Category Archives: Humility

Capturing Humility

Look at your weaknesses, not at your strengths, and pay attention to what you still need to do, instead of rehearsing in your mind what you’ve already accomplished. This is the best way to get and keep humility.

—-Cloud of the Unknowing

Humility-1The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

—Jesus of Nazareth

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.

—-Peter the Apostle

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.

― Ernest Hemingway

Becoming humble of action and deed is the great calling of all Christ followers. Our words only speak as loud as the deeds and actions that people see in us. There is a great deal said about being humble. Humility defines us in many ways.

HUMILITY – Preachers preach it scholars teach it. Here are a few thoughts on humility.

  • Humility helps us to know when to say yes.
  • Humility is our best friend when given a demanding task.
  • Humility is the best mirror we will ever own.
  • Humility teaches us how to handle power and wealth.
  • Humility guides when ego pushes us to stray.
  • Humility is passing over the mistakes of others,
  • Humility is the ability to accept insult without revenge.
  • Humility is our friend when we are all alone.
  • Humility is the cures pride.
  • Humility builds real confidence.
  • Humility is minding your own business.
  • Humility is the only path to God.

Prayer

Lord help me to discover that healing powers of humility. Release me from the chains of pride and ego. Allow me to flourish in being no more, or less, than you have made me to be. Guide me through this day as a real person who can put aside the arrogance that so besets me.

Amen


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Kingdom Humility

 

‘There was a spiritual old man who lived a secluded life. He was held in high estimation in the city and enjoyed a great reputation. He was told that a certain old man, at the point of death, was calling for him, to embrace him before he fell asleep. He thought to himself, if I go by day, men will run after me, giving me great honor, and I shall not be at peace in all that. So I will go in the evening in the darkness and I shall escape everyone’s notice. But lo, two angels were sent by God with lamps to give him light. The whole city then came out to see his glory. The more he wished to flee from the glory, the more he was glorified. In this was accomplished that which is written: “He who humbles himself will be exalted.” ‘

——-Abba John the Dwarf

Every person who seeks to be a fervent follower of God wants to be seen as humble. Humility is the identifying hallmark of Jesus our Savior. No matter how hard we try, we are still driven by the human desire to be recognized and appreciated. Much of our spiritual journey is spent trying to control our need to succeed. After much prayer and determination we may arrive at the point in life where we really don’t want the spotlight and recognition. Then the new journey begins. Our challenge now is how do we avoid worldly affirmation and acclaim?

The spiritual old man was struggling with that very challenge. He, no doubt, had put much prayer and work to arriving at place in life where he shunned the notice of others. He wanted to comfort the brother who had reached out to him, but he devised a plan of making sure that his act of kindness would be done in the dark of night. That way, he thought, no one would notice, but God had another plan. God decided to send angels to light his path. This display of spiritual presence brought a torrent of attention on the spiritual old man. The very attention that he had sought to avoid was what he received. What does this mean?

Abba John uses the scripture: “He who humbles himself will be exalted” as a way of expressing why such attention is thrust upon the spiritual old man. The truth that I would like to point out is that acclaim only has value if God is the source. The world recognizes worldly values, God recognizes kingdom values. Perhaps if we all sought to be anonymous purveyors of blessing, we may find ourselves more valued by God and the world than we ever dreamed or imagined. The key to getting all the acclamation, success and self-esteem we can handle is found in the ability to be truly humble. That is kingdom humility and it is the goal of every follower of the Christ.


Prayer

Lord instill in me the form of humility that is not derived in self depreciation and doubt but one that is spiritually placed by you. I ask you today to give me the insight to understand what you mean by humility so that I might be one who is gifted with kingdom humility. With that gift we are allowed to be tremendous servants to the world. Lord I pray for this gift and with it I may be your faithful servant.

Amen

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The Garment of Humility

There are certain kinds of trees which never bear any fruit as long as their branches stay up straight, but if stones are hung on the branches to bend them down they begin to bear fruit. So it is with the soul. When it is humbled it begins to bear fruit, and the more fruit it bears the lowlier it becomes. So also the saints; the nearer they get to God, the more they see themselves as sinners.

