The Culture

Humility and Boldness: Why We Need Both

Humility is often misunderstood, but is essential for godly boldness…

When we think of a “humble” dwelling, we imagine a hut with no indoor plumbing, no glass or screens in the windows, and—heaven help us—no air conditioning. In a secular, every-day sense, humble means lowly or inferior, and humility means thinking we are lowly or inferior.

In the Bible, humility is so different and so important. The Bible dictionary definition of humility is: “A personal quality in which an individual shows dependence on God and respect for other persons.” Humility is the foundation for godly boldness.

In Acts, chapter 4, we see how humility is essential for boldness. Peter and John had been arrested for preaching salvation through Jesus. After a night in prison, they were freed, but commanded to never talk again about Jesus.

Right after they were released from prison, they gathered with other believers to pray and seek God. I imagine they were tired, discouraged, and scared, but the first words in their prayer acknowledged the sovereignty of God. They prayed about the opposition and threats they were receiving. And in spite of their negative circumstances, they acknowledged that God was in control and that their trials were part of God’s plan.

Before they asked anything of God, they humbled themselves in his presence. Humility is acknowledging that we are nothing on our own, but also knowing who we are in Christ. Godly humility is the recognition that we are completely dependent on God’s help, coupled with the confidence that, through him, we can do anything.

Here’s the rest of their prayer: “O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30).  They knew their own strength was insufficient. They needed courage in an ungodly land. They needed boldness in an unbelieving culture. And they had enough humility to know they desperately needed this equipping to come from the hand of God.

Verse 31 says that after this prayer, the Holy Spirit filled them. The disciples preached the word of God with boldness. Here’s the secret: Godly humility comes first and Holy Spirit boldness follows.

Being bold means something different in each of our lives. It may mean offering to pray for a neighbor or a co-worker. It may mean inviting someone to church or telling them what Jesus has done in our lives. It may mean standing up for God in the face of opposition. God will give us courage and boldness IF we have humbled ourselves and asked for his strength.

We have an amazing hope living within us. Let us rely on our God and speak the truth in humility and boldness.

Dear God, my help comes from you. On my own strength, I’m nothing. But through your strength, I can do anything. Give me humility and boldness to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit and reach people with the message of your love and salvation. In the name of Jesus, amen.

The Culture

But If Not, We Still Won’t Bow

Three young men who would not give in…

They were born with the Hebrew names of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, but many know them by their captivity names of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. When they were teenagers, they were selected to serve in the Babylonian king’s palace because they were handsome, healthy, and smart.

Although they were in a strange, pagan culture, they never forgot who they were. They never forgot that they were in a covenant relationship with Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They never forgot how God brought their ancestors out of Egypt. And they never forgot that their God required their allegiance. They could not bow in worship to any god but Yahweh.

They did well in captivity. They were well liked and successful.

And then the king started building a statue, one made of solid gold. It kept rising, taller and taller. When it was finished, it rose 90 feet into the air, glimmering golden in the sunlight.

You know the story. The king commanded everyone to bow and worship the statue when he played the statue-worshipping music. The punishment for not bowing was instant death in a fire. No trial, no jury, no excuses.

I wonder if Hananiah, Mischel, and Azariah wrestled with what to do. I wonder if they discussed it. We’ll never know that, but we do know this: The music played, but they didn’t bow.

The three of them were brought before the king. He was furious, but he gave the teenagers a final chance to change their mind: “I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” (Daniel 3:15).

The king apparently didn’t know the power of the God of Hananiah, Mischel, and Azariah. But the boys knew who they served, and they weren’t shaken. Their answer stands with the greatest words recorded in all of history: “We do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-17).

Abraham Lincoln said some amazing things. C. S. Lewis had an inspired way with words. But, friend, have you ever heard anything more humbling, more inspiring, more thrilling than three teenage Jewish boys, far from home, in a heathen culture, facing being burned to death, who opened their mouth and said: “We. Will. Not. Bow. Down.” We serve a God who is able. We serve a God who has all power. We serve a God who can rescue us from any situation. But even if he doesn’t, we will not bow down.

Dear God, give me courage not to bow down to those things that tempt me to serve them rather than you. Help me remember the greatness of the God I serve. Let my whole heart and my loyal allegiance belong to you alone. In Jesus’s name, amen.

The Culture

Confronting the Culture with Truth and Love

Nothing looked familiar anymore.

I was driving alone on a trip I had been on before, but never driven. I was prepared—map printed out on the passenger’s seat and smart phone as a backup. I suddenly stopped singing along with the tune on the radio when I realized nothing had looked familiar in a long time. I was very lost.

When culture pushes against godly boundaries, people get lost. Proverbs 22:28 warns us about the danger of moving boundaries: “The previous generation has set boundaries in place. Don’t you dare move them just to benefit yourself.”

Declaring something evil to be something good doesn’t make it good. Even if the culture embraces it, evil is still evil. “You can rationalize it all you want and justify the path of error you have chosen, but you’ll find out in the end that you took the road to destruction” (Proverbs 14:12). If a lie is told long enough, people may start to believe it, but that doesn’t make it truth. It’s still a lie that leads people to destruction.

As the culture pushes boundaries, the world looks less and less familiar. Cultural norms are upended at a dizzying rate. More and more people embrace evil and call it good. How do we navigate this culture while bringing glory to God? How do we walk right when the world heads in a wrong direction?

Here are two essentials to navigating in a world without boundaries:

  • Have convictions. We must know what we believe. Our boundaries are rooted in our faith in God and knowledge of his word. We cannot give in to an anti-faith, anti-God, anti-Bible culture. Regardless of what is accepted as “normal” in our culture, we cannot embrace it if it is counter to God’s word. We have a duty both to do what is right and to stand up for what is right.
  • Trust God. God is in control of our lives, our culture, and our world. The consequences of standing up for what is right is also in God’s control. Friend, there may be times when there are consequences for standing up for what is right. In those times, we must trust God and not give in to fear. Regardless of what the culture may say, we stand up for what is right—by living right, by declaring the truth of what is right, and by loving people even when they’re wrong. And we trust God with whatever consequences may follow.

The days of fitting in with the culture are over. When I was lost on my drive, I didn’t need someone to pat my back and say I was headed in the right direction. I needed someone who would acknowledge I was lost and help me find my way. When our culture loses its way, people need our help, not our approval. We must not be driven by being liked or being accepted by our culture. We must be committed to loving people, following God’s word, and bringing him glory.

Joshua 24:15 has never been more appropriate than today. We must choose whom we will serve. Will we serve the values of the culture in which we live? Or will we boldly, faithfully serve the Lord?

Dear God, give me discernment to see when today’s culture is moving away from your word. Help me recognize lies and give me courage to stand with truth. Give me and my family faith to stand up against the pressure of an ungodly culture. Tear down strongholds. Establish your kingdom in the earth. In Jesus’s name, amen.