by Andrew Murray

Humility and Exaltation

For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored (Luke 14:11; 18:14).

When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on Him, He will lift you up and give you honor (James 4:10).

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in His good time He will honor you (1 Peter 5:6).

Just yesterday someone asked me, “How can I conquer this pride?”  The answer is simple. Two things are needed. Do what God says is your work—humble yourself. Trust God for what He says is His work—He will lift you up.

The command is clear: humble yourself. That doesn’t mean you have the ability to conquer and cast out the pride of your heart and to form within yourself the lowliness of the Holy Jesus. No, that’s God’s work. When He says He will “honor you” and “lift you up,” He means that He will form that character of Jesus in you. Your part in the process is to take every opportunity of humbling yourself before God and man. Stand firm. Don’t let any failure convince you to quit. His command will never change. Persevere with faith in the grace that is already working in you and with full confidence in the grace God will give for the victory that’s coming. Look to the light God provides, through your conscience within you and your brothers and sisters around you, to expose the pride of your heart and its workings.

Accept with gratitude everything that God allows from inside or outside, from friend or enemy, by seemingly natural means or by miraculous ones, to remind you of your need of humbling, and to help you to it. Believe that humility is indeed the mother of all godly character, your most important duty to God, and the best safeguard for your heart. Set your heart on it, because it is the source of blessing. God’s promise is sure: “the humble will be honored.” See that you do the one thing God asks, and humble yourself. God will see that He does the one thing He promised. He will give you more grace. When the time is right, He will honor you and lift you up.

God’s dealings with us usually come in two stages. First there is a time of preparation. God’s commands and His promises join forces to train and disciple us for something higher. We will experience effort and inability, partial success followed by seeming failure, mingled with a holy hunger for more of Jesus. Then comes the time of fulfillment, when faith inherits the promise and enjoys what it had so often struggled for in vain. All true disciples will experience these two stages often. Somehow, God created the universe so that we’d grow in that way.

In His efforts to redeem us, God always makes the first move. Then man’s turn comes.   He struggles to obey and live up to his calling, but he comes to realize his desperate weakness. In self-despair, he must learn to die to himself, with his willing cooperation and full consent. In the end, man longs for God, not victory. That’s when faith is ready to receive God’s promise. The Father will finish the work that man didn’t even understand at the start. God began the process, and He will end it, even if man doesn’t understand Him or His purposes at first.

That dynamic describes our pursuit of humility, too. To every Christian the command comes from the throne of God: humble yourself. When we respond with a serious attempt to listen and obey, God will reward—yes, reward—us with a painful discovery. We will find we have a shocking amount of pride—an unwillingness to consider ourselves nothing and to let others to consider us nothing, too. We will also discover an utter weakness to all our efforts, even in our prayers to God for help, to destroy the hideous monster of pride. Blessed is the person who now learns to put his or her hope in God and perseveres, despite all of the failures, in acts of humility before God and men.

Sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny. Grace works that way. God also has us repeat the act of humbling ourselves to produce a habit in us. “For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him” (Philippians 2:13). Come to God, humbling your proud heart before Him, and He will reward you with more grace, and replace your pride with humility. The Spirit of Jesus will conquer and bring a new nature to maturity inside you. He, the meek and lowly One, will live inside you forever.

“When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on Him, He will lift you up and give you honor” (James 4:10). What is this honor? The highest honor for any man or woman is to be a vessel, to receive and enjoy and demonstrate God’s glory. We can be that vessel only if we are willing to be nothing in ourselves so that God can be Everything for us. Water always fills the lowest places first. The lower and emptier a man bows before God, the quicker and fuller the inflow of God’s glory will be.

The honor God promises isn’t some external thing. All that He has to give is more of Himself. What does an earthly trophy really mean, anyway? It’s just hardware. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the achievement it’s supposed to reward. But God’s rewards are always genuine, meaningful, and the fruit of what we’ve sown. Sow a willingness to humble yourself, reap a divine humility inside you. That is God’s highest honor—to be like His Son.

“So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in His good time He will honor you.” Jesus Himself is all the proof we need that these words are true. He is the guarantee that God will make good on this promise. Let us take His yoke on us and learn from Him, for He is humble and gentle. If we are just willing to lower ourselves for His sake, the way He lowered Himself for ours, He will bend down again, and we will find ourselves equally yoked with Him. As we enter deeper into the fellowship of His humility, we can count on Him. Whether we are humbling ourselves before others or being humbled by them, the Spirit of His honor, “the Spirit of our Glorious God,” will rest on us. The presence and power of the glorified Christ will come to anyone who has a humble spirit.

When God can take His rightful place inside us, He will lift us up. Make His glory priority number one as you humble yourself. He will make your glory His priority as He perfects your humility. He will breathe into you, as your abiding life, the Spirit of His Son. As the Life of God saturates and possesses you, there will be nothing so natural and sweet as to be nothing. You won’t need to think about self at all, because all of your attention will be focused on the One who is filling you. “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Brothers and sisters, what is the real reason that our consecration and faith have made so little progress in the pursuit of holiness? It is because self and its strength have been trying to work in the name of faith. We called God in to serve self and its happiness. Without realizing it, we were still trying to find life in improving ourselves. We never understood that humility—total, lasting, Christ-like humility, filling all of our life with God and man—was the most essential ingredient of the life of holiness we were seeking.

It is only in finding God that I lose myself. Have you ever looked in a sunbeam, with all its beauty and brightness, and seen a tiny speck of dust floating and dancing in it? That’s what humility is like. Self becomes a little speck, bathed in the sunlight of His love.

“How great is God! How small am I!
Lost, swallowed up in Love’s immensity!
God only there, not I.”

May God teach us to believe that to be humble, to be nothing in His presence, is the highest achievement and greatest blessing of the Christian life. “The high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, the Holy One, says this: ‘I live in that high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I refresh the humble and give new courage to those with repentant hearts’” (Isaiah 57:15). May this destiny be ours!

“Oh, to be emptier, lowlier,
Mean, unnoticed, and unknown,
And to God a vessel holier,
Filled with Christ, and Christ alone!”

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