If you had one weekend to spend any way you wanted and money was not an issue, how would you spend your weekend?
Open With Prayer
Matthew 18:2-4: “He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’”
Whoever humbles himself like a child! This, I believe, should be the ultimate goal of every believer. Humility. Brokenness. Now, everyone might define humility a little differently, but here’s my attempt at it:
Humility is recognizing and freely admitting that we are needy, helpless, and dependent. It’s knowing that we need our Heavenly Father desperately, that we are helpless to do anything without Him, and that we are fully dependent on Him daily. It’s resting in and so completely trusting His goodness and love that no matter what happens, we can still say, “Father, I trust You.” And it’s knowing that everything is by His power and for His glory, and wanting nothing more than to see Him glorified in our lives. To me, this is what it means to be humbled, to be “sweetly broken” (as the song by Jeremy Riddle calls it – listen to it if you can. It’s wonderful).
I think the opposite of being humble is “proud, controlling, and self-sufficient.” It’s living as our own little gods, operating according to our own desires and power and wisdom, trying to make our own way and to care for ourselves. It’s living in such a way as to protect ourselves from vulnerability, from the risks of relying on or trusting Someone else with our hearts and lives.
But this is not the kind of life God wants for us. This is the opposite of being “humble like a child.” Humility is not just about acknowledging that God is in ultimate control or about assuming a solemn, respectful attitude toward Him. It’s not about giving lip-service to the fact that “It’s all because of and for God.” It’s not about what we do or how we do it.
It’s about who we are. Humility is about our mind, heart, and soul’s position before and in the Lord. It’s about who is really sitting on the throne in our life – God or ourselves. And if we are keeping back any part of our heart or trust from Him, or if we try to maintain any of the authority and control that belong to Him, then we have not been truly humbled before Him.
The hard part about humility is that it’s not something that we can fake or force. And it doesn’t just happen to us. It doesn’t happen by accident. (Yes, trials can force us into humility, but only if we allow them to. The other path is bitterness, distrust, and rebellion.) No one stumbles into humility. We have to actively seek it, lay down our wills to find it. “Whoever humbles himself . . .” We have to learn what it means to be His child and to let Him be the Father. And this doesn’t come easily to those who have been hurt before, who live self-protective lives.
When we have learned that others can’t be trusted, we don’t trust God. We might enjoy the luxury of wanting Him, but we never let ourselves need Him. When we have learned that others don’t really care, we feel like we don’t really matter to God, too. And so we keep our hearts closed and our true feelings and thoughts to ourselves. Even keeping them from God because we are afraid to displease Him or we feel like He just doesn’t care. We live as “good Christians,” trying to please others and God with our performance and service, as we hide the “unacceptable,” painful parts of ourselves.
It’s scary to open up about the things that we try to keep hidden. But oftentimes, the only way forward into complete healing is to go backward, to let God go with us into those past hurts. He doesn’t just apply bandages to old, infected wounds. He has to open them up again, and clean out all the yucky stuff that doesn’t belong there, and apply His love and insight and healing to it. And it is only then that true healing can take place.
And this is so scary for some of us that we would rather live with the deep, hidden pain than risk going back there again and finding out that God might let us down. We’d rather just put on a “good Christian performance” than open up our hearts completely to God. We have been hurt before. And we have spent our lives protecting the broken parts of our heart. And it doesn’t feel right to let even God see all of the ugly stuff inside of us, when we want so much to please Him and do right by Him. It’s a very scary, foreign thing to humble ourselves before God, to trust Him, to give Him our hurts and broken pieces and futures, and to fully open our hearts to Him. And this might just be the hardest part of a Christian’s journey.
But God doesn’t want us to live a self-protected, self-sufficient, self-focused life. He doesn’t want our performance as much as He wants our hearts. Jesus didn’t come to earth and die for us so that we would put on a “good Christian performance” for Him. He died for us so that we could have a genuine, close relationship with Him. He wants our hearts, full access to our hearts so that He can fill them with His love, healing, and truth.
