Tag Archives: humble

Strength and Dignity

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I have a dear friend who posted this meme on Facebook the other day:

strong-woman

I love the message! Don’t you? When you think of a strong person, you imagine someone with great physical strength who can rip apart lions (King David) or wield a donkey’s jawbone in a heated battle (Samson). Strong people are capable of tearing right through their obstacles, right? A sign of strength is how easily you can defeat an opponent or enemy. A person who shows weakness is the one who is meek and bows out of the fight, right? Uh. no. Not in this case.

Why is it that we buy into the lie that in order to be a strong person, we need to make everyone else around us feel weak? A brother or sister in Christ is not an obstacle to tear right through. We do not need to try to defeat one another in an effort to show how strong we are. Likewise we do not show weakness when we are meek and defer to another. On the contrary, this is great strength indeed.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13)

Both Moses (Numbers 12:3) and Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:1) are described as meek or humble. There’s no way anyone would consider either of these men as being weak.

You do not prove your strength by belittling another person. You actually prove that you have weak character for it is in the way you treat another that reveals your heart.

I am grieved by what I hear week after week about the way women treat one another. The comparison game is deadly. It’s more like Russian Roulette than Candy Land. What I’ve seen is a twisted form of religious pompousness rather than a real life relationship with another sister. {Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also seen the real life relationships that genuinely bring encouragement and love to each person.}

Here’s what I mean: convictions for an individual quickly become measuring sticks for spiritual maturity.Well, I’m a stay at home mom, and if you aren’t a stay at home mom, that means you’re not a good Christian” “I homeschool my children because it’s the best way to raise a child, and if you don’t homeschool then you must be a lesser Christian.” “You aren’t married? Why not? You don’t have children? Why not?” I am giving up all I know to be a missionary and if you don’t want to do missions that means you don’t really love Christ or the lost.” 

Do I need to go on? Now I doubt that any thinking person would actually say any of those statements. But attitudes can speak for themselves. None of these convictions ever need to be a badge we wear to reveal how spiritual or devoted to God we are. God forbid.

Another dear friend of mine used to always say “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Why do we compare ourselves at all? If we compare ourselves in order to puff ourselves up, we have failed. If we compare ourselves to heap guilt on ourselves, we have failed. Put your measuring sticks far away, and instead of spending your time scrutinizing yourself or another person, take the time to appreciate another sister or appreciate the gifts and path God has given to you.

You can have your convictions and still value another sister’s obedience to God, even if it looks completely different from your own! And let me not even get started on how utterly arrogant it is to think that you or I have anything to do with our holiness or acceptance before God. We don’t wear badges, we actually receive crowns and even then we acknowledge that those crowns deserve to be at the feet of Jesus.

And we sing,

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. (Revelation 4:11)

{So technically that passage is referring to the 24 elders, but you get the idea.}

He alone is worthy. And it is God who created us to the Body of Christ who serves one another with special gifts in order to edify the whole Church. Edify, not tear down. Nourish and lift up, not weaken or destroy.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

God prepared good works for each of us before we even knew we belonged to Him in order that we could walk around on His earth as the hands and feet of Jesus. We are His ambassadors with marching orders to reconcile people back to Him (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). To reconcile! Not to draw people away from Him with our selfish motives.

We don’t need to clamor for His attention, trying to draw His gaze toward us, hoping that He’ll take notice of how great we are. No! We humbly submit to the One who is worthy of all glory and honor and power. We can do this by walking in those good works that He’s prepared for us to do. And some of those good works involve building up our brothers and sisters in Christ.

25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (Proverbs 31:25-26)

A woman with strength and dignity is wise and kind. Ironically she also recognizes her own weaknesses and even relishes in them, knowing that when she is weak, [He is] strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).

My sweet friend reminded me too that we need to be women full of grace for ourselves and for one another. We’re all going to fall, sometimes in small ways and other times in large ways. Wouldn’t you want someone to come alongside you and help you along rather than be put to shame by a sideways glance or a disappointed shaking of the head?

In case you’ve ever been hurt by a careless statement, consider first to give that person the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps that woman did not mean to hurt your feelings nor make you feel like a lesser Christian. Sometimes people say stupid things, and those aren’t necessarily judgments about you. More often than not, that individual hasn’t considered the implications of her words and is simply expressing her (not-so-tactful) opinion or strongly held conviction.

