How to be Humble ft. Jake Hatfield

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The One Degree Podcast



Digital library of theological trainings with guided notes

Exegetical Bible reading plans and studies with daily videos going deeper

Monthly Theology Couch Chat discussing a theological hot topic


In this episode, we are talking about humility and Jake Hatfield is joining us. Jake is the Director of College Life at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was Nathaniel’s boss for four years and is super involved in serving at his local church. Jake is someone who truly lives out humility and models it for others.

If an addict is talking about freedom from addiction, in my mind, humility is my journey away from an egotistical, “I am the center of my universe” mindset. I am a recovering “egotistian” (is that a word?). This conversation is not coming from a place of arrival, but a continuous journey.

Jake Hatfield

What is humility?

Jake, how do you define humilty? 

Jake: How I began to think of it is that to live with humility is merely to recognize and live in reality. You can think about this on some different levels. On a natural level, if we didn’t have a relationship with God, living in reality means recognizing that our lives are just a blip. Anything that I pursue (money, fame, etc…) will come to an end. Humility is living in the reality that I am not in charge. How do you guys think about humility?

Xan: Not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. That’s what I typically think of, thanks to Tim Keller’s Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness!

Jake: Yeah, it’s helpful to think that if humility is the end, what’s the negative of that? It’s easier to think about someone who is not humble. Keller talks about how our ego is not really something that we should think about. So if you think about it a lot, it’s probably because it is swollen.

Nathaniel: I feel like the more I go on this Christian walk and the more the word works on my life, the importance of loving God and loving others as ourselves has grown for me. We are called to fight for justice as best we can, but we are also called to suffer injustice ourselves for the sake of the gospel. That’s not a fully fleshed-out idea for me yet, but the Lord is teaching me a lot about it. This is just one aspect of humility.

How to Be Humble Christian Humility

The End of Your Life

Jake: We can often think of humility as something to put on like a t-shirt and wear for a little while. But the more you realize who you are in this story, the more it becomes a reality that you live in. I am not the center of this story. Everything I could chase after will end. There is nothing here that could give me the delight and joy that my heart longs for. So, how should I live my life in a way that brings glory to God and delight to other people?

Nathaniel: Yeah, I think that death really drives that point home. As we reflected a few weeks ago after the death of my grandfather, we were talking about how sacrificial and loving he was. He really embodied humility. When you reach the culmination at the end of your life, or see someone do this, you really start to think about what truly mattered in the blip of their life. People will remember them for the sacrifices they made and the people they loved.

Xan: It reminds me of the quote by Zinzendorf, “Preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten.”

Jake: I don’t know if it has always been this way, but there is such a pressure, especially when I was a young man, to make an impact. As I have moved through time, it hasn’t created laziness in me, but realizing who I am in this story has made the pressure go away. Instead, I have a deep thankfulness that I get to participate in this, whatever that means. I still wrestle with this, but at some point in my journey, I was able to not feel this pressure, but instead, know that however God is using me is for His glory. In my opinion, that is a much better way to live.

Why is humility so important to the life of a believer?

Why is humility so important to understand and live out?

Jake: Again, to be humble is to recognize and live in reality. We are finite, faulty, and prone to error. So, on a spiritual level, why is humility important to a believer? The reality of a believer is that we know whose story this is. In the first sentence of the Bible, the subject is God. He is the main character and Creator and we are responding to what He is doing. We live in the reality that this is not our story.

Ephesians 2:1-10 talks about how we were dead in our sins and following the course of this world. We recognize that we are broken beyond repair and have moved away from the wholeness of who God is. We are stuck in this state without God’s grace and mercy moving toward us. God’s appropriate action towards me is to dismiss me forever. But Ephesians moves on and tells us that we have been saved by grace! The idea that God would rescue me, not because He needed me, is also the reality of who we are. To be arrogant is to live in distortion. That is scary to me because I know how quickly my heart flirts with a distorted view of the world.

Nathaniel: To play devil’s advocate, what about Christians who have large platforms? Their arrogance is growing, but the reality is that millions of people are following them.

Jake: I think that when it comes to platform, the right disposition is to proceed with caution. Our hearts are bent to always make themselves the center of the story. Praise God if He has given you a platform! But distrust yourself. There are people who are far more spiritual, mature, successful, and wealthy who have fallen as a result of platform. A wise man or woman respects the fact that their heart will always devolve into self-centeredness.

The Other Side of the Coin

Xan: We often think of the classic type of arrogance: thinking really highly of yourself. What about the other side of the coin? What about the type that is really self-deprecating?

Jake: We talk about being hungry, humble, and smart at work a lot. It comes from The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni. In the book, he defines humility as bringing what you have to the table. On a team, everyone has a perspective and ideas. So if someone in that room doesn’t contribute, they are actually being arrogant. It could be that what they bring forward is what the team needs to move forward best. I think you could say that those who are self-deprecating or holding back are not acting in humility. If you are thinking of yourself less and so concerned with being humble that you aren’t talking, you are right back at the beginning of thinking it is all about yourself.

Xan: I think it’s also a reconciliation of self-worth and who you are in Christ. You are made in the image of God, but as a sinner, you are not worthy of anything. But, because of what Christ has done for you, He has made you worthy of love.

Nathaniel: Jake, I remember when you would talk about humility in the office. If humility is bringing what you have to the table, it is also letting go if that idea isn’t what is best for the team. Humility is not insisting on your ideas, perspectives, etc…

How does one cultivate humility in their life? (Can they even do anything to cultivate humility in their own lives?)

Is it possible to cultivate humility in our lives or is only granted as growth through the Holy Spirit?

Jake: Again, to recognize reality is to acknowledge that left to ourselves, we are moving away from God. We would rather make ourselves the center of the story. Can a Christian cultivate humility? Yes! But you have to acknowledge that the current of our self-promoting culture is pushing us to think more of ourselves than we should. Our sinful nature pushes us in this direction as well. There are a couple of things that help me cultivate humility.

  • We have to expose ourselves to the truth! If we don’t, we won’t realize that we are not the center of the story. We need to be in the Word daily, asking God to reorient our minds to help us love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
  • We have to triangulate ourselves as we drift and fight against the current. The three things we need to check ourselves on are:
    • The Word
    • The Church: I have to be involved in God’s community. These people have and will see when I drift.
    • The Spirit within me
  • Staying within this triangle helps me to live in reality and keep my heart in the right direction.

Would you mind sharing the Litany of Humility?

What is the Litany of Humility and how has it impacted you?

Jake: The pastor of my church is truly an example of humility. He has been the pastor for about 30 years and just this week, he gave the burden of leadership to another elder. To watch him give his congregation of 30 years to a much younger guy has been a testament to the power of humility. He introduced me to the Litany of Humility, which is an old Catholic prayer that is highly powerful. I have printed it off and put it in my Bible. I try to pray it every day to ask for God’s help. Hear and read this prayerfully.

The Litany of Humility

O Lord Jesus Christ, meek and humble of heart,
Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being honored,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being praised,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being approved,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being despised,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being falsely accused,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected,
Deliver me, O Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I go unnoticed,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Any other thoughts that you have about humility?

Jake: For the ambitious person who wants to hustle and make things happen, you should go do that! Things like success, fame, and fortune cannot be pursued. They must ensue. When you are faithful and working hard, those things may come! But when you make them your aim, they are shy and they will vanish.

There is another prayer that I pray often that helps me a lot:

“Lord, grant that I would love you always. Do with me whatever you will.”

If the Litany of Humility is a long-term death of pride, this prayer is a quick gut punch.

One Degree Shift

Print out the Litany of Humility and place it somewhere you can read it often.

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