Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Clothe Me with Humility

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Watch Nancy share this message.

Dannah Gresh: Humility doesn’t come naturally to any of us. Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: When you look at a group picture, whose is the first picture you look for? Everybody else can have their eyes closed and a frown on their face, but if we're smiling and we've got our eyes open, we say, "Oh, that's a great picture!"

Leslie Bennett: It's Thursday, October 24, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh.

Dannah: We're in the middle of a two-week series where we're talking about ten personal petitions. They used to be Nancy's personal petitions, but as we've been listening, and think they are becoming our personal prayers as well. As Nancy gets started today, she's giving us an overview of all ten requests.

These are ten things I ask the Lord, ten things I want to be true of my life:

1) Guard my heart.

2) Fill me with Your love.

3) Fill me with Your Spirit. (We looked at this in the last session.)

4) May I be clothed in humility. (Today's prayer.)

This is a request, as is true of many of the others, that totally goes against the grain of what is natural for us. It's characteristic of our sinful, fallen humanity—of our DNA—to want to be exalted, to make much of ourselves, and to have others make much of us.

We express that in different ways, but is there anybody who would say, "Not me! I don't care about being known; I don't care about anybody making much of me; I don't care about having my way; I don't care about being first." Now, some people express in obnoxious way, and some people express it in kind of quiet, inward ways, but all of us naturally want to be exalted—maybe not to some big top position, maybe not to a platform, but we want to be appreciated and valued and respected.

So, for us to pray to be clothed in humility is to pray against the grain of what comes naturally for us. I read a story the other day about a young woman who asked for an appointment to talk with her older pastor about a certain besetting sin in her life. She said, "Pastor, there's a sin in my life that I can't control. Here it is: Whenever I'm at church I begin to look around at the other women, and I realize that I'm the prettiest one in the whole congregation. No one else is as beautiful as I am, and I don't know what to do about this sin!"

The pastor looked at her and said, "Honey, that's not a sin—that's just a mistake!" (laughter) 

Well, the nature of pride is that it deceives us. It blinds us. Our natural bent is not toward humility, it's toward pride. We're naturally concerned with how others think about us. And we want them to think often of us, to think only the best of us, to notice us, to treat us well, to make much of us, as we've said. We're naturally motivated to seek attention and praise and honor and glory for ourselves. We naturally seek to exalt ourselves and be exalted by others. We're naturally self-reliant, dependent on self.

What does a two-year-old say? "I don't need mommy to help!" It starts really young, doesn't it? We naturally want to talk about ourselves, and we naturally want to hear others talk about us, assuming they say good things only, right? We don't want anybody to say anything bad about us. It's still a kind of self-centeredness. We naturally relish the praise of men, and we naturally resent their disapproval or their criticism.

Jonathan Edwards, that great theologian of the 1700s said,

Alas, how much pride the best have in their hearts. It is the first sin that ever entered into the universe and the last that is rooted out. It is God's most stubborn enemy.

And, by the way, if and when and to whatever extent we are proud, we make ourselves to be God's enemies, because God will ever set Himself against human pride. Pride is essentially exalting self and it always, always ends up, sooner or later, in our being brought down low. You can count on it!

It's like the law of gravity. Those who exalt themselves, God will bring down. He doesn't always do it right away, but in time, those who exalt themselves will be humbled. Isaiah 14 (if you have your Bible you may want to turn there) is a passage that many commentators believe describes the self-exaltation of Lucifer and then his subsequent fall from heaven as he became the archenemy of God.

Beginning in Isaiah 14:12, you see his attempt to ascend to be like God and his fall down to the pit. He exalted himself, God humbled him. Look at it:

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart [here's the self-exaltation] "I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God, I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. 

Do you see the progression? Satan exalted himself, and God said, "You will be cast down!" Here's what we need to understand. (You say, "I'm glad I'm not Lucifer; I'm glad I'm not Satan!) Here's the point: Behind all human pride and hubris (an old-time word for pride) is Satan himself. Pride is the spirit of anti-Christ. God has built into the constitution of the universe that there is only one Most High God. God is great. He is exalted above all. He is glorious. He is powerful. He is majestic. He is holy. He is the only One who is worthy of our praise.

