The Epitome of Humility

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), I thirst. 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. (John 19:28–29)

At the Cross, there is Gods epitome of humility.

The author of a book I’ve been reading recently posed three pointed questions, which he observed a lot of people wrestle with today:  Is God unfair? Is God silent? Is God hidden?

In the light of our present circumstances, perhaps, we may want to murmur with a “yes”, or “hmm…sometimes”, or “maybe”? For those who want to play safe, they might just shrug their shoulders and reply, “I don’t know”.

However, when we see Jesus Christ at the cross, it’s as if we shrink in silence.  It’s as if we can’t dare muster a word.

Why? Because Jesus did not commit a crime, yet he was treated like a culprit. He was stripped off his garments; his clothes had to be divided among four soldiers; his fine tunic they cast lots. Jesus was severely mocked and suffered unimaginable pain.  Like in Isaiah 53:7,

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

so he opened not his mouth.

All these, in a humanly perspective, may seem unfair!  And what I’m going through is nothing in comparison to what Jesus went through.

Admittedly, at least one person here would probably fight back when opposition comes their way.  Is that true? Well, I could be guilty of that.  I’ve already punched a guy in the face before, on my defense.  (And I sought God’s forgiveness for that!)

For some who are blessed with more patience, they would say something like this:  Okay lang sakin na ako ang masaktan, huwag lang ang mga mahal ko sa buhay. Does that sound familiar? 

Either way, it is human instinct that we somehow fight back, we just differ in terms of degree and in the form of how we do it.

Now, what did the Son of God do?  Out of humility, he remained silent and he endured instead.  When he got flogged, he did not cry: Ouch, my back!  When he was crowned with thorns, he didn’t shout: Not my head!  When he carried his cross, he did not complain:  I cant carry this! Its just too heavy!

Yet here in our text in John 19:28, Jesus said, “I thirst”.  Among the last few recorded words, I must say that this could be the “most human”, since this appears to be his only complaint about his outward sufferings, as compared to the other six statements in the traditional seven last words of Jesus Christ. 

Jesus was very tired, I suppose. With the wounds that he had, he could be losing a lot of blood by then.  With the climate and condition of their land, it could have added to his struggle.  Now, Jesus thirsted and therefore needed a drink. 

There was a jar of sour wine (or wine vinegar, which was used by ordinary people) that stood there.  So they got a sponge full of it, placed it on a branch, and held it in Jesus’ mouth.

As I reflect, indeed in this lifetime, I could never fully grasp the humility of Jesus Christ. He, being in the form of God, emptied himself and took the form of a servant. 

Everything in creation was like God’s footstool, as Isaiah said. By God’s word, things came into being.  He named the stars in the heavens and put them in their appropriate place.  But we hear him now say, I am thirsty

Jesus Christ was entitled with all the glory and all the privileges of being God. Yet being human, he was exposed to our physical conditions: to stress, to our need to work for a living, to bodily aging; and even down to the basic needs of clothing, shelter, of food, and… the need for a drink. 

But the Son of God, even in his humanity, narrowed His focus to the Father’s plan. He was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

And now we learn that even if things seemed so unfair, when God seemed hidden or silent… through Jesus’ submission to God’s will, we were given the opportunity to come into an intimate relationship (into a restored fellowship) with God.  He did it all out of pure love and pure grace… out of utter obedience.

Amazing. Indeed, at the cross, we find Jesus Christ as God’s epitome of humility.

And in His example, may we humble ourselves as well.

May we not assert what we want, but learn to yield. May God give us the grace to say “no” to pride, and to say “yes” to Jesus.

May God move us to die to ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus Christ.

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A Holy Discontent and a Grateful Heart

Read: 2 Samuel 7

A good reputation. Victories, here and there. Earthly treasures. God’s favor.  Name it, and most likely, David had any good king would ask for.  Now, it’s an opportune time to experience rest from Israel’s battles.  Yet there’s something inexplicable that David could not just shake off from his heart and mind.  What could it be?  Perhaps, a burden? Well, you can say that it’s a holy kind of burden.  It’s what some aptly call a “holy discontent”.

Now when the king lived in his house and the LORD had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.” (2 Sam. 7:1-3)

What keeps you wide awake at night? What sort of vision totally exhilarates you?  In this text, David had one – to build a house (temple) for the God he loves so dearly.  What a gargantuan vision this shepherd-turned-king had!

Now, let’s read further.  Did God honor David’s desire? Well… Yes, but God’s reply had a some twist in it. To build the temple was left for his son to do; not in David’s reign. The Lord honored the humble king’s desire, but He had plans beyond what the king could think of.

Nonetheless, David was floored by God’s answer.  Then, this was the king’s response to God in his prayer:

Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and said, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?  And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord GOD. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord GOD! (2 Sam. 7:18-19)

A holy discontent coupled with a grateful heart.  This is a powerful combination of humility made manifest in David’s life.

With all the great things that have happened to King David, he could have chosen to be a little lax.  But he was committed to do more for the Lord!  With God’s unlikely response to such desire, he could have chosen to react rebelliously.  Yet, he submitted… and his heart could not contain the joy he found in God!

At times, life’s victories can easily put our guards down.  For some people, they become complacent.  Others, they even forget to acknowledge God.  With all the good intent fused in every prayer that we hope the Lord would grant, we can subliminally bear a grudge when things don’t turn as anticipated.  But in this passage, David’s attitude was both noteworthy and praiseworthy.

