usher? Did he mean that a husband should think of his responsibility as being less than that of his wife and children? Are we required to have feelings of inferiority about ourselves? Should we feign humility over our abilities when we are better skilled or more qualified than others to do a task or hold an office? Of course not!
“To understand, let’s first notice several other translations of this verse. The Williams translation says, ‘Practice treating one another as your superiors.’ The 20th Century New Testament states it, ‘Each of you should … regard others of more account than himself.’ The New American Standard Bible has it, ‘Let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.’
“This verse, then, has to do with being lowly in mind—abasing and humbling oneself in preference to others. It means putting the interests, cares and comforts of our fellowman above our own—forgetting ourselves in sacrifice and service” (Good News, May 1982).
We are further admonished to “[b]e kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another. … Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits” (Romans 12:10, 16). Mr. Armstrong taught us to be an example for the world in love, kindness and good works, letting our light shine, esteeming others above ourselves, building up—not tearing down. Being humble is the way of give instead of the way of get—living by the tree of life, not the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It can only come by burying the carnal nature and emerging to a life filled with God’s nature.
Receptive to Instruction
We know that being humble is the opposite of the “know it all” attitude. “When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2). That is why “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:26-27).
We must be sure that we respect and honor God’s ministry. Our receptiveness to God’s instruction via His ministers is a solid yardstick of our humility. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account …” (Hebrews 13:17). The ministers have a heavy burden to carry and we must be genuinely receptive to instruction, “… that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (verse 17).
We have been called individually (or sanctified as youths) by God to understand His revealed truth. God wants us to be eager for His instruction. We must set aside our own opinions, notions and persuasions and strive for the attitude of the man after God’s own heart. “Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day” (Psalm 25:4-5).
God assures us, “[T]o this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isaiah 66:2). That is teachableness and humility; that’s what we need, along with “a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17).
Those of a humble mind are teachable. Christ said, “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4).
It’s hard to develop godly humility. We are not born with it. Rather, we have been born into Satan’s world and now live in the time when our adversary has been cast down. The heat is on us as never before! Satan is out to destroy all vestiges of our humility and supplant it with his attitude of pride and rebellion. It takes great personal sacrifice, heartfelt prayer and fasting to receive the humility of Jesus Christ. The exercising of the “down payment” of God’s power, His Holy Spirit within us, gives us the ability to build this humility.
Without sufficient humility, Christ could not have endured the extreme mental and emotional pressure and the excruciating physical pain He suffered before He died. Only with this type of humility could He perfectly obey God our Father, relying on God’s strength, and perfectly resist the pulls of the flesh, exerted by Satan the devil.
In short, that kind of deep, godly humility provided a Savior for you and me. Without it, we would be as walking dead, destined for eternal death.
Read about this humility for yourself: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).
He did it for us. He desires that we become very God. Jesus’s purpose is to bring many sons unto glory (Hebrews 2:9-10).
It should now be more understandable why Jesus prayed so earnestly, even to the point of sweating blood and shedding tears. As He drew near to God, so should we (James 4:8). If He couldn’t succeed without this type of closeness to God, neither can we. Our salvation rested in Jesus’s obedience to God, and that obedience was based on His humility.
It is impossible to obey God without depth of humility.
Pride or Pleasure
God wants us to be pleased with the accomplishments of others as long as our attitude is based on the way of love toward God and love toward others. Be sure to always look for the good in others, focusing on the positive.
But what about our own accomplishments? “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips. … But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth” (Proverbs 27:2; 2 Corinthians 10:17-18).
God clearly directs us to be pleased with our own performance only if we are obeying Christ’s example and clear teaching not to compare ourselves with others (2 Corinthians 10:12), but rather with the standard of God’s law (James 1:25). We must exercise God’s humility, giving Him the real credit for our successes (James 1:17; Philippians 2:13).
There is a distinction between being pleased with your performance and being carnally proud. We must possess the humble attitude of, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Christ Himself reminded us of this in saying, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). We must all be careful as to how pleased we are with our own performance and always be aware of where our good works and successes come from.
Concerning pride, God tells us that He hates it! “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Pride emanates from its founder, Satan (Job 41:34), and is transmitted to you and me, via the adversary’s various media of influence.
Pride cuts us off from our humble God (Psalm 101:5). Pride causes us to depend upon ourselves; it restricts and hinders our service to others; it defiles our communication and makes us demean and criticize others. Pride distances God from our personal lives; it is like a chain around our arms and legs (Psalm 73:6).
