Going “Down” to Find “Up”––– The Amazing Gift of Humility
South African pastor Andrew Murray teaches, "…the path to the higher life is down, lower down!"
My head was in this space when I came across some teaching from a book I was just finishing. The Bait of Satan – Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense.
True to form, God didn't just teach me about how to live navigating being offended or being an offender. No, He's a multi-tasker. So he'll use anything He chooses to reach us and teach us.
I still remember how it felt to be a young mother desperately needing guidance in various aspects of life. Children struggling in different areas, work-related challenges, and family relations that required tending.
I was in the middle of a Bible study and thought "I need to be in ten different studies that cover ten different topics!"
But God spoke kind words to my weary heart. He encouraged me to keep plugging away at my current study. He whispered that He would use it to minister to me and guide me through other areas of life as well.
And He did. I learned that––
I could trust God to get me whatever I needed, whenever I needed it, however He thought best.
Since that time, God has proved this point repeatedly. So it is no surprise that as I was studying humility, God used an unrelated book (The Bait of Satan) to open my eyes to a beautiful extension of humility––service.
Galatians 5:14 NIV says that we are to…
"serve one another humbly in love."
Matthew 20:26-28 says:
"Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant... just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many."
No one has ever had the kind of power, authority, and freedom to choose that Christ had. This makes it all the more incredible that someone with those resources would choose to use them to go "lower down" and become the consummate servant.
The Scripture from Galatians is under a heading titled The Life of Freedom. Paul wrote this passionate letter to the Galatians because he was concerned that they were trading in their freedom in Christ for the "slavery" of Jewish laws and customs.
Paul was adamant that these new believers needed to grasp the incredible freedom that was theirs once they received Jesus as their Savior. Since Paul was Paul, he didn't stop there. He made sure they had an understanding of what this freedom was for.
The Message version says it this way:
It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom." Galatians 5:13-15 MSG
The general definition of a slave is someone who is forced into servitude. They are "subservient to a dominating influence." The bottom line is that they are forced to work… it is not by choice.
This is not true of the servant. A servant may work as hard as a slave, but it is by choice. A servant is often characterized as someone devoted to someone or something. Their efforts stem from their heart's desire to serve.
John Bevere, the author of The Bait of Satan, makes interesting comparisons between a servant and a slave. He says:
A slave has to… a servant gets to.
A slave does the minimum requirement… a servant reaches the maximum potential.
A slave goes one mile… a servant goes the extra mile.
A slave feels robbed… a servant gives.
A slave is bound… a servant is free.
A slave fights for his rights… a servant lays down his rights.
One of the trickiest things about being a faithful servant is that we need to ensure our motives are pure. Many of us don't mind offering a helping hand. But if we're not careful, we may do so with an underlying intent for self-gain.
Perhaps our pride needs a stroke so we serve to receive the praise that is "due" to a servant.
Perhaps we serve because we're eager to stockpile favors that would be owed us.
Or perhaps we serve because we hope it will somehow make up for a debt we feel we owe God.
Service rooted in anything other than love for another isn't service. It is slavery.
God wants more than that for us and more than that for the ones we serve. I'm guessing that many of us could look back and recall a situation in which we were indeed served.
I'll also guess that we may be able to remember a time when the person tending to us wasn't a servant but rather a slave. We know that because it was clear by their behavior and attitude. They weren't doing it willingly.
We can tell, can't we? This is sobering because it means that people can know that about us!
I look back on my children's growing up, and I'm sure there were days they knew their Mama thought she was a slave. Work was done that could have been seen as acts of love. But, instead, it ended up being nothing more than a clanging gong.
Thankfully, God grows us. He convicts us.
God gives us the heart and the horsepower to change.
I know that He's grown me. Occasionally "slave Cindy" makes an appearance, but for the most part, our adult children, their friends, and our extended family see a servant. And in that, there is great joy!
We will always elevate our own joy as well as the joy of others when we engage in life as a servant.
When we feel like we're beginning to view life through the lens of a slave, humility is our salvation. The lower we go, the more He will fill us.
Would you pray with me?
"Father, the enemy would have us believe that service to others is far from freedom. But the truth is that service becomes the proof in the pudding when we recognize the liberty that is ours in Christ. When we serve, we are living out the truth that we need nothing because, in Christ, we have everything.
This is a hard lesson, Lord. One that we ask You to teach us daily. Remind us and empower us to live as servants, not as slaves. In Jesus' name, Amen."