—–Dorotheos of Gaza

Paul called himself the chief, or first, of sinners. Isaiah said, “We are all sheep that have rebelled, and gone our own way, and God has laid our sin upon the shoulders of the messiah.” (My paraphrase) When we can come to grips with these three factors: we are all primarily sinners, we will go our way and Jesus took ours sins upon himself, we will begin the process of becoming humble. Without the humbling of our souls, we will never do the true work of God. On our own we can become legally righteous and live a “punch list” sort of Christianity, but the spirit of the ONE who went to the cross for us will never be the pervasive force in our lives.

Humility-MertonA great deal of energy is expended to avoid pain and difficulty in our lives. We shield our children and consequently ourselves from the reality of the world that surrounds us. These activities in and of themselves are not harmful or sinful. They can, however,r lead to a false sense of accomplishment and safety that does not challenge us to meet the powers of this world and find the victory that comes when we do. We are given battles, our souls are weighed down, our branches are pruned, but all of these things make us stronger in our reliance in God. Most importantly, we are reminded that we are fatally flawed without our reliance on Him.

Coming nearer to God, as the monk says, is a matter of acknowledging our sins and living with them and not being controlled by them. We will never know the true power of God until we recognize our weaknesses. If we are to bear fruit in this life we must don the garment of humility that weighs down the arms of self-sufficiency that so naturally dominate us. Such an action will bring humility to our souls and spiritual productivity to our lives.

Humility-CS-Lewis1

Prayer

Lord, give me the wisdom to know the need and marshal the courage to accept the garment of humility that my sinful soul so badly needs. By accepting the garment, I am allowing you to lead me in the direction of spiritual humility which blesses me and those I encounter. Lord, this day I ask my arms to be drawn down by confession of my sins, so I might be lifted by your grace.

Amen

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Humility

The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

 — Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus Teaching 1Those of us who call ourselves Christians sometimes neglect the instructions that came directly from Jesus. In the scriptures Jesus had many things to say. Because we live in this fast paced competitive American society, we find it difficult to image that we can be exulted by humble behavior. We have been taught from a very early age to put our “best foot” forward. The words of Jesus cut against that concept. The real task of humility is to be genuine and authentic in all that you do. The person who exalts himself is, in many instances, just lying. We have a time for self-exalted people. We call them hypocrites because can never live up to their talk.

In the Kingdom of God leadership is marked by servant hood and not self exultation. If you want to rid your life of hypocritical self agrandizement ,become a humble servant to all. A servant’s word will carry far more weight in the end than the word of a great teacher who does not follow through. The American Poet Edgar A. Guest wrote:

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one, any day;

I’d rather one should walk with me than merely show the way;

The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear.

Fine counsel is confusing, but examples always clear,

And the best of all preachers are the men who live their creeds,

For to see good put in action is what everybody need.

We are all (clergy and laity)walking sermons weather we like it or not.

Prayer

Grant us, O God, a mind to meditate on you; eyes to behold you; ears to listen for your word; a heart to love you; and a life to proclaim you. Amen.

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Secrets

St.-Macarius-of-Egypt2A man who receives something from another because of his poverty or his need has therein his reward, and because he is ashamed, when he repays it he does so in secret. But it is the opposite for the Lord God; he receives in secret, but he repays in the presence of the angels, the archangels and the righteous.

—-Saying of the Desert

The concept of shame and poverty being coupled is very strong in our society. From the earliest of times, we have been taught, and rightly so, to be responsible hard workers. Our goal is to be able to care for ourselves and never be a burden to others. When the time comes that we have fallen short and necessity sends us to someone for help, a person does everything possible to keep this event secretive. He even pays back in secret.

The opposite is true of the Lord. He receives in secret, but rewards in a very open way. By that action, we see that the Lord is a Lord of grace. His grace is not about how much we give but how much He gives. Our reward, given in the presence of heavenly and earthly beings, is God’s joy to give. Our Lord does not want to keep His grace giving secretive, and He never does. He implores us not be showy in our devotion to Him. We pray and give in secret, and then He rewards for all to see. May we catch the spirit of our Lord and learn to bestow grace on all along our path.

