Sayings of the Humble
Various Passages
By Paul Robison

Someone has said, "What the world wants is not advice but examples. Any fool can talk” (McKenzie).  Someone else noted that an example is a language that all people can understand (Ibid.).  The apostle Peter tells us that Jesus suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21).  Peter also told elders that they should not be lords over the flock but examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:3). Hopefully, these few references show us the power of an example. Someone else made this statement: “May God teach us to believe that to be humble, to be nothing in His presence, is the highest attainment and the fullest blessing of the Christian life” (Murray).  How do humble people respond?  The New Testament gives us some powerful examples.
 
Look now at Luke 1:46-49: “And Mary said: 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.  For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth, all generations will call me blessed.  [Now notice this next statement.]  For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.”  “For He who is mighty had done great things for me, and holy is His name.”  Mary, the mother of Jesus, is praising God for choosing her to be the mother of the long awaited Messiah.  She called God her Lord and her Savior, and says that her lowly position as His slave has not gone unnoticed.  She has been given the privilege of doing something that will affect all future generations.  “... she fully realizes the world-shaking import of what God was doing through her” (Coffman).  But then she says: “For He who is mighty had done great things for me, and holy is His name.”  God, the mighty one, had done great things for me.  Who is she in the presence of God?  She is nothing, and she acknowledges this state. Isn't that humility?  She realizes that God is the one who has caused her to be pregnant, to bear this blessed child, and to be recognized by others for this great work (Elizabeth has just praised the glorious Child that was developing in her womb).  Mary acknowledges that God is the One Who is actively working to bring the Savior into the world.  His name, which stands for His Being, is holy.  He is pure, righteous, undefiled, and transcendent.  Someone has said: “Make His glory your care in humbling yourself; He will make your glory His care in perfecting your humility ...” (Murray).  Hasn't God done great things for this congregation?  He's allowed us to exist 90 years!  He's given us a peaceful spirit, a caring attitude, some wonderful leaders and teachers, some fine facilities, and a solid financial situation.  The Mighty One has caused all of these blessings to be enjoyed.  We've done so little in comparison to what He has done.  Each time we assemble as His family, we need to be acknowledging our heavenly Father's goodness and holiness, just as Mary did.  The Holy One is all, and we are nothing before Him.  “For He who is mighty had done great things for us, and holy is His name.”
 
Now let's look at another example.  Go to John 3:26: “And they came to John and said to him, 'Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!' John answered and said: 'A man can receive nothing unless it be given to him from heaven.  You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, “I am not the Christ [or Messiah], but I have been sent before Him.”  He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice.  Therefore, this joy of mine is fulfilled.  [Now listen to John's next statement] He must increase, but I must decrease.”  By calling John “Rabbi”, we see that these are the disciples of John.  And they seem to be somewhat upset because Jesus is having more converts than John.  John's reply is almost like Mary's here: “A man can receive nothing unless it be given him from heaven.”  God is in control, and He can make a person or a congregation successful or unsuccessful.  John further explains that his disciples didn't grasp what he had told them plainly earlier—that He was not the Messiah, but was sent before the Messiah to prepare the way for Him.  John then compares himself to the best man at a wedding.  In John's day, the best man took care of many of the wedding's details.  Israel is often compared to a bride in the Old Testament, and Israel is now giving heed to the Bridegroom.  John sees and rejoices that his mission in leading Israel to accept the Messiah has been fulfilled.  Then John makes that remarkable assessment about his role: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  Doesn't John demonstrate a tremendous spirit of humility with that statement?  It's not about people following me, it's not about my mission, it's not about my influence.  It's all about Jesus having the rightful preeminence due Him!  Oh, that we could have this same spirit which John displayed.  It's not about how great our congregation is and all that we have accomplished.  No, it's all about our wonderful Savior and all that He is accomplishing!  Someone has noted that the deeper we sink in humility before Jesus, the closer He is to fulfilling every desire of our faith” (Murray).  “He must increase, but we must decrease.”  As Alexander the Great was setting out on his conquest of Asia, he inquired into the finances of his soldiers.  To ensure that they would not be troubled over the welfare of their dependents during their absence, he distributed the royal estates and revenues among them.  When he had thus disposed of nearly all the crown's resources, his friend General Perdiccas asked Alexander what he had reserved for himself.  “Hope,” answered the king.  “In that case,” said Perdiccas, “we who share in your labors will also take part in your hopes.”  He then refused the estate allotted to him, and several other of the king’s friends did the same (sc.com).  Oh, that we would show such loyalty to our King!  “He must increase, but we must decrease.”                  
 