Being of a proud spirit is an abomination to God. “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood …. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy , and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate” (Proverbs 6:16-17; 8:13). The proud refuse instruction and despise wise counsel; this will only lead to their destruction (Proverbs 15:32). Jesus Christ is coming soon to humble all the proud as well as Satan the adversary and his demon cohorts (Isaiah 2:11; 14:15).
God plainly outlines for us in His codified word that there will be no room for pride in His everlasting Kingdom. And why does God hate pride? Pride cripples our efforts to serve God and, if not repented of, results in our being incinerated in the final judgment in the lake of fire (Hebrews 6:4-8; Revelation 20:14-15; 2 Peter 3:7). As Proverbs 21:4 clearly outlines for us, allowing us no room for compromise or excuse, “An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.” We need to replace our human pride, which is capitalized upon by Satan, with Christ’s humility. There is no alternative; there is no other choice.
Humbled Through Suffering
In the November 1992 Trumpet issue, an article was published titled, “The Sin of Job.” The book of Job is one which all of us should come to know thoroughly and love. God taught Job, through physical suffering, a vital lesson that you and I can learn a great deal from. Let’s allow that article to explain how Job was humbled by God.
“Today, some people claim that Job was perfect and without sin and did not have a self-righteousness problem. A belief like that can be maintained only if you look at the letter of the law and not the spiritual intent of the law. God wants us to obey the spiritual intent of His law. He looks on the attitude. In the end, Job learned a valuable lesson about himself. His attitude changed and God blessed him for it. …
“Job was struck with sore boils over his entire body. In [Job 2:9], Job was urged by his wife to ‘curse God, and die.’
“Then notice what it says, at the end of verse 10: ‘In all this did not Job sin with his lips.’ Already we begin to see an attitude change. Notice what Clarke’s Commentary says about this verse: ‘The Chaldee adds, But in his heart he thought words. He had surmisings of heart, though he let nothing escape from his lips.’ Job thought if he maintained his righteousness through the trials that God would immediately intervene to relieve him. When God didn’t, bitterness began to set in. …
“Paul said, ‘Let God be true, but every man a liar’ (Romans 3:4). God does things for a reason. He was allowing these trials to come upon Job for a very important reason. But Job complained, and reasoned God was wrong to do such a thing. He began to justify himself. Such is the case with a self-righteous individual. …
“Job assumed too much. Today, we can get caught in the same trap. If we find ourselves ever assuming we are very righteous, or close to God, or we have a lot of faith, as Paul said, ‘Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall’ (1 Corinthians 10:12).
“Revelation 3:8 describes the Philadelphians as having a ‘little strength,’ and yet they also do a powerful work. Why is that? Because a true Philadelphian knows that by himself, he is nothing! A true Philadelphian never assumes he has enough spirituality to get through a trial or test. A true Philadelphian will continually seek God for help in every matter. We can’t afford to rely on ourselves. If we do, we are destined to fail (see Acts 5:38). Never assume anything when it comes to spiritual matters! …
“God wasn’t just playing with Job by allowing him to go through such severe trials. God was allowing it all for a very important purpose. As Proverbs 6:23 says, ‘… reproofs of instruction are the way of life.’ In Hebrews 2:10 it says that Christ was made ‘perfect through sufferings.’ Notice also Hebrews 5:8: ‘Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.’ As you proceed through the story of Job, you will see the many lessons Job learned because of his suffering. …
“The story of Job has perhaps one of the most beautiful endings of any book in the Bible. Job did have a severe self-righteousness problem, but in the end, he repented greatly. And God blessed Job greatly for repenting so deeply, just as He did with King David. ‘And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before’ (Job 42:10; rsv).”
God wanted Job to look at the big picture. That is what He also wants our minds to be on—our future. We must be deeply aware of the great God and His purpose for us. We must think beyond our physical existence, beyond this Earth! Our beloved Laodicean brethren will have to suffer much worse than Job did. They have been blinded to their enormous self-righteousness problem; they refuse to be humbled by God, despite the fact that He is mercifully knocking on their door (Revelation 3:20). As Philadelphians, we must allow God to rule us completely and cease resisting Him.
The account of Job provides us with much encouragement. Although Job sinned greatly, as we all do, he will be strongly used by God in the coming World Tomorrow. We too have a future like Job’s. God tells us to live according to all His ways because “in keeping of them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:11).
The Tool of Fasting
Fasting aids in our gaining a closer relationship with God. When we go without food and water for a period of time, we begin to realize how fragile our physical existence is. We see how quickly we would die if it were not for our great and merciful God. Fasting helps us concentrate more on others’ needs and less on our own. Had Christ not fasted for 40 days and nights before His temptation by Satan, He could not have been our Savior (Matthew 4:2). Fasting is an essential tool we all need to be exercising in our individual spiritual lives.
