A Humble Heart, So Hard to Come By

“Sense shines with a double luster when set in a heart of humility. An able, yet humble man is a jewel worth a kingdom.” William Penn

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble

James 4:5-10Do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

Jesus Christ models humility for us, and the Spirit of Christ empowers humility in us

Philippians 2:1-11  So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 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, 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. 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.”

Give us the grace of humility, Lord, we desperately need this fruit of your Spirit’s character…

D.L. Moody: “A man can counterfeit love, he can counterfeit faith, he can counterfeit hope and all the other graces, but it is very difficult to counterfeit humility.”

Jonathan Edwards: “Spiritual pride tends to speak of other persons’ sins with bitterness or with laughter and levity and an air of contempt.  But pure Christian humility rather tends either to be silent about these problems or to speak of them with grief and pity.  Spiritual pride is very apt to suspect others, but a humble Christian is most guarded about himself.  He is as suspicious of nothing in the world as he is of his own heart.  The proud person is apt to find fault with other believers, that they are low in grace, and to be much in observing how cold and dead they are and to be quick to note their deficiencies.  But the humble Christian has so much to do at home and sees so much evil in his own heart and is so concerned about it, that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts.  He is apt to esteem others better than himself.”

John Stott“For the essence of sin [pride] is man substituting himself for God [Gen. 3:1-7], while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man [2 Cor. 5:21]. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be.”

Jonathan Edwards: ““Seek for a deep and abiding sense of your comparative meanness before God and man.  Know God.  Confess your nothingness and ill-desert before him.  Distrust yourself.  Rely only on God.  Renounce all glory except from him.  Yield yourself heartily to his will and service.  Avoid an aspiring, ambitious, ostentatious, assuming, arrogant, scornful, stubborn, wilful, levelling, self-justifying behaviour; and strive for more and more of the humble spirit that Christ manifested while he was on earth.  Consider the many motives to such a spirit… [Humility] is the attendant of every grace, and in a peculiar manner tends to the purity of Christian feeling.  It is the ornament of the spirit; the source of some of the sweetest exercises of Christian experience; the most acceptable sacrifice we can offer to God; the subject of the richest of his promises; the spirit with which he will dwell on earth, and which he will crown with glory in heaven hereafter.  Earnestly seek, then, and diligently and prayerfully cherish, an humble spirit, and God shall walk with you here below; and when a few more days shall have passed, he will receive you to the honours bestowed on his people at Christ’s right hand.”  

Robert Barnes, “On Glorifying Self”: ““…My preaching and writing isn’t much better. Too often, communication is my way to demonstrate what the world should have understood already–that I am extremely smart and spiritual and worthy of being paid and admired. The words I’ve been called to write and speak often speak of humility, of God-sized truths that transcend our tiny space and time, and yet I see in my heart–and on the page–me writing words to glorify… ME!” 

Tim Keller: “The essence of gospel humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. Gospel humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to such thoughts as [self-image]… True gospel humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.”

A few practical ways to cultivate humility, by the Spirit’s power and grace:

  1. Know the greatness of God in light of the depth of your sin
  2. Recognize your complete God-dependence, and live confidently in the Spirit
  3. Avoid self-defensiveness, be teachable, and take your sin more seriously than that of others’—hate your own sin first and most.
  4. Pray for humility of heart and life—and never think you’ve arrived at humility
  5. Be fiercely committed to killing sin and pride, because it’ll come back
  6. Know your limitations, you cannot be anyone’s Savior
  7. Serve others and consider them more highly than yourself—not thinking less of yourself so much as thinking about yourself less. Seek to be self-forgetful…
  8. Be able to fail and experience weakness, for God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.
  9. Practice humility in the little things—be willing to be cut-off in traffic, yield to another in disagreement, be quick to take responsibility and seek reconciliation.
  10. Delight in the Lord—do not seek great things for yourself. Take no glory in human achievements or acknowledgements—Seek joy in making Him famous!

*Some of these were taken from a helpful post by Brian Hedges. Read the rest of his post here: Eight Strategies for Cultivating Humility.


[1] Jonathan Edwards, Works (Edinburgh, 1979), I:398-400. Style updated.

[2] John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1986), 160.

[3] Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits, 155-56.

[4] Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, 32.

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Filed under Humility, Tribbett

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