And this is what I believe He wants for all of us. He wants us to vulnerably open up our hearts to Him, to become transparent with Him about our fears, hurts, hidden sins, wounds, and doubts (and we will explore this more in the next lesson). He wants us to hand over the broken pieces, to admit that we need Him, to reconcile any areas that need to be reconciled, to examine the fears that cause us to keep Him an arm’s length away, and to fall on Him in faith. He wants us to explore the misconceptions that we have about Him and about ourselves, to expose the lies that we believe so that He can replace them with His healing Truth. And He wants to prove to us that He is a loving, good Father. He wants us to let Him love us and care for us and cherish us.
This is all part of the process of being humbled. And I think it all starts with letting Him know that you desire to be humbled before Him. Say this in prayer, and see where He leads you. It’s been quite a journey so far. Painful, but so worth it!
And this led to a damaged self-esteem and self-view, feelings of being unworthy of love, of not mattering, not wanting to burden anyone with having to care about me. And I tried to protect myself from pain and risk, in any way I could. I lived as self-sufficiently as possible so that I didn’t have to lean on anyone else. Because if you need someone, you get let down. If you open up your heart, it gets broken. And so I tried to never need other people or to get too close (except for a very few friends over the decades).
But I didn’t know that I was doing this with the Lord, too. In fact, it took me many years to realize that I was blocking Him from loving me, from having complete access to my heart because it made me feel too vulnerable. It was too risky. I kept Him an arm’s length away, just like everyone else. I didn’t want to get let down by Him. I didn’t want to find out that maybe He wouldn’t really care about me. Sure, He would care for me, but I didn’t expect Him to really care about me. After all, I was just . . . me.
And I didn’t want to let Him down. I would feel ashamed at times to ask Him for more or for help because I didn’t want to be a burden to Him or to seem ungrateful or unhappy with my life. I was afraid that if I asked for something else or if I was upset about something in my life or if I had doubts about Him, God might withdraw from me or take away something (someone) that I loved . . . to teach me that I should have been more grateful and happy with what I had.
And so I wasn’t really honest with Him about my thoughts and feelings. I put on a “good Christian” mask so that I didn’t displease Him or earn His wrath. I never really thought that He could delight in me, really want a relationship with me, or that He could really love me for me. I felt like it should just be good enough for me that He took care of my basic needs of air, water, food, and shelter. Plus, as the first-born of six and a mother of four, I am used to taking care of myself, helping others but putting my wants and needs aside, and with being agreeable and compliant so that I don’t make waves, never needing more for myself. I try not to make a fuss and I make do with what I have. That’s the “responsible” way.
But a major part of my spiritual journey so far has been learning to need God, to really need Him, to be humble with Him and dependent on Him, not self-sufficient as I had been growing up. I had to learn to let Him care about me and care for me, to trust Him to be a good, loving Father. I had to learn to let Him love me.
And this wasn’t easy because I never really felt genuinely loved by a father or felt like I really mattered or belonged. So that was new to me. To feel like I really did matter to someone. To feel like I had some value.
I had to learn to be honest with Him about all that’s in my heart - my wants and needs and fears and doubts - instead of putting on a happy, compliant, “good Christian” smile and trying to show Him how strong I was, how capable I was, and how well I could keep my chin up. I had to learn to collapse on Him in desperate need. To be okay with needing Him.
This is what He’s waiting for. It’s why things are so hard for us when we try to do it on our own. Because He wants us to need Him. Really need Him! Because He can handle it. And He wants to handle it for us because He loves us and because He sees the big picture when we don’t. He doesn’t ask us to be capable or strong enough or to make things happen; He asks us to trust Him and be still and let Him love us and to watch Him do the impossible! He will make our paths straight. He will care for us. He will be glorified!
It came from my willingness to be open and bare before Him, to admit that I really did need Him desperately, and to realize that I did not have any real wisdom or strength of my own. It was a process full of heartache and doubts and fear. But in the end, I found the Love and Healing that I desperately needed. And I realized that I don’t want to live life in my own strength and wisdom anymore. I am not as smart or strong as I thought I was. I am needy, helpless, and dependent. And I’m okay with that now. Because I am resting in the arms of the One who is strong and wise and loving and good.
Here are some ideas, many of which I already looked at when I talked about myself (and I am sure you can think of more):
- We are unable to trust because we have been hurt before.
- We fear being let down by someone.
- We have never really known love before. We don’t feel worthy of love.
- We have always had to take care of ourselves and we don’t know how to need others.
- We are afraid to be a burden to anyone.