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Putting Others First

 

Amma sara 1Some monks of Scetis came one day to visit Amma Sarah. She offered them a small basket of fruit. They left the good fruit and ate the bad. So she said to them, “You are true monks of Scetis.”

—-Amma Sara

So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

—-Parables of Jesus


The clarion call of all followers of Jesus is self-denial. Without self-denial we are in a constant state of grabbing and competition for the chief seats. Over and over again Jesus the teacher told His disciples to be self-sacrificing and humble. One of the great sayings of the scripture is, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Is a person who calls himself a Christian but always puts self-interest first really legitimate?

Sara of the desert gives us some insight here. She lived the life of a desert monk, and a real monk knows the meaning of true sacrifice. She entertained some fellow monastics in her cell and offered them fruit, and they ate the bad fruit first. Her reaction was to call them “true monks.” Amma Sara knew that there were true and false monks, and declared that true monks don’t grab for the best but leave the best for others.

In this same way, true followers of Jesus must be willing to take a “back seat’ so that others may thrive and go forward. That sort of thinking is contrary to the norm of our day, but brings us closer to an understanding of the nature of God and His grace. By living out a life of self-sacrifice, we find the divine peace that surpasses all understanding.

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Humility and Submission

One of the fathers use to say, ‘before anything else we need humility: a being ready to listen whenever a word is spoken to us, and to say, “I submit”, because through humility every device of the enemy, every kind of obstacle, is destroyed.

——Dorotheos of Gaza

Perhaps the definition and function of humility is the foremost issue for anyone who wishes to follow the path of God. Humility is the ability to put yourself last, jesus Quoteand to accept hardships that come along with the path of God. For any of us to follow after God, we must have the capacity to submit to God and others. Acquiescing to God is a tough charge, but to others is a near impossibility. We all find submission a problematic part of living. The monk says that submission is the first action, and that all others will follow. Humble wisdom gives us the capacity to sense the good in an act of submission. Further, it is the act of choosing the path that will lead to peace with God and our fellow man. Our day is full of strife and conflict. We live in a time where everyone demands to be heard and followed. Our challenge is to be humble enough to learn the value of a simple act of submission.

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Laboring for Humility


Abba Carion said, ‘I have labored much harder than my son Zacharias and yet I have not attained to his measure of humility and silence.’

 —-Sayings of the Desert

Person in prayer Very few of us would think of humility as a laborious task, yet the Abba speaks this word about himself. There are two distinct lines of thought in this very brief saying. First, humility is not only a sought after state for the contemplative but is a lifelong labor. The second is the apparent unfairness of some people being rewarded even if they labor less than we do.

 Humility is a hard task, and we must wake every day to the familiar words of the Jesus Prayer, “… have mercy on me, a SINNER.” Until we see ourselves as worthy of nothing but graciously gifted with His saving grace, we will never attain any sort of true humility.

 Feeling cheated or let down by God is an age old problem. So many times in our lives we have felt as though we have done all we can do, and we are still lacking. Exasperatingly, we are confronted with others who did less and received abundant blessings. The lesson here is that we do what we do out of love and worship of God, and not for reward from Him.

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CLEAR VISION

Luke 15:11-32

 He was born blind.  A perfectly formed, beautiful baby boy kicking his tiny legs and swinging his arms in a sea of darkness.  He had little hope for a quality life in first century Jerusalem.  His father daily led him to his unofficial, but reserved location near a small pool.  Others who had forfeited in some way God’s blessing spent their wretched days there – begging.  Some days he collected nothing.  Some days a hateful boy stole the few pennies resting in his cup.  Everybody in Jerusalem knew that either he or his parents had a great sin for which God was exacting vengeance by taking his sight.  They all wished they knew what that family had done wrong!

One day, just like thousands of other black days, Jesus passed by.  He put some mud on those sightless eyes, gave instructions to wash off the mud in a nearby pool, and left the man to respond in faith.  At first, he saw a blurry light, then large shapes.  He blinked quickly several times.  His vision cleared!  He could see!  Out of darkness!  When questioned by religious authorities already concerned about the miracle worker, the formerly blind man could only explain the phenomenon this way:  “Only one thing I know.  I was blind, but now I see.”  What joy!

