Humility is Hard / by John Hailes

One of the huge benefits of growing up in a small church was the incredible opportunities I had to do ministry from a young age. In many ways nothing was off limits; members of our youth regularly had opportunities to lead worship, lead prayer meetings and they even had the opportunity to preach.

Letting Pride Slip In

At the age of 14 I had the privilege of speaking to our adult congregation on a Sunday evening. I chose to speak on the rather broad topic of love. I wasn’t really given any help when it came to preparing the message, but I gave it everything I had. My first message was short lived as I raced through my 6 pages of notes in 15 minutes. This wasn’t impressive, given that most sermons in my church lasted 45 minutes.

Although the content of my messages weren’t great, people were quite surprised at my delivery! I probably spent more time making jokes than I did talking about the scripture; and to my surprise people actually laughed. It was no surprise when the rave reviews came in and I received very kind comments from the congregation.

Being a 14 year old with little grasp on reality, I can look back and see that I let this ‘praise’ get to my head. It definitely caused me to get a little puffed up in my own thinking. Pride creeped up out of nowhere and consequently I found myself distant from God.

Wake Up Call

I had a number of other opportunities to speak at Church in the following years and I would always do my best. I would pray before, but I definitely still did it all in my own strength, and it took my heart a long time to be humbled.

I strongly believe that if we don’t humble ourselves, God will eventually humble us…and it might be a little humiliating! In my case, I clearly remember an exchange I had with my mother one day in our living room in front of my family. My mother and I were having a fairly heated discussion about Church and she shot back at me saying, ‘Well, I don’t think your messages are anointed.’

She was basically saying that God wasn’t speaking through my sermons and my messages were hitting people’s hearts. Her comments were harsh and they stung my proud heart; but they were probably the most truthful comments I had heard about my speaking and they lingered with me for a long time.

A Humbled Heart

Since then I fight hard to keep a humble heart. I try not to do ministry ‘in my own strength’ or get by on my own talent. I have realized that what I can conjure up with my best message is nothing in comparison with what God will do if I just move out of the way!

My prayer that I plead with God before I speak is always, ‘Don’t let me speak, if the Holy Spirit is not at work in the room’. People don’t need my words, they need to hear from God. I can only fulfill my calling, if I’m willing to humble myself to be the messenger, not the author!


1.       God expects Humility

He is God. He looks at us like we look at ants. He sees how vastly stronger and wiser He is compared to ourselves. To see us full of pride must shock Him. Pride shows God we are out of place and don’t know our place. It’s no surprise that he quickly puts us back in our place.

2.       God requires Humility

The very jobs that God has for us require humility to perform. God asked Joshua to lead an army in walking around a City, instead of attacking it. He asked Isaiah to preach naked for a few years. He even required Jesus to be humiliated on a cross. Our pride limits God’s ability to use us, because it limits the opportunities that God can give us. God can’t accomplish much through prideful people, that’s why he humbles us.