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Posts tagged ‘humility’

Are We Not Clay In His Hands?

SOURCE:  John Owen as posted on The Essential Owen

This, I say, is the first thing that we are to humble ourselves unto. Let us lay our mouths in the dust, and ourselves on the ground, and say,

“It is the Lord; I will be silent, because he hath done it. He is of one mind, and who can turn him? He doth whatever he pleaseth. Am not I in his hand as clay in the hand of the potter? May he not make what kind of vessel he pleases? When I was not, he brought me out of nothing by his word. What I am, or have, is merely of his pleasure. Oh, let my heart and thoughts be full of deep subjection to his supreme dominion and uncontrollable sovereignty over me!”

~John Owen

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From a sermon entitled Of Walking Humbly With Godvolume 9 of Works, page 116-7.  John Owen (1616 – 1683) was an English Nonconformist church leader, theologian, and academic administrator at the University of Oxford.

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Changing My Perspective About Others

SOURCE:  Charles Spurgeon/Tolle Lege

“He who grows in grace”

“We shall, as we ripen in grace, have greater sweetness towards our fellow Christians. Bitter-spirited Christians may know a great deal, but they are immature. Those who are quick to censure may be very acute in judgment, but they are as yet very immature in heart.

He who grows in grace remembers that he is but dust, and he therefore does not expect his fellow Christians to be anything more. He overlooks ten thousand of their faults, because he knows his God overlooks twenty thousand in his own case. He does not expect perfection in the creature, and, therefore, he is not disappointed when he does not find it.

As he has sometimes to say of himself, ‘This is my infirmity,’ so he often says of his Brethren, ‘This is their infirmity.’ And he does not judge them as he once did. I know we who are young beginners in grace think ourselves qualified to reform the whole Christian Church.

We drag her before us and condemn her straightway. But when our virtues become more mature, I trust we shall not be more tolerant of evil, but we shall be more tolerant of infirmity, more hopeful for the people of God, and certainly less arrogant in our criticisms. Sweetness towards sinners is another sign of ripeness.”

–Charles Spurgeon, “Ripe Fruit” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 16 (1870) – Sermon 945.

Why – Why – Why Me?

SOURCE:  David H. Roper/Our Daily Bread

Recently I read Psalm 131, one of my favorite psalms.

In the past, I viewed it as an encouragement to understand that mystery is one of the hallmarks of God’s character. It challenged me to let my mind be at rest, since I am unable to understand all that God is doing in His universe.

But then I saw another side of David’s calm spirit: I am unable to understand all that God is doing in me, and it is impossible to try.

David draws a comparison between a weaned child that no longer frets for what it once demanded, and a soul that has learned the same lesson. It is a call to learn humility, patient endurance, and contentment in all my circumstances—whatever they are—though I do not understand God’s reasons.

Divine logic is beyond the grasp of my mind.

I ask, “Why this affliction? Why this anguish?” The Father answers, “Hush, child. You wouldn’t understand if I explained it to you. Just trust Me!”

So, I turn from contemplating David’s example to ask myself:

Can I, in my circumstances, “hope in the Lord”? (v.3).

Can I wait in faith and patience without fretting and without questioning God’s wisdom?

Can I trust Him while He works in me His good, acceptable, and perfect will?

It may not be for me to see
The meaning and the mystery
Of all that God has planned for me
Till “afterward”! —Anon.

[In a world of mystery, it’s a comfort to know the God who knows all things.]

The Secret To Dealing With Fear and Anxiety

SOURCE:  Dr. Ed Welch/CCEF

“Humble yourselves.” That’s the secret. It has been there all along, but we rarely use it.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Fear and anxiety sufferers like myself have tried on a number of Scripture passages over the years. We might start with Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life . . .” (Matthew 6:26). When we need something easier to memorize we move on to Philippians 4:6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

These passages work very well as counters to low-level anxiety. But, in the face of an anxiety assault—they aren’t enough. At those times, they can sound like mantras that are devoid of power, which is actually a good thing. Anxious and fearful people can easily slip into taking Scripture as a pill. Take one passage twice a day for two weeks and your symptoms will be gone. When the pill doesn’t work we have two choices. We search for another treatment, or we confess that we are using Scripture as a self-help book for symptom relief, in which case it is time to get back to basics. If you choose to get back to biblical basics, Peter’s exhortation to humble ourselves is a great place to start.

