Humility: True Greatness

Humility: True Greatness


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“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” —1 Peter 5:5

A battle rages within every one of us every day. It’s the clash between our sense of stubborn self-sufficiency and God’s call to recognize that we’re really nothing without Him. It’s pride versus humility. And it’s a fight we can’t win without looking repeatedly to Christ and the cross. C. J. Mahaney raises a battle cry to daily, diligently, and deliberately weaken our greatest enemy (pride) and cultivate our greatest friend (humility). His thorough examination clarifies misconceptions, revealing the truth about why God detests pride and turns His active attention to the humble. Because pride is never passive, defeating it demands an intentional attack. The blessing that follows is God’s abundant favor.

“This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit.”
—Isaiah 66:2, ESV

God clearly states that He is drawn to the humble. He’s also clear that He opposes the proud. These two, humility and pride, cannot coexist. Where one is fostered, the other is defeated. Which will you pursue? When you acknowledge the deception of pride and intentionally humble yourself, you become free to savor abundant mercies and unlikely graces. You will find a new life is yours—a life God richly favors. A God-glorifying life you don’t want to miss.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590523261
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/23/2005
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 355,455
Product dimensions: 5.24(w) x 7.29(h) x 0.66(d)

About the Author

C. J. MAHANEY serves as the Senior Pastor for Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, where he preaches regularly. He is author of Living the Cross-Centered Life, Christ Our Mediator, Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know, and Don't Waste Your Sports. C. J. and his wife, Carolyn, have three married daughters, one son and twelve grandchildren.

Read an Excerpt

Humility: True Greatness

By C. J. Mahaney

Multnomah Publishers

Copyright © 2005 Sovereign Grace Ministries
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-59052-326-1

Chapter One

The Promise of Humility

In a culture that so often rewards the proud-a world quick to admire and applaud the prideful, a world eager to bestow the label "great" on these same individuals -humility occasionally attracts some surprising attention.

Take, for example, the bestselling book Good to Great. Since 2001, this leadership manual from Jim Collins has become one of the most popular and influential in the business world. I rarely meet a leader who hasn't read it. The book is driven by this question: Can a good company become a great company, and if so, how? To find the answer, Collins and a team of researchers spent five years studying eleven corporations that had made the leap from being merely good companies to being great ones.

I had the chance to hear Jim Collins speak on this topic to an audience of pastors and business leaders. In his presentation, Collins identified two specific character qualities shared by the CEOs of these good-to-great companies.

The first was no surprise: These men and women possessed incredible professional will-they were driven, willing to endure anything to make their company a success.

But the second trait these leaders had in common wasn't something the researchersexpected to find: These driven leaders were self-effacing and modest. They consistently pointed to the contribution of others and didn't like drawing attention to themselves. "The good-to-great leaders never wanted to become larger-than-life heroes," Collins writes. "They never aspired to be put on a pedestal or become unreachable icons. They were seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results."

When Collins interviewed people who worked for these leaders, he says they "continually used words like quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated, did not believe his own clippings; and so forth" to describe them.

In God's Gaze

Here, it appears, is open acknowledgment of humility's value-recognition that humility works, that it goes far in building respect for those who have it and in inspiring trust and confidence from people around them.

Yes, amazingly, humility sometimes attracts the world's notice.

But here's something even more astonishing: Humility gets God's attention. In Isaiah 66:2 we read these words from the Lord:

This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

This profound passage points us to an altogether different motivation and purpose for humility than we will ever find in the pages of a secular business manual. Here we find motivation and purpose rooted in this amazing fact: Humility draws the gaze of our Sovereign God.

If we understand the background of this passage, we find even richer meaning. Here God is addressing the Israelites, a people with a unique identity. Chosen by God from among all the nations on earth, they possessed both the temple and the Torah-the Law of God. But they didn't tremble at His word. In a sense they had everything going for them except what was most important. They lacked humility before God.

So in this passage, God in His mercy is drawing the Israelites' attention away from their prideful assumption of privilege as His chosen people and away from their preoccupation with the trappings of religion. These things don't attract His active and gracious gaze. But humility does.

God Helps Those ...

The eyes of God are a theme running throughout Scripture. Take, for example, the familiar words of 2 Chronicles 16:9, "For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him." Obviously God doesn't have physical eyes; God is spirit (John 4:24). He doesn't need physical eyes, because He's also omniscient. Nothing escapes His notice. He's aware of all things.

