This is a guest post by John Saad. John works as a technical consultant for Hewlett Packard and is also a proud member of St. Timothy and St. Athanasius Church in Arlington, VA. You can follow him on on his blog, Live Like Men, or on twitter, @DrJohn323. And if you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
“These two virtues – gratitude and humility – are important because they dispose the heart of man to open wide to God”
This simple sentence buried deep within the chapters of an amazing book absolutely rocked me. It totally transformed the way I have started to approach God, and I realized just how true it was as I kept thinking about it. Even the Church Fathers seemed to understand that both gratitude and humility are incredibly important in anyone's relationship with God because the Agpeya, our personal trainer when it comes to prayer, begins every hour with the Thanksgiving Prayer and Psalm 51.
The first, as the name indicates, thanks God for absolutely everything “in every and in any condition.” We thank Him for His protection, provision, and compassion among a host of other things. The prayer right after it, Psalm 51, is a model for approaching God humbly and with a repentant heart, asking for His mercy and forgiveness. It teaches us that none of us is righteous before the Holy Judge of all the earth and that in order to attract His grace we need humility above all else for "Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar" (Psalm 138:6).
To my dismay, there are not many formulas when it comes to spirituality (I’m a computer/math guy myself), but I do know this one to be true:
Graditude + Humility = more GOD
So in order for the right side of equation to be true, I want to spend some time looking at the left side. First, let’s start with gratitude.
It’s been our tradition as a nation to celebrate giving thanks one day every year by eating lots and lots of food. If that were not enough, we spend the day right after pushing people out of the way as we fiercely fight over the latest and greatest gadget. Instead of going around the table one day a year saying what we’re thankful for, we should approach God with a heart over-flowing with praise and thanksgiving on a daily basis. St. Paul had this to say:
“in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
You want to know the will of God for your life? It’s that you live a life of thanksgiving! Thank Him for the air in your lungs, the blood in your veins, the passions He’s put in your heart, the people He’s put in your life, the life He’s given you to live. Thank Him for who He is… for what He’s done in your life… and for what He has yet to do!!! Thank Him for everything in every way you can think of – through praise and worship, through service, through sacrifice of your time and money.
The more we thank Him, the more He gives us and the more we have to be grateful for, and the cycle just keeps going! Let’s thank Him for this gift of giving thanks!!!
Now on to humility…
I could write pages talking about how humility is the mother of all virtues and how dangerous the sin of pride is. I could address the differences in the types of humility and what it means to truly be humble. I could even reflect upon the upcoming Christmas season and meditate on how God, in His perfect and infinite humility, “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and came in the likeness of men.” (Philipians 2:7)
However, there’s one thing I really want to talk about regarding humility that God has been teaching me. In Matthew 11:29 Christ says,
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."
To me, humility is always being ready to learn from God. It's going to Him with every question, concern, and even thought "acknowledging Him so that He might direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:6).
You want to learn to how to love your neighbor, have faith, or how to give more cheerfully? Go to God because He is love Himself - He is the author and perfecter of our faith - He is the giver of all good things.
And if He can teach us the big stuff, we should trust that He'll teach us the small stuff too. You want to learn Organic Chemistry or how to shoot a basketball? Ask Him and He'll teach you; after all, it was Him who spoke the world into existence and made Micheal Jordan out of dirt.
The best place to learn is from the Master... from the one who has all of the answers. Go to Him with everything and anything and learn the mysteries of the universe.
As Thanksgiving fades away and the Christmas season starts earlier than it did last year, let's remember to give thanks in every circumstance and to be clothed with humility in all that we do.
For discussion: from your experience, what is it that allows us to increase in either gratitude or humility?