Paradoxical Kingdom – Humility & Exaltation
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation.” – Romans 12:16
Our culture is all about gain – of power, wealth, and fame. Its focus is to strive for success and make yourself great. It’s trying to build that platform, have the best of everything, and feel good about yourself and your own abilities.
If you peel back the layers of all of that and look at the heart of the matter, what does it all stem from and lead to? Pride and an exaltation of self. There can be a fine line sometimes in trying to do things for the Lord and for yourself. I’ve fallen into the trap many times, but the Lord graciously points it out and humbles me. It can be a painful process, but one I’m grateful for.
It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers (a lot or even the lack of), and wanting success. It is good to be diligent and want to see your business, ministry, and so on grow. The true measure of success isn’t in the results of whether it does or not – it’s your heart in the process. The more you learn to keep your focus on Jesus, the less you’ll worry and strive for all those other things. They won’t matter because you’ll trust the Lord to do what He has planned in His time, not your own.
If your business or ministry is in His will, it’ll succeed to the point He wants it to, by His resources and ways. If it isn’t, it may succeed for a time, but it won’t last. God cares about your heart, not the things of this world. Those are all tools and resources He’s given to help you, but they don’t come into eternity with you. Your soul does and so He’ll do whatever you allow Him to grow that instead.
Throughout all of the Bible, whether by pointed verses like, “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18),” or stories like King Saul (1 Samuel 13) or King Uzziah (2 Chron 26:16), you can clearly see the danger that pride and arrogance lead to.
Jesus is the King of Kings. He’s seated on the throne of God, having all of the power and authority. The heavenly hosts are at His beck and call. He has every right to boast in His pride, yet never chooses to do so. In fact, He even chose to leave His lofty position and become a man of no reputation. Paul explains this imagery well in Philippians 2.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others.
5 Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus,
6 who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be exploited.
7 Instead he emptied himself
by assuming the form of a servant,
taking on the likeness of humanity.
And when he had come as a man,
8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—
even to death on a cross.
9 For this reason God highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow—
in heaven and on earth
and under the earth—
11 and every tongue will confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.“ – Philippians 2:3-11
The more you choose to be brought low before God and others, the more the Lord has room to work out His good purposes for you. He loves a humble heart because it is mouldable. Like a potter with clay, He can shape you into the beautiful masterpiece you were designed to be.
So, if you’re called to live a humble life, why does it say that He will still exalt you? Peter declares this and begins to explain why in 1 Peter 5:
“All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because
God resists the proud
but gives grace to the humble.
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you. 8 Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 9 Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world.
10 The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ,will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while. 11 To him be dominion forever. Amen.”
By living a humble life, God will bestow grace upon you. He will exalt you in whatever capacity fits His plans for you. It’ll be in the appropriate time when He knows that you will continue to depend on Him and give Him praise for it, rather than taking that position into your own control and becoming prideful by it.
This is why staying rooted and grounded in the Lord is so important. The devil’s mission is to destroy you, especially if you are a child of God. He will deceive and distract you into thinking everything you’ve gained and have accomplished were by your own merit, putting your eyes on yourself, rather than the Lord. This will taint your relationship with Jesus and block Holy Spirit from continuing great work in you. So, remember to keep your eyes fixed on the Lord and lift others up above yourself in a servant-like posture.
The gospel of Matthew informs you, “Blessed are the humble, for they will inherit the earth.” (5:5)
Paul explains another aspect of our exaltation in Philippians 3:20-21, “20 Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject everything to himself.”
All of these verses share the importance of living a humble life. Then, at Christ’s time, you will be exalted for wilfully obeying His commands. It is completely backwards from our worldview of striving to exalt ourselves in order to feel important and valued. This is why so many people feel lost at retirement. Their purpose is gone because they prided themselves on their work and then don’t know how to find their value when it’s over. In Christ’s kingdom, living humbly and looking to Jesus will always give you purpose and will reveal even greater value after your physical death when you receive your reward.
Remember that the least of these will be first in the kingdom of God. Though you may be striving for Christ and not seeing the results you had dreamed of, He sees your efforts and will exalt you at the right time, in His kingdom. The earthly success anyone gains is temporary and fleeting. But the eternal value you’re gaining by being a servant of Christ will reward you with an indestructible, never-fading crown. You will partake in the inheritance with Jesus. Now that’s the exalted state we should all want.