But though He's aware of everything, He's also searching for something in particular, something that acts like a magnet to capture His attention and invite His active involvement. God is decisively drawn to humility. The person who is humble is the one who draws God's attention, and in this sense, drawing His attention means also attracting His grace-His unmerited kindness. Think about that: There's something you can do to attract more of God's gracious, underserved, supernatural strength and assistance!

What a promise! Listen to this familiar passage again for the very first time: "God ... gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). Contrary to popular and false belief, it's not "those who help themselves" whom God helps; it's those who humble themselves.

This is the promise of humility. God is personally and providentially supportive of the humble. And the grace He extends to the humble is indescribably rich. As Jonathan Edwards wrote, "The pleasures of humility are really the most refined, inward, and exquisite delights in the world." This book's purpose is to help position you to receive and experience those exquisite pleasures.

What Is Humility?

For me, Jim Collins's book was an encouraging reminder that even in a world that celebrates the proud, humility is still valued. But books like Good to Great have severe limitations; they can take us only so far in understanding humility because they're not rooted in a biblical worldview. Our definition of humility must be biblical and not simply pragmatic, and in order to be biblical it must begin with God. As John Calvin wrote, "It is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself."

That's where the following definition can help us: Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God's holiness and our sinfulness.

That's the twin reality that all genuine humility is rooted in: God's holiness and our sinfulness. Without an honest awareness of both these realities (and we'll reflect on both throughout this book), all self-evaluation will be skewed and we'll fail to either understand or practice true humility. We'll miss out on experiencing the promise and the pleasures that humility offers.

That's why I want to direct you to God's help for evaluating your life honestly, to understand whether you're growing in the humility that draws His gaze and attracts more of His grace.

Do You Have It?

A few years ago our church-Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland-celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. As we gathered on this occasion to rejoice together, Gary Ricucci, who's part of our pastoral team and one of the church's founding pastors, stood before us to present an overview of our history. He observed that though much had changed over the previous twenty-five years-such as the physical appearance of certain pastors like myself-the particular values that were present at our church's inception had remained unchanged.

Listening intently to Gary that morning was a church member and small-group leader named Jim. Before attending Covenant Life, he'd been a part of a congregation where, regretfully, a serious church split had taken place. As he listened to Gary describe our church's enduring values, Jim's mind was busy comparing these with the values evident in his former church. "Why was my experience so different?" Jim wondered.

He heard Gary affirm that, right from the beginning, Covenant Life Church had a love for God's Word.

And Jim said to himself, Yes, we had that.

Gary continued, "We were in love with Jesus Christ and grateful for His substitutionary sacrifice on the cross."

Yes, Jim thought, we had that, too.

"We loved grace, and we loved worship."

Yep, had that.

"We believed in the importance of relationships," Gary added.

Once again Jim inwardly responded, Okay, we had that.

Then Gary said, "And there was a strong emphasis on humility, especially among the leaders."

And Jim thought, Nope. That we did not have.

Let's ask ourselves: When it comes to the values we live by, what will others say about us one day? Will they testify that humility characterized our lives?

So many human ventures, so many grand designs of mankind, have been undermined because humility was lacking on the part of those involved. In the following chapter we'll take a look at just how dangerous pride is, but our motivation for rooting out pride must go beyond a knowledge of its pitfalls and perils. Our pursuit should be driven by the amazing promise that humility holds out to us: God gives grace to the humble!

What are you building with your life? A marriage? A family? A business? A church? A career? In all your ventures, are you aware of your need for God's grace to give your efforts lasting value? Do you long for God's providential help and blessing? Then let's allow the promise of humility to shape our life and choices, so our children and others will one day look back and say of us, They had that. They had humility. They had what mattered.


