“...GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”
1 Peter 5:5-6 NASB
I’ve been learning more and more what it means to humble myself under the mighty hand of God, especially as His hand is manifested in the circumstances of my daily life. We believe God is sovereign; yet it’s so easy to unthinkingly exclude the unpleasant present circumstances of our lives from that doctrine, and allow it to remain only a theoretical truth. But there’s such power and comfort in practically applying the truth of God's sovereignty to my life, today!
For example, the other day, my wife and I had planned to listen to a sermon together — carefully blocked off the time, planned in advance, and everything! — and we were (perhaps unsurprisingly) interrupted by a family need. In the moment, I found myself disappointed, if not a little frustrated, until I remembered the quote, “Disappointments are God’s appointments.” It lifted my heart so much to remember that God has a special plan even for this unexpected interruption, provided I’m willing to humble myself under His hand (as the verse at the top of the page says).
What I want is God’s grace to flow freely into my life. And I can get caught mistakenly believing that the way to receive grace is to listen to more and more sermons, or read my Bible, or countless other “spiritual” activities. But the truth is, the way to receive grace is to humble myself, and sometimes that means forgoing even the “spiritual” activity when God’s hand is manifested through the various interruptions in life. I felt the Lord speak to me, “Now’s the time you get to tell Me that you love My will. Not when you listen to a sermon, but when you’re willing not to listen to one, even though you had planned to.”
What a gift! That’s what I want my life to be, a song of love to God for His perfect will and purpose and hand, and so many times, I miss it because of my (even otherwise good) plans!
The whole experience gave me fresh light on the proverb that says, “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). I had never really seen my plan as a stumbling block to seeing and accepting God’s direction before. It brought Jesus’ words to my mind, when He said in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not My will, but Yours be done.” I’ve always thought of the “will” I’m called to deny as that which is obviously sinful. But what about when God’s hand is revealed in the circumstances of my life, when something doesn’t go the way I want it to go, when my carefully-hedged plans are disrupted. Am I willing to say, “Not my plan, but Yours be done”?
I feel it’s one of the biggest lessons the Lord is teaching me in this season: if you want to receive grace, then stop fighting for your way, stop asserting your plan, stop defending your space and your rights.
Do you know where it says, “Do all things without grumbling or complaining; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God...”?
(but only after you've got the reference in mind...)
It doesn’t say that. I was shocked to discover I’ve read that verse wrong for years.
It actually says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing...” (Philippians 2:14).
When I realized this, I took the time to look up that word, “dispute,” as it’s not a word I use very often. It means “to argue, question the validity of, or resist.” Wow!! The realization that I’m commanded to do all things without resisting or arguing is a true revelation. If I’m honest, so many of my interactions either at home or at work could be classified under “questioning the validity of” (do we really need to shop for that right now?) and “resisting” (could we have this meeting at a time that doesn’t intrude on my preferences?). What a challenge to see that my resisting and questioning the validity of is basically refusing to acknowledge that “disappointments are God’s appointments,” refusing to say, “not my plan, but Yours be done.”
Could my coworkers always designate convenient meetings? Of course! Could my children never interrupt an important conversation? Of course! So why don’t they? Because God is sovereign, and He wants to give me a chance to humble myself and receive grace. But I have to cooperate. I have to stop disputing, and start acknowledging:
“As for God, His way is blameless...”
Psalms 18:30a NASB
We can read a verse like that and think, “He perfectly made the universe,” or “He is perfectly just in His judgments,” and many other thoughts, which are all true. But what a joy to make it personal and practical in our moment of need (be it interruption or inconvenience or disappointment or frustration), and declare by faith, “As for God, His way — with me, in my life, today — is blameless..." He has a purpose: He wants to give me grace. But I must humble myself to receive that grace.
And just as we have heard, "you cannot learn patience by simply reading the Bible," I have found that I cannot learn humility from Bible study either. I learn humility as I choose to undisputingly submit to the mighty hand of God in my life. The otherwise undesirable aspects of life are an invitation to humility, to “learn from Jesus” (Matthew 11:28) Who went this way before me (Philippians 2:5-8). But I can only learn it once I'm under His yoke, walking each appointed step confident He's by my side, with great purpose in this step. I want to go down (under His hand, under His yoke, accepting this invitation to humility), trusting He will meet me there.