Subtitle: A Humble Life (Part 2). This week, we continue with Lesson #7 in the series “What I Wish (as a Pastor) that I had Known, Understood, Believed and Lived 30 Years Ago.”

Lesson Number 7: Humility is always the right choice! Humility is “foundational” to the Christian faith, as well as effective, God-honoring ministry. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. God always honors the humble – either sooner (on earth) or later (in heaven)! (1 Peter 5:5-6; Proverbs 18:12)

(Con’t from Part 1)

Augustine, once made this statement:

If you ask me what is the #1, #2, #3 most important quality of a Christian, I will answer by saying: Humility, Humility, Humility!”

I believe one of the most dangerous and debilitating people in all of ministry is a pride-filled, insecure pastor who must always be the center of attention and receive all the praise. These pastors get really uncomfortable when one of their colleagues seems to be garnering more success, attention or blessing from the Lord than them. Usually this flows from being insecure as an individual. They are not locating their identity in Christ (refer back to “Lesson #3 in this series), but rather in how their ministry is going (or at least “appears” to be going).

Pride-filled, insecure pastors are typically jealous when another pastor or leader within their church (or organization or surrounding community) gets more attention than they do. This person’s natural tendency is to be critical of the person (usually behind their back) who is being praised because of the blessing or apparent success of their ministry.

I’m convinced that one of the greatest marks of a humble, mature, and secure person is the genuine ability to “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15). In other words, to rejoice and celebrate the Lord’s blessing and success of another person’s ministry.

Insecurity and pride go hand in hand. Humble people are so secure in their own identity (because of their deep trust in the Lord and fear of the Lord) that they can freely compliment and encourage fellow brothers and sisters in Christ – even when those people are more “blessed” or are experiencing greater “success” than what they are.

One of the first things I look for whenever I want to hire someone on my staff (both in the past when I was a pastor and now leading a missions organization) is:

How often and how well does this person genuinely compliment and rejoice in the blessings of another brother or sister in Christ? Especially when it is another person who is in the same type of ministry as what they are involved in – and especially when that other person is more successful, more blessed, and getting more attention than them.

How do they respond? Are they jealous? Are they hesitant to “rejoice with those who rejoice”? Or do they freely “join in” on the joy of what God is doing in and through this person and their ministry? It’s not about praising another individual. It’s about praising and honoring God by rejoicing with what He (God) has done in and through this person.

I also pay special attention to how this person talks about people in their past: are they quick to be critical of and point out the faults of the people in their past? Or do they make it a practice to always speak well of others?

Several years ago, I met with a pastor in another state and it wasn’t more than 10 minutes into our almost two-hour conversation that he began to verbally shred the previous pastor who came before him. And then he proceeded to tell me about the faults and failures of several pastors throughout his surrounding community. He was so quick to point out others’ failures, but found it seemingly impossible to speak well of anyone else in ministry. I couldn’t help but think, “This poor man is so insecure that the only way he can feel better about himself and his ministry is if he tears other pastors down.”

I remember asking myself: “Why does he feel the need to “gloat” in the faults and failures of others in ministry? Why does he find it so hard to speak well of others – as imperfect as they might have been” (of course as if he was the model of perfection)? I believe that Scripture shows that this is a characteristic of someone who lacks humility and maturity as a person and a pastor (again, going back to Lesson #3 in this series).

This kind of person is best described in the following illustration called “Competition or Cooperation?”

What if we replaced competition with cooperation?

Fishermen say you never need a top for a crab basket. If one crab starts to climb up the sides of the basket, the other crabs will reach up and pull it back down. There are people who act a lot like crabs.

In a competitive world it is easier to weep with those who weep than it is to rejoice with those who rejoice. We can sympathize with failure better than we can congratulate success. We are jealous of those who rise too high and succeed too quickly. We want to pull them back in the bucket where they belong.

What if we replaced the spirit of competition with the spirit of cooperation? What if people helped each other climb as high as they can without yielding to the temptation to cut them down? What if service became our motto instead of selfishness? What kind of world would we have? So the next time you see someone doing well, cheer them on instead of holding them back. After all, people were not made to live like crabs.

The late Dr. Joseph C. Aldrich, former president of Multnomah School of the Bible (now Multnomah University) used to always say, My job is to make you as successful as possible!” He would say this often in the context of Sr. Pastors and their associate staff. Imagine if we all lived like that toward one another? Imagine the impact upon our world if they saw us genuinely living like that? Imagine if our focus was truly on helping to make those around us the best, most effective leaders possible?

The Apostle Paul says it this way:

Do nothing from rivalry 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.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

Or as Jesus said so clearly…

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28)

And finally, let me wrap up with some great wisdom from A. W. Tozer (this is the second half of the quote I began in Part 1)…

“If you are too big for a little place, you are too little for a big place.

It is an odd rule of the kingdom of God that when we try to get big, we always get smaller by the moment. God is jealous of His glory and will not allow anyone to share it with Him. The effort to appear great will bring the displeasure of God upon us and effectively prevent us from achieving the greatness after which we pant.

Lord, help me never to be too big for a little place. In humility let me serve and revel in You as my ‘friend and helper always.’”