The Bible refers to fasting as afflicting, or humbling, the soul (Psalm 35:13; Leviticus 23:27; Isaiah 58:3-5). Paul fasted often to stay close to God (2 Corinthians 11:27). Regular fasting aids both in our physical health, in purifying our physical body, and, more importantly, in humbling us and directing our complete focus onto God and His family government, His way of life, and our need to get in step.
We are physical. When the flesh is satisfied and contented over an extended time period, our personal spiritual condition leans toward complacency and can begin to spiral downward. To prevent this, God provided us with the tool of fasting to help us stir up and rejuvenate our spiritual lives. Isaiah 58 is a good study of our carnal foolish pride, showing us how to overcome pride with humility via deep prayer and fasting.
God helps those who are humble. Fasting, closely coupled with fervent, effectual prayer, humbles us and helps us focus solely on the spiritual, getting us back to that Philadelphian state of mind.
Meekness Is Not Weakness
“But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Psalm 37:11). We shouldn’t point attention toward ourselves whenever we do a good work. Always remember, God is watching: “[T]hy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:4).
Do we regularly try to outdo everyone by showing off, boasting, exaggerating, telling the funniest joke, speaking the loudest and so on, for our own vain glory? (Galatians 5:26; Luke 18:14).
Many of us have heard Mr. Armstrong say that “meekness is not weakness.” We know that Christ Himself was meek and lowly (Matthew 11:29), but His meekness was not weakness. He came to serve, not be served (Matthew 20:26-28). Christ was the picture of meekness. Studying His example will help us develop a humble attitude. He was and always will be the supreme combination of godly strength and humility—a perfect example.
Rewards of Humility
“By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life” (Proverbs 22:4). Striving for true Philadelphian humility is something we are regularly admonished to do. “Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger” (Zephaniah 2:3). We are told to seek humility. We are not born humble; we grow by degrees. Knowing that conversion is a growth process, we must build character and develop the God family traits we so desperately need. As a fruit of the Spirit, humility must be developed (Galatians 5:23). Upon developing it, it will be greatly rewarded. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). We must be self -abased. If we are, God can greatly use us as a dynamic member of His Family.
We must develop humbleness of mind in obedience to God’s laws, esteem others better, be receptive to instruction, put off destructive pride, learn through suffering, utilize the tool of fasting, develop meekness, and follow Christ’s perfect example. Only then will we qualify to receive the mind-boggling rewards of humility with Jesus Christ, our elder Brother, as members in the very Family of God, working with the universe! “Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods” (Matthew 24:47). We need to grasp the enormity of our eternal future.
It’s hard to be humble, but it’s not impossible! God has shown us the path to humility; our test is to walk in that way. Let’s learn the vital lesson of humility now. This is seeking the Philadelphian standard. When we remain humble, we can look forward to the greatest reward God has in store for us. We shall be inheritors of eternal life as members of God’s Family!
Sidebar: Beware of False Humility
(Excerpted from the May 1981 Good News)
There is a humility that stresses outward show. It is not what God is looking for in us.
Many in the world try to “humiliate” or afflict themselves outwardly as a kind of penance or spiritual exercise. They lie on beds of nails, or slash themselves with knives, or flail themselves with whips. Some crawl on their knees over rough stones until their flesh is torn and bleeding. Others take vows of abstinence, forego all pleasure in life or just give up something for “Lent,” depending on the degree of self-affliction desired.
Such is the kind of humility—however sincere it may be—the Apostle Paul wrote to warn against.
Notice Colossians 2:18 in the Revised Standard Version: “Let no one disqualify you [of your reward], insisting on self-abasement.”
This type of humility consists mostly of negative rules and precepts: “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (verse 21). “These have indeed an appearance [yes, it is mostly outward show, substituting for true humility] of wisdom in promoting rigor of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body” (verse 23).
God wants our humility to be inward and genuine—not a performance just to be seen by other humans. Once inside and genuine, humility’s fruits will become outwardly evident.
True, we as Christians may not practice asceticism like the world does. But sometimes without realizing it, we may follow the same line of reasoning by feeling guilty if we ever enjoy ourselves in a lawful way.
Some may feel it is not right to own anything of quality and that therefore we ought always to buy inferior goods. Others may feel we should own practically nothing and just be “God’s poor.”
There are many other ways in which a humility-for-show may be evidenced if we are not careful; even such a small thing as avoiding the use of the capital letter I when writing about oneself could be done in an I’m-more-humble-than-most attitude. The point is that God wants to see in us true inward humility and obedience, not merely acts that are outward in form only.
From the Archives: Philadelphia News, March-April 1996