26 August 2006

True Faith & True Humility

Humility and faith go together. To trust is to set aside your pride—that you know best, that you have all the answers, and that you can work things out on your own. And to be humble is to believe that you are no better than others, and that you need and depend on them.

“I don’t deserve your love, your kindness, your generosity or anything that God gives me through you.” That’s what the truly humble say. It’s also what the faithful man says. For the person of faith acknowledges that anything he offers or does or gives is meager and paltry and not worthy to be compared with whatever the Lord gives through His ministers and through others. And the humble man confesses that, apart from the Lord, everything he does is worthless and vain.

It takes great humility to say, “I was wrong. I mistreated you. I abused our friendship. I am not worthy to stand in your sight.” It also takes great faith. For when you confess your sin, you are not only humbling and lowering yourself; you are also trusting that your apology will be accepted, your sincerity will be believed, your words will not be swatted aside, and your admission will not be used against you.

When you make excuses or defend yourself or blame others or demand special treatment or—worse yet—trot out the good you’ve done, then your pride has stomped out humility; and your faith has been overrun by self-belief. And the man who believes in himself has turned his eyes away from the Lord, and has spurned the Lord’s mercy.

But the man who has true faith and true humility demands nothing from God or anyone else. Of all the things he could request, he begs for only one thing—not life, not strength, not resolve or willpower, but mercy. God, be merciful to me, the sinner. That is his only prayer—that his Creator have mercy on him; that his Savior pity him; and that the Spirit breathe into him once more the faintest whisper of God’s undying compassion. And in return, this man of faith and humility offers nothing except his entire being—all that he is and all that he has--to God for the good of all men. Such an offer he makes, not to buy God’s affection, but knowing that all he has is not his own, but the Lord’s—which he has only tainted or ruined or abused or wasted by his prodigal living. And so “mercy” is his only prayer. And “have mercy” is his gasping breath.

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. And so this man, who truly knows himself, is not too proud to stand with the heathen and make a mess of himself in God’s house. This man is humble because he believes; and he believes because he is humble. And so this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

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