07 Apr #063 – Integriosity – RENEW—Keep First Things First—Humility–A “HOW” of Pursuing the Kingdom
ESSENCE: The last of the four first principles embedded in Integriosity® is Humility, and it is the key to understanding the “HOW” of the other three “first things”, including Kingdom. Humility in pursuing the Kingdom flows from knowing who we are in relation to God–it means recognizing the “smallness of our greatness” and returning to the childlike qualities of dependence and trust on God in making decisions and leading the organization. Every leader of an organization must choose whether to give in to pride in pursuing their own kingdom or to embrace Humility in pursuing God’s Kingdom. We call the former “business as usual” and the latter “business a better way”.
We have been exploring the implications for work and business of several first principles embedded in Integriosity®, including Kingdom (posts #045-#052), and in post #060 we introduced the fourth of the first principles embedded in Integriosity—Humility. We believe the two are linked, with Humility being a “HOW” of Pursuing the Kingdom. Humility in Pursuing the Kingdom flows from knowing who we are in relation to God.
Humility – A “How” of Pursuing the Kingdom
The link between Humility and Pursuing the Kingdom can be seen in various passages of the Bible. For example:
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:4)
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3) [In post #061, we explained that “poor in spirit” can be equated with “Humility”]
So Humility is a “HOW” of Pursuing the Kingdom, but what does that mean, and what does it mean to be “childlike”?
Humility as Poverty. In his book Momentum: Pursuing God’s Blessings Through the Beatitudes, Colin Smith suggests:
“Poor in spirit” means that you recognize your poverty before God. It is an attitude toward yourself in which you know and affirm that you have not lived the life to which God has called you, and that, without Him, you cannot do so now.
In other words, Humility is understanding who we are in relation to God. The renowned preacher Phillips Brooks expressed it this way (which is way better than we could express it, which is why we are quoting him!):
The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is.
God is the higher nature that shows us who we are, which can only be humbling as we look out at a sunset or consider the vastness of the Universe or the complexity of life on Earth. Humility as poverty also leads to Humility as grace. It is recognizing that only by God’s grace are we not in the position of the person we are quick to judge. In the words of Oswald Chambers:
The greatest characteristic of a saint is humility, as evidenced by being able to say honestly and humbly, “Yes, all those, as well as other evils, would have been exhibited in me if it were not for the grace of God. Therefore, I have no right to judge.
Humility as Dependence and Trust. But what does it mean to humble yourself “like this child”. We think there are two qualities of a child that line up with the Humility of “poor in spirit”–dependence and trust.
- Dependence. Children are completely dependent on their parents for survival and growth–food, shelter, education. Most children, particularly babies and small children, aren’t responsible for ensuring that there will be food for the next meal or a bed to sleep in each night or heat for their home. They don’t make decisions about their life. They are completely dependent on others for everything. BUT, the journey of young adulthood is all about moving to INDEPENDENCE–learning to care your yourself, provide for yourself and make decisions for yourself. As we climb the mountain of independence (and even rebel against those on whom we were dependent), God is constantly calling us to yield our independence and return to dependence. But this time, our dependence is on an “unseen” provider and comes at the expense of our hard-fought independence! God’s Word is full of stories about the need to be dependent on Him. Here are what a few commentators we love and respect say about the need for, the importance of, and even the pain associated with, learning dependence on God:
Oswald Chambers: When God gives you a vision and darkness follows, wait. God will bring the vision He has given you to reality in your life if you will wait on His timing. Never try to help God fulfill His word. Abram went through thirteen years of silence, but in those years all of his self-sufficiency was destroyed.
Rick Warren: God’s path to a miracle often takes you through uncomfortable territory so you’ll learn to depend on him.
Os Hillman: The lesson here is to learn daily and complete dependence on God. Use your gifts and abilities through the power of the Holy Spirit. Ask Him daily for direction and wisdom. His ways won’t always line up with conventional wisdom. When we begin depending on our abilities only, God has a responsibility to make known to us who is the giver of the blessings.
Dr. Skip Moen: Perhaps we need to reconsider Exodus before we read John. Perhaps the path to [the abundant life] leads through the [wilderness] . . . the place where human life is unsustainable. How can the wilderness be a necessary path to superabundance? . . . The wilderness is our journey to dependence. Until we learn that lesson—deeply—the abundant life isn’t available. The way to a full life with God passes through Mordor.
