Humility: The Beauty of Holiness # 11
Humility and Happiness
"Most gladly therefore, I will rather glory in my weaknesses that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content in weaknesses, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake, for when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
So that Paul would not glorify himself, which would be easy to do due to his revelation in the Spirit, he was given a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble. Paul's first desire was to have it removed, and he pleaded with the Lord three times that it would be removed. The answer came that the trial was a blessing. Through the weakness and humiliation it brought, the grace and strength of the Lord could be better manifested. Paul instantly entered a new stage in his relationship to the trial. Instead of simply enduring it, he most gladly gloried in it. Instead of asking for deliverance, he took pleasure in it. He had learned that the place of humiliation is the place of blessing, power, and joy.
Every Christian passes through these two stages in his pursuit of humility. In the first stage, he fears, flees, and seeks deliverance from all that can humble him. He has not yet learned to seek humility at any cost. He has accepted the command to be humble, and seeks to obey it, only to find how completely he fails. He prays for humility, at times very sincerely; but in his secret heart, he prays more, if not in word, then in wish, to be kept from the very things that will make him humble. He is not yet so in love with humility, as the beauty of the Lamb of God and the joy of heaven, that he would sell everything to obtain it. In his pursuit of it, and his prayer for it, there is still a sense of burden and bondage. To humble himself has not yet become the spontaneous expression of a life and nature that is genuinely humble. It has not yet become his joy and only pleasure. He cannot yet say, "I glory in weakness with joy and take pleasure in whatever humbles me."
Can we hope to reach the stage in which this will be the case? Undoubtedly. What will it be that brings us there? That which brought Paul there: a new revelation of the Lord Jesus. Nothing but the presence of God can reveal and drive out "self". A clearer insight was given to Paul into the deep truth that the presence of Jesus will banish every desire to seek anything in ourselves, and will make us delight in every humiliation that prepares us for His fuller manifestation. Our humiliations lead us, in the experience of the presence and power of Jesus, to choose humility as our highest blessing. Let us try and learn the lessons Paul teaches.
We may have advanced believers, famous teachers, and men of heavenly experiences who have not yet fully learned the lesson of perfect humility, gladly glorying in weakness. We see this in Paul. The danger of praising himself was coming very near. He didn't know yet what it meant to be nothing, to die so that Christ alone might live in him, to take pleasure in all that brought him low. It appears that this was the highest lesson he had to learn, full conformity to his Lord in weakness, that God might be all.
The topmost lesson a believer has to learn is humility. Oh, that every Christian who seeks to advance in holiness may remember this well! There may be intense sanctification, heartfelt enthusiasm, and heavenly experiences, and yet if it is not prevented by very special dealings of the Lord, there may be an unconscious self-exaltation with it all. Let us learn the lesson: the highest holiness is the deepest humility. Let us remember that it comes not of itself, but only as it is made a matter of special dealing on the part of our faithful Lord to those who faithfully serve Him.
Let us look at our lives in the light of this experience, and see if we gladly glory in weakness, and take pleasure in injury, need, and distress. Yes, let us ask if we have learned to consider a reprimand, just or unjust, a criticism from friend or enemy, an injury, trouble, or difficulty into which others bring us, as above all an opportunity to prove how Jesus is all to us. Have we learned that our own pleasure or honor is nothing, and humiliation is in very truth what we take pleasure in? It is the deep happiness of heaven to be so free from self that whatever is said of us or done to us is lost and swallowed up in the thought that Jesus is all.
Let us trust Him who took charge of Paul to take charge of us too. Paul needed special discipline and, with it, special instruction to learn what was more precious than even the unspeakable things he heard in heaven. He needed to learn what it is to glory in weakness and lowliness. We need it too, of so much. He who cared for him will care for us too. The school in which Jesus taught Paul is our school too. He watches over us with a jealous, loving care, lest we exalt ourselves. When we are doing so, He seeks to reveal the evil to us, and deliver us from it. In trial, weakness, and trouble, He seeks to bring us low until we learn that His grace is all, and to take pleasure in the very thing that humbles us. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. His presence filling and satisfying our emptiness becomes the secret of a humility that will never fail. It can work in us and through us as it did in Paul, and say, "I am like Paul, though I am nothing." His humiliation led him to true humility, with its wonderful gladness, glory, and pleasure, in all that humbles.
"Most gladly, therefore, I will rather glory in my weakness that the power of Christ may dwell in me" (2 Corinthians 12:9). The humble man has learned the secret of lasting gladness. The weaker he feels, the lower he sinks, and the greater his humiliation appear, the more the power and the presence of Christ are his portion. When he acknowledges that he is nothing, the Word of his Lord brings ever-deeper joy, and he understands the words: "My grace is sufficient for thee."
I feel as if I must sum up the two lessons. The danger of pride is greater and nearer than we think, and the grace for humility too.
The danger of pride is greater and nearer than we think, and especially at the time of our highest spiritual experiences. The preacher of spiritual truth with an admiring congregation, the gifted speaker on a holiness platform, the Christian giving testimony of a blessed experience, and the evangelist moving on in victory - no man knows the hidden danger to which there are exposed. Paul was in danger without knowing it. What Jesus did for him is written for our caution, that we may know our danger and know our only safety. If ever it has been said of a teacher or professor of holiness that he is so full of self, or he does not practise what he preaches, let it be said no more. Jesus, in whom we trust, can make us humble.
Yes, the grace for humility is greater and nearer than we think. The humility of Jesus is our salvation. Jesus Himself is our humility. Our humility is His care and His work. His grace is sufficient for us to meet the temptation of pride too. His strength will be perfected in our weakness. Let us choose to be weak, to be low, to be nothing. Let humility be to us joy and gladness. Let us glory and take pleasure in weakness, in all that can humble us and keep us low. The power of Christ will rest on us. Christ humbled Himself, and as a result, God exalted Him. Christ will humble us and keep us humble. Let us heartily consent and, with trust and joy, accept all that humbles, and as a result, the power of Christ will rest on us. We will find that the deepest humility is the secret of the truest happiness, and of a joy that nothing can destroy.
(continued with # 12 - Humility and Exaltation