Let us all be careful with our words for it is by those words that we will be judged (Matthew 12:37). Wouldn’t you rather spend your limited time here on earth using your words to build up and encourage? I thought so.

(P.S. I know more women who are getting this right than women who are getting this wrong. Christ has given us a beautiful and perfect example of love for His bride, and He’s called us to this same kind of love for each other. We are the bride of Christ, and the world will know we are His based on our love for each other! So go love!!) John 13:35

Evangelism 101: Out of the Mouth of Babes

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matt 18-3 child

{Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3}

Humbled is the only word to describe it.

I have shared before that I’m a very private person. I get into the store on my mission to get out as quickly as I can, and this usually involves the duck and run method (if I don’t make eye contact with people, I won’t have to talk to them and waste precious time). But then you throw 3 boys into the mix, and well, things just don’t go as planned…ever. My oldest in particular is very sociable. He will introduce himself to anyone! He has no problems striking up a conversation with anyone of any age. It’s one of the things I like most about him because I’m just not like that. At. All.

So you’ll understand my rising anxiety when we pull up to the park, and I see a van parked there already. Sure enough, there’s a lady with 3 boys and a baby plopped down at one of the picnic tables. I quickly correct my thought process of “oh no, I might have to talk to them” to “oh good, the boys will have some friends to play with.” Because, let’s face it, that first thought is ALWAYS what comes to my mind. Don’t get me wrong, once I’m in the inevitable situation, I can manage just fine and usually end up having a great time! I have come to realize that my boys can bring such joy to people in ways that I never knew was possible. I’m learning to seek out ways to serve and be a blessing to complete strangers because I’m so often the recipient of these kinds of blessings. It’s just that it means I have to raise my head up and see people, even look them in the eyes. It means I have to get out of my selfishness and intentionally speak truth over people. And let me tell you, that’s challenging!

Back in my car, I’ve given the older boys their food to go off and find a table for us while I get the baby and the rest of our things gathered. I watch as my oldest walks straight up to the lady at the table and introduces himself (not surprised) and proceeds to ask, “do you know Jesus Christ?” My eyes grow wide.

Excuse me. What just happened here?

Did my 6 year old just start sharing the gospel before I could even unbuckle my 1 year old?

Just like that?

I am in disbelief and yet a smile comes to my face, and I lean in to try to hear her answer and his response to it. But no, I couldn’t hear anything but her response which was, “I know who He is.” That kind of struck me funny. If she really knew Jesus, I would think the answer would be much different than that. My stomach does a flip. Does this mean I’m going to end up sharing about Jesus with this woman? My oldest son made it look so easy. And this is why I’m so humbled.

I didn’t teach him this. I swear it. I never once told him, when you’re at a park and you see someone, you should ask her if she knows Jesus. It was God using a 6 year old to speak truth into a complete stranger. And bless his heart, he simply did it! No questioning if it’s the right thing or wondering if it would be awkward or worrying that he might say the wrong things. It was as natural as him asking what they were having for lunch.

Later in the car he told me that he asked her if she knew Jesus Christ because if she didn’t it would mean she wasn’t going to heaven, “and we don’t want that, because if she died, she wouldn’t go to heaven.” Uh. yeah. That’s exactly right my dear one. And why do we lose sight of that?

I wrote a post on spiritual gifts, and I know that there are people who are gifted in evangelism. I for one am not gifted in this, but I am still called to tell the story. My oldest may just have this gift, and I’m going to find every way I can to cultivate it! Just because you’ve been given a gift doesn’t mean you should throw aside the other gifts as useless in your spiritual closet. Let them challenge you as you grow more well-rounded in your faith.

I realize that it’s not completely true that we have never taught our son to share Jesus with other people. We talk to our kids about Jesus and our need for Him because we are sinners and that Jesus is the Savior. We tell them that no one can go to heaven unless they know Jesus as their Savior. We’ve given them the gospel, and God has already allowed that seed to land in fertile soil and go forth to others. Humbled.

