Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.
Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.
Just prior to everything that’s currently happening and telecommuting began, I was sitting at my work desk and caught sight of the two Bible passages above written in faded ink and taped to one of my monitors. They are two of my favorite and most encouraging passages in the Scriptures, and it suddenly struck me that they seem to encourage what appear to be opposite traits – humility and boldness. I sat staring at them and thinking, “Can you be both humble and bold?”
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines humility as “freedom from pride or arrogance; the quality or state of being humble.” Further, it explains that “both [humility] and humble have their origin in the Latin word humilis, meaning “low.”” Suggested synonyms include meekness, lowliness, and down-to-earthness. I particularly like that last one. None of this is popular in today’s culture – the “let me step over your still warm body so I can succeed where you failed” culture.
Then I looked up the definition of boldness, and it was defined as “fearless before danger” and “showing or requiring a fearless daring spirit.” Some of the synonyms are confident, intrepid, adventurous, and gutsy. Intrepid was appealing to me as it is defined as “characterized by resolute fearlessness, fortitude, and endurance.” This is a prized character trait in today’s “you only live once” or “do what makes you happy” culture.
How do we make the two fit together and still uphold the teaching to put others before self? How do we practice humility before God and yet approach Him boldly?
The last couple of years, I’ve been trying to remind myself of the true power of God. I’ve been trying to stop boxing God in to my narrow-minded view of the world. I’ve been knocking the walls down to see just what God can do instead of keeping God in a small, tight space. This requires humility on my part – the acknowledgement that God can do things that I can’t even begin to imagine – the acknowledgement that I am just one tiny piece in the workings of this life – and that’s okay. All I can do right now is take care of the space where I am, but it’s something in God’s plan even if it’s not what I had expected.
In the midst of writing this blog, I was listening to an older sermon from Crosspoint Church in Nashville. Pastor Kevin Queen did a sermon in 2019 on “Sacrificial Living,” and I was thankful for the God-wink.
He said some things that got me to thinking:
“To deny yourself is to die to self every single day…to die to what we want…to die to our selfish agenda…to love God and serve others. […]
If you want to follow Jesus, you have to attend about a thousand funerals a day, and they’re all funerals for what you want. […]
…we find that the blessing and the benefit of the life of following Jesus comes when we make the sacrifices, and it’s counterintuitive to the way of this world. But it’s the way of the kingdom. […]
For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.
Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
Christlikeness begins and ends in humility.”
How does this leave any room for boldness?
I’ve been muddling this concept over in my head for a few weeks almost afraid to complete the blog, but then I picked up my pen (yes, the old-fashioned pen and paper) and started to write again.
Even as I wrote about humility, I had to ask myself why a humble person can’t be bold, fearless, daring, intrepid, resolute, courageous, confident, or enduring? Why can’t a humble person exercise fortitude? The answer came to me that there’s no reason why a humble person can’t be those things. I went to BibleGateway.com and searched for references on boldness and confidence, and there are no shortage of them in the Bible just as there are no shortage of references to humility and meekness.
Here is what I realized. Humility is about keeping our perspective on God in proper alignment. God comes first, and all our actions should stem from that. Consequently, we can move forward with boldness, confidence, fearlessness, resolution, courage, endurance, and fortitude. It is all about how we frame God in the process. He always needs to be at the center of our humility, or we won’t be truly practicing Christlike behavior. The same applies to our boldness. If we move forward in boldness or confidence without maintaining God as our center, we’re doing it for our own selfish reasons. In other words, we’re just living like everyone else.
So what does humble boldness look like? It looks like Ruth believing in her new faith and God as she went boldly to ask Boaz to protect her and her mother-in-law. It looks like Esther humbly accepting that she may be executed for boldly asking the king to save her people. It looks like Daniel humbly and boldly praying to God and entering (and exiting) the lions’ den. It looks like Rosa Parks, tired from a long humble day at work, boldly deciding she wasn’t going to give way in the face of racism. It looks like the boss of a small business who cares about his/her employees in a pandemic and boldly decides to keep paying them even when he/she doesn’t know from where the money will come.
Humble boldness is keeping your eye on the right ball even when several are being thrown in the air at once. It’s knowing when to say yes and when to say no, when to accept and when to walk away, when to stop and when to keep going. Keeping my faith in God at the center of my being points my compass in the right direction. Sometimes it takes a while for me to get where I’m going, but I always get there in the proper time.