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Four Marks That Define Humbleness

March 31, 2014

I don’t know what your spiritual temperature is like right now.

Maybe you’re red hot for the Lord, you’re just a super nova ready to explode in praises. If that’s you, God be praised! But maybe you’re reading this today, and you’ve been lukewarm now for what feels like ages. Or maybe your heart is just feeling ice-cold.

I could try to raise your spiritual temperature today. I could try to pump you up with shouts and praises and emotion, but that’s why we go to Starbucks to get our favorite caffeine fix in the morning. Many of those feelings of closeness to God are but a fleeting adrenaline rush.

The Christians I’ve met that are truly close to God aren’t the ones that sing, give, pray, and serve the loudest. They are the ones who do so quietly with warm, joyful, exalted hearts wrecked by a Christ-like humbleness.

If you want to raise the spiritual temperature in your life; if you want to find yourself basking in the joy of God’s presence; if you want to hear the words, “well done my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master,” then you must aspire to mirror the perfect humble servant we all were created to reflect: our Lord Jesus Christ, himself.

In James 4:6-10, we learn four marks that define Christ-like humbleness that should help any Christian who feels distant from God to draw near to him again:


Writing to renegade Christians, James says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God” (v.7). Submission is a posture of the body, mind, will and spirit. It’s a decision where you decide that, in everything you do, you’re going to put Jesus first, others second, and yourself last. Submission requires the humbleness to give up the control you have over your life, and the faith to give that control over to the God who is unseen.

Have you counted the cost? Do you really give up control to God? Do you live like Jesus is Lord over you or are you trying to be Lord over him?


The second mark of humbleness is spiritual mourning: an inner awakening of the vast offenses you have committed against your just and holy Creator. It is the understanding that you can do nothing to save yourself, and that apart from God’s mercy, you would be condemned to hell. James writes, “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom” (v.9). Please don’t let the harshness of these words detract from seriousness of their purpose. When Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” the promised blessing is intended for those sinners who feel the guilt and the scars of their sins that nailed him upon the cross.

Do you ever really feel the burden of sin on your heart? Have you ever wept for the ways you’ve wronged others? Do you really hate sin?


In verse eight, James says to the church in Jerusalem, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Repentance may be the most difficult mark of humbleness. It is easy to ask for forgiveness and receive forgiveness – but it’s a whole lot harder when you actually have to change the way that you’re living and repent from hypocrisy. Whereas mourning over our sins happens inside our hearts, true repentance is the evidence that we are actively turning away from our worldly passions.

Are you losing to the world? When was the last moment of repentance in your life? What evidence is there of your faith?


The fourth mark of humbleness is prayer. Prayer is an expression of our dependence on God, that we desperately need his help. In verse three, James condemns the church saying “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” Here James is warning us against proud, selfish prayers. The very act of asking anything from God should emerge out of our humble dependency upon him, not some misplaced sense of entitlement.

When you pray do you feel like God owes you something? Do you desire to see God’s will be done or your own will be done? Is prayer even a part of your life anymore?

As James writes, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (v.6). If you want to raise the spiritual temperature in your life, you first must be moved by a realization of unearned grace. The way that you know that you’ve captured a Christ-like humbleness in your heart is when you can feel the burden of your sin – but that feeling is overwhelmed by the unrelenting joy that you have been made a new creation in Christ.

Submit, mourn, repent and pray this week…but don’t stop there. Remember God’s promise: the humble will be exalted. Praise God and be joyful for all that he has done! The old is gone and the new has come. Thanks be to God!

The Author
Colton Tatham

Colton Tatham is a pastor at Journey Bible Church, a non-denominational church in Olathe, KS. He graduated with an M. Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago before moving back to the Kansas City metro to prepare for church planting. Colton and his wife Kristen have a daughter named Rylee. The Tatham family loves Kansas City BBQ and Jayhawk Basketball. Colton is passionate about reproducing gospel-centered churches in the Kansas metro.

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