We are at our very best, as humans created in the likeness of God, when we make much of Him! The law of the kingdom of God, the law of the kingdom of heaven . . . Jesus said [about this] in His first sermon, the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3), "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Those who are spiritually bankrupt, the ones who realize they have nothing to offer, they're destitute, poor in spirit—they're the ones who are blessed. They're the ones who will receive the kingdom of heaven, because the way up is down. And those who push themselves up, those who self-exalt, those who ascend in the pride of their hearts to want to be their own God or to want to be like God or want to be superior over others, they're the ones that God pushes down.

Now, I used to pray from this list, "Clothe me in humility." That was my original prayer on this original list of petitions. But as I've been studying this, I've realized that the Scripture teaches that we are to clothe ourselves in humility. Don't put God in a position of having to humble you. It's far better to choose to humble ourselves.

Don't put God in a position of having to humble you.

So that's why I've worded this prayer now, "May I be clothed in humility." I'm praying now, "Lord, give me the grace to choose to clothe myself in humility." You see this in a couple places in Scripture: first in 1 Peter 5. At the beginning of that chapter, Peter exhorts the elders of the church to shepherd the flock of God, to exercise oversight, to do it with a willing heart—not being domineering but being examples to the flock—to exercise humble servant leadership.

And then he says in verse 5 of 1 Peter 5: "Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud." Do you know what that word "opposes" means? It means He "stiff-arms" the proud, He keeps them at a distance. Some Bible dictionaries or scholars would say it means, "God sets Himself in battle array against those who are proud."

Do you want God setting Himself against you, opposing you? You exercise pride, you are proud, and God will set Himself against you. He will oppose you. He will set Himself in battle array against you. But what does to those who are humble? He gives grace, He lavishes grace, He pours grace on the humble.

See, our natural reasoning says, "If I humble myself, I'm going to get run over." No, if you're proud you're going to get run over . . . by God! If you're humble, if you humble yourself, God's going to lift you up. "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God so in due time he will lift you up"(1 Peter 5:6).

We think if we humble ourselves, we will be nothing. No, you're nothing until you humble yourself. Humble yourself, be clothed in humility. Colossians 3:12 says something similar: "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience." Put it on.

Oh listen, ladies. We wouldn't think of going out of our house (I hope you wouldn't) in the morning without putting clothes on, right? Everybody did that this morning. But I want to know, did you clothe yourself with these five things: "compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience"?

Imagine what would happen in our homes and out of our homes, and in our workplaces and in our churches, if we became well-dressed Christian women, dressed in this clothing of the soul. Humility is what covers our spiritual nakedness with the righteousness of Christ.

Until we're humble, we can't be clothed with His righteousness. Until we acknowledge our need and we say, "Lord, I need you," we're not going to be clothed with Christ.

We see evidences of humility in this amazing portrait of Christ found in Philippians 2. It's a passage that most of us are really familiar with. But I find with some of these passages, it's helpful to go back to them again and again and again and just be reminded of Christ, who is the supreme example of humility.

What were the evidences of that? Well, let's look at them in Philippians 2, beginning in verse 2, Paul says, "Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind . . ." Here's an expression of humility—that's being one, of one mind, of one heart, of one accord.

Where you have people in a family or in a church who are always insisting on their own way, on their own opinion and are contentious and divided, there's not humility. In fact, Proverbs says, "Only by pride comes contention." If there's contention in your home, if there's contention in your marriage, if there's contention in your church, that's because there's pride.

You say, "Yeah, everybody else around me is proud." Well, maybe they are . . . but you might want to ask God to search your own heart and say, "Do I have the kind of humble spirit that breeds oneness in the environment where I live and work?"

Philippians 2:3: "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit [no selfish ambition, no rivalry], but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." If we would just do that one little thing, imagine how different our relationships would be, our environments, our workplaces.

If I counted every person I work with in this organization . . . okay, I'm in charge here, right? But if I consider that every person who works here is more significant than I am, how would that change the atmosphere of Revive Our Hearts?

If you considered your husband, your children, your parents, your in-laws, your sons-in-law, the people in your church, the people you work with in childcare, in the Bible study you lead, the people in your workplace—whomever—more significant than yourself, with a humble heart, what would change? How would the environment be changed?

