How do you remain humble?
I don't. What makes you think I'm humble? A lot of people don't think I'm humble.
I'll take the question to mean, "How do you work at it?" And that's a good question. I do try to work at it.
For one, I ask others to pray for me. And I pray to the Lord, "Before I give way to any kind of proud misuse of this influence for my ego, kill me. Take me before I ruin this church, this ministry, and these books. If I have to end on a note that would cast a pall over an entire life of effort, please take me before that happens."
Prayer—pleading with God for humility—really is crucial.
Secondly, God always uses means, and the means are both providences and truth. The truth is that I'm a sinner. I wasn't only a sinner. I am a sinner. "He who says he has no sin is deceived" (1 John 1:8). So I am a sinner. This does not take any major argument, and it doesn't take much of a mirror. I just see it over and over again.
I said to our staff yesterday morning, when we were talking about reputations of the church, etc., to pray that we as a staff would daily be stunned by grace in our lives. Because if we aren't amazed by grace towards us, we will be a finger-pointing church mainly.
That was the issue. Bethlehem takes a lot of stands, and therefore we are unhappy with a lot of people's views and can be very negative. I said that the only solution there—since Paul had a lot of things he disagreed with and got upset with a lot of people—the only answer is to be more amazed that you're saved than that they're lost.
We should be amazed that God has treated us so generously. Laboring to see that means we must know our sin and know the cross well.
A third thing is ask people around you to be honest and tell you when you're blowing it, whether you're blowing it in little ways or big ways.
Now and then I'll say to the staff,
Please. I know I have a lot of authority around here, and I'm hard to disagree with; but would you please—if you see an attitude, action, or any laziness, covetousness, greed, lust, or selfishness—would you please come to me? Email me if it's too hard to face me, or just come and tell me.
And they do! Some of the young guys are courageous and will say, "Don't you need to talk to that person after saying that?" And I do. I had to email somebody the other day and say that I mentioned their name in a group and said something negative when I shouldn't have. I was joking but it really wasn't joking. I asked for forgiveness. He emailed back and was so gracious. "Not a problem," he said. "I've done the same thing and I forgive you."
And I said to Nathan, my assistant, on the plane when I was reading this response, "How sweet it is when brothers dwell together in unity! And how horrible it is when you're nervous at night that somebody is mad at you!"
So having people around you who exhort you and rebuke you is crucial.
Finally, you recognize that everything you do, you do in the strength that God supplies. That can be an empty phrase if you're not really believing it. But Paul said, "By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. But I worked harder than any of them." Now he could stop right here and boast in his work, but he goes on: "Nevertheless, it was not I but the grace of God that was with me."
I think that was a very powerful reality for Paul. He could boast. In fact, he did boast about certain gospel things. But when it came to himself, he said that any good he did was done by grace. We see it also in Romans 15:18: "God forbid that I should boast except in what Christ has wrought in me to bring about the obedience of the Gentiles."
So if I hear people saying that they were helped by a book or a conference, I tremble inside that I didn't blow it, didn't drop the ball, or didn't quit. I'm saying "God, how long will you keep this going? How long will you have your hand on me? I cannot believe you are so persevering and kind with one who is so imperfect."
For more detail on how I fight pride and pursue humility, see How To Fight the Sin of Pride, Especially When You Are Praised: Ten Things I Do.