- We don’t want to offend Him, displease Him, or let Him down so we try to “have it all together and do it all just right,” never really being open and honest with Him about all that’s inside.
- We don’t want to look weak.
- We can’t be honest with anyone about what’s inside of us. It would be too risky or it might repel them.
- We want to be in control.
- We are self-made and like being that way. We don’t need a God telling us what to do.
- We want what we want, and we are going to do what it takes to get it.
- We want the glory and admiration. Humility would get in the way of that.
- We are doing just fine without God. Things are good. Why mess it up?
I think these are some indications that we haven’t been “sweetly broken,” that we haven’t truly humbled ourselves before our heavenly Father:
1. We’ll think of ourselves as either too big or too small. Either we’ll feel entitled to His favor or we’ll feel worthless and beyond His love and forgiveness.
2. We’ll shrink Him, seeing Him as too small and incapable, too uncaring, too uninvolved, easily manipulated, easily impressed, or easily figured out.
3. We’ll over-emphasize or under-emphasize His love or His justness, instead of seeing them in balance.
4. We won't seek to really get to know Him through His Word and prayer. We’ll look at those things as "To Do" items to be checked off of our list.
5. When we sin or when times are too difficult, we’ll find ourselves running away from God, hiding from Him, or doubting His love and goodness.
6. We’ll live for our glory by building up our treasures or successes on earth, with little regard for the building God's Kingdom or for the souls of other people.
7. We’ll take God’s grace for granted and not be concerned if our life is glorifying to Him or not. We’ll just live the way we want to live and excuse or rationalize our bad choices.
8. We’ll be more concerned with what others think of us than what God thinks, more concerned about how we compare to others than how we match up to God’s standards for us.
9. We’ll be more concerned about other people’s problems, sins, shortcomings, and “heart issues” than about our own.
10. We’ll look more at the outside than we will at the inside – of others and ourselves.
11. We’ll try to “steal” His glory by putting on a good Christian show - acting like we are concerned about bringing Him glory - when we are actually (subconsciously) enjoying the glory for ourselves. (False humility)
12. Or maybe we won’t be concerned at all with His glory because we’ll just be looking to get as much praise as we possibly can, through things like our Christian service, our wisdom, our possessions, our success, etc.
13. Maybe, as I once believed when I was young, we’ll feel like it’s selfish on His part to seek glory or to glorify Himself. (If this is the case, we are not seeing Him for who He really is and we won’t understand why His glory is so important or deserved. We are still too big in our own eyes and He is too small.)
14. We’ll try to please Him while holding back parts of our hearts and keeping up walls. We’ll still be living out of our fears and relating to Him out of our fears, misconceptions, preferences, or expectations.
15. We’ll still be trying to live self-sufficiently, in our own power and wisdom. We won’t be living in dependence on Him because of fear or because we think we can do better or "just fine" on our own.
16. We won’t put in the time and effort to seek His Will and to learn to listen to Him. We’ll just do what we think is right and glorifying, but won’t talk our lives and choices over with Him or search the Word for His truth.
17. We won’t let Him prune off things that don’t bring Him glory.
18. We’ll believe that we are doing “just fine” with our lazy spiritual disciplines.
1. You will have an unquenchable hunger and thirst to hear from the Lord - through His Word and through prayer. Reading the Bible and praying won’t just be “duties” anymore; they will be life-lines. And you will be aware that every time you open the Bible and pray, you are meeting the holy and magnificent - and yet personal and relatable - God of the universe.
2. When you face a difficulty or trial or choice, your first instinct will be to run to God about it. Hard times will draw you closer to Him, not farther away.
3. You will lay your requests before Him in prayer and search the Word (and seek godly advice) for guidance, yet you will be learning to trust His answer and goodness, even if He doesn’t answer the way you want.
4. You will become more concerned with seeing Him glorified through your words and actions than you will be with your own desires and plans for yourself. You will desire that He is seen, and you’ll be content to be invisible and to shift the focus to Him and to give Him all the glory.
5. You’ll focus more on the eternal than you will on the temporal and temporary. And so you’ll be more concerned with the eternal souls of other people than you will be with their behavior and attitudes or with building up your own “nice, little life.”
