Honor and Humility

Proverb 13: 18

Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline but he who regards reproof will be honored.

This is a difficult verse and certainly for the maturing Christian rather than cultural Christians. Cultural Christian is my term for people who are Christians but who are not pursuing spiritual growth. We might call them passive Christians. This is not a passage for them because this one causes one to look introspectively. 

The word which is translated here as discipline can also be translated as instruction. So the honored among us are those who do not neglect instruction and correction. No one likes being corrected. Few will even stand instruction but for those who are masters of their egos rather than a slave to it there is honor and promotion. So, let us all look inwardly for a moment? From whom do I receive instruction? To whom am I submitted? Christians are expected to receive daily instruction. I think that can be seen in the number of devotionals which are available. Of course the master instructor is the Holy Spirit and we should all be tuned in to his daily program but let us not deceive ourselves. The Holy Spirit also uses people for his purposes.

First of all, not everyone is sensitive and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit and some are just better receptors than others. Secondly, he employs people in every area of expertise to speak his wisdom. So each one of us should first of all submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit and take our direction from him rather than being our own leader. Second, we are deceiving ourselves if we think that we are not supposed to submit to human leaders. To think we should lead our own parade is just the voice of ego. You may be the leader of hundreds or even thousands but you should also have someone from whom you receive instruction and if need be, correction. 

The other side of the coin is, don’t follow someone who isn’t also a follower. We are all at various stages in the journey. Make sure that the person you are following is still travelling; a stagnate person can only lead you to stagnation. We should all be growing in the things of God. None of us has yet arrived but like Paul said, we press on to that high calling. If you want to follow that high calling you should submit yourself to another’s leadership and make sure that person is also submitted. Then we are all receiving instruction and growing the result of which is the unveiling of the mystery which is in Christ Jesus.

Security in Humility

Nahum 1: 7

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him.

It is good to know that in the day of trouble we have a refuge into which we can run. Our God is a stronghold, a mighty fortress. We recognize these words like refuge and stronghold as words of strength and power. We may imagine a well-fortified castle with its reinforced walls and parapets. This image conjures up feelings of security and well-being. We know that within the walls of this fortress we are safe. God is a bastion of safe habitation but we must take up our residence within His walls. He gives us an open invitation to reside within His walls but we are the ones who must make the move to come within His protection. This is not the prayer of salvation. This is a decision that happens after we have made Jesus the Lord of our lives and it is not a once and for all decision. Every day you have the choice of whether to live within the walls of His protection or to set your abode outside His gates.

Choosing to run into the security of the Lord is a matter of humility. It is a matter of submission. You can well imagine a prideful person who in the day of trouble stands out on his little farm facing the onslaught because he is too proud to run to his Lord. He relies in his own strength, to his detriment, when he could lean on the strength of the Lord. 

God’s protection is not automatic. We have all been given a choice to accept it or reject it. When we accepted Jesus as our Lord we were given the right to take up abode in the castle whenever we want, the right to God’s strength and protection. We were not, however, rounded up and forced to take up residence within His walls. He gave an invitation which only we can accept. We must humble ourselves before the Lord, not asking if He will give us permission to enter but rather acknowledging that He, rather than we, is the source of strength and power. Only He can save us in the day of trouble. For some people this can be a difficult admission but there is freedom in yielding to truth. There is always great freedom and empowerment in submitting to the Lord. He infuses us with His strength and love when we allow Him open access to our hearts. This can only be done in a yielded attitude and that requires humility. When we finally reject ourselves as the Lord of our life then we can make room for God’s sovereignty. If we will make an honest self-assessment and humble ourselves before the Lord Almighty, then we will be able, at last, to enjoy that incomprehensible peace of Jesus.

My Kingdom for a Leader

Proverb 13: 10, 13, 14, 18, 20                        NIV

Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded. The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death. He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored. He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.

