Embracing Humility in Mission

in Global Harvest

By Ryan Shaw

A friend of mine was serving in a difficult nation on the Arabian Peninsula. It’s a challenge for anyone from a Muslim background to come to faith in Jesus in this country.

As a foreigner, this message bearer was treated with a measure of respect and curiosity, and he used this opportunity to speak freely about Jesus. The responses were death threats and threats to the safety of his family.

Locals hoped this would provoke fear. Instead, he continued talking with people about their need for Christ—and they were shocked. They knew the threats and asked him why he stayed and continued sharing. He told how Jesus had been a servant to the people, even when they didn’t want him, and he was called to the same.

An often-overlooked yet fundamental mark of a thriving message bearer (alternative term for missionary) is humility mixed with meekness. Humility isn’t merely a virtue God says is a good idea to develop; it’s an essence of Kingdom life.

In one of his parables, Jesus compared the Kingdom to a mustard seed. This small seed symbolizes the humility, meekness and simplicity that consistently grow in disciples of Jesus.

Humility has been defined as a believers’ consent to allow God to be all within them, through which they surrender themselves to God’s working. This was Jesus through and through in relationship with his Father. He did not rely on his own will (though he was God), but on the will of the Father.

The unyielding self stands in the way of our cultivating humility and obeying the Father. The self justifies its own way, stands up for its rights and seeks its own glory. Jesus joyfully laid down his desires as well as his power as God, that the Father might work in him through the Holy Spirit.

Meekness is power under control—the restraining of oneself for a higher purpose. Opportunities for showing meekness emerge when we are mistreated or in a situation where our perceived rights have been violated.

Mistreatment is a tool to test a believer’s meekness. Jesus was consistently mistreated yet did not respond.It should not be forgotten, however, that He could have. He had the position and authority (as God in the flesh), yet restrained that power in obedience to the eternal purposes of the Father.

It’s the same today. Few will be won to Jesus through a gospel presentation alone. They need a manifestation in the message bearer of humility and meekness, attracting them to the Savior testified about. This is biblical humility and a spiritual key of those serving as Jesus’ message bearers.

Humility is not natural, which is why when demonstrated it possesses spiritual authority to touch hearts. The self life is one reason message bearers aren’t seeing more of the power of God working in and through us.

God wants to give us so much more, releasing hundredfold blessings through us and our ministries. Yet there is a hindrance. We may have left home, loved ones and jobs in following Jesus, but we haven’t necessarily surrendered our old, natural selves.

An important lesson for every message bearer is that, though we may be godly, sincere and earnest, the human nature (or self life) may still be strong within us. The apostle Peter is an example.

As he served with Jesus for three years, he healed the sick, cast out demons and preached the Kingdom of God. Yet the self life was still operating powerfully within him.

The self life is realized among message bearers through self-comfort, self-consciousness, self-pleasing and self-will. Message bearers genuinely want to get free of the self life, but how?

Again, we observe Peter. After his three denials of Jesus, the Lord looked directly at him. That pure and holy look was like a dagger in Peter’s heart.

The realization of what he had done was driven home with authority. Peter wept bitterly. That night and the following day must have been horrendous for him as he saw Jesus crucified and buried and faced his own betrayal.

That humiliating experience was the turning point for Peter, the moment he realized just how powerful the self life was within him—that he was capable of such actions. We want to allow the same realization to penetrate our hearts—that we are capable of such things. Then turn to Jesus, confessing specific areas of the self life and receive his deliverance by faith.

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