Now let's look at another example.  Turn to Acts 4.  In this chapter, a crippled man who was over 40 years old was healed by Peter and John, and the Jewish leaders arrested them and commanded them not to preach or teach about Jesus anymore.  After this Peter and John return to other church members and report what happened.  So, the church immediately enters into prayer.  Look now at verse 29: “Now. Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.  And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”  Peter and John were not afraid to ask other Christians for help.  When the Jewish leaders told them to shut up, they go to God and ask Him to help them to speak up!  Like John, they remembered that only heaven or God can give success.  “Now Lord, look on their treats, and grant to Your servants that ...”  This prayer begins with “Lord”.  This is the Lord God, and the church recognizes who is in control.  In fact, only after remembering God's creation and God's plans fulfilled in Jesus, do they invoke God's help in this present situation. “Lord, look at their threats ...”  The church members believed that God knew their situation, that God had heard those threats just as Peter and John had heard them.  One commentator noted: “Surely there were among them fear, timidity, and reservation.  But without panic, vindictiveness, or despair, they turned to God, unified in their need and confident of divine response” (Ash).  “Lord, grant to ...”  These members recognized that here was the Source behind their mission.  They knew that they needed to obey God by continuing to preach and teach, so they are pleading with Him in accordance with His will.  “to Your servants that ...”  They realize that they are God's slaves, which does not make them lofty by the world's standards.  Isn't this another wonderful example of humility?  They ask God to intervene and to sustain them; they knew that they would need His help.  And we see how quickly God heard their request and responded to their need!  “Now Lord, look on their treats, and grant to Your servants that ...”  When will we pray humbly, yet boldly, as well?  “Now Lord, look on our situation, and grant to Your servants that we may convert others in this area, and grant that we may live as godly examples before others, that we may speak boldly too, that we may be a blessing to our community, that we may defend the truth, that we may help our secular culture to repent.  When are we going to be humble enough to realize that we can't do Jesus' work effectively without God's mighty hand of help?  And if we pray this boldly, we'd better be ready for the unusual to happen.  The Lord may have something in mind beyond our wildest expectations.  Even though they lived in the age of miracles, do you think the Jerusalem congregation was expecting an earthquake and another empowerment by God's Spirit?    God might surprise us if we'd fully put our trust in Him.  Isn't humility simply the disposition which prepares our souls for living on trust (Murray)?  “Now Lord, look on their treats, and grant to Your servants that ...”
 
Another example is found in Acts 5:31 where Peter is preaching before the Jewish leaders and says these words: “Him God exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior.”  Why was Jesus exalted by God to the highest place?  Because Jesus and lived this truth: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).  Are we seeking the glory of men or the glory of God?  How often does the proud old Pharisee in our lives take center-stage?  How often do we attempt to make the exalting happen rather than leaving that in God's hands and in His timing.  Remember Joseph in Genesis?  From favored son to betrayed son.  From steward over Potiphar's house to prisoner.  From prisoner to forgotten prisoner.  But after 13 years of hardship and faithfulness, God steps into the story with some dreams, and Joseph goes from forgotten prisoner to vice-Pharaoh over all Egypt!  God exalted Joseph, God exalted Jesus, and God will exalt us too if we will humble ourselves under His mighty hand.  “O, the bitter pain and sorrow that a time could ever be, when I proudly said to Jesus: 'All of self, and none of Thee.'  Yet He found, I beheld Him bleeding on the accursed tree, and my wistful heart said faintly, 'Some of self, and some of Thee.'  Day by day His tender mercy healing, helping full and free, brought me lower while I whispered, 'Less of self and more of Thee.'  Higher than the highest heavens, deeper than the deepest sea, Lord, Thy love at last has conquered, 'None of self, and all of Thee'” (Monod).  “Him God exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior.”  And God did this because first humbled Himself under God's mighty hand.  Is there any power stronger than God's mighty hand?  Let us be diligent and faithful as we wait for God's eventual exaltation.
 