Excerpted from Humility: True Greatness by C. J. Mahaney Copyright © 2005 by Sovereign Grace Ministries. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Humility: True Greatness 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Short, consise, well-versed, advice on living a life of humility, not as the world sees it (weakness, shyness), but as seen through the eyes of God. True greatness is achieved through true humility. And C.J. Mahaney systematically lays out a blueprint for God's plan for our life. God's plan not our plan. This is the key to understanding true humility understanding that we must be servants, as Christ demonstrated, in order to remain on the path that God has chosen for us. Are you willing to lay all at the foot of God in order to let him transform you in to a creature that is successful at home, at work, at play. God wants success for his people, but he desires humility. A continual reference to one key point in this book is that God gives grace to the humble. Well, as we all know, God's grace is all we have to begin with because we are nothing without him, but now we see that there is something that we can do to draw God's gaze and bring grace to our lives. What a true relief. Through true biblical humility, we can attract God's gaze, draw his attention and receive blessings beyond which we have already, through grace, received. How humbling, how encouraging, how exciting! I have suffered many setbacks in my life, inlcuding 10 years in darkness after I turned my back on God, but this book, the first that I read when I truly dedicated my life to the Lord, has led to such a great understanding of what God has for us, for me. C.J. Mahaney uses real-life analogies and stories to relate the message that is repeated throughout God's word, and he backs all of that up with scripture. I cannot more highly recommend a life changing book, especially for a new Christian this book will provide the foundation for all future endeavors in your life in God's will. This book helped me to understand that I was self-centered, egocentric and selfish even with my wife and daughters who I love and thought I would do anything for. It helped me to find the places, deep inside, that I needed to change in order to effectively humble myself in every facet of my life. I still suffer trials, to be honest, I feel that I suffer more since I became a true Christian, but I see them as a blessing, a gift, an opportunity for me to, as it says in James, grow in faith. James 1:2-3 (not referenced in the book, but so very valid here) states 'Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance' (NIV). What an encouragement! What a blessing! GRACE!!! Please, read this book. The chapters are short enough for a devotional period and the results, if you are receptive to God's word, are remarkable. Humility, despite what the world believes, is the key to happiness both here and in the hereafter.
RTO11_11 More than 1 year ago
This book is laid out in a simple style, easy to read and understand. Yet, the principles presented are deep and profound, you just cannot read it once. I plan to read this book many times, as I seek to humble myself before the LORD! Humility is indeed the path to greatness. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." - 2 Corinthians 12:9
bp0602 More than 1 year ago
I have finished listening to an audio book entitled Humility: True Greatness by C. J. Mahaney. Humillity is something that goes against our culture, and yet as Christians we are to be like Christ who was the perfect example of humility. While we tend to focus so much attention on wanting to be great in this life, what is "true greatness?" This book was so easy to relate to and apply the principles he shared to life. I liked how the author used examples from his own life in search of humility. One thing I took away from this book was the ideas regarding parenting. Are we teaching our children to focus on "true greatness," or do we put too much emphasis on greatness by the world's standards? What does it take for us to see our children as great....if they are sucessful in sports, academics, or their careers? Or if they follow Christ? Where is our focus in our families? Also, this book really made me stop and think about Christ's example of humility. The author did an excellent job in this book I believe and I recommend this book to you. The narrator was interesting to listen to as well with this audio book. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from christianaudio Reviewers Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
mengle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent book with "rubber meets the road" value on the subject. Read through it in a day. Jesus really did turn the world upside down for his followers. Want to be great? Be Humble. A definite re-read.
erickimberly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great read. Very applicable to everyday life and living in submission to Christ. I read it on a plane to Thailand.
SteveJMcLean on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Humility True Greatness, C.J. Mahaney, Multnomah, 2005, 174 pages.C.J. Mahaney wrote a deceptively small book that is packed with a fantastic amount of truth in it. Truth that will cut to the bone and to the heart, every page confronts the reader with the reality that humility is not a heart beat that any of us have in ourselves naturally.Despite this reality, Mahaney writes a book that first creates a desire in the readers heart to grow in humility, and to put to death pride. The entire first section of the book is all about that very issue: Humility vs. Pride. On page 29 a wonderful quote from John Stott does a great job of describing this battle; ¿At every stage of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.¿The book continues into a study on Jesus Christ and the example of perfect humility that he was and is for us. From there Mahaney heads for the heart. The final section of the book is a chapter by chapter run through a variety of steps and practises we can take in our lives to develop humility. Not that developing it can be a pursuit that we can take pride in, that would defeat the purpose of humility all together!This is a book I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND to everyone and anyone!
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AngelNH More than 1 year ago
I read this book in two days. It touched me in many ways. I loved how it described ways to practice humility and honor what is truly imporant in life and in our relationship with God. Well done and filled with truth. Thank you!
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Steelsmitty More than 1 year ago
A fabulous book that is easy to read, great for small group study and so challenging as to be likened to a small pocket knife of biblical stabbing truth. It will challenge you from cover to cover and make you question your beliefs about who you are and what your purpose is. I judge a book by the shelf life. No pun intended but what I mean is, how many times will I put a book back off the shelf to give me life. This book will be referenced by me for future messages and future thinking on the topic of being a true servant. I think you should read it in my humble opinion.