Very few of us like or enjoy conflict. But it’s inevitably going to be part of every relationship, isn’t it. Marriage is no exception. But God has provides us every tool we need to make our marriages the powerful example of His grace that they are intended to be. This episode we are discussing the role of ONE of those powerful tools: HUMILITY.
LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE
The topic of this episode is of vital importance in marriage and the necessity of it especially comes to the forefront in the realm of conflict.
There are many things that can contribute to conflict.
- Differing opinions
- Personal background and perspective
- Poor communication skills
- Different ways of seeing things
- And many, many more…
All those issues, for sure, need to be addressed in a marriage eventually. But if one or both of the marriage partners is missing one essential quality, which we’re going to mention here in a moment, it’s not going to matter how much you work on those issues. You’re still going to have big time trouble in your marriage. You’re going to feel like you’re spinning your wheels and wondering why things are not working out.
What is the quality we’re talking about?
It’s the characteristic of humility.
Why is humility so vital – a biblical perspective
The Bible explains two really big reasons why humility is so important.
The first is that it’s the key ingredient in Christian relationships.
To illuistrate, let’s think about a cake (I LIKE cake).
I mean, think about a cake. There is a distinctive, primary ingredient in a chocolate cake: chocolate. There are other ingredients as well — sugar, flour, eggs, those kinds of things, but CHOCOLATE is what makes a chocolate cake a chocolate cake.
Humility is an essential ingredient in Christian relationships in that same way.
Let’s look at Philippians chapter 2, verses 1 through 8. The way Paul composed the passage, it’s broken up into three sections. He talks about the goal of Christian relationships first, and then he talks about the methods we use to accomplish that goal. And then he talks about the mindset we have to adopt in order to implement the methods to accomplish the goal. So let’s start in verses one and two and talk about the goal.
THE GOAL OF CHRISTIAN RELATIONSHIPS
“So if there’s any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”
Notice Paul’s addressing generic Christian relationships here. He’s not specifying marriage, but because you’re a Christian and your spouse is a Christian, you can assume this applies to you because you’re both Christians. So in th at regard, he’s saying the goal of Christian relationships is harmony and love that reflects what God has done for us.
Keep that perspective in mind. You want your ability to get along with each other (as a married couple), to reflect the great things God’s done to reconcile you to Himself. That’s massive. Marriage is really the perfect context in which to learn how to live that out.
It’s actually a great gift that the Lord has given us to be able to show Christ’s love for the church to the watching world. As we learn to practice unity and love in our marriages, we’re going to be teaching our children how to do it by example, so then our family is going to be headed in that same direction. From there, we get to extend that behavior toward other Christians.
When all of that is happening, the unsaved world is going to look at our relationships, how we treat one another, and they’re going to want what we have, they’re going to wonder where it’s coming from. THAT is our opportunity to point them to Christ.
Interestingly, the verses we just read don’t mention humility. That’s because we’re just looking at the big picture right now. We’re looking at the goal of Christian relationships: harmony and love.
In the next section, verses 3 and 4, is where humility starts to come in.
THE METHOD OF ACCOMPLISHING THE GOAL
So the next few verses say…
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the interests of others.”
In a nutshell, the way we foster the harmony and love that’s to exist between Christians is to consider others’ needs as more important than our own needs.
That means consider the other person’s needs first. An example might be helpful.
Let’s say your wife has some emotional needs, but you also have some needs at the same time. You as the husband, in considering her as more important, need to first care for her emotional needs. In doing so, you’re obviously going to have to wait on your needs being met. How do you do that? You trust the Lord that she will be able to meet your needs down the road.
The reason we need to understand this is that both partners in a marriage can fall into a “My turn” mentality, where we’re saying, “When is it my turn to get my needs met?” But Paul describes a completely different mentality. As Christ followers, people filled with the Spirit of the living God, we have both the desire and the power to consider others first, to put their needs first. We have that ability because the living Lord, Jesus is in us… and that’s how HE is toward others. Notice in this passage, he doesn’t say anything about making sure you’re taking turns. He just says, each of you, your responsibility is to consider the other person first.
So there’s no time where it sounds like you get off the hook of that responsibility. The husband has always got to be considering the wife’s needs first — and the wife has to always be considering the husband’s needs first. It works amazingly well when both spouses are able to do this, and it IS possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. It really is a beautiful thing.
