by Andrew Murray

Humility and Faith

No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from God alone (John 5:44).

Recently I heard someone say that the blessings of discipleship are like the goods displayed in a shop window—you can see them clearly, but you can’t touch them. If someone told a window shopper to reach out and pick up one of the items for sale, he or she would answer, “I can’t. There is a thick pane of glass between me and that thing.” In the same way, Christians can admire God’s awesome promises. “You will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love” (Romans 5:5). “Even now you are happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy” (1 Peter 1:8). Yet very many people feel that there is an invisible something standing between them and those promises, so that they can see them but not truly possess them. And what is that barrier? Pride.

The promises made to the believing heart are so free and certain, the invitation and encouragement to receive those promises are so strong, and God’s mighty power to make good on those promises is so available. Only something capable of hindering our hearts from believing could stand in the way of those promises becoming real to us. Jesus tells us what that hindrance is: “No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from God alone.” Faith and pride are enemies. Faith and humility are allies. We can never have more of genuine faith than we have of genuine humility. True, we can still have strong convictions in our minds while there is pride in our hearts, but a living faith, bursting with the power of God, is impossible.

What is faith, anyway? Doesn’t it mean confessing that we are nothing and helpless on our own, and surrendering to God and allowing Him to work? What could be more humbling than to accept that we are dependent on Someone else, and that we have no rights to claim or receive anything except what He’s gracious enough to give us? Humility is simply the attitude of heart that prepares you to live by trusting God. Clinging to a scrap of pride, even in secret—by selfishness or stubbornness or arrogance or grabbing after attention—strengthens your flesh. And remember, flesh cannot inherit the Kingdom or receive Kingdom blessings. Self-life refuses to allow God to be what He is and must always be—your Everything!

Faith is a spiritual organ. As the eyes enable you to perceive the physical world, faith allows you to see the unseen. Through faith you see “Him who is invisible.” With faith, you aren’t limited to walking by sight. Pride seeks—and jealously guards—the attention and praise and reputation available in the seen realm to those who chase after it. Faith, on the other hand, rejects selfish ambition and contents itself with whatever honor God offers from His throne. As long as we’re chasing after the seen realm’s blessings, we can’t be seeking blessings in the unseen realm. Pride makes faith impossible. Salvation comes through a cross and a crucified Christ. Salvation means having fellowship with a crucified Christ in the Spirit of His cross. Salvation is union with, delight in, and participation in the humility of Jesus. No wonder our faith is so feeble if pride still controls us so much! Are we willing to long and pray for humility as the most critical and blessed part of salvation?

Humility and faith are joined in the Scriptures more than many people realize. Twice Jesus praised someone for having great faith. The centurion said, “I am not worthy for You to come into my home.” He then acknowledged Jesus’ authority. Jesus was amazed and replied, “I haven’t seen faith like this in all the land of Israel!” (Matthew 8:8,20). The gentile woman threw herself at Jesus’ feet and said, “Yes, Lord, but even dogs are permitted to eat the crumbs that fall beneath their master’s table.” Jesus answered, “Woman, your faith is great” (Matthew 15:27-28). The humility that brings a man or a woman to the point of being nothing before God at the same time removes every obstacle to faith. Humility makes the soul fear that it would dishonor Him by not trusting Him completely.

Brothers and sisters, haven’t we discovered here the real reason for our failures in pursuing holiness? Isn’t it pride that has made our consecration and faith so superficial and short-lived? We had no idea how much pride and self were still secretly working in us. We were not aware of how God alone, by coming in with His mighty power, could cast them out. We did not understand how only a new heart, created to be like God, could really make us humble. We did not know that total, constant, complete humility must be the foundation for every prayer and approach to God and for all our dealings with people. We did not realize that we might as well try to see without eyes or breathe without lungs as to believe and draw near to God without humility and lowliness of heart.

It makes no sense to strive and strive to have faith, when all the time our prideful old self-life is working behind the scenes, trying to manipulate God to gain blessings. No wonder some people just can’t seem to believe. What we need is a total change of direction. First, let’s seek to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. He will lift us up. The cross, the death, and the tomb where Jesus humbled Himself were His path to the glory of God. Our path lies there, too. Let our one desire and fervent prayer be to humble ourselves like Jesus. Let us gladly accept whatever can humble us before God or others—this alone is the path to His glory.

Maybe you are wondering about people who seem blessed and who even seem able to bless others, but who have little apparent humility. Does that prove that God has honored their faith, even though they clearly are seeking the honor that comes from men?  If such people do have even a measure of faith, and if God has bestowed on them special spiritual gifts, then to the measure they do believe they will be able to bless others. But even in that blessing, their faith—and therefore their impact—are stunted by their pride. The blessing that could have resulted in eternal fruit is actually superficial or temporary, just because they refuse to become nothing to open the way for God to be All. A deeper humility would have brought a deeper and fuller blessing. If these men had allowed God’s Holy Spirit to live in them in the fullness of His grace—not just to gift them with some special ability—He would have produced in them a life of power, holiness, and perseverance that is all too rare in our day.

“No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from God alone.” Only one thing can cure you from the desire to receive honor from others. Only one thing can free you from the hypersensitivity and pain and anger that enslave you when you don’t get that honor. Give yourself to seek only the honor that comes from God. Let the glory of the all-glorious God be everything to you. You will be delivered from slavery to self, and you will be content and glad to get nothing for yourself out of what you do. Out of this nothingness you will grow strong in faith, giving glory to God. You will make a wonderful discovery: the deeper you sink in humility before Him, the nearer He is to fulfill every desire of your faith.

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