Another example is seen in Acts 21:14.  On this occasion the prophet Agabus had revealed that Paul would be taken captive in Jerusalem.  The brethren then pleaded for Paul not to go there.  But Paul affirms that he is ready to die in Jerusalem for the name of Jesus.  Luke writes in verse 14: “So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, 'The will of the Lord be done.'”  These humble Christians saw that they could not persuade Paul to change his mind, even though they knew that a dangerous situation was ahead.  So, what did they do?  They put the matter into God's hands.  Here was a situation over which they could have no direct control.  So they invoke the Almighty, who does have such direct control!  “The will of the Lord be done.”  And do you recall how the story turned out?  Paul was not killed in Jerusalem because a plot of the Jews was discovered, the Romans escorted Paul out of town to protect him, and Jerusalem eventually become God's means for getting Paul to Rome!  “The will of the Lord be done.”  This is really sort of a dangerous prayer because we are uncertain how things might turn out.  When Jesus prayed it, His suffering was not taken away, and He was killed.  When these Christians prayed it, Paul's suffering was lessened, and He was spared.  This should help us to see once again that God's ways are not our ways.  We cannot force God to act in our ways, but we humbly submit to whatever He deems best in a situation.  We can only see from a limited perspective, but God has a much broader view of time and what can be best in the long-run for His kingdom's future.  “The will of the Lord be done.”
 
Another example comes from 1 Corinthians 15.  Paul has been arguing for the reality of Jesus' resurrection.  He tells how it was prophesied and what people were witnesses to it.  He himself also saw Jesus, but he views himself as unworthy of this honor.  Let's read now verses 8-10: “Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.  For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”  From persecutor to preacher—what a difference God's grace had made in Paul's life!  He had openly and defiantly harmed and killed Christians in the past.  Yet, God was gracious to him, and his sins were forgiven when he obeyed the Gospel and was immersed in Jesus' name.  Because God had shown him such undeserved favor, Paul worked hard to spread the Good News of Jesus to all.  “I labored more abundantly than they all” could mean more than all the others put together or more than any one of them.  Paul isn't saying that he accomplished more than others, but he does claim that he worked at it harder than others, out of his gratitude for what God had done for him.  Notice, he does not brag about what he had done, but what God had done.  He doesn't say God's grace was in him, but that it was with him.  This almost turns God's grace into a partner working right along beside Paul to reach others.  “But by the grace of God, I am what I am.”  Paul says, “I am nothing, but God gets all the glory!  He has transformed me, and He has been working with me, and He is the one who deserves the praise.”  Paul knew the great distance that God had brought him from where he used to be to what he was as he was writing this letter to defend Christianity!  Paul takes no merit for any of his achievements, such as letters, missionary trips, and miracles; all the merit goes to God for His grace and His forgiveness.  “But by the grace of God, I am what I am.”  Shouldn't this be our perspective as well?  Every achievement and success that we have both as a congregation and as an individual can be traced back to God.  Only with His blessing can we make any progress.  All the good things in this congregation over the past five years, all the baptisms, all the restorations, all the times of fellowship, all the good classes, all those who have placed membership, all the good SOS has done, any of our success goes back to the root, and that root is God.  Like Paul, we should admit: “But by the grace of God, we are what we are!”
 
“May God teach us to believe that to be humble, to be nothing in His presence, is the highest attainment and the fullest blessing of the Christian life” (Murray).  Review these sayings of the humble printed in your bulletin after you get home.  Meditate on them, and apply them.  Let's review them one more time: “For He who is mighty has done great things for me” (Luke 1:49); “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30); “Now, Lord, look on [our situation], and grant to Your servants that ...” (Acts 4:29); “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior [because Jesus humbled Himself]” (Acts 5:31); “The will of the Lord be done” (Acts 21:14); “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10)!  What wonderful examples of humility these sayings are!  May we allow God to use whatever means He deems best, whether people, or circumstances, or even thrones in flesh to keep us humble and always reliant on Him.  May our attitude be that of a familiar hymn that we sing: “Unto the hills around do we lift up our longing eyes.  O whence for us shall our salvation come, from whence arise?  For God the Lord does come to our certain aid.  From God the Lord, who heaven and earth has made” (Duke of Argyll)!  This morning, if you have been proud and self-reliant, won't you humble yourself under God's mighty hand once again?  If the apostle Paul could be forgiven of all his past sins, you also can be forgiven and transformed if you are still not a Christian.  Let's God's grace work in your life by making Jesus your Lord today through baptism in His name.  “The will of the Lord be done” as we encourage you through song.