“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
There is a necessitous credential that all great Servant Leader’s possess and must never stop cultivating: humility.
We know that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted,” (luke 14:11) and therefore, Leaders must seek also to be servants. We are given several examples of humility throughout scripture but, there are two that stand out greatly in my mind:
Jesus Washed Peter’s feet: John 13:4-9 – and I love Peter’s responses here…this didn’t make sense to him; Jesus, his teacher and Lord, humbling Himself to a foot washer; a servant. The story goes, Peter refuses the washing, Jesus says, “anyone that refuses my washing is not of me,” and I always laugh to myself at the next part… “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”
Paul’s Suffering – is the other one that stands out most to me. Paul was forced to do something he didn’t necessarily want to do and yet, he maintained the entirety of his integrity and humility in doing so…he was forced to brag.
Whenever a Pastor or teacher of the word mentions “Paul” in a message, most believers with any amount of new testament knowledge, know that Paul the Apostle is the one being spoken of. We admire him for his strength in trials. We love to commemorate his gully; his unyielding determination against vicious persecution. However, If the man were alive today, I do not believe he would tolerate our congratulatory commendations.
“No, no, no. You don’t get it. I’m not strong: Christ pours His power into me…He is strong. My strength comes from my weakness.”
It is in 2 Corinthians chapter 11 where we find Paul is forced to give his credentials in stark contrast to the false teachers who had snuck into the body of true believers in corinth, speaking damnable heresies and leading people astray, even accusing Paul of being a greedy and crafty schemer.
However, while most men giving their ministerial resume would jot down all of their accomplishments and great achievements through the years such as degrees, number of people they’ve led to Christ, Churches and events they’ve been asked to come and teach at… Paul once again, shows us he was not most men.
Paul is forced to boast about his apostolic superiority and yet maintains full humility; the noblest of all virtues.
2 Corinthians 11:23-30
“Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”
Instead of boasting about being a card-carrying Pharisee of the Pharisees, or a student of Gamaliel, he tells the Corinthians of all his suffering.
The truest indication of a man of God, is his inevitable suffering because when a man of God proclaims the truth, he will elevate the hostility level of the kingdom of darkness. Christ proclaimed the gospel and the demons that were possessing a nearby man could not contain themselves… They cried out HA! (Luke 4:31-37)
Preaching the gospel and living a worshipful lifestyle brings persecution and difficulty, not just in the physical realm, but the spiritual as well. This is why Paul talks about his sufferings. He is saying, “you want to know if I’m a true apostle? Look at my suffering.”
You simply cannot become a warrior for Christ and evade spiritual and physical attack from the cacodemonic darkness that rules this world.
Conversely, false teachers do not suffer for the sake of the gospel. They are part of this dark world system and therefore often become very comfortable; they are prosperous and wealthy. Marked by mansions and seemingly unending wardrobes, of fine linens from afar, which some will even boast about openly. No, no, these men and women don’t brag about their suffering, they boast about how many people they led to the lord last Sunday and what spot their latest book release holds on the New York Time’s bestseller list.
Paul had been accused of just doing ministry for the money. However, Acts 20:33-35 He says, “I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.” Peter said this as well, “not for shameful gain.” I am sure that many Pastors today either live very remedial lifestyles or work second jobs just to put food on the table and be able to provide a life for their families that does not include needing assistance from federal programs.
Paul, the “great apostle,” he is often referred to, is obviously one of our greatest bible heroes that we exalt and yet, he claimed, “the only thing special about me, is God chose me for glorious works, before I was even born.”
We need heroes; people desire Supermen and Batman figures in their lives, especially when it comes to the bible and the pulpit. Still, we must be careful not to exalt these men so highly, that before we know it, we are suddenly following a man more than we’re following our saviour.
“We form part of a generation that worships power—military, intellectual, economical, scientific. The concept of power is worked into the warp and woof of our daily living. Our entire world is divided into power blocs. Men everywhere are striving for power in various realms, often with questionable motivation.”
– J. Oswald Sanders, From his book “Paul, the Leader.”
James Stewart, a great Scottish preacher, made a statement that is also challenging:
“It is always upon human weakness and humiliation, not human strength and confidence, that God chooses to build His Kingdom; that He can use us not merely in spite of our ordinariness and helplessness and disqualifying infirmities, but precisely because of them.”
This thrilling realization has the power transform our mental attitude toward our circumstances. Consider this principle in all situations. Your humiliations, your struggles, your battles, your weaknesses, your feelings of inadequacy, your helplessness, even your so-called “disqualifying” infirmities are precisely what make you effective.
They display the marks of real greatness. Once we are convinced of our own weakness and no longer try to hide it, we embrace the power of Christ.
Paul modeled that trait so wonderfully once he grasped the principle. His pride departed and in its place emerged a true and relentless humility that no amount of hardship could erase.
If we desire to live Christ like love to everyone, whether we are leaders in the church or not, we are all called to be humble. Let pride depart from us and may our sufferings bring humility.