Happy, Healthy, Humble View of Self

Real happiness. As I have been studying the little letter of Philippians, it is quite fascinating to me that Paul was truly such a genuinely happy man. He knows a peace that is beyond knowing, a peace that passes understanding, and he comprehends a peace that is beyond comprehension (Phil 4:7). He is truly content (not complacent), regardless of his circumstances (Phil 4:11-13). He has a joy that is not forced, and that is bubbling and overflowing (Phil 4:4). He experiences all of this “real” peace, contentment and joy while he is in prison! How is this possible?

The world cannot touch Paul. Of course, it is because Jesus is all the world to him (Phil 3:7-11). Therefore, the world has no handle on him whatsoever. There is nothing in the world that can bind him or hold him. Imprisonment has no hold on him. The envy and rivalry of Christians does not bother him (Phil 1:15,17-18). Suffering, persecution and opposition cannot touch him (Phil 1:28-30). Dying is not dreadful, but truly beneficial (Phil 1:21). Like his Lord Jesus, he has overcome this world in every possible way (Jn 16:33).

Curved inward on oneself. In contrast to Paul and Jesus, it so easy for me to be irritated at the most mundane of matters. If I am watching TV with my wife at night and she starts to fall asleep, I do not think of how hard she has worked all day, but how disinterested she is whenever we are together! (Sob, sob.) For sure, I am a sinner who is incorrigibly incurvatus in se, which means “curved inward on oneself.” And this sentiment is toward the person whom I love the most in this world, next to my Lord. What about toward others who are annoying!

Happy, healthy, humble. I realized what Paul’s healthy, happy, humble attitude toward himself was. Because of the grace of Jesus, Paul’s passion was to become like Jesus in his death (Phil 3:10). He was not trying to attain some level of success in the world, or even in the church. Seeing the beauty and the majesty of Christ, he knew and felt that he was the worst person alive (1 Tim 1:15). Whomever he met, he considered and felt that they were all better than he (Phil 2:3). If he did think of himself, he did so with sober judgment (Rom 12:3). His genuine view of himself seemed too humiliating or degrading. But he was fully aware that though he was still a very sinful man, yet Christ loved him and gave himself entirely to him (Gal 2:20). Though Paul’s life was wasting away, he was being renewed day by day with a glory that is out of this world (2 Cor 4:16-17). This ongoing never ending tension of his utter sinfulness and of Christ’s incomprehensible love enabled Paul to be a truly happy, healthy, humble man.

How can we truly be happy, healthy, and humble like the Apostle Paul?


  1. Thanks Ben for the blog. When I read Paul’s confession in Eph. 3:8, “Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ”, I was shocked. Because when he said, “I am less than the least of ALL God’s people” he really meant it! This was mind boggling. I think his humility came from his view of Great God/Jesus who is the image of invisible God, the Creator and the Sustainer of all creation (Col 1) and who humbly came down to this world to be our Lord and Savior. Our God created more than 7 billion people in this world in his own image and he personally knows all of them and loves them one by one (Jn 3:16) both believers and unbelievers simply because they are his own creation/children. This is also mind boggling. And our God has no favoritism for his 7 billion children as I have no favoritism for my four children! When I have right view of great God, I believe I can have right view of myself. I admit that it is so difficult to be humble like Apostle Paul.

    • So true, James. As John Calvin said in chap. 1 of “Institutes of the Christian Religion”: “The sum of true wisdom (is) the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” “Man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he have previously contemplated the face of God.” As you said, even knowing this, it is still humanly impossible to be humble!

  2. I like this article. It really is hard to be humble. It feels like people around whether Christian or non-Christian is crushing your head to the ground. That’s what I’ve felt at least. Like what you keep on telling us while you were here with us in the Philippines, we should be reminded of the grace of Jesus. But logically or literally, if I were in Paul’s situation, I wonder how could I possibly be happy in prison?  
    Somehow, I managed to compare myself being in prison to my sins which makes me somehow understood what Paul felt. The feeling of happiness knowing the fact that I’m already saved by Jesus.  I agree with you, Dr. Ben when you said that Jesus has no favoritism, for what He did years ago, He did it for all of us. Congratulations, you’re a part of His redemptive purpose.

  3. Thanks, Noah. We know (at least in theory and principle) that happiness, peace, joy, contentment, is a GIFT from God that is NEVER related to our life’s circumstances. Yet, we are fully responsible when we (foolisly) base our happiness on our circumstances. As you said, our ONLY hope of true transformation is the gospel. Check out my Sun sermon for today (http://bentohwestloop.blogspot.com/2012/01/sanctification-part-iii-joy-peace-and.html) that deals with:
    * knowing a peace that is beyond knowing.
    * comprehending a peace that is beyond comprehension.
    * experiencing a peace that passes understanding.

