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What the Bible Says

"Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, 'If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.'" Mark 9:35

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
Philippians 2:3-4

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Be Last: Descending to Greatness

(Tyndale House)

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Descend to Greatness

By Belinda Elliott
Contributing Writer“The first shall be last.” We may be familiar with this principle from Scripture, but do we live as if it is true? Christ instructed us to put the needs of others before our own. How many of us do that?

In his new book, Be Last: Descending to Greatness, author Jeremy Kingsley examines what a life of humility should like it and how we can obtain it. The first place to start, he says, is by examining the life of Jesus. Christ defined success much differently than many in our culture do today. The true mark of greatness to Him was for a person to be humble.

“We want to say, ‘Be on top!’ and ‘Win at all costs!’” Kingsley said. “In Mark 9:35, He said, ‘If any of you wants to be great, you must take the place of a servant.’”

Jesus lived this out in every aspect of His life, Kingsley said, beginning with His birth. He voluntarily left Heaven, where He was worshipped by angels to come to earth where He would be scorned by many. Though He was the Messiah, He didn’t come into the world like a prince born to a king and queen in a majestic palace. Instead, He was born to two ordinary parents, and His birth took place in a barn because none of the local inns had vacant rooms.

Throughout His life, He spent time with and ministered to poor people, tax collectors, and prostitutes. This was not the way people (especially the Pharisees) thought He should be spending His time. They were too proud to do such things.

Even at the Last Supper, the final lesson that Christ left with His disciples was one of humility, Kingsley said.

“He’s got one last shot to really teach the guys something big,” Kingsley said.” I remember thinking, ‘What would I do?’ If it was my last chance to really tell these 12 guys something huge, would I tell them about Heaven? Would I try to explain some theological mystery? Jesus grabs the towel and the water and washes their feet. They get upset and say, ‘You can’t do that.’  Then He says, ‘You guys can’t even be with me, around me, or united with me at all, if you don’t get this.’”

His entire life was one of humility, the author said, and we would be wise to imitate Him. But it’s not easy. We have a lot of things working against us. Both our culture and our human natures tell us to serve ourselves rather than others, Kingsley said. Add the fact that we have an enemy who is trying to deter us as well, and we have quite a challenge.

“Satan is saying, ‘Serve yourself,’” he said.  “He will do anything he can do to get glory away from God, and one way he can do that is to get us to try to do things that bring glory to ourselves. I think between our flesh, society, and the enemy, those are three tough things that we have to fight against to really push ourselves to be last.”

How do we cultivate the trait of humility in our lives? Kingsley said there are a few key ways.

Having accountability is a must. “Have friends that can ask you a couple key questions,” he said, “and you have to be honest. You can’t lie.”

Some of those questions involve paying attention to the comments you make and the stories you tell. Do you often talk about yourself? Do all of your stories revolve around you? This is one place to start, Kingsley said, because Scripture tells us that what we say comes from what is stored in our hearts (Luke 6:45).

Other questions an accountability partner should ask include, “Are your actions you-centered?” and “Are your thoughts you-centered?” Kingsley said.  Discussing these weekly will make you more aware of the patterns in your behavior.

Another key to developing humility is to look for ways to serve others. This could mean being willing to go the extra mile to help someone who needs it.

“Jesus said come alongside and carry a burden with someone,” Kingsley said.  “Say you meet a single mother and she’s struggling. Are you willing to help her with that burden? That is a hard thing to do, to add their burdens into your life to help them. Are you willing to spend time with people on the street hugging them, talking with them, bringing them food, some of the action-oriented type things?”

These are an important part of living a life of humility. And, Kingsley said, we should also be serving Jesus with an attitude of humility even when no one else is involved.

“What happens when you go into a restroom and you see trash on the floor?” he said.  “Can you pick it up and put it away, and Jesus is the only one that knows? I want to get to a point personally where in all those private things that only Jesus knows, there’s a consistent pattern of serving Him. When no one is watching and there is a chance to serve another person or serve Jesus, that’s when it starts to get big.”

Doing these things bring glory to God. Scripture tells us that if we love God, we should obey Him. But without striving to intentionally develop this trait in our lives, we can never be fully obedient to how He has asked us to live.

“If you aren’t working on humility, it’s not going to happen,” Kingsley said. “It’s not natural. Our nature fights against it.”

To learn more about living a life of humility, check out Kingsley’s book, Be Last: Descending to Greatness.

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