Verse 4: "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." See, we're so tuned to "how this affects me, how this change in the church service time, how this change in the organizational structure, how this situation—how's it going to affect me? "

When you look at a group picture, whose is the first picture you look for? Everybody else can have their eyes closed and a frown on their face, but if we're smiling and we've got our eyes open, we say, "Oh, that's a great picture!" (laughter) Because we're looking to our own interests, right? It's natural! It's supernatural to have a humble heart that looks to the interests of others above your own.

That's why we need to pray and say, "Lord, help me to be clothed with humility!" Look at verse 5:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. [It's a mindset we're asking God to give us. It's a mindset of humility.] Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant [these are qualities of humility: the emptying of self, the servant's heart] and being born in the likeness of men, and being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (vv. 5–8). 

This is a self-sacrificing, self-denying love that gives and gives, and serves and obeys the will of God, even when it's costly. This is the model servant.

And look at this, in Philippians 2:9 and 10:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

When Jesus humbled Himself, what did God do? God lifted Him up, God exalted him. When you humble yourself, God will lift you up in due time. And do you know what? Because you've been humbled, all you'll want is that God gets the glory. You won't be proud when God lifts you up. You'll be just so thankful that God is being glorified, and you'll want Him to be lifted up. You'll want others around you to be lifted up, because you're living out these qualities.

Listen, when our hearts are humble, when we're clothed in humility, all we care about is that God gets the glory, that Jesus is recognized and worshiped and lauded and applauded as Lord! That's what matters to us. So, it's not thinking less of ourselves—it's thinking not of ourselves at all.

"I must decrease," John the Baptist said, the forerunner of the Messiah, "But He must increase." That's the humble heart.

So in these closing moments, I just want to ask this question: How can we humble ourselves? We're told to clothe ourselves with humility, to humble ourselves, we're praying that God will help us to be clothed in humility, but practically, how can we humble ourselves?

Let me give you several suggestions that came to my mind in the last twenty-four hours or so:

1) Focus on the bigness, the greatness, and the holiness of God. Focus on God rather than on yourself. Focus on the greatness of the Creator and what He has created. When you do, it will give you a right perspective about yourself.

If you need a passage to show you how great God is and how puny we are (I love this passage), look at Isaiah chapter 40, beginning in verse 12 (it also show us how precious we are to God, because God cares for us). Look at this: "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand?" Here's the hollow of my hand, right here. How much water could I hold there? Maybe a teaspoon? How much water can God hold in the hollow of His hand? All the gallons of water on the planet, in the universe!

"[Who has] marked off the heavens [from East to West, from North to South, all the heavens] with [the] span [of His] hand?" The span of my hand is what? . . . three inches or so? It's not very big. With the span of His hand He measures the whole span of the heavens. Wow!

"[Who has] enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure?" A measuring cup! God's measuring cup can contain all the dust of the earth. "[Who has] weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales" (vv. 12–15). How foolish is it of us to be proud of anything? We are so small. He is so big, so great!

John Flavel was an old-time great writer. He said, "They that know God will be humble, and they that know themselves cannot be proud." If you want to be humble, know God, get to know God. Ponder how big He is, meditate on that, meditate on Scriptures that help you to think that way.

"They that know God will be humble, and they that know themselves cannot be proud." ~John Flavel

2) Then, if you want to be humble—if you want to humble yourself—acknowledge and confess the bent of your heart to be proud. Acknowledge it. Don't say, "I'm not proud," because the fact is, we are proud. Acknowledge it, confess it. The tendency is to think too much, too often, and too highly of ourselves.

C. S. Lewis said, "If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. If you think you're not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed!" So, acknowledge it. Look at how big God is and then acknowledge, "Lord, crazily enough, with no rational basis for this, there's pride in my heart." Acknowledge it, confess it.

3) Then, if you want to be humble, learn to express need, first to God, then to others. In praying this prayer, "Lord, clothe me with humility," we're expressing need. It takes humility to pray for humility, right? We're saying, "I don't have enough humility. Lord, I am naturally proud, but I want to be clothed in humility." Pray for humility.

4) Then, express need to others. When you say, "I'm needy," you're saying, "I'm not self-sufficient, I don't have it all together." I confessed to someone this past week, as we were praying together, an area of need in my life, and God was showing me some areas where I know things aren't right.

