In the sky over our house, three fighter jets scream through the sky—flying in formation so close together they appear to be one. “Wow,” I say to my husband Dan. “Impressive,” he agrees. We live not far from an Air Force Base and it’s not unusual to see such sights.
Every time these jets fly over, however, I have the same question: how can they fly so close together and not lose control? One obvious reason, I learned, is humility. Trusting that the lead pilot is traveling at precisely the correct speed and trajectory, the wing pilots surrender any desire to switch directions or question their leader’s path. Instead, they get in formation and closely follow. The result? A more powerful team.
It’s no different for followers of Christ. Says Jesus: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
His path was one of self-denial and suffering, which can be hard to follow. But to be His effective disciples, we too are invited to put aside selfish desires and pick up spiritual burdens daily—serving others first instead of ourselves, for example—as we closely follow Him.
It’s quite a sight, this humbling close walk with God. Following His lead, and staying so close, we can appear with Christ as one. Then others won’t see us, they’ll see Him. There’s a simple word for what that looks like: “Wow!”
Her email arrived late in a long day. In truth, I didn’t open it. I was working overtime to help a family member manage his serious illness. I didn’t have time, therefore, for social distractions.
The next morning, however, when I clicked on my friend’s message, I saw this question: “Can I help you in any way?” Feeling embarrassed, I started to answer no. Then I took a deep breath to pause. I noticed then that her question sounded familiar—if not divine.
That’s because Jesus asked it. Hearing a blind beggar call out to Him on the Jericho Road, Jesus stopped to ask this man, named Bartimaeus, a similar question. Can I help? Or as Jesus said: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51).
The question is stunning. It shows the Healer Jesus longs to help us. But first, we’re invited to admit needing Him—a humbling step. The “professional” beggar Bartimaeus was needy, indeed—poor, alone, possibly hungry and downcast too. But wanting a new life, he simply told Jesus his most basic need. “Rabbi,” he said, “I want to see.”
For a blind man, it was an honest plea. Jesus healed him immediately. My friend sought such honesty from me too. So I promised her I’d pray to understand my basic need and, more important, I’d humbly tell her. Do you know your basic need today? When a friend asks, tell it. Then take your plea even higher. Tell God.
I admire people who record prayer requests in journals tattered from daily handling, those who keep track of every prayer and praise and then faithfully update their lists. I’m inspired by those who gather with others to pray and whose kneeling wears out the carpet at their bedsides. For years, I tried to copy their styles, to simulate a perfect prayer life, and to imitate the eloquence of the so-much-more-articulate-than-me folks. I strived to unravel what I thought was a mystery, as I longed to learn the right way to pray.
Eventually, I learned that our Lord simply desires prayer that begins and ends with humility (Matthew 6:5). He invites us into an intimate exchange through which He promises to listen (v. 6). He never requires fancy or memorized words or phrases (v. 7). He assures us that prayer is a gift, an opportunity to honor His majesty (vv. 9–10), to display our confidence in His provision (v. 11), and to affirm our security in His forgiveness and guidance (vv. 12–13).
God assures us He hears and cares about every single spoken and unspoken prayer, as well as the prayers that slip down our cheeks as silent tears. As we place our trust in God and His perfect love for us, we can be sure praying with a humble heart that’s surrendered to and dependent on Him is always the right way to pray.
When Benjamin Franklin was a young man he made a list of twelve virtues he desired to grow in over the course of his life. He showed it to a friend, who suggested he add “humility” to it. Franklin liked the idea. He then added some guidelines to help him with each item on the list. Among Franklin’s thoughts about humility, he held up Jesus as an example to emulate.
Jesus shows us the ultimate example of humility. God’s Word tells us, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:5–7).
Jesus demonstrated the greatest humility of all. Though eternally with the Father, He chose to bend beneath a cross in love so that through His death He might lift any who receive Him into the joy of His presence.
We imitate Jesus’s humility when we seek to serve our heavenly Father by serving others. Jesus’s kindness helps us catch a breathtaking glimpse of the beauty of setting ourselves aside to attend to others’ needs. Aiming for humility isn’t easy in our “me first” world. But as we rest securely in our Savior’s love, He will give us everything we need to follow Him.
Emergency Services in Carlsbad, California, came to the rescue of a woman with an Australian accent who couldn’t recall who she was. Because she was suffering from amnesia and had no ID with her, she was unable to provide her name or where she had come from. It took the help of doctors and international media to restore her health, tell her story, and reunite her with her family.