An amazing concoction of holy discontentment and gratefulness were found in David, the man after God’s own heart.  Thus, by God’s grace, I pray that the same elements of humility could be found in your heart and mine too.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Based on this text, what can you say about David’s attitude towards God?
  2. Now, what was his attitude towards victory?
  3. How do you respond whenever God answers your prayers in an unexpected manner?
  4. Drawing from David’s example, how can you cultivate a grateful heart?
  5. What are the “baby steps” that you can take to act on the vision that God has placed in your heart to do?

A Unique Kind of Lens

Read:  1 Samuel 16:1-13

Saul just got rejected from being king, and Samuel was commissioned by God to search for his replacement. The Lord sent specific instructions to find Jesse the Bethlehemite for, surely, the Lord’s anointed was to be found in his family. Now, here’s something that God said, which I found so interesting and somehow perplexing:

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7 ESV)

On the basis of our humanly perspective, a shepherd boy was never fit to be king. The eldest was commonly favored in the family, particularly in the Jewish tradition, so the youngest of the clan was never the top choice. However, God wore a unique kind of “lens” when looking at His creation. He did not focus on one’s status, credentials, nor anything outward. The Lord was so focused on the condition of one’s heart.  He is looking at your heart. And, David had what God was looking for.

Today’s culture has created a strong sense of competition.  People want to be better than anybody else!  Employers want the most impressive curriculum vitae.  In short, they are “hunting” for the best of the best… of the best.  Whenever we fall short of the world’s standards, our lives seem to stop and crumble.  We end up looking down on ourselves and begin having a wrong self-image.  We likewise become critical towards others, by fault-finding and falling into the “comparison trap”.  Let’s be honest.  All these can be true of us, isn’t it?

But, is performance God’s measure of one’s character? Certainly not!  For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

Lift up your head, my friend.  Take heart, and be totally secure in God’s unconditional love.  Invest in cultivating your own heart, go to God’s Word, and pursue what He desires for you to do.

As we take a closer look at the life of David and discover how he chased God’s own heart despite his imperfections, I hope you’d prayerfully consider reflecting on the following questions:

  1. Have you ever fallen into the traps of comparison and performance?  How did you feel, and what where the results of such feelings?
  2. How’s your heart right now? Are you chasing God’s heart, or something less?
  3. God looks at our inmost being.  What are things that keep you from pursuing God fully and joyfully? Have an honest evaluation.  Then, I urge you to write them on your journal or on a piece of paper and fervently ask the Lord to live a surrendered life.

Weak and Proud!

The past weeks have been crazy and tiring. First, it’s tiring because… well, it’s just point-blank tiring.  It has been physically and mentally draining. Haha, I guess it merits no further explanation.

Next, it’s crazy.  It’s crazy, primarily because I don’t know why people call me up or send me messages in order to invite me to do things that I perceive I’m not so much capable of doing.   And part of that list of things that I wish I would not do is speaking in front of big crowds.

I’d qualify a “big crowd” as a group consisting of more than twenty people, believe me or not.  This may not be the same for everyone. That’s just my personal definition of it, despite me being noted as a “people person”. If you’re familiar with “Solving the People Puzzle”, in the DISC paradigm, the “I” (for Influence) is the only component that remains recessive. Mostly on weekends, you’d find me at either Red Ribbon or Bo’s Coffee in Madrigal or Molito area teaching in a small group setting (with about not more than ten people).  If a crowd would be asked who among them are the “small group” people, I might as well raise my hand.  I guess, I was just wired that way.

When year 2012 opened, however, the Lord has been nudging me to go out of my “comfort zone” in an entirely new level.  Speaking engagements here. Then, teaching tasks there.  Mentoring people, and the list goes on.  I have to admit that it could get scary and that it unnerves me, knowing that there could be a bunch of guys out there more fit for the job.  Yet the Lord really has His own unique ways of teaching me that as His disciple – I should deny myself, take up His cross, and follow Him.  It’s never easy, but in this manner, He is the One placed on the pedestal.  Not me.  He’ll be the one who is going to enable me to do the task; and as a result, His glory shines brightest!

Now, here’s a realization: He equips those whom He calls. (And I’m pertaining to every Christ follower, not just the ordained or those in professional full-time ministry.)  He provides and cares for us.  He leads us by His loving hand! Given all these truths, I am secure that He will carry me from Point A going to Point B.  He’ll definitely make sure that He gets the job done in me and through me!

What’s our part, then, in this case?  Admit your weakness, and declare Your dependence unto Him.  Let God work His way in your life, and allow Him to use you for His glory.

Is it going to be easy? Nope, since there are a lot of risks involved. 

How long will the process take? The answer’s indefinite, but certainly not overnight.

Is it really wise to depend on Him? Well, if you pledge allegiance with Jesus, then it’s going to be the wisest choice you’ll ever make in your life.

So today, I humbly confess that I’m weak, that I should shun pride, and that I desperately need the Lord.  Like the apostle Paul, I shall boast of my being weak.  Why?  It is because God’s grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in our weakness.  It may sound like a paradox for the majority since the world does not normally operate this way.  However, God can only break through in the lives of people whose hearts are totally abandoned to Him.

Perhaps, the Lord is asking you to let go of your pride or of too much control.  Maybe those are things that stand between you and Him at this moment, don’t you think?

I pray you’d take that life-changing step of faith today.