by Andrew Murray

Humility and Happiness

Each time he said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. Since I know it is all for Christ's good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

God had given Paul an awesome revelation. To keep him from becoming proud, God also gave him “a thorn in the flesh.” Paul’s first reaction was to ask God to remove the thorn—in fact, that was his second and third reaction, too! But Jesus answered that the trial was really a blessing, that in the weakness it brought, His grace and strength could become more real. So Paul immediately took a new attitude towards his thorn. Instead of simply enduring it, he became “glad to boast about it.” Instead of asking for deliverance, he rejoiced in it. Paul had learned that the place of humility is the place of blessing, power, and joy.

Most Christians who pursue humility go through those same two stages. At first, they fear and recoil and ask for deliverance from the humbling situation. They have to learn to seek humility at any cost. They have accepted the command to be humble and are trying to obey it, but they keep finding themselves failing miserably. They pray for humility, sometimes very intensely. But in their secret hearts they pray even harder—in thought, if not in actual words—to be protected from the very things that will make them humble. They aren’t yet to the point where they love humility as the beauty of the Lamb of God and the joy of heaven, and so they aren’t ready to sell everything to have it. In their pursuit of humility and prayer for it, there is a feeling that somehow humility is still a burden and a bondage, after all. Humbling themselves hasn’t yet become the spontaneous expression of a life and character that is humble from the inside out. Humility is not yet their pleasure and joy. They can’t say, “I am glad to boast about my weaknesses; I am grateful for everything that humbles me.”

Can we ever hope to reach that point? Definitely! What will get us there? The same thing that brought Paul there—a new revelation of the Lord Jesus. When more of Jesus can move in, more of self will move out. Paul got a much clearer insight into the deep truth that the presence of Jesus will banish our every desire to seek anything for ourselves. The more we see of Jesus, the more we will be willing to embrace whatever humbles us, to make an even larger place for Him in our hearts. Our trials will teach us, as we experience the power and presence of Jesus, to choose humility as our highest blessing. Let’s learn from Paul’s example.

There are many people who are looked to for leadership, who have experienced God’s blessings, who have become teachers of others, who have yet to learn humility. Paul knew this danger. He realized the potential he had to become puffed up with self-importance. Yet he needed to learn more fully what it meant to become nothing—to die that Christ might live in him. It was still hard for him to be glad for his trials. The next stage in his growth was to learn to be more like Jesus in emptying himself, to boast in his weaknesses so that Jesus could be strong.

The highest lesson a believer has to learn is humility. Do you want to grow in holiness? Then remember: the road to holiness passes through humbling experiences. You could have intense consecration, fervent zeal, and deep experiences, but unless you receive God’s special dealings to humble you, you could grow prideful and self-important. Let’s never forget that the highest holiness is the deepest humility. And humility only comes if we give God permission to lead us through whatever discipline He requires to train us. He is our Faithful Lord.

Let’s look at our lives in light of Paul’s experience and see if we, too, gladly boast in our weaknesses, if we consider it pure joy when we experience trial, need, and trouble. Have we learned to regard a criticism, whether fair or not, as an opportunity to draw near to Jesus in quietness and peace? What about when someone brings us into a situation of trouble or difficulty that we didn’t ask for?  Will we accept that our own pleasure and honor are worthless? Will we be grateful for the humbling? It is a great blessing—the deep happiness of heaven—to be so free from self that whatever is said about us or done to us is lost and swallowed up in the thought that Jesus is our inheritance.

Let’s trust the same Jesus who took charge of Paul to take charge of us, too. Paul needed special discipline and teaching to learn something even more precious than the “things so astounding they can’t be told” that he had heard in the third heaven. He needed to learn how to boast in weakness! We need that lesson too—oh, so much. Jesus, who cared for Paul, will care for us, too. He watches over us with a jealous, loving care, to keep us from getting puffed up by our revelations of Him. If we start becoming proud or pompous, He shows us our evil and brings us experiences to deliver us from it. In trial and weakness and trouble, He seeks to bring us low, until we learn that His grace is enough for us and take pleasure in what makes and keeps us humble. His power working through weakness, His presence filling and satisfying our emptiness, becomes the secret of a humility that will never fail. In view of God’s mercies, we can learn to say with Paul, “I am not at all inferior to these ‘super apostles,’ even though I am nothing at all” (2 Corinthians 12:11). Paul’s trials had led him to true humility. With humility, he had received a wonderful joy and pleasure and “boasting” about his difficulties.

“Since I know it is all for Christ's good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.” The humble man has learned the secret of contentment. The more pressed he feels, the more difficult life becomes, and the more he experiences the presence and power of Jesus. As he admits he is nothing, the Word of God comes with deepening joy: “My gracious favor is all you need” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

To sum it up: the danger of pride is greater and nearer than we realize—and the grace for humility is, too.

The danger of pride is greater and nearer than we realize, especially at the time of our richest blessings. When God’s provision is present with powerful effect, when miracles are happening, when others take notice, there are hidden, subconscious dangers there.   Paul was in danger without knowing it. What Jesus did for him is recorded for our learning so that we could recognize our own dangers and realize our only Place of safety. Let’s not give a single person the excuse to say that someone who proclaims Jesus is full of self and that Christians don’t practice what they preach. Jesus, in whom we trust, can make us humble.

But yes, the grace for humility is greater than we think, too. The humility of Jesus is our salvation. Jesus Himself is our humility. Our humility is His concern and His work. His grace is more than enough for us to meet the temptation of pride, too. His strength will work best in our weakness. Let’s choose to admit our weakness, to be low, to be nothing. Let humility become our joy.

Let us be glad to boast about our own weaknesses, about everything that can humble us and keep us low. The power of Christ will rest upon us. Christ humbled Himself, and so God honored Him. Christ will humble us, and keep us humble. Let’s join our hearts fully to His work! Let’s trustingly and joyfully accept everything that humbles us. We will discover that the deepest humility is the secret of the truest happiness, of a joy that no one can take away.

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