I had an anxiety assault recently. I was facing perhaps the worst fear I could imagine, and there was nothing I could do about it. What a mercy that I was confronted with the call to be humbled before the Lord. It resulted in a simple prayer.

“Lord, you are God and King. I am your servant. I know you owe me nothing. For some reason you have given me everything in Jesus. I trust you. And please give me grace to trust you.”

A few minutes later, my prayer moved even closer to Scripture.

“Father, forgive me for always wanting things my way. By your mighty hand you have created all things. And by your mighty hand you have rescued your people. I want to live under your mighty hand. Please have mercy.”

It sounds very simple—and it is—but it changes everything. This is the secret to dealing with fears and anxiety. The words of God, and the comfort of the Spirit, become much more obvious when we are repentant and humble before him. No deals—“if you spare me from this suffering then I will . . .” Just simple trust. We trust him because he is God, not because he is going to immediately remove our anxieties or our fear-provoking situation.

This passage has been a secret because we have typically entered it at verse 7, “cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.” But to understand its meaning, you need to start with the preceding verse, “Humble yourselves.”

“Humble yourselves” is the only exhortation in the passage. This is what Peter wants us to hear (and obey). If we jump in at the middle—it makes no sense. We can’t cast our cares on him until we have recognized that he is God and we are his servants who have also been elevated to become his children. A paraphrase could read like this (and I highly recommend putting Scripture into your own words.)

Humble yourself before the Lord. This shouldn’t be too difficult. After all, he is God and King, Lord of all. He is the Creator. You belong to him. The creature is the possession of the Creator. Humble yourself before your King. And here is one way to express this new-found posture of humility: cast your cares on him. Did you catch that? When you come humbly before the King he reveals his unlimited love. Who would have thought? He actually wants you to cast your burden on him. You were never intended to carry those burdens alone. He is the mighty God who never leaves. You can trust him. And this casting is no mere act of your will. It comes as you know that he is God and you are not. Oh, and you can be sure that he will lift you up from your kneeling position and give you more than you ever expected.

A little wordy, in contrast to Peter’s more succinct version, but rambling and embellishment give us more time to meditate on the logic of the passage.

The secret is to
…pause before you head into your favorite passage on fear,
…consider the greatness of God,
…add some of your own confession and repentance as a way to drive the message of humility home, and then
…remember some of those sweet words of God to fearful people.

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Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a counselor and faculty member at CCEF and holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a neuro-psychology specialty from the University of Utah as well as a Master of Divinity degree from Biblical Theological Seminary. If you want to read more on fear, Ed has written two books on the subject: Running Scared andWhen I Am Afraid.

SUBMISSION – What of that undeserving spouse, parent, governor, boss, pastor?

The gospel of radical submission

SOURCE:  Joel J. Miller

The Scripture commands husbands to love their wives, wives to respect their husbands, children to honor their parents, citizens to obey the authorities, employees to follow their employers, and believers to subject themselves to the elders of the Church.

None of this has anything to do with how much or well the other party deserves it. There are plenty of unlovable wives, disreputable husbands, dishonorable parents, unworthy governments, ill-willed employers, and untrustworthy church leaders out there. I’m sure any one of us could run out of fingers just counting the ones we know if given the opportunity.

Deserts, just or otherwise, have little to do with it. God is trying to knit together a world of mutual submission, all of it in submission to him. That requires something from each of us in whatever station we find ourselves.

The word “submission” means to go where someone asks you to go, to follow their direction, to go their way and not your own. Words like “hard,” “dangerous,” and “risky” come next to mind when I think of that. What might I lose? What am I forfeiting? Possibly everything. And by losing — in the inscrutable asymmetry of the gospel — we gain.

“Among Christians such are the conditions of victory,” wrote Basil the Great, “and it is he who is content to take the second place who wins a crown.”

A world of radical, mutual submission looks like one united by grace and peace. Consider these words from the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

[F]ulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

It also looks like a world in which our sanctification is realized through humility.

