If you have made any honest effort to cultivate Christian humility, I am sure you must have discovered very quickly what a difficult task is before you. And yet this grace is one which must certainly characterise everyone in whom the life of Jesus is manifested in any degree. It behoves you, therefore, to watch very diligently and to pray very earnestly that you may be blessed with a humble spirit and a lowly demeanour.
The first thing necessary is that you should learn what is true humility. This you can only do in one way. You must learn of Christ. It is useless to think that you will be able to understand true humility either by the light of your own reason, or by the study of the maxims and examples of men around you. The world is guided by a different principle altogether. Every man seeks to make it very clear that he stands at the head of his class. His tea, or his mustard, or his boots, as the case may be, are the best in the world. This he flaunts in his shop windows, on the hoardings, and in the newspapers. This spirit is not conducive to humility, but the contrary.
Now you remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart." And in Philippians 2 we are taught a great deal concerning the unparalleled character of the humility displayed by that blessed One. There never was such humility as His, for the simple reason there never was another such Person as He. None stooped so low, for none was so high. He Who was God submitted to the death of the cross. Consider, therefore, the exhortation, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5).
To this end study the life of the Lord Jesus as found in the Gospels. I do not mean glance over the chapters, but read, search, ponder, meditate, compare. I remember a question given to some Bible searchers on the meekness and gentleness of Christ. And one was struck with the fewness of the examples given in reply. I have thought that perhaps some found them so numerous that it was difficult for them to make a selection. Just as when you endeavour some clear night to count the stars, and even while you are counting you observe a great number you had not noticed before, until at last you give up your task as impossible. So is it in reckoning the beauties of Christ; they are infinite in number and character.
Let me advise you to take a "penny Testament" (which at six times the price is not expensive, even if spoiled), and go slowly through the Gospels several times, marking with a pencil every passage which in any way illustrates the humility of Christ. I am sure you will then feel what need you have to pray that the lowly mind of Christ you everywhere see shining forth in His words and works, may be reproduced in you.
Another thing you must carefully note is that scripture lays great stress upon humility or lowliness of mind. The phrase occurs in Acts 20:19 Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:3; Colossians 3:12; 1 Peter 5:5; from these recurrences you will gather its importance, in these its necessity is so repeatedly insisted on.
But there can be but one competent judge of a humble mind, and that one is God. Other people may judge of your humble words, humble looks, and humble ways. God, however, views the heart. So that you must begin there in this, as in all matters. "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord" (James 4:10). In your private devotion, allow the light of God's word to stream into your soul and show you your true place in His presence. This is the only cure for proud thoughts and self-satisfied feelings, and the only way to become lowly in mind.
It will be found that those who are humble before God will, as a matter of course, be humble before men. At any rate I would beseech you not to strive to appear humble to others. Be unconstrained. Do not pretend to be in manners what you are not in mind; for that is hypocrisy. True, Christlike humility, that thinks nothing of self, is perhaps the most beautiful of all virtues; but the spurious kind, that is secretly proud of itself, is detestable to both God and man.
It is a wise rule for you to avoid saying anything of yourself, either good, bad, or indifferent; anything good savours of vanity; anything bad, of affectation; anything indifferent, of silliness. The entire forgetfulness of self is the perfection of humility.
Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought. Do not adopt airs of self-importance, as if you feared people would otherwise overlook who and what you are. In a field of corn the full ears droop, but the empty ones stand erect and stiff, as if to claim attention by their jaunty appearance. The latter, however, never succeed in impressing the farmer with their importance. We hope the lofty carriage and imposing bearing assumed by some young persons is not so indicative of the emptiness of their heads and the vanity of their minds as their demeanour would lead us to suppose.
Never set up to be a wiseacre or a know-all. Recollect and be warned by the history of that personage who gave out that he himself was "some great one." The humble-minded is not ashamed to say "I don't know," except when he feels he ought to have known a good while ago. But he never pretends to know what he does not.
On the other hand, do not always be dinning into people's ears that you are a mere nobody. They will suspect, and probably rightly, that you are fishing for a compliment. While you appear very assiduous in slighting yourself, you are secretly hoping that your croakings will provoke your hearers into saying that you are really a person of considerable worth. This is deceit and dissimulation on your part, and a long way removed from humility.
I mention these dangers because they are pitfalls which lie on the right hand and on the left of the narrow path of humility; and I do so with the earnest hope that you may heed the warning and escape the snare. My last word is that true humility thinks nothing of self and everything of Christ.
"O Lord, with sorrow and with shame,
We meekly would confess,
How little we who bear Thy name,
Thy mind, Thy ways express.
We wonder at Thy lowly mind,
And fain would like Thee be
And all our rest and pleasure find
In learning, Lord, of Thee."
J. G. Deck.