Humility - Lessons learnt from Paul
Published on 27 April 2021
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Humility is a powerful tool that we, as Christians, can use to understand who our God is. It is often mistaken as the habit of ‘looking down on ourselves', however, as we look at the content of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we see that humility can actually help sharpen our revelation of God. Instead of being dragged down by the trials and tribulations that we will undoubtedly face in life, we can be empowered by them and use the attitude of humility as a weapon against anything that might stand in the way of our God-given destiny!
PaulTo give context to Paul’s incredible humility, it is important to first look at the man he was prior to encountering God. Paul was once known as Saul from Tarsus— a fierce executioner of Christians. One day, on the road to Damascus where he was going to continue his mission, God stopped him in his tracks, arrested his attention, and asked him, “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting Me?”(Acts 9:4). From that one powerful encounter, Saul was blinded and needed his companions to lead him to Damascus where he met a believer named Ananias. Saul then sat, drank and ate with him, and later, Ananias prayed for him and he regained his sight. Soon after, Saul began preaching about Jesus. It was then, in Acts 13:9, that Saul became known as Paul, as he was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Paul’s testimony never fails to encourage me. All it took was one encounter— just one moment with God— and this man’s life was completely turned around. Some people might look at this story and think to themselves that Paul had it easy— one touch from God and everything fell perfectly into place. Well, if you read the story of Paul’s ministry, you would see that this was not true. He suffered through many different tragedies and hardships, just as we do. However, from the books in the Bible that we know he wrote, it is evident that this once violent executioner of Christians was dramatically transformed by a renewed revelation of God.
Paul’s radical testimony is a constant reminder that God can take the least likely of us, and use our lives powerfully for His glory. It is not about our gifts and talents, but the condition of our heart and what God can do with a life that is fully surrendered to Him.
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul demonstrates and expresses his humility when sharing a testimony of what God had done in his life. He emphasizes the importance of not boasting of one’s self and achievements, but instead, boasting only in the works of God. We should keep this in mind as we share with others what God has done in our own lives. The purpose of testifying is not to bring US glory, but to bring glory to God—the true source of every supernatural miracle.
Paul leads by example in this, not even sharing his own testimony from a first-person perspective. In the New King James Version of 2 Corinthians 12:2, he writes, “I know a man in Christ”. Commentaries suggest that it is almost as if he doesn’t want to share his name because he is so wary of boasting, telling the story instead in a “stammering way” so as to put the full focus on God. There is a stark contrast in Paul’s character here—pre and post encountering God. When he was Saul, on the road to Damascus, he thought nothing of boasting of his accomplishments in executing Christians. This is where you can see the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in action. In stark contrast, in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul warns against this very same kind of boasting in one’s self!
When we understand that God must ultimately get the glory for what He has done in our lives, it relieves the pressure we place on ourselves to try and make things happen on our own. Our role in the relationship is to pray with faith when we go through hard situations, while God’s role is to respond by opening doors that stand closed before us.
There are several different ways that people deal with trials and tribulations in their life. Some turn their backs on God and blame Him for their predicament while others exercise sheer determination to push through the problem with a smile on their face. These people do not realise that there is another, better way. We do best when we draw near to God quickly and admit that we need Him and cannot do this on our own. This is the absolute best place to be— fully surrendered to God in every situation.
The Thorn in Your Flesh
Another verse in Corinthians that demonstrates Paul’s humility, is found in 2 Corinthians 12:6-7. Like many of us, Paul faced his own set of hardships and he refers to one of them as a “thorn in [his] flesh”. Though it is not specified what exactly this was, it can be concluded that it was not a comfortable situation for him. Paul acted wisely, looking to God for the answer. God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” This greatly encourages me. Where we end in our own strength and ability is where God begins in His!
The ‘thorns in our flesh’ create an attitude of humility by reminding us of our humanity and dependency on God. Experiencing trials and tribulations are part and parcel of life. If we never experienced hardships, we would never be able to experience the fullness of God’s goodness and mercy or be able to empathise with people who go through similar hardships. Our imperfect nature is nothing to be upset about! Instead, we should look at it as an opportunity to experience more of God. It is through our imperfect nature that we are able to see and experience God’s perfection.
Yes, suffering is sometimes the result of our own doing through the poor choices and decisions we make, however, there are times when it serves as a medium for God to build up strength and resilience in our faith. I am in no way saying that God cannot remove the thorn if He wanted to, however, God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. If we truly surrender to Him, can we not trust that He can, and always has and will, turn around every situation for the good of those who love Him?
The enigma of suffering will not be sufficiently explained in this lifetime. The last thing I want to do is to belittle the hardships you might be facing in your life, however, I would love to encourage you to view them from a new, higher perspective. James 1:2 tells us to, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds”. This verse may not feel very relevant when things are going well in our lives, but I remember it suddenly coming to life during a season where a lot was NOT going well in my life. There was nothing I could do in my own strength to change the circumstances around me. All I could do was choose to put my faith in God—to look to Him and know He loved me, wanted the best for me and was working a greater plan. So I did just that. I abandoned every effort and surrendered myself to Him once again, and though nothing changed at that moment, my heart and faith level changed. My new understanding and revelation of who God was in that difficult season helped me through every other season that came after.
I would love to encourage those of you that are experiencing a season where you feel stuck and keep trying to move forward in your own strength. Would you be like Paul and be glad to boast about your weaknesses, knowing that when you are weak and dependent on God, He makes you strong in His strength and His might. As Zechariah 4:6 states, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.” Hold on to the promises of God, reminding yourself constantly that He is for you not against you, and that He is guiding your steps. God’s got this! You just have to trust Him!
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