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, also lost sight of who he was and where he had come from. His “amnesia,” though, was spiritual. In taking credit for the kingdom he’d been given, he forgot that God is the King of kings, and everything he had was from him (Daniel 4:17, 28–30).
God dramatized the king’s state of mind by driving him into the fields to live with wild animals and graze like a cow (Daniel 4:32–33). Finally, after seven years Nebuchadnezzar looked up to the skies, and his memory of who he was and who had given him his kingdom returned. With his senses restored, he declared, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exult and glorify the King of heaven” (4:34–37).
What about us? Who do we think we are? Where did we come from? Since we are inclined to forget, who can we count on to help us remember but the King of Kings?
When I first graduated from college, I found myself needing to adopt a strict grocery budget—twenty-five dollars a week, to be exact. One day, while entering the checkout line, I suspected the groceries I’d selected cost slightly more than my remaining money. “Just stop when we reach twenty dollars,” I told the cashier, and was able to purchase everything I’d selected but a bag of peppers.
As I was about to drive home, a man stopped by my car. “Here’s your peppers, ma’am,” he said, handing the bag to me. Before I had time to thank him, he was already walking away.
Remembering the simple goodness of this act of kindness still warms my heart and brings to mind Jesus’s words in Matthew 6. Criticizing those who made a show of giving to the needy (v. 2), Jesus taught His disciples a different way. Instead of making giving all about them and their generosity, He urged, giving should be done so secretly that it’s like their left hand isn’t even aware their right is giving (v. 3)!
As one person’s anonymous kindness reminded me, giving should never be about us. We give only because of what our generous God has so lavishly given us (2 Corinthians 9:6–11). As we give quietly and generously, we reflect who He is—and God receives the thanksgiving only He deserves (v. 11).
One day in physics class many years ago, our teacher asked us to tell him—without turning around—what color the back wall of the classroom was. None of us could answer, for we hadn’t noticed.
Sometimes we miss or overlook the “stuff” of life simply because we can’t take it all in. And sometimes we don’t see what’s been there all along.
It was like that for me as I recently read again the account of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. The story is a familiar one, for it is often read during Passion Week. That our Savior and King would stoop to cleanse the feet of His disciples awes us. In Jesus’s day, even Jewish servants were spared this task because it was seen as beneath them. But what I hadn’t noticed before was that Jesus, who was both man and God, washed the feet of Judas. Even though He knew Judas would betray Him, as we see in John 13:11, Jesus still humbled Himself and washed Judas’s feet.
Love poured out in a basin of water—love that He shared even with the one who would betray Him. As we ponder the events of this week leading up to the celebration of Jesus’s resurrection, may we too be given the gift of humility so that we can extend Jesus’s love to our friends and any enemies.
The little girl moved joyfully and gracefully to the music of praise. She was the only one in the aisle but that didn’t keep her from spinning and waving her arms and lifting her feet to the music. Her mother, a smile on her lips, didn’t try to stop her.
My heart lifted as I watched, and I longed to join her—but didn’t. I’d long ago lost the unselfconscious expression of joy and wonder of my childhood. Even though we are meant to grow and mature and put childish ways behind us, we were never meant to lose the joy and wonder, especially in our relationship with God.
When Jesus lived on Earth, He welcomed little children to Him and often referred to them in His teaching (Matthew 11:25; 18:3; 21:16). On one occasion, He rebuked His disciples for attempting to keep parents from bringing their children to Him for a blessing, saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14). Jesus was referring to the childlike characteristics that ready us to receive Christ—joy and wonder, but also simplicity, dependence, trust, and humility.
Childlike wonder and joy (and more) open our hearts to be more receptive to Him. He is waiting for us to run into His arms.
People who achieve an extraordinary level of fame or reputation while they are still alive are often called “a legend in their own time.” A friend who played professional baseball says he met many people in the world of sports who were only “a legend in their own mind.” Pride has a way of distorting how we see ourselves while humility offers a realistic perspective.
The writer of Proverbs said, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Viewing ourselves in the mirror of self-importance reflects a distorted image. Self-elevation positions us for a fall.
The antidote to the poison of arrogance is true humility that comes from God. “Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud” (v. 19).
Jesus told His disciples, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28).
There is nothing wrong with receiving accolades for achievement and success. The challenge is to stay focused on the One who calls us to follow Him saying, “for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).