From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. - Acts 20:17-19
You have probably heard it said that as soon as you think that you’ve attained humility, you’ve lost it. I mean it would sound a bit strange to hear someone bragging about how humble they have become. However, Paul here mentions his own humility. In fact, Jesus described Himself as gentle and humble in heart (Matt. 11:29). Moses described himself as the most humble man on the face of the earth (Num. 12:3)! So apparently, you can know when you are humble without being proud of it. What does it mean to be humble?
In a nutshell, biblical humility is a conscious awareness of your utter dependence on Jesus Christ. We see it in Paul when he explains, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider any- thing as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5).
We see it when he says, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Cor. 4:4).
He confronts the pride of the Corinthians when he asks, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7).
A humble person is continually aware that all that he is stems from God’s grace. His confidence is not in himself, but in the Lord, so that he is quick to give the glory to God in every situation.
Not long ago, I received a promotional e-mail from a well known the growth conference. The e-mail included a link to a brief video clip of a group of pastors of large churches discussing their similarities and differences as leaders. Theses pastors all agreed that although they were all different and pastoring in different contexts, they shared critical factor that all successful leaders have in common—self-confidence! Having concluded that self-confidence is an essential quality for successful leaders, they proceeded to develop a tool that would help pastors develop confidence in themselves (I’m not making this up!).
Now I am not opposed to people growing in their personal confidence, but in the context of warning us about the deceitfulness of the heart, the Bible strongly warns against self-confidence.
This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
This the essence of biblical humility!