Housewife Theologian

The Gospel Interrupting the Ordinary

Book Review:

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Jan• 24•12

Gospel Powered Humility, William P. Farley (P&R, 2011)

I’m not perfect. Don’t we love to pithily drop that aphorism? What we really mean is, I’m pretty darn close.  In this book, Farley calls us out. He even calls out those prideful people who struggle with low self esteem. He quotes Edward Welch, “Low self esteem usually means that I think too highly of myself. I’m too self-involved, I feel I deserve better than what I have” (47-48). Some of us are masters at hiding our pride—even from ourselves. We can even make it look meek.

Farley brings the shame back to pride. You might pick this book up like I did, wanting to be further inspired in your quest to be humble. And as you begin to read, Farley makes a great case for humility. We simply cannot live the Christian life without it. “Just as unbelief is the source of pride, faith is the beginning and source of humility” (28). “It is the necessary fertilizer that nourishes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (31). But as much as we concur with these sentiments, our pride works overtime to sabotage God’s humbling of our hearts. Farley calls pride unreality on steroids.

As he broke down some of the symptoms of a prideful heart, like critical speech, spiritual elitism, grumbling, and avoiding confrontation, I started to see a picture of myself. I wasn’t so inspired. And that made me wonder why people talk about eating a piece of humble pie. Pie is yummy and delicious. I prefer to say that I had egg on my face. Farley continues to gracefully throw eggs at any reader who will listen.

Our generation has done well preaching the love of God. The problem Farley points out is that we’ve stopped preaching and talking about the wrath of God. He points out the necessity of explaining the bad news so that we can even see the good news. Without the bad news of God’s wrath over our sin, we keep feeding our fantasy life steroids. Sure, we recognize that we are not perfect. But in our imagination, we aren’t too shabby. We think we are pretty good. As my siblings and I say, we’ve got a case of the “pretty derns:” We think we’re pretty dern moral, pretty dern giving, pretty dern smart, pretty dern compassionate…And many churches encourage this message. We don’t see sermon titles on the church sign that read, “The Difficulty of Escaping the Damnation of Hell,” or, “God Makes Men Sensible of their Misery before He Reveals His Mercy and Love.” And yet, our country’s greatest revival came from sermons such as these. The sinner needs to be humbled by the law before they can see their need for grace. “Humility is a by-product of seeing God in his glory” (150).

One part of the book I particularly appreciated and learned from was the connection between our pride and the fear of man. Churches follow all kinds of wordly trends to feign attractiveness to the unbeliever. Pastors are tempted to cater their message for a larger appeal. Farley encourages us to be faithful to the message, not the crowd. This applies to our conversation life as well. We treasure the praise of our peers over sharing both the bad news and the good news. According to Farley, fear of man stems from unbelief and a failure of love. We overcome this by a proper fear of God, and love for God and man. Humility.

He closes with a chapter on the power of a humble believer. After serving up a convicting gut check on intellectual pride, spiritual pride, selfish ambition, and pride in your giftedness, Farley offers up the most powerful part of his book: hope for proud Christians. This is where he really brings our pride issues to the cross, to the One who was humbled in our place. He explains how Jesus atoned for our pride, that his life and death motivates us to pursue humility, how in love he helps us to grow in humility, and that this good news should completely astound us! That’s gospel-powered humility.

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  1. Tim says:

    “I started to see a picture of myself.” Me too, Aimee (a picture of me I mean, not one of you!).

    “…be faithful to the message, not the crowd.” Excellent advice, and one I hope I can follow whenever I’m teaching or drafting a Bible study.

    “As my siblings and I say, we’ve got a case of the “pretty derns:” Ha! have you ever heard Buddy Greene’s “Average Guy”? It goes on at length about being all right, at least not as bad as others, and does it in really clever fashion.

    Great review. My only question is how am I supposed to read all these books you recommend to us?


    P.S. I ran across a great quote on pride that I ended up using in the Bible study on Psalm 123 that I wrote today. It’s by Sydney Howard Gay, a 19th c. American writer I’d never heard of: “Pride is to character, like the attic to the house – the highest part, and generally the most empty.”

    P.P.S. I hate being empty in my “attic”!

  2. Dana Tuttle says:

    This came at just the right time for me, maybe this needs to be my next book! This is exactly my struggle lately. I feel like God is trying to humble me, yet the reverse is happening. God has shown me on several occasions what others think of Christians, and it is making me feel weak foolish, prideful, a “know it all”, “chosen”. Maybe this is the soil he is stirring up first, but I don’t like the tilling that is going on in my garden right now! Really struggling for some reason.:(

    Tim: you should see how hard it is to have the privilegde of going to Aimee’s book club and seeing all these books layed out (and reviewed) before you! It’s like a candy store! No fights have broken out yet!:)

  3. Brooke says:

    Sounds like a pretty dern good book. You must of been reading when I called you earlier. Ha:)

  4. Linda says:

    This is the sentence that sold me on wanting to read this book: “As he broke down some of the symptoms of a prideful heart, like critical speech, spiritual elitism, grumbling, and avoiding confrontation, I started to see a picture of myself.” AVOIDING CONFRONTATION? That’s me! Ha. Made me curious as to how that is a prideful behavior which I apparantly need to address. Thanks, can’t wait to pick this book up.

  5. [...] (R&R Publishing, 2011) on the subject of humility. I first learned about it from a book review by Aimee Byrd written just a couple of months ago. I knew the minute I read that book [...]

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