Humility: Redefined.

In church, we are currently journeying through the book of Philippians together, considering, last week, Christ’s example of humility (Philippians 2:1-11).

As part of his introduction, the Pastor quoted C.S. Lewis:

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

It was not the first time I had heard or read that quote. It did not bring with it great revelation or conviction. However, as I continued to ponder all that this passage teaches, with this quote reverberating in my mind this week, I made a breakthrough.

It is no secret that God has whispered big vision, big promises into my heart; some of which I share openly, others I keep hidden until the appointed time. But they all share one thing in common: they will become a reality. God speaks to accomplish; no word of His will fail (Isaiah 55:11).

And yet:

For the past several weeks (since – unsurprisingly – a big revelation from God about my future) I have faced a barrage of fear.

Lies. Comparison. Doubt. Insecurities. It has been relentless.

But the enemy is cunning. He knew he couldn’t take me down easily, so he began to twist my understanding of the Word of God for his own purposes. In my pursuit of humility, I was tricked into thinking less of myself. Satan shone spotlights on my own insecurities to back-up his offensive strategies, and fear weighed heavy on my shoulders; fear of what other people thought of me; fear of shame and rejection; fear of not living up to expectations; fear of missing out on what God had for me because of my own weaknesses.

I sought to hide pieces of myself – ideas or suggestions or enthusiasm – hoping not to be an inconvenience to those I was working with. I found myself trying to be who I thought others perhaps wanted me to be, and hiding (or even, at times, resenting) the unique qualities and gifts that make me me. I adopted the heavy responsibility of making God’s promises a reality; an impossibility in my own strength. All this in an attempt to be humble.

But let me be clear: this is not humility. This is sabotage.

In the midst of this spiritual warfare, my heart and spirit remained at peace, but my mind has been full, chaotic, busy, cloudy. The enemy loves to do that to us. If he can’t make us bad, he monopolises our minds to fill them with nonsense so that we cannot find quiet to hear and be reminded of God’s truth.

Our minds will not clear by processing, or thinking it through, or problem-solving; we receive clarity and peace when we fight the lies with truth. Truth we find in God’s Word, in words He speaks over us, in worship, and in recalling promises and affirmations we have received in the past.

It is in truth that we develop humility. Humbling ourselves before God means hearing, receiving, and believing all that He says about us. It is trusting Him to act, even when our circumstances seem out of control. Humility is most evident in us when we submit ourselves to Him and live each day in obedience to Him, no matter how nonsensical or foolish it may look to the world.

So by definition, a humble spirit does not attempt to stifle the talents, blessings, gifts, wisdom, opportunities that God has bestowed. Instead, humility invests these things well and correctly attributes honour and glory to the Giver, not the steward.

In my fight against fear, I realised that I was so focused on how God’s call could/ might/ will affect me, that I had forgotten about the many individuals who will benefit from my acts of obedience. The longer I allow fear to thwart my advances in faith, the more I allow the enemy to steal the work of God in the lives of others.

Well not anymore.

I refer, often, to John 10:10 – my favourite Bible verse – for it promises a full, abundant life; one that I seek to encourage and inspire us all to take hold of; one that only God can imagine, design, orchestrate and gift us with. But the verse begins with these simple, yet deadly, words:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…”

As we reach out to receive the full and abundant life that Jesus promises us, there is a spiritual enemy who is focused on stealing our peace, killing our dreams, and destroying our hope. He will do everything he can to disrupt our lives and tear our eyes away from the One who sustains us through all things.

Do not let him take you down.

He may be tactful, but God is greater. He may be cunning, but God is wiser. He may be determined, but God is already victorious. Do not allow the enemy’s lies to take hold; stand firm on the truth of God’s Word.

Do not be afraid of him; do not be distracted by his advances, or allow him to draw your eyes inwards. Instead, choose to focus on God. Choose to focus on the circle of influence that God has given you. Choose to focus on the hope and life that God offers through Jesus.

I cannot and will not let the enemy steal away all that God has poured into me and blessed me with. God has positioned me and prepared me to be used by Him to share His love for humanity. That is not something to be hidden, but something to be used to bring glory to God.

Today, I choose not to be tricked into thinking less of myself, but to simply think of myself less.

My Top 5 Takeaways from 2018

No, I’m not talking about fast-food (although, admittedly, I did enjoy a few tasty dishes last year), I’m referring to the lessons and threads of grace that God wove through my life in the last twelve months.

These lessons are on-going, and in no way ‘complete’; no doubt I’ll have to resit a test or two in the months and years to come. But the journey that God took me on last year was no less than miraculous, and I enter into 2019 with such great anticipation for all that He is preparing me for.

So, here’s my year in a nutshell…

Lesson 1: Taking ownership of who God made me to be.