Notice that verse four talks about not only looking to your own interest but to the interest of others. Pay close attention to the wording, “…not only look to your own interests…” there’s the idea that it’s okay to acknowledge your needs and your interests and your desires. But if you’re applying what verse three is talking about and you’re counting the other person as more important, you will trust God with your desires and your needs, knowing He will meet them in His good time. But your job is to consider your spouse is more important. And your spouse’s job is to consider your needs is more important.
So it’s not keeping track and keeping score, not saying, “OK, I went first. Now it’s your turn.” We must serve first, then wait on the Lord to do things in His timing. In our lives, there have been times when we have each actually prayed, “Lord, I’m really needing this from my spouse, please help him/her to recognize it. Please help him/her to care for me in that way.” But even in praying that, we knew taht we were still on the hook to love each other and meet their needs first.
And the Lord is always faithful. He does meet those needs. It might not come when I want it to, but it does come, and it’s God’s perfect timing.
TRUSTING THE LORD WITH YOUR NEEDS AS YOU SEEK TO OBEY
When we think about trusting the Lord with our needs, it’s helpful to step back from the situations we’re describing to recognize that God meets our needs through various means… various gifts, events, circumstances, things… and one of the ways He does that IS through our spouse. So if we can step back and recognize that, in considering my spouse as more important than myself, I’m making myself available for God to use to me as a means of meeting my spouse’s needs.
When I can do that, it’s not about “my needs VS their needs” anymore. It’s about me in God’s hands, to be a channel of blessing to my spouse, and vice versa. My spouse gets to do the same thing, thinking of God using her to bless me. And it removes our self-interest when you think of it that. It makes us a tool in God’s hands.
It’s a beautiful thing and it’s all for God’s glory. As we move into the next section of this, verses five, six, seven, eight, he’s gonna talk about the mindset that goes into this kind of an interaction between us.
YOU HAVE THE POWER TO DO THE RIGHT THING
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men and being found in human form. He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Notice what it says there at the beginning. He says, “Have this mind, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s assuming we already have this mindset. He’s not only assuming, he’s insisting. This amazingly generous, serving, giving mindset IS part of who you are as a new creation in Christ Jesus. This is only true because Jesus is living in us, which makes us humble, like He is humble. Our desires really ARE the same as His, we want to be humble. We simply need to believe it to be true by faith, and step into that mindset practically through obedience.
It’s not something I have to conjure up or I have to study for days on end until I understand all the verses on humility. Christ in me, through the power of the Holy Spirit, will live out humility. So I just need to know and confidently know that it is already within me, to be able to express it in my marriage.
This section also shows us that there’s not a limit, there’s no ceiling on how long, or how far, or how much we need to demonstrate humility. Look at the example it gives, the example of Jesus. He sets a really high bar for us. He was God, yet He gave everything He had to come and serve us. How much more of an extreme example can you get?
Notice how Paul describes it… “He emptied Himself…” and “He became obedient to the point of death…” These are extreme phrases. Who, besides Jesus, has ever emptied themselves for the sake of others, or humbled themselves to the point of death?
When we consider one another first, we’re letting emptying ourselves of our desires. It’s part of humbling ourselves before the Lord and toward our spouse.
Think that through for a moment, on a practical level: living in a humble relationship is full of sacrifice and not always good feelings. But because Christ is in it, He gives us the power and even the desire to live in that manner, because it’s His desire to live in that manner.
The fruit that comes from this kind of relationship is so sweet. It’s bountiful and very pleasurable, even though getting to that point might be full of a lot of pain and suffering.
A SECOND REASON HUMILITY IS SO VITAL
We mentioned a second important reason the Bible says that humility is vital in Christian relationships and that is found in 1 Peter chapter 5 verse 5. It’s also mentioned in the book of James, but it’s the avenue by which we receive God’s help. 1 Peter 5.5 says…
“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud, it gives grace to the humble.”
This is not just generic humility. This is relational humility. He says, “clothe yourselves in humility toward one another.” So, this is back to that “considering others as more important than yourself” idea. And what Peter says to us is that if we are not humble, we’re proud. That sounds as obvious as a nose on your face, but think of what he’s really saying here. There’s no middle ground. There’s not a gray area where you’re kind of humble. If you’re not humble, you’re proud.
