Humility: The Secret to Abundance of Grace
By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scripture: James 4:6
Sunday 21st September 2014
Last week we began a series, 'I am Destined to Reign'. In this message we looked at three postures that we need to adopt in order to receive the grace of God, namely humility, boldness and faith. There is so much packed into each of these postures; if you can grasp a full understanding of these postures, you will walk in the fullness of the power of God's grace 100% of the time. Last week, we looked at Romans 5: 17 and understood that because of the 'abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness' we are destined to reign in life through Jesus Christ. Our ability to reign in life is directly linked to the grace of God and therefore the better we are in receiving the grace of God, the better we will be at reigning.
In Proverbs 3: 34 Solomon states, 'Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble'. Peter, in 1 Peter 5:5 says 'Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble".' Similarly, in James 4: 6 we learn, 'But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." It is clear that God's position on grace and humility are clearly established in these three scriptures. Three witnesses, Solomon, Peter and James make clear that God gives grace to the humble. God wants to pour out His grace upon you; He wants you to live a life of liberty, a life of success, a life of victory, a life of prosperity.
The first part of the scripture says 'God gives grace'; He gives grace to reign, to succeed, to prosper, to be healed and to overcome temptation. That is a powerful phrase; it means God has not called you to struggle in life. We are in a dispensation in which it is not about us attaining results in our own strength. We are being called to step out of the way in order that the power of God may be manifested. An abundance of grace, both the redemptive power and the enablement to succeed in every area of life - our homes, marriages, businesses, careers and ministry is available to us but it is not on the basis of our merit. Once the grace of God is in operation, there is no limit to what God can do as He cannot be limited.
The issue then is for us to receive that grace. The problem is not with God but our posture; God gives grace to the humble, whereas we by nature want to rely on ourselves, our own strength, our own understanding and our own ability. God would not give us what we do not need; and therefore implicit in the statement that 'God gives grace' is the truth that we are in need of grace. We are in need of grace because there is only so far we can go in life without it. It is the grace that gives you the enabling power to rise above challenges of life. Even though God wants to give the grace, the scripture says there is a condition for receiving it and that condition is humility. Whenever God sees a posture of humility, grace flows towards that direction.
At this point, it is important for us to establish clearly what humility is and what it is not. Humility is not entertaining feelings of low self-worth; it is not despising who you are. Humility is not weakness; it is strength in the grace of God. Your place of humility therefore is the place of your greatest strength.
In terms of gaining an understanding of what humility is, the word used in the New Testament has connotations of lowliness of mind, making one low. Let's look briefly at five expressions of humility: 1. It is a total dependence on the finished work of Christ and not on our own strength; 2. Humility is an admission that it is the grace that qualifies rather than our own ability, talent experience or education. 3. Humility is seeing ourselves the way God sees us; God says we have been made righteous through the finished work of Jesus; and humility agrees with this position. True humility is coming into agreement with God and His word. 4. Humility is surrendering to God's position. This is the case whether or not it makes sense in the natural. Think of Abraham, although he was aged and childless, he agreed with God's position that he was a 'Father of many nations'. 5. Humility says 'I am what I am by the grace of God'. Paul acknowledged in 1 Corinthians 15: 10 that it was by the grace of God that he was able to do in laboring more abundantly than other apostles.
In James 4: 6 it says that God resists the proud. The word here has military connotations, namely that God fights against those who are proud. The next verse contains the very popular statement, 'Resist the devil and he will flee from you.' We are very fond of this statement but very often overlook the fact that the beginning of the verse contains an important qualification, 'Therefore submit to God.' It is an error to take a truth out of the context in which it is established as we inevitably end up in error. It would be a mistake to seek to resist the devil in our own strength. It is only on the authority of the finished works of Jesus that the Devil will flee from us.
In Deuteronomy 28: 1 we see listed all the blessings that would be bestowed on the children of Israel if they were to 'fully obey' the instructions of the Lord. Deuteronomy 28: 15 lists all the curses that would fall on those who failed to fully obey. The truth of the matter is that none of us could fully obey God's requirements, which is why we can only rely on Jesus. He fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law which entitled us to be blessed; He was crucified, 'hung on a tree' and thus became a curse for us in order that we avoided the curse of the law. It is only therefore on the basis of His works that we can depend.
The full flow of grace as revealed in James 4: 6-7 is that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble and that for this reason we must submit to God, namely that we submit to the finished works of Christ and that in this power alone that we will resist the devil and he will flee from us. Verse 6 identifies two types of people in our world: the proud and the humble. To one, God supplies grace and to the other, he shuts down the supply. The proud are those who through their efforts consider that they are righteous; these are the groups who refuse to acknowledge their needs for the grace of God. God resists those who do not acknowledge the need of Him. Pride takes us nowhere but frustration. We struggle when we rely on our own ability, but reliance on the finished work of Jesus allows the grace of God to allow us to prevail. The grace of God has been revealed to all men in Jesus Christ; why would we want to struggle through life in our own strength? When Abraham tried to 'assist' the fulfillment of God's promise with Ishmael, God intervened and made clear that the bondwoman and her son would not co-exist with the son of the promise. For us, this means that works and grace cannot co-exist. Works will mess up the purpose of God. The truth of the matter is that until and unless we come to the end of ourselves, we cannot arrive at the beginning of grace. Grace is revealed at the point of acknowledgement of our weakness. 2 Corinthians 12: 9 says, But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Each of us needs to come to the place at which we admit our total need for God. Paul therefore concluded, 'Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
In James 4: -7, the word translated as 'submit' - Hupotasso. This also is primarily a military term meaning, "to rank under" "to put in subjection, to subject," namely we are instructed to arrange ourselves under the finished works of Christ! In many cases, pride says "I can do it" but humility says "I can do it through the finished work of Christ". Humility says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." When I was preparing this message, The Lord spoke clearly to me, 'If you will step out based only on the finished work of Christ, and not on the number of scriptures you can memorise you will see a phenomenal demonstration of the power of God in our days'
In conclusion, most of us will be familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son told by Jesus in Luke 15: 11-24. This was a young man who demanded his inheritance from his father with a view to doing things in his way and his strength and his ability. The result was utter failure. When we step out of grace, failure is inevitable, nothing works. He found himself in such a desperate and dire situation that he was forced to work as a swineherd and contemplated eating pigs' food. At one point however, the young man turned to his father, a representation of grace, concluding that even the servants in his father's house were better off than him. As he returned, while he was still a great way off, his father saw him and with compassion, ran towards him, fell on his neck and kissed him. The son who had spurned his father's love was met with a robe of grace and a ring of authority. There were no recriminations, no accusations, no questions, merely acceptance and celebration at his return.
Friend, you may have tried it in your own strength and faced nothing but failure and defeat but grace is available to you. I have come to the place of total dependence, reliance and need for God and I have begged the Lord never to allow me to get to a place where I don't need Him. There is grace that is abundantly available to those who would surrender, submit and yield to God. God doesn't take 50%; He doesn't take 95%; He doesn't even take 99.9%. It has to be 100% submission to His strength, His ways and His purpose. The place of Sonship is the place of humility and the place of authority. You may be at that point today where you have tried to do things in your own strength and failed; come back home, there is grace in the house!