The Crazy, Counter-Intuitive, Relentless and Blessed Pursuit of Humility

Do you want to be blessed? Do you want to experience God’s favor?

Do you desire to be truly great in the kingdom of God? Do you want God to use you for his glory? The secret is not to imagine yourself as successful or great or keep saying to yourself, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it people like me.” The secret to being blessed is to humble yourself. To relentlessly pursue the way down, not the way up.

The kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom. The way up is to go down. The way to greatness is to become lowly. Jesus is the supreme example of this:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

Jesus shared his mindset with his disciples and us when he gave them this crazy advice:

But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45)

Jesus, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe came not to be served but to serve and give his life for us! He is the pinnacle of humility. And he tells us to imitate him.

I have been thinking a lot about humility lately. I want to be humble. I need to be humble. I need to be a servant. I want to be like Jesus. And I desperately need his help. Because without Jesus’ constant help, I am proud and self-centered. I know that as God said to Cain, “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7).

Pride is always crouching at our door.

Not that we have anything to be proud of, for all we have is from God. But we so easily forget that. When people compliment us we can think like the old cartoon character, Pepe Le Pew (I know, I’m giving away my age here), who would say in his French accent, “Makes me feel humble, yet sort of proud.”

So what are some characteristics of humble people?

#1. Humble people do not think they are great.

Humble people know that any gifts or talents they have are from God. They know that any success they have is from God. Even if their success is a result of hard work, God is the one who enabled them to be diligent.

For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

#2. Humble people are thankful.

Thankful to God for all his benefits and blessings. Thankful for the gifts he has given them. Thankful that he would use them in any way for his glory.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)

#3. Humble people desire God’s glory above all.

They don’t desire their own glory. Humble pastors don’t want their churches to prosper so they will be admired. They want God to be admired. Humble husbands can listen to their wives and admit they are wrong because God’s glory is what matters most in a marriage, not their being right all the time.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

#4. Humble people rejoice when God blesses others.

So often I have been tempted to envy other pastors when God prospered their churches with growth and success, and our church seemed to be just plodding along. But humble people rejoice when God blesses others. Humble people can rejoice when others are honored.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15)

#5. Humble people listen to others.

They REALLY listen. They listen to advice and take advice.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19)

Humble people really listen. They don’t just hear the words and always disagree. They seriously consider what others say. They take suggestions. Humble people don’t think they know it all. Ok, are you ready for this next one?

#6. Humble people know they have blind spots.

Humble people know they can’t see themselves perfectly. THEY COULD BE WRONG. Others can see weaknesses they don’t see themselves. Once at our dining room table I addressed on of our kids on something and he said, “Dad, you don’t have to be so harsh.” I quickly responded, “I’m not being harsh! I’m just telling you something.” And my wife said, “Mark, you did sound harsh.” “I’m NOT BEING HARSH!” I said, and my son David said, “Dad, you sounded really harsh.” I just couldn’t see it. In my eyes I was as gentle as softly falling snow. But by God’s grace, I was able to finally admit my sin. If we know we have blind spots, then we know…

Humble people know and admit they could be wrong.

If we are humble we know that we don’t always see everything perfectly. We could be wrong. We are not always right. We don’t have supreme knowledge of all things. Only God is always right. We don’t have God’s infinite, perfect wisdom. Humble people don’t think they are always right. They could be wrong.

#7. Humble people admit when they sin, blow it, mess up, make mistakes.

Humble people will ask forgiveness of others. Humble people will do what Jesus said in Matthew 5:

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)

Sadly, I have failed to do this many times. At times people have left our church with an offense toward me, and I failed to follow up. But by God’s grace in recent years, he has helped me to seek people out when I hear they have struggled with me, and pursue reconciliation, which often has required me to ask forgiveness.

It is humbling to ask forgiveness. But if we are seeking God’s glory above all, we will seek his help to do that.

#8. Humble people fear God.

Those who are humble fear sinning. They flee temptation. Humble people fear pride because they know God hates pride.

The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. (Proverbs 8:13)

Humble people fear pride because they know it has horrible consequences.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

Pride doesn’t simply mess us up, it leads to destruction. It causes us to fall.

#9. Humble people are servants.

Remember, Jesus said, “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” (Mark 10:43-44).

Jesus is the supreme example of being a humble servant. He is God, creator of all things, sustainer of the universe. He needs nothing. Yet he humbled himself and came to serve us and give his life for us. We should aim to be like him. Husbands, fathers, make your goal to be the biggest servant in the house. Pastors, aim to be the biggest servant in your church. Humble people are willing to do the lowliest jobs, to care for the least lovable people. Do whatever needs to be done.

Once someone introduced themselves to me on their first visit to our church, and told me, “I have a teaching ministry.” I thought to myself, “Well, if you stay, how about if you set up chairs for a while. Then we’ll see about your teaching ministry.”

#10. Humble people know they are weak and need God’s help.

They pray. They cast their cares on God.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

There are so many other aspects to being humble. Humble people are patient with others’ weaknesses and bear with others. Humble people encourage others and compliment others. Humble people put others’ interests above their own.

How about you? What have you learned about humility? What other characteristics of humble people would you add? How has God helped you to be humble?

Mark Altrogge

I’m a pastor at Saving Grace Church in Indiana, PA. I’m married to Kristi, have 5 kids, and a growing number of grandkids. I enjoy songwriting, oil painting and coffee, not necessarily in that order.

2 comments

  • Sometimes it comes naturally, more its a concerted effort(For me), either way, Gratitude leads it, love fuels it, and happiness is the tail end of it..a sense of goodness, maybe. Definitely not easy for me to stay in that frame of mind, (Physical pain & Depression plague me) but the more you practice, the better you are, for me. Thank you so much for your writings, I benefit greatly. GOD bless you!!

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