I wonder, have you reached the point in your Christian walk where weakness is strength? Where your weakness becomes a source of joy? If you have, then you have found true humility and more: you have found wisdom. And wisdom is a Person. Jesus Christ.
As C. S. Lewis puts it,
It is easy to acknowledge, but almost impossible to realize for long, that we are mirrors whose brightness, if we are bright, is wholly derived from the sun that shines upon us.…Grace substitutes [for hubris] a full, childlike and delighted acceptance of our Need, a joy in total dependence. We become “jolly beggars.” (The Four Loves)
Joy in total dependence? It goes against the grain of our tendency towards self-reliance. In our pride, complete dependence is anathema.
We long for independence, control over and security in our lives. Uncertainty is the bane of our existence, the cause of most of our fears. That’s why so many of us invest a lot of time idolizing power and money, the latter most of all and usually as a way to maintain power over our own lives and, as our passions dictate, the lives of others. Poverty leads to powerlessness and from the time we go out into the world we are aware of its menace and strive to make practical decisions in our life choices from education to career and marriage. We join the Oprah-like cult of self-worship seeking “the best” for ourselves.
When mothers brought their infants to Jesus, He said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” All three synoptic gospel writers follow their account of this event with that of the rich young ruler.¹ Note the contrast. Infants and small children are helplessly dependent. The rich young ruler refused to become helplessly dependent on the King of heaven. Such trust seemed foolish. So he turned away from Jesus who, “seeing that he had become sad, said, ‘How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!‘” (Lk. 18:24)
In this respect, the lives of many Christians are indistinguishable from that of their atheist neighbors. They lead lives of practical atheism: that is, they separate their spiritual beliefs from their worldly actions. Their beliefs place them in the kingdom of God but their day to day decisions place them squarely in the domain of darkness where the rest of the world wanders. Their vulnerabilities and fears of loss and inability to manage the affairs of life keep them in chains to a false sense of security. But “insistence on security is incompatible with the way of the cross“² and the One who said, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”³
If we are Christians, this incompatibility doesn’t survive long. Under our Father’s hand, we inevitably reach a point where we must choose between God’s way and man’s way, between the way of the cross which leads to life and the way of the world which leads to damnation. The choice is not only stark but real, and try as some may to avoid it in His teaching, Jesus spoke of it more often than any of the apostles.
We cannot stay on the road of practical atheism and fool ourselves into thinking we are following Him. For one thing, He won’t let us. He who knew us before we were born had already set us on a course to compel us to choose, usually by force of trials that prove how powerless we really are to control our lives. Those who follow the way of the cross know that “he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose,”4 the kingdom of God.
How do we know if we are following the way of the cross? We deny ourselves and we trust God and depend on Him in humility. Christ’s self-offering is the model of ours. Under the sanctifying hand of the Holy Spirit, our consecrated lives reflect our death and resurrection with Him. He is the Way. The humiliation of powerlessness whether with respect to loss of health or income or control over circumstances is an opportunity to know His power, His grace, and most importantly, His love. Because “nothing is stronger than humility,”5 we will paradoxically grow and flourish in love of Him and each other as we “seek first the kingdom of God.”
Frustra nititur qui non innititur. (He strives in vain who is not dependent).
Read John 14-17. In it Jesus gives us the roadmap to Him. “Because I live, you also will live.” “Abide in My love.” “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Only through humility can we learn how the way of the cross leads to eternal life, even heaven on earth which is a deeper relationship with God, the joyful freedom to say in love and trust, “You, O Lord, have provided!”
Philippians 2:5-11 (NASB)
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
¹B. B. Warfield, “Childlikeness,” Faith and Life (1916), 78.
²John Stott, The Cross of Christ (2006).
³John 8: 31-32 (ESV)
4Twentieth-century missionary Jim Elliot’s paraphrase of a saying of the English nonconformist preacher Philip Henry (1631–1696): “He is no fool who parts with that which he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with that which he cannot lose.”
5Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (1630), 114: “Nothing is stronger than humility, which goes out of itself, or weaker than pride, which rests on its own foundation.”