I asked this person to pray for me; I asked them to help me. It was a step of humility. Now, that one conversation does not make me, through-and-through, a humble woman, but it's a step in the right direction don't you think? To say, "I've got a need. Would you pray for me?"

5) If you want to humble yourself, then learn to receive criticism and reproof—whether it's justified or not, whether they're right or not. I tell our correspondents, who respond to emails and letters that come into Revive Our Hearts, "Anytime anybody writes to criticizes us, first thank them for caring enough to come and make their point, to tell us personally."

When somebody comes to you, thank them for their criticism, and then prayerfully consider it. Don't be too quick to defend yourself. Proverbs 21:2 says: "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes." Do you know what that is? It's pride. So receive criticism and reproof.

6) Solicit counsel and input from others. Be teachable. We all have blind spots. The founder of our ministry used to say, "The last guy to know he's got a rip in his jacket is the guy who has got it on." So, ask someone, "Do I have a rip in my jacket? Are there some things you're seeing in my life?"

If you want to really get bold, ask that of your mate, ask your teenage kids. Some of you are so burdened about teenage kids who are proud and won't listen and aren't teachable. How much teachable, humble spirit have they seen in their mom?

Some of you really wish and long to see a husband who would humble himself and see his need. When was the last time he saw you being humble and expressing your need and asking for prayer? Just asking—soliciting counsel.

7) When you're wronged, don't retaliate, don't defend yourself. Do what Jesus did. He humbled Himself. As the old spiritual said, "He never said a mumblin' word." The majestic silence of Christ, when He was being falsely accused and maligned, persecuted.

8) If you want to humble yourself, express your dependence on Him. "I need Thee every hour." Welcome it when God puts you in a place where you're helpless, where you desperately need Him, where you can't make it without Him. Remember what we've said so many times on Revive Our Hearts, "Anything that makes me need God is . . . what? . . . a blessing! Express dependence on Him.

9) Keep preaching the gospel to yourself—the gospel of our sinfulness, our unworthiness—the gospel of the amazing love and grace and redeeming work of Christ, that makes enemies friends and makes sinners holy! That's the gospel. Keep preaching that to yourself.

10 ) Look for every opportunity to give glory and honor and praise to God, to make much of Him. A passion to praise God is an evidence of humility, and it's a cure for pride. It's an antidote for pride. Praise the Lord.

And so, as we pray, we want to ask God today, and in the days ahead, to help us to be clothed in humility. I want to pray a brief prayer—and ask you to make it your own—and then I want to close by praying a prayer from The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions, that I've adapted just a little bit to fit our situation here. Pray with me, if you would.

Lord Jesus, may I walk in the steps of the Savior who is meek and lowly in spirit, who humbled Himself to take on flesh to live our life and die the death we deserved. May I choose to be poor in spirit. May I esteem all others as better than myself. May I not seek to impress others, but only to please others, but only to please You. May I decrease, and may be Christ be magnified.

And from The Valley of Vision:

O, Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, let us learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit . . . that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess everything, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown . . . that to give is to receive.

Let us find Thy light in our darkness, Thy joy in our sorrow, Thy grace in our sin, Thy riches in our poverty, Thy glory in our valleys, and Thy life in our death.

So, Lord, we pray, help us to clothe ourselves in humility—that You may be made much of. For Jesus' sake we pray it, amen.

Dannah: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been exploring a topic that doesn’t come easily to any of us. She’s been asking the Lord, “Clothe me with humility.” I hope if you haven’t prayed that today, you’ll take a break and do it now.

Today’s message on humility is part of the series "My Personal Petitions." We’re able to bring you messages like this one—biblical truth that really gets to our hearts—because listeners like you support the ministry financially. When you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts, you’re not only helping to ensure we keep making programs like this one. You’re also making it possible for other women to hear the truth they need. When you support the ministry with a gift of any amount, we’d like to send you the new 2020 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. You won’t find it at any stores or other websites, just here. It's a gift just for those who support Revive Our Hearts. You can make your donation of any amount by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959. 

It's guaranteed, you will always have some boring, thankless work no one likes to do. That’s a great opportunity. You’re never more like Jesus when you’re serving others. Nancy will talk about it tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts. 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to show you the joy of humility. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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