Humility: The Beauty of Holiness # 9
Humility and Faith
"How can ye believe, who take glory one from another, and seek not the glory that comes only from God?" (John 5:44)
In a sermon I heard recently, the speaker said that the blessings of the higher Christian life were often like the objects displayed in a shop window: one could see them clearly and yet could not reach them. If a man was told to stretch out his hand and take an item, he would recognize the thick pane of plate glass separating him from them. In a similar way, Christians may see clearly the promises of perfect peace and rest, overflowing love and joy, and abiding fellowship and fruitfulness, and yet feel there is something between, hindering the true possession. And what might that be? Nothing but pride. The promises made to us through faith are so free and sure that it can only be something that hinders faith, which hinders the blessing from being ours. In our text, Jesus reveals to us that it is indeed pride that makes faith impossible. "How can ye believe, who take glory one from another?" In their very nature, pride and faith are incompatible. We will learn that faith and humility are at root one, and we can never have more true faith than we have true humility. It is possible to have strong intellectual conviction and assurance of the truth while pride is kept in the heart, but it makes living faith, which has power with God, an impossibility.
We only need to pause for a moment to discover what faith is. It is the confession of nothingness and helplessness, the surrender and the waiting to let God work! Isn't it the most humbling thing there can be, the acceptance of our place as dependents who can claim, receive, or accomplish nothing apart from grace? Humility is simply the habit which prepares the soul for living on trust. Every breath of pride, in self-seeking, self-will, self-confidence, or self-exaltation, is just the strengthening of that self which cannot enter the kingdom. It cannot possess the things of the kingdom, because it refuses to allow God to be the All in All.
Faith is the sensory organ used to understand and take hold of the heavenly world and its blessings. Faith seeks the glory that comes from God, that only comes where God is all. As long as we take glory from one another, or seek, love, and jealously guard the glory of this life and the honor and reputation that comes from men, we do not seek and cannot receive the glory that comes from God. Pride renders a faith impossible. Salvation comes through a cross and a crucified Christ. Salvation is the fellowship with the crucified Christ in the meaning of His Cross. Salvation is partnership with, delight in, and participation in the humility of Jesus. Is it difficult to believe that our faith is so feeble when pride still reigns so much? We have barely learned to long or pray for humility as the most needed and beautiful part of salvation.
Humility and faith are more closely tied together in Scripture than many realize. This concept is visible in the life of Christ. There are two specific cases where He spoke of great faith. Jesus marveled at the faith of the centurion, saying, "Verily I say unto you that not even in Israel have I found such faith" (Matthew 8:10). Jesus' reaction was in response to the centurion saying, "Lord, I am not worthy that thou should come under my roof" (Matthew 8:8). Again, He recognized the mother's great faith when she accepted the name of a dog, and said, "Yes, Lord, yet the little dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table" (Matthew 15:27). It is humility that brings a soul to be nothing before God and removes every hindrance to faith. Humility makes the soul desire to please Him by trusting in Him fully.
Friend, don't we have here the cause of failure in the pursuit of holiness? Isn't it this, even though we didn't know it, that made our sanctification and faith so superficial and short-lived? We had no idea to what extent pride and self were still secretly working within us, and how only God, by His entering in and His mighty power, could cast them out. We didn't understand how nothing but the new and divine nature, completely taking the place of the old self, could make us really humble. We didn't know that absolute humility must be the origin of every prayer and every approach to God as well as of every dealing with man. We might as well attempt to see without eyes or live without breath if we think we can believe, draw near to God, or dwell in His love, without an all-encompassing humility and lowliness of heart.
Friend, haven't we made a mistake taking so much trouble to believe, while at the same time the old self, in its pride, attempted to possess God's blessing and riches? No wonder we could not believe. Let us change our course. Let us seek first of all to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. He will exalt us. The Cross, the death, and the grave, into which Jesus humbled Himself, were His path to the glory of God. And they are our path. Let our one desire and our fervent prayer be, to be humbled with Him and like Him. Let us accept gladly whatever can humble us before God or men. This alone is the path to the glory of God.
You might feel inclined to ask a question. I have spoken of some who have experienced blessing, or are the means of bringing blessing to others, and yet are lacking in humility. You might ask if these prove that they have true, even strong, faith, though they show very clearly that they still seek the honor that comes from men. There is more than one answer to this question. The primary answer is that they have a "measure" of faith, in proportion to the gifts they have been given and the blessing they bring to others. However, even in their blessing, the work of their faith is hindered through lack of humility. The blessing is often superficial or temporary, just because they are not the nothing that opens the way for God to be all. A deeper humility would without doubt bring the deeper and fuller blessing of the Holy Spirit, not only working in them as a Spirit of power, but also dwelling in them in the fullness of His grace and especially that of humility. This life of power, holiness, and steadfastness is all too seldom seen.
"How can ye believe, who take glory one from another?" Friend, the only thing that can cure you of the desire for man's praise or the hurt feelings and anger which come when it is not given, is by only seeking the glory that comes from God. Let the glory of the all-glorious God be everything to you. You will be freed from the glory of men and of self, and be content and glad to be nothing. Out of this nothingness, you will grow strong in faith, giving glory to God. You will find that the deeper you sink in humility before Him, the nearer He is to fulfill every desire of your faith.
(continued with # 10 - Humility and Death to Self