When we have God’s definition of humility, we detest seeing anyone but God get the glory for the things that He has done, which is everything. Godly humility always comes paired with a sincere devotion to God and a deep concern for pleasing Him. Humble Christians know that they are not God’s indispensable assistants who He can’t work without. They are merely His servants and they view serving Him as a great privilege.
When we talk about serving God, we mean Him inviting us to come along and watch Him do something which He is going to do with or without us. God never needs our help, but He thoroughly enjoys working through us, despite the fact that we are so bossy and presumptuous. We’re always telling God that He’s doing it wrong by fussing over statistics and trying to improve on His methods. We’re pompous little fools who think far too much of our own wisdom. But God loves us as we are, and He enjoys the process of slowly maturing us out of our foolishness. His patience with us is truly mind-blowing, His love for us is immeasurable, and His delight in working with us is one of His most mysterious attributes. What can an all-powerful, self-sufficient God possibly see in such bumbling, pompous little creatures? He clearly sees something that He likes very much, because He goes to great lengths to invite us to join Him in His work on earth. Does it make logical sense? Not at all, but there it is. Our God delights in working through us.
God wants us to serve Him for two reasons: because we want to bless Him, and because we enjoy communing with Him. It takes a whole lot of time and maturity to get to this point. We all start off serving God in order to get visible results. Feedback is extremely important to us, and if we don’t have some evidence that our work is paying off in some positive way, we quickly wither.
I’m not really making any difference in this world.
No one listens to the sermons I preach.
I haven’t had any new converts in months.
I can’t even remember the last time I baptized someone.
My efforts to witness to my friend fell on deaf ears.
My home group is stagnating.
My Sunday School lessons aren’t having any effect.
No one is reading my blog.
Sound familiar? Whatever it is that God has called you to do for Him, Satan is going to tell you that your efforts to serve are entirely in vain. If God hasn’t let you in on the ways He is using you right now—which means you feel like you’re just sitting there like a bump on a log—then Satan is right there to call you a lazy slacker.
So how do we combat the statistical blues? We humans are addicted to numbers—this is one of those unpleasant realities that we have to contend with. If we don’t get some kind of positive feedback along the road, we lose our ability to persevere. But happily for us, our loving God knows all about our needs, and when He can see we’re getting discouraged, He arranges for some encouragement to come our way. Another Christian drops us a note about how much something we did or said helped them in their own walks with God. Suddenly we’re feeling refueled and ready to fight another day. Encouragement is very powerful, and encouragement is an essential need for human beings. As Christians, we definitely want to encourage our brothers and sisters in the Lord, but we need to go about this in a way that honors God.
The closer we get to God, the more we learn that He is super-sensitive about glory. God hates it when we praise each other in His place, but He is all for Christians encouraging each other to persevere through positive encouragement. Encouraging each other in a way that honors God comes down to two simple factors: your soul’s focus and your choice of words.
Let’s talk about soul focus. When you are deeply moved by some sermon your pastor delivers on Sunday morning, it’s quite natural to want to share the joy. But before you go up to the man and tell him how great the sermon was, stop to consider who it is that you are really impressed with. Are you grasping the fact that it was God, not the man, who uplifted your soul? It’s quite natural to get this backwards. When we are young in our understanding of these things, it’s easy to honestly think that the pastor is some kind of amazing. Well, no, mere mortals are not amazing. God is amazing. If your pastor is honoring God in his own heart, he may very well be acting like a pipeline for God’s messages every Sunday. The more you associate one man’s face with the experience of being uplifted in your soul, the easier it is to start thinking the man is playing a more important role than he is. The same goes with internet blogs, books, prophets, and any other source of teaching about God. We want to learn how to keep God and His human channels in two very separate mental categories. The channels are never adding to God’s messages, they are just delivering them.