And the result of that is that “God opposes the proud.” That’s a scary thought. We don’t want to be opposed by God. Could this be why many marriages are falling apart, or many marriages are on the rocks, or struggling, or miserable? Could it be that one or both of the spouses are living in pride, not walking in humility towards one another? If so, then Peter is telling us that God is opposing that pride.
That may seem a bit uncomfortable, to think that God is in the midst of that conflict, not allowing harmony, not allowing love, not allowing resolution until that person humbles themselves. It IS a scary thought because I think we tend to think, “Oh, they are not getting along in their marriage because of the things that they are doing,” but actually we forget the outside spiritual presence of the Holy Father who’s actually causing them to stay in this conflict because He’s opposing them. He’s not giving them the help that they need.
Why would He do that? Because pride is a deadly thing. He’s unwilling to help the proud person because they are turning away from His help. Because the first thing that needs to be addressed is the state of thyeir hearts. The pride in their hearts is the source of the conflict. It’s the reason you can’t see eye to eye. It’s why your varying perspectives can’t be talked about reasonably. It’s because pride is just digging in its heels and saying, “I’m not going to give in, not going to budge, not going to hear you, not going to sympathize, because my way is best,” or “My way is right,” or fill in the blank.
So then God responds with, “You’re proud. You’re not teachable. You’re not listening. You’re not asking for help. So I’m opposing you. I’m not giving you help.”
So, let’s go back to the conflicts that we were talking about at the beginning, and all the reasons for those conflicts. At some point it is helpful to get practical tips on how to deal with these various conflicts. But friends, if you’re in a marriage where you have been chasing your tails and you just can’t seem to get anywhere, and it’s got you stumped why things are so hard and so long-lasting, you need to go on a treasure hunt, except it’s not a treasure you’re looking for. It’s something rotten. It’s called pride.
Ask the Lord to show you where are you proud, where are you not listening to the Holy Spirit, where are you not listening to your spouse who is trying to tell you the same thing over and over again. As you humble yourself and learn where your pride has been ruling you, God will jump at answering your prayer because you are humbling yourself before Him. He’s already ready to help you and He will.
We have four assingments for this episode – and it’s a “take your pick” assortment where you get to choose.
1) First is to read Philippians chapter two, verses one through nine daily, for the next 14 days. That’s the passage we just looked today.
Take your time each day, set aside 10 or 15 minutes, read it, ponder what it’s saying, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to you, and then respond in obedience to what God’s doing in your heart.
2) So the second option is this: Start praying for the Lord to grow humility in you, and then also pray for the Lord to grow humility in your spouse.
That’s the most loving thing you can do for your spouse, to ask the Lord to grow humility in them. And the most loving thing that you can do towards your spouse is to ask the Lord to help you to grow in humility, too.
3) The third option is to memorize one of the passages we’ve covered today — 1 Peter 5:5 or the longer one in Philippians 2. Take your pick.
4) The final option is to read the book, “Humility” by Andrew Murray. This is a little bit more of a time commitment, but it’s a life-changing book to read. And a heads up about this book; it is a challenging read. Not that it’s hard, but it’s the type of book that as you get a paragraph into it, you have to stop and ponder what you just read because it’s so profound and so powerful.
So don’t expect to rush through it and get a lot of benefits. You’ll need to just take your time and ponder it as you read.
So friends, be of good courage. Christ who is living in you right now, is your greatest example of humility. He was God and He humbled Himself to become a man, to become our Savior. Seek Him, plead with Him to develop His humility through you and in you, and He will. He can’t wait to do it. That’s why He came to Earth. That’s why He died for you. That’s why He’s living in you.
And also be encouraged that as you grow in humility, you’re going to be growing in insight and wisdom about the conflicts, the things that that cause hardships in your relationship, because you’re going to see them more clearly. Humility takes away the blinders. Humility removes the scales from your eyes. So be encouraged. This journey of growing in humility is going to end in such great reward for you and your spouse.
LISTEN SEPARATELY then set a weekly appointment to discuss what you’ve heard, pray about what God may want YOU to adjust or implement, then plan how you will do so.
LISTEN TOGETHER: Set a standing weekly date to listen together, pray over what you’ve heard, discuss, and strategize how to implement relevant things into your relationship.
DO THE HOMEWORK: The more you invest, the more you’ll grow and experience God’s blessings!