Paul’s very next words to the Philippians are these: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” this mind of preferring others to ourselves, of lowliness in mind, of subjecting our personal ambitions. God desires that our hearts be shaped by humility, and we take on its contours as we learn submission. Jesus learned obedience by the things he suffered, as Paul says in Hebrews. And so do we if we can say with Jesus, “Not my will, but yours.”

What of that undeserving spouse, parent, governor, boss, pastor? A few verses later in the same passage, Paul tells us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

We have no idea what that person needs for their salvation. But that’s not our concern anyway. We’re to work out our own, and in the context of the passage, it’s clear Paul wants us to start with radical submission and Christlike humility.

Arguing Well: 5 Helpful Tips

SOURCE:  Counseling Solutions

It is impossible to live and not argue or disagree with another person. From birth to the grave, disagreements are part of our life. The odds are so stacked against us that you will not be able to get through life without conflict. Because this is true, it would be good to learn how to argue or disagree with others.

Here Are Five Helpful Tips To Help You Disagree Well

Expect the Obvious – A right understanding of the doctrines of man and sin will bring your expectations down to a realistic level. There are no authentic, innate, self-righteous people in the world today. We all are sinners. No one has escaped the curse of Adam. I think when we are surprised by another person’s sin, we have forgotten the obvious: sin is the one thing we do very well. I am not making a case for you to sin more or making light of sin, but I am stating the obvious: we are sinners.

Be Suspicious – The only time when suspicion is allowed is when you are suspicious of yourself. Jesus told us in Matthew 7:3-5 that if you realize the log is in your eye, then you are in a good place to engage another sinner. I am well-aware that I’m self-deceived and because of this, I’m typically not understanding the conflict correctly. A person who is humbly suspicious of himself is a person who has true understanding.

Remember Who You Really Are – This one thing I know: I killed Christ. Because of my sin, the Father executed His Son on the Cross. Because of my sin, the Son willingly chose to die on the Cross. It was my sin that put the Son on the Tree. I am the biggest sinner I know. All of the things that have been done to me do not compare to what I have done to Him. All other sins cannot compare to the sin I have committed. Paul understood this, even at the end of his life. He also understood that his great God showed mercy on him, the chief of sinners. Most assuredly, I can extend a similar mercy toward others.

Ask Questions – Typically I charge into conflict making statements, rather than asking questions. I’m rarely suspicious of my tendency to be self-deceived and, therefore, I state my opinion with insufficient data. More times than not it would have been better for me to ask more questions before stating my opinion. Because of my high opinion of my views and the rightness that I generally feel, I tend to not ask enough questions, choosing rather to make more statements.

Little to Die Over – As I reflect over my past arguments, it is hard to remember any of them that were important enough to sin against God and others. I remember as a kid getting into an argument with my four brothers over a Snickers Bar. We were very poor and on that day we had only one candy bar. One brother measured the candy with a ruler, but did not divide the five parts equally. An argument ensued. Sadly, many of my arguments have not evolved much beyond the trivialities of dividing a candy bar.

How Can You Respond to this Article?

Perhaps you are currently in a disagreement with another person. Let me ask you some questions, based on the five tips above and encourage you to respond to God first and then to the person you’re in conflict with:

  1. Expectations: Are you really surprised your offender has done wrong? (Assuming they have done wrong.) Can you extend grace? If not, why not? If not, then you have totally missed the point of the Gospel.
  2. Suspicious: Are you more suspicious of yourself? …or your friend? If you are genuinely more suspicious of yourself, then will you respond in grace to your offender?
  3. Remember: Who is the biggest sinner you know? If you say anything other than yourself, then you have some heart-work to do. But if you really believe you are the worst sinner you know, then you can extend mercy to your offender, because mercy has been extended to you. This is the point of the Gospel.
  4. Questions: Do you really think you have all the facts? Ask yourself if you are missing anything. Assume you are. Get more data. Ask more questions. Make less statements.
  5. Trivialities – How important is it for you to be right? How important is the issue you are arguing over? Is this really a hill to die on?

