Greg Austin │ November, 2009
Discretion and reality, perhaps the twin commodities which produce humility dictate that we shun broad claims of our importance to the Kingdom, of our significance in the greater scheme of life and of our universal value.
Prudence and realism prod us towards “minimism” when we estimate our gross value and general importance in the greater scheme of life. We love to quote John, “I must decrease. . .”
By reducing our significance (in what may actually be a false humility), we also lower expectations of our potential contribution to God’s kingdom – we can live in the safe bosom of relative obscurity if nobody expects much of our efforts and lives. I might here append the Scripture to say “To whom little is expected, little is required.”
The old saw is too often literally true, and not so funny; “I’m proud to be the humblest man in town.” In practice, humility and meekness too often become a rationalization for limitation.
We toss about the concept of “spheres of influence” and certainly these exist and must be recognized in order to effectually serve the Kingdom of God. Yet it is also true that we may by self-limitation or even by the subtle suggestion of hell reduce heaven’s intended “sphere of influence” for our lives.
To suggest that each of us was born with a God-intended purpose is in some circles anathema. But Scripture indicates clearly that such is reality. David speaks of his “inward parts” being formed by his Creator-God. The Hebrew yatsar speaks of molding and forming, especially as a potter forms and shapes clay. Jeremiah is in agreement with his quotation of God’s voice, “as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!”, speaking of the collective nation, but also obviously encompassing the individual lives which compose the nation.
David declares that God Himself “covered me in my mother's womb” (Ps. 139). The Hebrew usage of our English “covered” here indicates an overshadowing, not dissimilar to the overshadowing promised Mary by the Angel Gabriel. "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow (episkiazo, throw a shadow upon, envelop in a shadow) you” (Lk 1:35).
Another sense of “covered” used by David is “weave together,” suggesting divine Purpose and intention in our very composition. Those who strenuously denounce any notion of divine destiny sometimes err in the excess of their arguments. As in so much of life, there is a balance to be struck here.
I think that Satan makes good use of our modesty and meekness. I think that hell prevents great deeds by greatly inflating the meaning of the Bible writers’ counsel regarding humility and modesty.
Scripture indeed warns us “not to think (of ourselves) more highly than (we) ought; but to think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Ro 12:3) but I think the converse is also true – “let a man not think less of himself than he ought” may be a proper corollary understanding of this verse as well.
What would be the condition of Israel today had Esther not taken at face value the query of a family member, an Uncle who posed the situation for her: “Who knows but that you are called to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
What might be our condition today had Saul, rising from the Damascus Road as Paul determined that the Voice he heard was in fact of his own hyper-inflated sense of worth and not in fact the Voice of the Risen Son?
My early ministry years were formed among mature brothers who cautioned me continuously not to reach too high or too far. I was counseled that the proverbial ministerial “ceiling” was low and that jumping with too much enthusiasm would surely bruise my head. It was untrue! The sky literally is the limit and the ceiling was blown away by the efficacious work of Christ on Calvary’s Cross. The true danger for today’s leader is not in going too far, but in failing to go far enough!
Within us, deep inside us dwells the living Christ, the hope of the world. We are encouraged since it is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” and “He that is in (us) is greater than he that is in the world.”
While we must not overinflate our worth to the Kingdom and therefore the world, we dare not under inflate our value either.
We must remain in submissive relationship with godly brothers or sisters who are set in our lives by God to assist us, to guide us, to provide safety nets for our falling, but also to be launching pads for our unleashing.
To do any less than to believe great things, to attempt great things and to achieve great things for our God is to under value the King Who willed that we should be alive and here, in this season and generation upon which the ends of the world have come.
A cautionary adjunct: There are those who “cheer lead” others to achieve and accomplish far more than God intends or to engage in areas God has not called them to. All that we attempt for God must find its genesis in God and in His Christ. As has aptly been said, “where God guides, He provides” but God is not required to provide for us in areas where He has not directed. Care must always be taken to be “diligent to make (our) call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble.”