So I guess it is that simple sometimes. Who knew that those conversations in the car could turn out to be so fruitful? Momma, keep giving them the truth. Dad, keep giving them the gospel. It doesn’t have to be complex. In fact, it can be as simple as finding out what someone is having for lunch.

The Blessing of the Thorn

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thorn

From Creationswap.com

I miss my old Bible study group. 😦 I had the privilege of being a part of that group for almost 5 years. I miss the teacher, and I miss the ladies. We were able to just be real, and you have no idea how refreshing that is when your flesh tells you to hide. I’ll never forget the day we talked about the “thorn in the flesh.” I even remember where I was sitting.

Many people have discussed what Paul meant by the “thorn in my flesh” (from 2 Corinthians 12:7), and the consensus is that no one really knows what his “thorn” was exactly. It’s rather fitting for God to have left that detail out so that perhaps all of us could relate to this “thorn” idea. We know one thing for sure: the thorn was meant to humble him.

If you read the chapter before his thorn confession, it gives some insight into Paul’s dilemma. He is combating the false apostles that have crept into the Corinthian church who have been claiming (or rather boasting) to preach the gospel without charge like Paul had been doing (but without the boasting part). He writes:

Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 2 Corinthians 11:22-30

It’s actually quite humorous in parts. I’m talking like a madman! mwahahaha… (*cue music*) “I can do anything you can do better, I can do anything better than you!” Seriously though. He’s got quite a few things to be proud of yet also to be honest about. He got real with us in this section, just like those ladies in my Bible study group. I think we could safely assume that Paul, being a Pharisee, was probably also steeped in legalism and likely struggled with this after his conversion at times. I can relate to this. Somehow it’s comforting to think that he didn’t always get it right. So for him to admit weakness in any area must have been a HUGE breakthrough for him (just like it would be for any perfectionist). He continues on in the next chapter:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Wow.

That is such a nice passage to memorize, and it sounds really good, but it sure is hard to actually do!

In my small group recently we read through Philippians 2:5-11, quite the hefty theological passage. I highly recommend it. 🙂 We see the example of Christ as One who was completely humble, to the point of a criminal’s death (with a ton of thorns stuck into His head, I might add), and because of His work on the cross, God highly exalted Him above everyone and everything. I just can’t get this out of my mind. God exalts the humble. (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6)

My husband raised the question, “is God humble? Is humility actually a godly trait?” Well, after we thought about it, we realized God doesn’t need to be humble. But He isn’t proud either. Humility is just not a quality that God needs to have because, frankly, He’s God and deserves all praise and glory. So although He isn’t humble, He does esteem the humble (Isaiah 66:2). He looks on them with favor. That was definitely true of Christ in our Philippians passage, and it seems true of anyone else who humbles herself.

It begs the question – why? Why is humility such a big deal to God? Isaiah 2:17 gives us a clue:

And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.

Will the clay say to the Potter, why did you make me? Will the clay actually try to take from the glory of the Almighty? Do we really do this? Unfortunately we do – alllll the time.

But when we acknowledge our weakness, it is truly a thing of beauty to the Father. What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Westminster Catechism Question 1!). He delights in us coming to Him, fully acknowledging our need for Him. Ironically when we humble ourselves before God, He lifts us up (He’s the One doing the lifting up, not us, and there’s the key). Just like Paul said, when we are weak, then we are strong. It makes absolutely no sense! But there you see the blessing of the thorn.

If any of you have a “thorn”, you may be like me and have a love-hate relationship with it. For without it, you know that you wouldn’t be all God desires for you to be. But because you have it, you get frustrated that it won’t go away. You just wish you could be done with this problem and find yourself on the other side of it, more sanctified and not struggling in the way you do now. You can’t find tweezers large enough or pointy enough to dig it out yourself. You, like Paul, ask God to take it away, but there it remains, doing it’s work to humble you. Arg. and Yay.

In the end, I truly don’t want people to look at my life and say, “Wow, she was one amazing woman, wife, mother, teacher, etc.” I’d much rather them say, “Wow, her God is truly amazing. Look what He did in her life. If He can do that kind of a miracle, surely He deserves all praise and glory. I want to follow Him.” And at that point, I’ll thank God for the thorn and hear Him say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”