“God is against the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5-6 (NCV). What does this actually mean in my everyday life?
Personally, I have found that I am constantly thinking too highly of myself. Here are some examples of what I might find myself thinking: “I am right – my way is definitely the right way.” “That person really needs to listen to my point of view right now.” “Why do they always do or say this or that? It just shows they’re thinking about it all wrong.”
I can get so busy with these so-called “normal”, natural thoughts, that it is difficult for me to see that they all clearly show how proud I really am!
I have faults
“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature …” Romans 7:18 (NLT). The Bible tells us that every human being has been born with a sinful nature, and Paul says in his letters that nothing good can come from that sinful nature.
We will see things in our human nature that are against God’s will. For example, the desire to be rich, to have power or success in this world are directly against God’s will, because God’s will for us is to be humble of heart. (Matthew 11:28-30.) Or we might see things that are even more clearly against His will, like anger, irritation and criticising others.
Paul writes in Romans 7 that he hates these things when he sees them. (Romans 7:17.)
His whole desire was to do only God’s will, and in this chapter we get to see something of this struggle between his desire to do good, and the evil that he saw in himself.
Even if it is normal for human beings to have sinful thoughts and tendencies, that doesn’t mean that it need to stay that way! Jesus made it possible for us to come free from these thoughts, and Paul writes further, “My dear friends, we must not live to satisfy our desires. If you do, you will die. But you will live, if by the help of God's Spirit you say “No” to your desires.” Romans 8:12-13 (CEV).
God’s Spirit gently shows us areas in our lives that are not as God wants it to be. When God shows me these things and I get to see them more clearly, I can do something about them. I can pray to God for help to say No to these thoughts that come from my own will and desires, and rather choose to do what’s written in God’s Word and what I know is His will. This is actually what it means to humble myself. As I keep doing this, I become more and more free from my own will and desires, which I hate because they are against what God wants.
To me, this all means that I have to surrender myself to God and wait on Him. I can’t go around with proud and great thoughts about myself if I understand that “nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature”. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I should be discouraged or depressed about this either, because that also isn’t God’s will for me.
No, God wants to change me so that I can come totally free from the evil that is in my human nature. To do this, He shows me the areas that need to change and He will give me all the grace and help I need to come free from them. To be humble means that I trust the way God works with me in order to show me these different areas,, and that I trust Him to give me all the grace and help I need to do things differently.
Others have faults too
As time goes by, I see that there is a lot in my human nature that is not well-pleasing to God, and I begin to see just how very patient and merciful God has been with me! This teaches me that I also have to show this same mercy and compassion to others. Paul writes, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh [their sinful human nature], but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1.
I might think that what other people are doing or saying is wrong and that I know how they should do or say it differently, but God’s Spirit doesn’t work like that. Instead, He teaches me to be patient and bear with others’ faults with humility and mercy. This is why we are given the simple commandment from the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” Matthew 7:1-2 (NLT). These words are so full of wisdom. Just think how much more peaceful the world would be if everyone believed these words and did them!
In the meantime, the Spirit will show me my own faults - my impatience, where I judge others or my pride - and He shows me how to overcome them. In my situations, I need to focus on where I myself need to change. Then, if I see things in others and am able to speak to them about it out of true love, it can be a blessing to say something. However, it is a different matter if I am speaking to them about their faults and mistakes out of irritation, anger or my own proud thoughts.
Pride is often a very hidden thing. I see it in the way I think about myself, how I think about others and how much I allow God to work in my life. But there is a verse that is like an agreement between me and God: “God is against the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.” If I am not watchful and just continue with all these proud thoughts, God will be against me. It is a very dangerous thing for God to take away His grace from my life, just because I didn’t want to humble myself!,
But if I surrender myself to God in everything – if I allow Him to be my head and my leader, and trust Him to give me all the help I need – then I will get grace over my life! That is really something to look forward to!