  4. Dr Ben,
    It’s been my recent prayer topic to be happy & healthy (and holy) but I think I will add Humble to my prayer as well. It’s only until very recently that I could actually say I want to be happy without getting rebuked & labeled as unspiritual.

  5. Wow, Mary. Thanks for sharing. We have inadvertently taught that it is a sin to seek our own happiness. But God wants us to seek our utmost happiness, because He knows that it can only be found in Him. This is what C.S. Lewis says:

    “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

  6. my questions is: how do we balance true contentment with not being complacent? How do I stay away from selfish ambition while at the same time make the most of the “mina” God has given me?


      mj, I think the answer on your question could be found in this verses: Philippians 2:13, 1Cor. 15:10, 1Cor. 4:7 etc. Our works is not the way to get God’s grace but they are evidences and product of God’s grace. God’s grace is given us for doing what is good and for yearning to do it. Thus works could produce real contentment and greatfulness to God, b/c it is really his grace and nothing else. And yes our flesh ambitions, selfrightiosness also could produce some fruits, which could be very similiar to the grace works. There are few signs how to distinguish between them. I strongly recommend you to read “the Religious Affections” by Jonathan Edwards, you will find there quite a few deep insights on this very topic. If God will let I will describe some of them on this website sometime…


    • Thanks, David. Imagine there is a LIKE button on facebook, and I clicked it!

      Works is the result of grace which also leads to gratitude. But work righteousness is the fruit of self, which leads to Phariseeism. We like the former people, and want to throw up at the latter :-).

  7. Thanks, MJ. Great question. In a little book, “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment,” Jeremiah Burroughs (1600-1646), a Puritan, wrote, “A Christian is content, yet unsatisfied.” We are truly content because of Christ, even when we have “less” than others. Yet we know how far still we are from Him, because perfectionism is unattainable this side of heaven.

    Regarding selfish ambition, which all human beings default to including Christians, I am reminded of Martin Luther’s 1st of “The 95 Theses” he posted to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral where he wrote, “All of life is repentance.” Pharisees repent only when they sin. But Christians repent even when they do everything right, because all our righteous acts are like a soiled menstrual cloth (Isa 64:6).

  8. Where does human pain, and sacrifice fall in this formula? What about redemptive suffering? Or the experience of the dark knight of the soul? 

  9. Hi Gerardo, Not sure if this contrast helps:

    RELIGION: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or my self, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life

    THE GOSPEL: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.

    • I was not here posing the problem of pain. In fact, I see pain as a good thing (e.g., redemptive suffering) so I was wondering how does the various trials that God’s people have endured work out in the formula presented here. 

  10. Hi Gerardo, I may not be quite sure of what your question may be… But personally I’ve found that suffering draws me toward my Lord. So if I feel betrayed I remember how much more Jesus was betrayed by others and by me.

    If I truly and deeply remember Jesus’ cry of derelction of being abandoned even by his Father on the Cross for me (Mt 27:46), then any suffering that I have to endure only draws my heart to Jesus. That is why the Bible regards suffering in Christ as something positive and truly beneficial (Rom 5:3-5; James 1:2-4; Rom 8:17-18).

    Not sure if that’s what you’re asking. I love the phrase “the dark night of the soul” by St. John of the Cross.

    • hmm… I think we may be using different definitions of happy here. I think I understand what you are saying though. 

  11. Hi Gerardo, I think of happy as having peace with God, and peace with others, even with those who are in opposition to me. A cliche: Happiness comes from holiness. Through the gospel, we know a peace that is beyond knowing, we comprehend a peace beyond human comprehension, we know a peace that passes understanding (Phil 4:7). That’s happy to me! How do you think of “happy”?

  12. Note: Different Noah from above. 
    There are two kinds of happiness. Happiness that stems from the things of this world (Sweets, Video games, movies etc.) and there is happiness that stems from the Grace of God. 
    As of late, I have been wrestling with God a lot, and as I grow more dependent on his grace, I gain a far more satisfying and fulfilling sense of happiness than I did from the pleasures of this world.

  13. Welcome, Noah, to UBFriends! Well said, Sir.

    Yes, there is happiness that comes from the Son, or happiness that comes from the Superbowl. Happiness in the Son is universal (and ever present by His grace). Happiness from the Superbowl does not extend to New England!