Vol.XIV No.XI Pg.3
January 1978

Growing In Littleness

Dan S. Shipley

There was a time when king Saul was useful to God's purposes. At that time he was anointed king of Israel; at a time, as Samuel tells him, "When thou vast little in thine own sight" (1 Sam. 15:17). The sense of littleness that helped qualify Saul for his crown is no less essential for those who seek a better crown (2 Tim. 4:8).

In fact, nothing is more needful in the quest for godliness (acquiring a right attitude toward God). Man's view of self determines his view of God, and vice versa. When Saul was little in his own sight, God was big. When Saul came to be big in his own sight, God became smaller. That is, God and God's will became of less importance to him. Nebuchadnezzar had the same problem. After being made to live as a beast of the field and to eat grass as the oxen for a time, his sense of littleness and understanding returned. When humbled, he could see God's bigness; that "the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will" (Dan. 4:32). Then, he blessed and praised and honored "Him that liveth forever" (v. 34) — as do all "little" men.

Only the man with a sense of littleness acknowledges his inability to direct his own steps (Jer. 10:23) and willingly submits to God's leading. Others, like king Saul, presumptuously set aside God's will when it conflicts with their own — not in all things, mind you, nor even in most. Many are willing to do much of what God says, but, as with Saul, we learn that partial obedience is not submission at all. In fact, God calls it "rebellion" (1 Sam. 15:23). Sound harsh? It shouldn't. Not when you realize that man arrays himself against God in every act of deliberate disobedience and says, in effect, "NO, I will not submit!" Perhaps this is what prompted someone to observe that the first lesson to be learned in serving God is humility. Whenever men conclude (by any process of reasoning or rationalizing) that their ways are as good as God's, they prove themselves too big to work in God's harness.

But, not only does man change his attitude toward God in losing his sense of littleness, he also changes his attitude toward men. As men acquire those things that make them "somewhat" (whether thrones, money, position, success or education), they are apt to see their peers as somewhat less. The kind of pride that kept Saul from appreciating David is still a threat to the unity of God's people — and not only in others, for all can forget their littleness at times (like the man who became proud of his humility). God's way is "doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself; not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others" (Phil. 2: 3,4). When every brother looks up to all other brethren and looks down on none, we are growing in the kind of littleness that makes us strong (2 Cor. 12: 10). May God help us to cultivate this sense of littleness; the kind that truly appreciates God and brethren; the kind that confesses weakness and wrongdoing and says, "God, be thou merciful...".