I was young, adventurous and arrogant as I began my first days on the job in my father’s cabinet manufacturing business. My first job was pounding small brads (nails) into some adjustable shelve tracks, all…day…long. As I began my second week, I was taught how to attach hinges to cabinet doors. I put three screws in to each hinge, all…day…long. In between attaching hinges and pounding brads, I would notice the other things that took place in a cabinet manufacturing business. At the end of my third week on the job, I was just young enough, adventurous enough and arrogant enough to gently tell the foreman how to do his job better, after all, I was the owners son! I never did get along well with the foreman after that, and we worked together for 12 years.
I made some messes at my father’s cabinet shop those first few years. My arrogance and desire to be in charge caused a few relationships to be broken. Through those experiences, God gently yet persistently sanded off some of the rough edges of arrogance and pride so that a softer and hopefully more humble person emerged. Once I left the cabinet business and moved to Phoenix for a new opportunity, the Lord had me write letters of apology, seeking forgiveness from those in the cabinet business that I had mistreated in my arrogance.
Humility is necessary if a person is to be filled with the Spirit of God and not with self. To be filled with the Spirit of God one must grasp a firm understanding that their strength and abilities always and only come from Jesus Christ. When this is understood, a person can be strong and gentle, confident and competent without yielding to the arrogance that swallows up many. Knowing that all we have and who are comes from Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:6-15, Philippians 4:12-13) allows us to offer our lives back to Him in worship as we work to accomplish His kingdom building pleasure throughout our lifetime.
As I have watched many believers mature in their faith over the years, I notice a pattern of God where He often allows opportunity for the believer to learn humility both early in their faith and throughout their journey with Him. The learning of humility creates space for the believer to be filled with the Spirit of God. For some it takes bold confrontation from God while for others it only requires nudges from His Spirit. Either way, the Lord desires to draw us towards humility so that we die to self (flesh driven) and live for Christ (Spirit filled) (cf John 12:24-25, 2 Corinthians 4:10-17, Galatians 2:20).
In my early years with Jesus, I had to learn at the cabinet business that energy, risk taking and confidence is not enough to be an effective leader when I am full of myself. In spiritual leadership, the lack of humility creates even more problems.
I remember several years into being a part time associate pastor I was working with a man a few years older than me in leading the Sunday school program at a local church. I had some ‘amazing’ ideas of how things were to go but this co-laborer had different ideas. As we clashed on ideas and implementations I became to flow in my arrogance, title and position (never a good idea). I remember meeting with my friend in my office at the church building on one afternoon. Our conversation came to an entrenched impasse. I was frustrated and with no other way to move forward, so I thought. I threw down Hebrews 13:17 which states, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” Basically, I demanded this co-laborer obey and submit to my ideas for moving forward. Needless to say, that encounter did not end well and it took months to restore the relationship. There was no humility in my heart in that encounter. It was a hard lesson to learn but so necessary for me to work through. I have nor will I every use that verse again in that way. My actions were awful.
Through the above experience, I learned (and continue to learn) that I must be lay down demanding my way in order to allow the Spirit of God to fill my heart with His attitudes, actions and character. In Ephesians 4:1-2, Paul instructs followers of Jesus to live their lives in a way that honors Jesus and the first quality of living this way is humility. Living this way brings unity, peace and eventually maturity in our lives (Ephesians 4:11-16).
The opposite of living in humility towards unity, peace and maturity is to be arrogant, hard and calloused in our hearts (4:17-21). In verse 20, Paul says that we did not learn Christ in this way of arrogance, hard and calloused hearts. God has given me ongoing opportunities to learn humility. I pray it is true that I walk more in a manner that honors Christ (Ephesians 4:1, 2) than in a way that dishonors Him (Ephesians 4:17-20).
When I resist the opportunities to learn humility, I often end up arrogant and harming relationships. Regularly ask Jesus to expose your heart to areas where you are arrogant and learn how to respond humbly, gently and full of grace and truth. Later in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he instructs us to be “…filled with the Spirit.” (5:18). When we are filled with Spirit, we are controlled by Him and His ways. Being moved by the Spirit causes us to ooze the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26) which mends brokenness, brings unity, peace and a path forward that magnifies King Jesus.
Create space in your soul for the ways of the Spirit. Realize that you have already died to the flesh and are alive to the Spirit (Gal 5:24-26), then you will enjoy the unity, peace and maturity that follows. Humility is a gateway trait that leads us to be filled with Spirit and must be practiced intentionally throughout our lifetimes.