When arrogance comes, disgrace follows, but with humility comes wisdom. -Proverbs 11:2
God, when arrogance knocks at my door, may humility answer. -Your Servant
Once in a while we’re fortunate to have a memorable human encounter. When it happens, I believe we should share it. I had one yesterday.
Actually, several dozen people were present, but I suspect few of them would classify it memorable. We all got to hear a few words from a local leader in sports and education. He shared some life principles as part of a community gathering at our church. His words were well said and presented. He knew what he wanted to say, he said it, and no more. He represented himself and his position honorably.
His words weren’t necessarily his. The majority of what he shared retold what he remembered learning from his grandfather, a Baptist minister. He recalled them with fondness and admiration acknowledging they started the journey he is continuing himself and now works to pass along to students and athletes under his leadership. Everyone listening had a human encounter.
But mine was memorable, not because of what he said but because of what he didn’t say. Until last night, he and I had only communicated through email and voicemail where I extended the invitation to him to come speak and then our prepping for it. In them and through all he shared with me privately and publically last night, not once did he mention his title, his success, his credentials, his history, or his current victories. Only since last night through the wonders of the Internet have I learned there is plenty he could have mentioned. His lack of being about himself was refreshing and honestly unexpected. That shows character. That reveals humility. That deserves memory.
“Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow yet with a sure hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the holy scriptures and proven by all history that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord, and in so much as we know that by his divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown; but we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”
-A proclamation by the president, March 30, 1863, Our Presidents and Their Prayers
Abraham Lincoln proclaimed this 156 years ago. What might he proclaim today if he were president? What national sins would he call us to confess?
“I know there is a God, and that he hates the injustice of slavery. I see the storm coming, and I know that his hand is in it. If he has a place and a work for me, and I think he has, I believe I am ready. I am nothing, but truth is everything. I know I am right because I know that liberty is right; for Christ teaches it, and Christ is God.” -Abraham Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois, 1860
Anything you read or watch about Lincoln depicts the burden he carried. What man or woman can imagine it? But when I heard this note read, I heard how he managed the burden.
What can you learn from Lincoln’s example? How could you better manage your burden with these principles?
(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)
My Bible reading plan has me in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Knowing it was my turn to write about gentleness and having already thought through some things, it was a natural connection to make between my thoughts and the actions of Jesus as told by these four authors. So first, think along with me about steps we can take toward being gentle, and then consider along with me how Jesus took these steps in three different scenes from the book of John.
Some things I know that produce the fruit of gentleness in me when I do them are listening, checking my emotions, and putting myself in other’s shoes.
Very few things put us in a better state of humility than keeping our mouths shut and listening. Avoiding the temptations of interrupting or talking over others leans us into gentleness. Silence welcomes calmness and averts hotheadedness, in both parties.
We all have triggers, which means, like it or not, we all have emotions. Knowing our triggers that might lead to harshness is vital to checking our emotions. Having a plan when the trigger goes off will enhance our chances of responding gently. With these triggers, maintaining a gentle spirit through all emotions can seem impossible. But let’s be honest, sometimes a situation calls for bold, powerful reactions. These are rare situations for most people. Our reactions don’t have to be mean-spirited or destructive. If you find yourself feeling like every situation ends in bold reactions, it’s definitely a sign that gentleness is missing.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes:
Over the years, this discipline has produced gentleness in me when I’ve most needed it. But it doesn’t come naturally to me. Does it you? So how do you nurture putting yourself in someone’s shoes if it isn’t how you’re bent? A few things come to mind:
Jesus did these things very well. Take for example his interactions with three people as told by John.
John 3, Nicodemus
He listened to Nicodemus questioning and trying to understand. He checked his emotions by not dismissing him as another Pharisee who might be after him. He put himself in his shoes as a Jewish leader working out his beliefs about who Jesus was.
John 4, Samaritan woman
He actually started this conversation. His gentleness is seen in that move alone. He listened to her question his motives, his common sense, his culture understanding, and her attempts to distract him from her story. He checked his emotions when she tried to challenge him as a Jew, more than once. He put himself in her shoes by recognizing her situation and her desire for something different.
John 11, the village of Bethany
This village was hurting. They were mourning the death of their neighbor and family member, Lazarus. Even in his delay, which no one understood, he ultimately showed gentleness. He showed all gentleness is found in the purpose of glorifying the Father. Through his listening to the mourners, checking his own emotions, and putting himself in their shoes, he turned hearts of sadness and unbelief into joy and conviction.
There is power in gentleness. May we be gentle like Jesus.
“Now you, son of man, get your bags ready for exile and go into exile in their sight during the day. You will go into exile from your place to another place while they watch; perhaps they will understand, though they are a rebellious house.” Ezekiel 12:3
Perhaps is a descriptive word. It usually paints a negative picture, like there isn’t much of a chance. So when Ezekiel is given this task with this clarification, he has an interesting choice ahead of him. The choice is, what is his mindset going to be as he follows through.
From my experience, I’m not sure most, if not all, of God’s directives involving ministering to others shouldn’t be entered into with this mentality. Why? There are no guarantees. Just because you come in the name of the Lord doesn’t guarantee you or your message will be received at all, let alone as a message from the Lord. And how they respond, if your message is delivered as directed, has nothing to do with you.
Perhaps will keep you.
Perhaps will protect you.
Perhaps will direct you.
Perhaps will humble you.
Perhaps will focus you.
Perhaps leaves it all up to your director.
(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)
The wicked flee when no one is pursuing them, but the righteous are as bold as a lion…Happy is the one who is always reverent, but one who hardens his heart falls into trouble. (Proverbs 28:1,14 HCSB)
The guilty heart breeds loneliness.
The bold heart stands in the right.
The reverent heart knows who’s king.
The heart open to God finds security and peace.
The humble heart is strong.