Since arriving in Germany in April 2017, God said nothing more (until a few days ago) of the vision He had laid on my heart of why He would lead me here. The tasks or practical steps remained blank spaces, but His consistent affirmation of who He has created me to be has finally penetrated my insecure heart.

I have faced a constant barrage of lies from the enemy and have fought hard to reject those lies, instead focusing on the truth of who God says I am in His Word. It was an all-out battle to identify and cling to God’s definition of me. But with this victory (at least in part; it will inevitably be a life-long battle that must be fought to remain on my unrivaled road) came the courage to make significant decisions for my future that would have otherwise been lost in the casualty of spiritual warfare.

I fought introverted tendencies and insecurities from past experiences as I struggled to take hold of all that God was declaring over me. What I considered to be humility, was actually self-sabotage, and I recognised that true humility is receiving what God offers to us.

So, here I am, presenting myself to the world as a daughter of God, adopted into His family, and heir to all that He offers me. Who am I to argue with that?

Lesson 2: Learning to be vulnerable.

I have always been open and honest with people, but I recently read a quote that nails this lesson on the head for me. Rebekah Lyons said, “Transparency is sharing where you’ve been. Vulnerability is sharing where you are.”

There were a number of moments in 2018 when God required me to be vulnerable. He asked me to share deeply personal things with individuals that I would have rather chosen not to. He orchestrated opportunities and conversations that prompted me to open up about hurts and insecurities without having had the time to process and heal from them first.

But God did not waste a single one of these moments. The Bible tells us often that, when we follow God, we will not be put to shame. And in those moments of vulnerability – most often, not of my own choosing – God used my vulnerability to outwork His will and purposes.

Hindsight revealed to me just some of the ways that God used my vulnerable moments to act, and to change, and to heal, and to position, and to inspire according to His much greater plan. So I am encouraged, now, to be more vulnerable, especially when I sense a prompt from the Holy Spirit, and rest in the sovereignty and care of my Good, Good Father, allowing Him to use my vulnerability in whichever way He chooses.

Lesson 3: Learning to filter everything through God’s perspective.

Of course, we can never truly know God’s perspective, but I guess my objective this past year has been to see beyond my own perspective. Questions like, “But how might they be feeling?” or “What underlying hurt caused them to act in this way?” have begun to circle my mind as I seek to choose more carefully how I respond to unexpected circumstances.

At times, my emotions have sought to outwork a different reaction within me, but my focus has been on striving to see the bigger picture.

By drawing courage from God daily, I have developed a greater trust in Him; trust with every feeling, every detail, every opportunity. Learning this lesson has allowed me to better partner with what God wants to do, instead of partnering with my own fear when things don’t happen the way I want or expect them to. It is a liberating place to be, and it frees me from so many stresses that would otherwise weigh me down.

Lesson 4: Learning to obey in the big and the small.

Perhaps this lesson doesn’t need much explanation, but I have learnt that the God who made a way for me to move to Germany is also the God who carefully made available fun Christmas plans for me. This may not seem like much, but as I have grown sensitive to the prompts of the Holy Spirit, I have seen God outwork incredible things, on both a grand and a minute scale.

2018 showed me that small steps of obedience, no matter how seemingly insignificant, still hold purpose in God’s economy. Even in times when I wondered if I was even hearing God at all, or simply attributing him with my own thoughts, He still revealed Himself faithful. According to His own choosing, sometimes He would reveal the bigger picture to me and sometimes He wouldn’t (at least, not yet). Yet every prompt led me into a greater understanding, a greater peace, and a greater adventure of faith.

Lesson 5: Learning to receive all the good gifts God wants to give me.

Waiting for a gift you want – one that God hasn’t offered you yet – is hard, but simply extending your hand to gratefully receive all that He offers..? What is challenging about that?! But this has truly been one of the most difficult lessons I have grappled with these past 12 months (and counting…)

When we live in obedience to God and offer Him our lives, to do as He chooses, His blessing is poured out on us in ways we can’t even begin to imagine (Ephesians 3:20). I live my life the way I do because I love God with all my heart, not because I want something in return. But His love for me seeks to bless me abundantly (Psalm 1), and I have noticed that I am often resistant to that.

I ask Him, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me this far?” (2 Samuel 7:18) The privilege to be used by Him and have a front-row seat to the miracles He outworks is blessing enough! And yet He offers more.

The more I develop an attitude of gratitude, the greater the blessings are; not always because the blessings themselves grow, but because my perspective shifts, understanding that God is my ultimate provider.

An unseen battle continues to rage within me, as insecurities and lies seek to steal all that God offers freely to me. But a gift is not forced upon someone, it is offered and must be received.

So that is my position, in this, the first week of January; my hands are open, facing upward, but still hesitantly held close to me. Now is the time to stretch out my arms toward heaven and simply receive the good gifts that God offers me in 2019.