Suppose you are anxiously waiting for news from a loved one who you’ve been separated from for quite a while. One day the mailman knocks on your door with a special delivery: a postcard from your loved one which contains very good news. In your state of ecstatic joy, you might give the mailman a hug and give him a quick summary of your situation. If you do, the mailman will feel very blessed. After all, he trudges through every day stuffing envelopes into boxes and usually the only feedback he receives is negative when letters are mangled or misplaced. When you tell him how he has played a part in greatly blessing your heart, he’s going to feel uplifted and encouraged. In the same way, when you tell your pastor that God used his mouth to open your eyes to some thrilling new insight, your pastor is going to feel very blessed. Humble Christians care immensely about pleasing God, and they consider it a great honor when God publicly associates Himself with them. For your pastor to hear that God used his personal lips to bless your heart—well, this is extremely encouraging. Your pastor will hear God speaking to him through you, and everyone will end up feeling very blessed.
When we encourage each other correctly, every soul involved ends up focusing on God. Just as you know that your mailman doesn’t write the letters that he delivers to you, you need to understand that humans have nothing to do with the messages that God speaks to you through them. They are merely messengers, and they must be encouraged in this capacity. We want to avoid using language that elevates humans as more than powerless vessels. We don’t want to focus on the attributes of the human, we want to focus on the attributes of God. Let’s look at some examples.
WRONG: “Pastor John, you are such an anointed man of God.”
If Pastor John really is anointed, he doesn’t want to hear you going on about it in public. Instead, he wants to hear you glorifying God.
RIGHT: “Pastor John, God speaks to me through you so often and I am really blessed by it.”
Here God is the One being credited with the positive activity. This kind of compliment will bless your pastor without making him feel like you’re trying to put him on a pedestal.
WRONG: “Once again, your prophecy was dead on. It’s clear that you really hear the Voice of God.”
A devoted prophet doesn’t want you to be impressed with him, nor does he want you elevating him as some kind of super spiritual.
RIGHT: “God did just as He said He would through you. It’s so inspiring to see God demonstrate His knowledge and control of the future.”
Here you let the prophet know that he was used to bless you, but you’re giving all the glory to God. This is a comment that would really bless a devoted prophet.
WRONG: “Your blog is filled with such amazing insights. How did you get so wise?”
A humble teacher does not want you to call him wise, and he will be bothered by the fact that you didn’t mention God.
RIGHT: “God has been teaching me so many amazing insights through your blog. I’m so blessed by all the wisdom I am finding there.”
This is much better—God is the One being credited as the Source of the wisdom. The writer of the blog will be very blessed that you are publicly associating him with God, yet you are not giving him credit that he does not deserve.
All Christians need encouragement, but humble Christians are very sensitive to God being given all of the glory. Pastors, prophets, and other leaders who really care about the state of your soul are going to direct you away from focusing on them instead of God. This is because they want you to grow strong in your own relationship with God, and recognizing when God is speaking to you is a critical part of that process. The sooner you realize it is God who is uplifting your soul—not some mere mortal—the more confident you will become in the fact that God is leading you in life. Devoted shepherds always turn your focus onto your real Shepherd in life, and they discourage you from depending on anyone other than Him.
All Christians need encouragement, and those who are put in leadership positions over the flock become targets of a lot of hostility. You can really encourage the leaders in your midst by letting them know when God has blessed you through them. But make sure your compliments are sincere. If you thought the sermon was lousy, don’t pretend it was great just to be nice. As always, you want to follow God’s leading in these things. Every Christian needs to learn to rely on God for strength in life, which is why God doesn’t want us to be constantly gushing over each other. False shepherds love flesh-stroking compliments, but devoted shepherds find such accolades to be very off-putting. Wait until God prompts you to say something, but then by all means, say it. God honoring compliments are hard to come by in the Church today, as so many shepherds encourage the flock to glorify humans instead of God. You want to be an exception to this rule, and by guarding your focus and choosing your words carefully, you can glorify God and encourage your brothers and sisters in the Lord all at the same time. Always remember that if something uplifted your soul, it came from God, and He is the One you need to thank. The human was just a messenger.