Humility Is Not Optional, It Is Inevitable

Peter was a man who learned about humility the hard way.

A tough, competent fisherman, he was used to being in charge. He gave orders while he solved problems with the discernment which distinguishes leaders. He recognized that Jesus was the Messiah who Israel longed for and he abandoned his career to be part of God’s purpose.

He was soon the acknowledged leader of the Twelve, always with Jesus when the most significant things were happening. He was nicknamed “the rock,” but he kept stumbling over a common problem. Peter was sure he knew best, even to the point of rebuking Jesus for declaring that His mission required His death and resurrection (Mt. 16:21-23).

A sobering admonishment (“Get behind me Satan”) had only momentary effect. The remainder of Jesus’ earthly ministry reveals that Peter was unable to learn the lesson of humility, climaxing with Peter’s boast that he would be faithful to Christ even if all other disciples abandoned Him just hours before denying Christ three times (Mt. 26:31-35; 26:69-75).

Thirty years later Peter writes with penetrating power in 1 Peter about the humility he desperately needed as a young man. This book of wise perspective concludes with an exhortation anchored in the wide scope of Scripture and especially in numerous Proverbs.

Because “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble, humble YOURSELVES under the might hand of God so that He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Pet. 5:5b-6).

What had Peter learned that brought such a change?

First, God helped Peter discover the meaning of humility. Rather than seeing ourselves as insignificant or without worth, humility grows as we see ourselves as God sees us. We are made in His image to enjoy intimate fellowship with Him as we depend on His strength to serve as His partner in the most meaningful purpose in history.

Humility is seeing ourselves according to God’s truth, believing that apart from Christ we can do nothing of eternal significance (Jn. 15:5) and that in Christ I can do all the things which God has prepared for me (Ph. 4:13; Eph. 2:10). Humility embraces both our great need for Christ and great value in Christ.

Second, Peter learned through painful experience that humility is not optional. Humble yourself or God will humble you. Humility brings exaltation and pride leads to a calamitous fall. Jesus is the perfect example of the former (Ph. 2:5-11) and Peter joins a host of others in demonstrating the later. Both Peter and Nebuchadnezzar (Read this fascinating illustration of humility and pride in Daniel 1-4.) discovered that humility is not optional, it is inevitable.

Whether a common fisherman or tyrannical world ruler, God is able to humble every person…and He will in this life or the next. Most humble people have followed this same path, learning this critical truth the hard way.

The quicker we learn and proactively live in humble dependence on God, the more we will enjoy the privilege of being God’s grateful partner in the world.

~ Ken Horton