I prayed many years for a mentor and when one appeared I learned a quick lesson. This learned and wise man suggested that I participate in a conference call which occurs weekly. Even as I clicked on reply to affirm my acceptance I realized something very important, I had already eliminated the option to say “No.” When you ask someone to mentor you or you ask God to provide you with a mentor, then “No” is no longer an option. This is called discipline and obedience and although they are very alien concepts in our modern culture, they are part of the bedrock of the Judeo-Christian ethic. We talk about discipleship a lot in Christian circles but one of the things it seems that we fail to realize, much less underscore, is that discipline is at the root of discipleship.

What do you think about when you hear the word discipline? Many of us think of punishment. I do not. I think of athletic prowess. Athletic competition taught me much about discipline, for which I am, to this day, grateful. When I hear the word discipline I think of the well-honed athletes that we admire. They have had to discipline and deny their flesh. They have had to discipline their minds, overcoming every negative thought, fear and impulse that would constrain them. And they have submitted themselves to coaches and trainers in order to become excellent in their chosen field. This, I believe, is an ideal model for discipleship.

No one attains any great level of success on their own. You may hear people claim that they are self-made but it is not true. When you pull back the veneer of their success you will find that they had mothers drive them to practices at ridiculous times in the morning, dads pitching the ball with them into the twilight hours and wives who have taken care of every detail of their lives so that they could focus on their one central goal. Neither do we become spiritual giants of our own merit. We must always lean on those who have gone before and we are just foolish if we try to learn it all on our own. Why spend 80 years of your life learning what the guy who went before you learned. First learn what he can teach you and then take that wisdom on to the next level. This is how it was meant to be. This text says that whoever walks with the wise will be wise. Why? It is because they share their wisdom with you so that you may avoid the potholes which cause misalignment and also because you get to stand on their shoulders. I remember when I was a small child and we went swimming, I would stand on my dad’s shoulders. All of a sudden the water wasn’t over my head. Instead I was well above it.

I can only think of two reasons why we do not subject ourselves to authority more readily, perhaps you can think of others. The first reason, I suspect, is just ego. We do not want to bow to anyone. That is pride and you know that nothing good comes out of pride. 

The second reason is fear. Anytime there is a spiritual problem if you look behind the curtain you will often find fear lurking. Fear comes from not having a full realization of the love of God. In here is weak self-esteem, anger issues and about everything else but including not being able to submit oneself to authority. It is hard enough to submit ourselves to our bosses and pastors who have legitimate positional authority over us. How much more difficult is it to willingly submit yourself to the authority of someone who does not exercise any substantive power over you. Fear makes you feel that you will be made small when you submit yourself to another but that is a lie. Willful submission to a mentor or intentional discipleship will make you stronger and wiser. Is there ever an occasion for a rebuke? Well sure. If your mentor loves you, they will correct you and correction is okay. It helps us to grow and to make right choices.

So this is my suggestion, if you are the locomotive of your train, find someone who can be a leader and an advisor for you. The people following you need for you to be a good disciple to someone else so that you can be a good leader to them. Leadership always begins with followship (if you will allow me to coin that word). If you have never allowed yourself to be led, mentored or discipled today is a great day for you. Do not delay. First ask God for a mentor. Second, recognize that one may appear quickly and humble yourself. Do not let the fear that they may take advantage of you or “Lord” it over you prevent you from receiving that person and their wisdom. Just keep your mouth shut and learn everything they know. If you outgrow their knowledge, God will assign you a new mentor. Just remember, if he has not yet assigned you a new leader then there is still something that He wants you to get from the one you have. The person that God wants you to shadow may be in your life right now and in fact, probably is. They won’t be perfect so stop looking for the perfect but they have something you need.

Lastly, if you perceive yourself as the leader of your group I suggest this little exercise. Stop leading for a moment. Turn around and see who is behind you. Who is following you? If your following is not what you want it to be or expect it to be, then run quickly to find your mentor. Submit yourself to their direction. Never let yourself be a leader without a leader. Make sure that as you lead others there is someone leading you. Foremost that is Christ but God has also provided people to disciple and mentor us. If you do not have someone filling that role in your life, pray to the Father for your leader and make it your determined goal to receive that person. 

Wisdom, honor and success accompany discipline.