Will you go to the person you are in conflict with and seek to reconcile the relationship? This is the point of the Gospel.

Turning Failure To Your Advantage

SOURCE:  Michael Hyatt

In 1991 I, along with my business partner, suffered a financial meltdown. We had built a successful publishing company, but our growth outstripped our working capital. We simply ran out of cash.

For a while our distributor funded us in the form of cash advances on our sales. But eventually, their parent company wanted those advances back. Although we didn’t officially go bankrupt, the distributor essentially foreclosed on us and took over all our assets.

This was a difficult time personally. I was confused, frustrated, and very angry. Initially, I blamed the distributor. If they had only sold more, as they had promised us, none of this would have happened, I thought. It’s their fault.

But eventually I looked in the mirror and had to acknowledge that I could not move on until I learned from this experience. Though incredibly difficult and humbling, I am now thankful for this period in my life. I learned some critical, life-changing lessons. I am convinced that I would not be where I am today if I had not had this failure.

But not every failure ends so well. Sometimes, people suffer a setback and never recover. I don’t think it has to be this way. It is all in how you process it. I am convinced, that if you are going to succeed, you must learn to deal powerfully with failure.

I think there are at least five components to turning failure to your advantage:

  1. Acknowledge the failure. This is where it begins. To my knowledge, I have never fired anyone for failing per se. Failure is natural if you are striving to deliver big results. The problem comes when you fail and then refuse to acknowledge it.Several years ago, I had an employee who was floundering. He wasn’t delivering the results we expected. That was certainly a problem, but it wasn’t the primary problem. The problem was that he refused to acknowledge that he had a problem. He kept defending himself. In doing so, he only convinced us that he didn’t “get it.” As a result, we had no choice but to let him go.

    Once you acknowledge failure, you take away it’s power. You can then begin to turn it into something positive.

  2. Take full responsibility. You won’t get anywhere as long as you blame others for your failure. As long as the responsibility is external—outside of you—you are a victim. Why? Because you can’t control others. You can only control yourself.But when you take responsibility for the failure and become fully accountable for it, you take back control. Suddenly you realize that you could have done things differently. You open the door to possibility—and to creating a different outcome in the future. But this can only happen when you acknowledge the failure and own it.
  3. Mourn the failure. I am not simply exhorting you to have a positive attitude. Failure stings. It hurts—sometimes deeply. Many times there are very real and serious losses. Often times there is collateral damage. Other people are hurt. Sometimes innocent people.It’s okay to feel sad about these things. Sometimes it takes a while to recover. When I had my financial setback in the early 90s, I mourned for weeks. It couldn’t be rushed. In fact, I think the reason I was able to bounce back relatively quickly was because I mourned the loss so deeply. I dealt with it throughly and got it behind me.
  4. Learn from the experience. Even failure can be redemptive if you learn something from it. It doesn’t have to be career-ending. In fact, it can be career-building—if you take the time to wring all the juice out of the lemon.Honestly, there are just some things you can’t learn—or won’t learn—without failing. I wish it were different. But pain is a powerful teacher. Like Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19th century German philosopher, once said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” So true.

    But it only makes us stronger if we thoroughly process the experience and determine what we could have done differently and will do differently next time around.

    As Ilene Muething of Gap International has taught me, it is helpful to ask “What was missing?” rather than “What went wrong?” The former shuts down possibility and often results in blaming. The latter opens up possibility and results in learning.

  5. Change your behavior. George Santayana, another philosopher, said, “Those who cannot learn from history are destined to repeat it.” And we really haven’t learnedanything until it affects our behavior.If we keep doing the same things that led to the failure, we are destined to get more failure. We have to be willing to change. And it really does start with us. This is the one thing we have control over.
  6. Enter whole-heartedly into the next project. You can’t allow failure to hold you back from the next venture. If you fall off the horse or a bicycle, you have to get back on—immediately.If you don’t do this, the failure gets magnified in your mind. Wait long enough and you might never get on at all! Instead, you have to put the past behind you and move forward.

Again, failure is inevitable if you are going to tackle significant goals. You have to learn to make it work for you. In doing so, you are planting the seeds of your eventual success.

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