Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once, the man was cured. John 5:8
“Lord Jesus, I offer myself for Your people. In any way. Any place. Any time.”Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place
I was reading recently about what it meant that Jesus called Himself a humble servant of God. To some that seems contrary – for someone to call themselves “humble.” And at the time of Jesus the word “humble” was a vile and contemptible thing. According to Christian author Charles Jefferson, there was no virtue in the all the pagan world known as “humility.” It was a defect.
As Christianity spread across the world so did its values. One of its unique additions to the world was the concept of Christ-like humility and servitude. It is possibly one of the most misunderstood of Christian values. To some, it means having a low estimate of ourselves. To others it means we deny ourselves and make ourselves inferior. But if we accept all of Christ’s words as true we then must also accept these:
“I am meek and lowly in heart.” Matthew 11:29
And yet we have never met a person who held their head higher, with more confidence, with such loftiness, as Jesus. So often it seems we create a vision of the various character traits of Jesus and each believer then feels they must change their personalities to fit that ideal. When we picture a meek and humble person (not Jesus) do we imagine a rich person? Do we picture a courageous and bold person? Or do we picture a small, weak person who lets people walk all over her?
As I’ve progressed in my faith this concept of being a humble servant is something I’ve really mulled over. I’ve tried “playing” various roles that seem to fit the ideal. And it’s funny. When I try to be so quiet and meek-like it usually backfires. The recipient can tell I’m being a phony.
About a year ago I heard about the book, “The Hiding Place.” I know many Christians have read this at some point in their lives. As a refresher, the story is a Christian family from Holland living at the start of World War II. As Hitler’s army advances, the local Jewish community starts to disappear. Two of the main characters, sisters Betsie and Corrie Ten Boom, find themselves answering God’s call to not just hide Jews but also play integral roles in the underground system of protecting Jews from all over. What struck me about this book were the opposite personalities of the sisters. Both answering God’s call to be humble servants in their own ways.
Corrie was the bold one. She found herself tasked with much of the dangerous work outside their home. While in prison it was Corrie who dealt with the officials. Lest we think this was easy for her because of a strong faith, Corrie frequently questioned God about what He wanted her to do. And each time she prayed. And each time either a word from God or someone close to her encouraged her to move on His command. Near the beginning of their story, Corrie is tasked with obtaining extra food rations cards. She was led to speak with a local man who recently took a job in the Food Office. But she wasn’t sure it would be safe.
“Lord,” I prayed silently, “if it is not safe to confide in Fred, stop this conversation now before it is too late.”Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place
She found herself asking not for five cards but suddenly 100. And within a week they were in her hands. The danger she faced – being turned into the authorities– was replaced with her trust in God’s urging for her to be a “doing Christian.”
Throughout her ordeal, while at home and eventually in prison, she wanted to be so angry with the Germans and those who supported them. She balked at loving her enemies and showing them mercy. Really, who could blame her? And yet over and over she submitted her heart and hands to God.
“My job was simply to follow His leading one step at a time, holding every decision up to Him in prayer,” she wrote. “I knew I was not clever or subtle or sophisticated; if my home was becoming a meeting place for need and supply, it was through some strategy far higher than mine.”Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place
You can contrast her submission to God with a local pastor she encounters. He, on the other hand, when asked to take in a Jewish mother and child into his home was clearly frightened. He admonished her for the “illegal” activity and warned her that what she was doing wasn’t safe.
The concept of being a humble servant doesn’t require of us to be a person of a certain personality or style of living. A longtime pastor can fail while a wealthy man can succeed at this effort. Throughout “The Hiding Place” one such wealthy man aids the underground effort with both his money and his own hands.
In all of Jesus’ teachings we see Him asking us to do two things: love one another and take action. Like the man at the pool who had been waiting for healing for almost 40 years he asks us to first believe Him then get up and start moving. Along the way he wants us to be teachable and willing to learn. He asks us to put aside our vanity and social aspirations. He tasks us to serve and feed His sheep. He doesn’t ask us to underestimate ourselves, make ourselves small, or feel unworthy. In fact, He wants us to stand firm in the knowledge we are doing His work.
Corrie Ten Boom was bold and faithful and humble at the same time. She was always looking to serve the less fortunate and those in need. And when she forgot about serving her enemies, her sister stepped forward to remind her.
I once took a leadership personality test at a conference. The results weren’t that surprising. I have a bold personality and I’m good at organizing. But what makes any leadership situation successful for me is to be paired with a softer, gentler leader. That person remembers those who aren’t as obvious and reminds me to slow down to see the whole picture.
Betsie Ten Boom was that kind of leader. The book in which they are written of highlights her bold sister, Corrie. But it’s this quieter, gentler servant of God that I saw as a thread throughout. It was Betsie who would send up prayers for the Germans soldiers who were torturing them. It was Betsy who thanked God for fleas in their new barracks. While Corrie was dealing with the big problems, it was her quiet sister drawing people out of the shadows for prayer meetings in the middle of the night.
During one difficult transfer to yet another barracks, the women were made to stand for hours and hours. The two sister’s personalities and approach to being God’s servants was evident in this exchange:
“Betsie!” I wailed, “how long will this take!”
“Perhaps a long, long time. Perhaps many years. But what better way could there be to spend our lives?” Betsie replied.
I turned to stare at her. “Whatever are you talking about?”
“These young women. That young girl back at the bunkers, Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love! We must find a way, you and I, no matter how long it takes…” Betsie said with excitement.
Are we that excited to serve God humbly? To be teachable, free from ambition, and vanity? Have we looked Jesus in the eye and said, “I trust you.” And when He has told you to get up and pick up your mat have you obeyed Him? Or have you decided that you aren’t “good enough,” “strong enough,” or “smart enough?”
Are you laying around by the pool, waiting for someone else to do the work for you? If you keep saying to God, “show me what you want me to do” and have yet to walk out your front door and serve your neighbors you’ve missed the point. He takes all types in His Great Army. Get your mat and get moving.
“All of us are different, but all of us can serve the Lord for His glory.”Warren Wiersbe