Many of us born with sight, still have a clouded vision of Jesus.  We’ve allowed so much to distort our image of the Savior!  The Bible is full of stories of people who did the same.  Let’s learn from them.

He’d been in the field all day, but as he approached the house, it was evident something big was happening.  It was a party!  Why in the world, in the middle of the work week, with no previous notice would Father be throwing such a huge party?  Confusion gave way to anger when he saw him.  So, he was back – the spoiled little brother who took his inheritance and left home to have fun.  He’d lost it all!  The older brother couldn’t feel relief that his younger brother was alive, joy for his father, hope that things had changed – just ANGER!

Jesus was coming for lunch.  Martha had peeled the vegetables, cooked the lamb chops, mixed the fruit salad, and baked the bread.  She had straightened the house, set the table, washed up all the cooking utensils, mopped the kitchen floor, and dusted the living room.  Mary, her sister – sat!  Jesus and Mary were talking and laughing and Martha was jealous.  Why did Mary always get preferential treatment from everyone?  Jesus was telling Mary and Lazarus about his work, but Martha was too JEALOUS to listen!

He was young, handsome, wealthy, – a good man.  Although everyone thought he had it all – he knew he did not.  He spoke out of a sense of frustration when he inquired of Jesus, “What am I missing?  What’s this hole in my heart that my possessions cannot fill?”  Jesus, testing his commitment, suggested he give away all his possessions in order to clear up his priorities.  The rich young man wouldn’t even consider the suggestion.  He preferred his POSSESSIONS to Jesus.

The disciples were riding out choppy waves on the Sea of Galilee.   Jesus, not needing a boat, simply walked out on top of the water to join them.  Impetuous Peter wanted to walk on the water, too.  What a thrill!  Jesus probably chuckled to himself as he gave Peter permission to join him.  At first, Peter managed the miraculous, but after a few steps he took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink.  Panic replaced exhilaration because SELF-RELIANCE replaced faith.

Pontius Pilate had a chance to be history’s greatest hero.  He had the power to set Jesus free.  He knew he should.  He recognized his innocence.  He vacillated in his judgment, but the crowd won out.  Pilate was people-pleaser.  He didn’t want trouble from the Jews and a reprimand from Caesar, so he compromised his integrity and ordered the death of the Savior.  He made a ceremony of washing his hands of the Messiah’s innocent blood, but OTHER PEOPLE kept him from allowing the stain to be washed from his soul.

James and John – brothers looking out for each other.  They didn’t feel completely comfortable with the question, but the obsession for power and recognition overshadowed the guilt.  They sucked in their breaths, and nonchalantly asked Jesus for a little favor.  The request – to sit on either side of Jesus on His heavenly throne.  After all, wouldn’t it be lovely to be recognized throughout all eternity as Jesus’ favorites?  How powerful the feeling would be as all the saints of all the ages took note of their importance.  Jesus dealt the brothers a powerful blow with His reply – they had missed the whole point!  Those who find their joy in service are great, not those who find their joy in POWER or RECOGNITION.

What clouds our vision of Jesus?  Like the blind beggar who responded in faith, let Jesus five you clear sight.  What joy!

Monica Boudreaux

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Humility and Strength

Abba Poemen said of Abba John the Dwarf that he had prayed God to take his passions away from him so that he might become free from care.  He went and told an old man this: ‘I find myself in peace, without an enemy,’ he said. The old man said to him, ‘Go, and beseech God to stir up warfare so that you may regain the affliction and humility that you used to have, for it is by warfare that the soul makes progress.’ So he besought God and when warfare came, he no longer prayed that it might be taken away, but said, ‘Lord, give me strength for the fight.’

—-sayings of the desert

Our society cries out that a relationship with God is all about prosperity, victory and success. The wise men of the desert voice a different view, and we have much to learn from them. Abba John the Dwarf prayed for all passions to be extinguished from his life so that he might be carefree, but the pastor (poeman means pastor) tells him that struggle is part of the journey. In our struggles we learn the important lesson of humility, which turns us away from self and toward others, especially the ultimate other-God. Humility teaches us the need to be silent, to pray, to worship, and to understand the greatness of God. Then we can know that we must pray, ‘Lord, give me strength for the fight.’

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