- Trust. Children naturally trust–at least until they learn that people can’t be trusted. But when life has shown us that our childhood trust is naïve and even dangerous, God calls us to trust Him completely–trust an “unseen” guide who is trying to rob our independence! Like the dependence/independence/dependence journey, God calls us to a trust/mistrust/trust journey. But the dependence journey requires us to complete the trust journey. In leading an organization, there are three elements to trusting God: trust His process (which may seem counter-cultural and even counter-intuitive), trust His timing (which is likely to be slower than ours) and trust His outcome (which is likely to be counter-cultural). Os Hillman describes the trust journey in terms of David’s pride in numbering his troops:
But the minute Joab heard the request he cringed. He knew David was in big trouble for this one. You see to number the troops was a great sin in Israel because it was against the law. Why? Because it demonstrated that you were placing more trust in numbers than in the living God. David displayed enough pride to cost the lives of 70,000 fighting men. . . . The minute you and I place more trust in our abilities than in God, we are guilty of numbering the troops.
The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is. (Phillips Brooks)
Pursuing the Kingdom Requires Choosing a Kingdom
Every leader of an organization must ultimately choose the “Kingdom” they will pursue. For a faith-driven leader, there are always two choices–the leader’s kingdom or God’s Kingdom. At Integrous, we believe that you can’t pursue both, just as you can’t serve two masters (“No one can serve two masters“, Matthew 6:24). The pursuit of the leader’s kingdom may actually bring more material wealth and “worldly” success, but at great spiritual cost and human brokenness. “Business as usual” is the pursuit of that kingdom, with all the implications and consequences highlighted in Integriosity posts #017 and #018. “Business a better way” is choosing to pursue God’s Kingdom, which requires understanding that a HOW is Humility, expressed as recognizing the “smallness of our greatness” and returning to the childlike qualities of dependence and trust on God in making decisions and leading the organization. Even the faith-driven leader who chooses to pursue God’s Kingdom for their organization must be wary of taking a Placebo that causes the organization to detour off the ancient path of “business a better way” onto a Side Road, which can make the pursuit of the leader’s kingdom feel like the pursuit of God’s Kingdom.
SPOILER ALERT: In the third step of Integriosity–RE-ALIGN–one of the five critical ingredients for execution is Trust.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): At the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, God seemed to be bombarding me with devotional messages about “dependence”. That is when I began to think about the dependence/independence/dependence journey. One of the messages that particularly challenged me was a devotional from a dear friend, Dr. Skip Moen (his messages are always challenging–my wife and I used to call him “Oswald Chambers on steroids”). Here is the paragraph that really got me thinking (and praying):
Look, life is hard—but it’s supposed to be that way. There are no pleasant paths through the wilderness of the soul. Stripping Egypt from your thought is a traumatic exorcism. There will be blood. But it has to be done if you want to reach [the abundant life]. I wish I could tell you otherwise. I wish I could offer consolation and a soft pillow. But I can’t. If you choose this path (and it is a choice), then don’t expect the “wonderful plan for your life” to be a bed of roses. It is a wonderful plan but it passes through the wilderness of Sin (oh, that’s a real place too). You and I have embarked on an odyssey of self-understanding, a mission of the heart. It’s going to hurt. Let’s hold hands.
For me, “Egypt” is my life as a partner in a Wall Street law firm. That is the life that God called me to leave in 2009 for an undisclosed destination. It was my “Abrahamic moment”. Admittedly, there are times I think back to the benefits, forgetting the tremendous sacrifices–just like the grumbling Israelites during their journey. I know I have put my Egypt behind me, but have I “stripped” my Egypt from my thoughts? I certainly do not want to go back, but have I experienced the “exorcism”? If not, is it withholding some portion of the abundant life Skip talks about in reference to John 10:10? (“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”) To what extent am I still depending on my savings from my time in Egypt rather than God (and forgetting that it was really his faithful “provision for the road ahead”)? That is a question for 2021, but I know “dependence” is one of my themes for the year.
Below is a link to a wonderful song by Sara Groves about the temptation of thinking back to our personal Egypt, tempted to paint a picture that includes the good but forgets the cost. It is definitely worth a listen–or two or three. What is your Egypt? Has it been stripped from even your thoughts?
Sara Groves - Painting Pictures of Egypt
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Photo Credit: Original photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash (photo cropped)