The best and most helpful book you’ll find on leadership has never been on a best-seller list. It was written way back 1896 by a famous South African pastor and teacher. It’s only only 76 pages long, but it’s chock full of inspiring Biblical wisdom. It trumps all the highly touted successful leadership strategies of our day — every pastor, leader, and helper would do well to read it.
The book is Humility: The Beauty of Holiness by Andrew Murray. Do you think humility is beautiful? The most essential trait for your happiness and effectiveness in life and leadership? Most people in our world do not.
“How little [humility] is preached. How little it is practiced,” Murray writes (p. 16). A century later our situation is far worse. It seems everyone wants to promote themselves. Our world mocks people who are humble before God, “Don’t be holier than thou!” Even in the Church we have a large field of knowledge on Christian Leadership, but we don’t see many of our leadership books or conferences stressing humility.
But the truth is that humility is the key to effective leadership because it is humility before God is the mother of all virtue and the most winsome and effective approach to leadership. It’s the kind of humility that we see in Jesus Christ that provides the best leadership results in the long-term.
Peter Became a Humble Leader
Andrew Murray’s message is embodied graphically in the Bible by Peter, Jesus’ lead Apostle.
When Peter and the other Apostles had been arguing about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of God and Jesus shocked them by setting a little child before them and saying, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3-4)
But, like most of us, Peter had to learn to be a humble leader the hard way — through enduring painful and embarrassing failures. Then Jesus restored him to leadership and his past failures became cause for rejoicing in God’s grace! So he told the stories of his having little faith, being rebuked by Jesus, falling asleep when Jesus needed him, and publicly denying his Lord in the Gospel that he preached (probably the Gospel of Mark).
He taught the Christians of his day who were persecuted and scattered everywhere to learn from his story. “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5-6)
Excerpts From Andrew Murray’s Book on Humility
I’d like to share with you some of my favorite excerpts and quotes from Andrew Murray’s classic devotional book, Humility: The Beauty of Holiness. What follows are Andrew Murray’s words…
Humility in the Teaching of Jesus
Jesus calls us to be servants of one another (Matt. 23:11), and that, as we accept it heartily, this service will be a most blessed one, a new and fuller liberty from sin and [self-exaltation]. At first it may appear hard; this is only because of the pride which still counts itself something. If once we learn that to be nothing before God is the glory of the creature, the spirit of Jesus, the joy of heaven, we shall welcome with our whole heart the discipline we may have in serving even those who try or vex us.
When our whole heart is set upon this, the true sanctification, we shall study each word of Jesus on self-abasement with new zest, and no place will be too low, and no stooping too deep, and no service too meager or too long continued, if we may but share and prove the fellowship with Him who spake, “I am among you as he that serves.” (Luke 22:27)
Friends, here is the path to the higher life. Down, lower down! This was what Jesus ever said to the disciples who were thinking of being great in the kingdom, and of sitting on His right hand and His left. Seek not, ask not for exaltation; that is God’s work. Look to it that you abase and humble yourselves, and take no place before God or people but that of a servant; that is your work; let that be your one purpose and prayer. (Mark 10:35-45)
God is faithful. Just as water ever seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds the creature abased and empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and to bless. Those who humble themselves — that must be our one care — shall be exalted; that is God’s care and by His mighty power and in His great love he will do it. (Matt. 23:12)
The Manliest Virtue
Men sometimes speak as if humility and meekness would rob us of what is noble and bold and manlike. Oh that all [men and women] would believe that this is the nobility of the kingdom of heaven, that this is the royal spirit that the King of heaven displayed: to become the servant of all! This is the path to the gladness and the glory of Christ’s presence ever in us, His power ever resting on us.
Jesus, the meek and lowly One, call us to learn from Him the path to God (Matt. 11:28-30). Let us study the words [of Christ], until our heart is filled with the thought: My one need is humility. And let us believe that what He shows, he gives; what He is, He imparts. As the meek and lowly One, He will come in and dwell in the longing heart. (pp. 27-28)
In striving after the higher experiences of the Christian life, the believer is often in danger of aiming at and rejoicing in what one might call the more… manly virtues, such as boldness, joy, contempt of the world, zeal, self-sacrifice… While the deeper and gentler, the diviner and more heavenly graces, those which Jesus first taught upon earth, because He brought them from heaven; those which are more distinctly connected with His cross and death of self — [submissiveness], meekness, humility, lowliness — are scarcely thought of or valued.
Put On a Heart of Humility
Therefore, let us put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering; and let us prove our Christlikeness, not only in our zeal for saving the lost, but before all in our intercourse with the [brothers and sisters in the Lord], forbearing and forgiving one another, even as the Lord forgave us. (Col. 3:12-13)…
And let each failure and shortcoming simply urge us to turn humbly and meekly to the meek and lowly Lamb of God, in the assurance that where He is enthroned in the heart, His humility and gentleness will be one of the streams of living water that flow from within us…
Men and women… find it hard to bear, and to love, and to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Col. 3:14-15). And those who should have been fellow-helpers of each others’ joy, became a hindrance and a weariness. And all for one reason: the lack of humility… which rejoices in becoming and being counted the least, and only seeks, like Jesus, to be the servant, the helper and comforter of others, even the lowest and unworthiest. (pp. 37-38)
The Two Stages of Humility
Every Christian virtually passes through these two stages in their pursuit of humility.
(1) In the first [stage] they fear and flee and seek deliverance from all that can humble them. They have not yet learned to seek humility at any cost. They have accepted the command to be humble, and seek to obey it, though only to find how utterly they fail. They pray for humility… but in their secret heart they pray more, if not in word, then in wish, to be kept from the very things that will make them humble.
They are not yet so in love with humility as the beauty of the Lamb of God, and the joy of heaven, that they would sell all to gain it (Matt. 13:44-46)… [They lack] the spontaneous expression of a life and a nature that is essentially humble. It has not yet become their joy and only pleasure. They cannot yet say [with Paul when God wouldn’t remove his thorn in his flesh, but gave him much grace instead], “Most gladly do I glory in weakness, I take pleasure in whatever humbles me.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10, Murray’s paraphrase)…
(2) What will it be that will bring us [into this second stage of having humble character]? That which brought Paul there: a new revelation of the Lord Jesus.
Nothing but the presence of God can reveal and expel [the proud] self… The presence of Jesus will banish every desire to seek anything in ourselves, and will make us delight in every put-down that prepares us for His fuller manifestation… Humility is our highest blessing!…
To take pleasure in all that brought him low… [was] the highest lesson that Paul had to learn. [He chose] full conformity to his Lord in that self-emptying where he gloried in weakness that God might be all. (pp. 61-62)
[Edited slightly for modern language and gender neutrality. Scripture references added.]
Study and Savor the Beautiful Humility of Christ
These excerpts and quotes from Humility: The Beauty of Holiness by Andrew Murray focus on the inspiring and delightful character of Christ. You’ll love this! “Jesus’ Humility: The Beauty of Holiness.”