6. You will be filled with compassion. People won’t just be things you can step on or use anymore. You will see people as people. They won’t just be annoyances or bothers to you anymore. You’ll look past their rough exteriors and the insults and injuries they inflict, and you’ll see them as God’s dearly loved children. As hurting people who need God’s love and healing. And this will lead you to live in a way that reflects God even more, to reach out to them with a kind word or deed or prayer so that they may see Christ through you, to extend grace and mercy to them because you have learned how much you need grace and mercy, too. (And you’ll remember that God alone has the right to judge and to avenge all wrongs, so you won’t have to judge others or hold a grudge or seek revenge.)
7. You’ll be aware of the spiritual battle that rages around you, (without being overly preoccupied with spirits and demons and angels) and you’ll desire to be effective in it. And you’ll know that to do that means seeking righteousness, maintaining your spiritual armor, and refusing to be a “comfortable Christian.” You’ll also be aware that every action and word is witnessed not only by the physical world, but by the spiritual. And so you’ll be more careful about how you live and speak.
8. You’ll become concerned with seeking righteousness because it glorifies and pleases God, not just because you are “supposed to do it.” And consequently, you’ll spend time searching your life, home, and heart to see if anything is quenching the Holy Spirit, blocking God, or is displeasing or dishonoring to Him. Because you will want your life to be a “living sacrifice” for Him. Not because of fear, but because of love.
9. In fact, your fears will be healed by and replaced with His love. Your doubts (even if they are not completely gone) will be comforted or replaced by trust. Your negative self-views will be replaced by God’s view of you as His dearly loved child. You will trust that He really does love you and care about you, not for what you can do for Him or for what you accomplish, but just because you are His.
And as fears and doubts continue to pop up throughout your life, you will learn to bring them to Him, instead of being ashamed of them and trying to “fix” them yourself. You will have some grace for yourself, remembering that you are still human and that fears and doubts happen and that God knows you are human and it’s okay with Him because He can help you and He loves you anyway. In all your messy humanness.)
10. God will become your source of strength and wisdom because you will know that – on your own - you can’t handle life, make the right decisions, or live righteously. And so you’ll strive to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading and wisdom in prayer and throughout your day. You’ll search the Word for what God expects out of you and how you can improve. Once again, not out of fear or just for the sake of improving, but because you’ll be living out your love for Him and out of His love for you.
11. And when you blow it, you’ll seek forgiveness and realign yourself with God’s truth and heart. Because you will know that nothing can separate you from His love and that you are incomplete unless you are walking with Him.
12. You’ll be learning to trust God with your life and, especially, with your finances and future. Which means that you’ll seek to do your part to obey, and leave the results up to Him. You’ll take the stands that God wants you to take, even if you are the only one standing. You’ll tithe as He calls you to, trusting Him to provide for your needs. You’ll obey each step as He reveals it, trusting that He will make your paths straight and work all things out for good. And you’ll focus on doing your best at the job God has given you, even if no one else notices or appreciates what you do, trusting that He sees you and that He will reward your faithfulness.
13. You’ll take the responsibility to pray for others and to look out for their welfare seriously. You’ll feel deeply that it’s your job to live as godly a life as possible as a witness to them and to spread His truth when opportunities arise. But you’ll also know that it’s God’s job to change hearts. And so you’ll be content to be the seed-planter or the waterer or the harvester (if God so allows), but you won’t try to force others to change or to believe as you do. Because only the Spirit can change hearts. You’ll gracefully stand by your convictions, but you won’t condemn others for not agreeing. Even God allows us to believe as we want to and to choose as we want to. (And He allows the consequences that go with them!)
14. Probably the hardest of all, you’ll have gotten to a point (usually through painful trials) where you can say, “I know that God is good and that He loves me, regardless of my difficult and painful circumstances.” This, I have to say, is probably the last and hardest step in brokenness - to vulnerably and humbly lay down in His arms and say, “I trust You and I trust in Your goodness and love, no matter what happens in my life.” So even when the path looks dark and you see no end in sight, you’ll still be able to praise Him and say, “I believe that You will work all things out for good in the end, because I love You and I know that You love me.”
‘Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’
One talks about “becoming like little children” in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, and one talks about humbling yourself like a child to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. To me, it sounds like “You become like little children to get in, but you humble yourself to be great.” What do you think about these? Are they saying the same thing or different things?
32. Are there any other thoughts or questions that you want to add?