Do the words contradict each other? Maybe not. When we have done everything we know to do and yet have not achieved desired results, we are humbled. But if what we desired is very important to us we will become desperate.
Jacob was not an humble man. He was ingenious, self-reliant, and manipulative. He had a knack for handling things himself. He had learned to make things happen. He knew God, received the promises of inheritance from God, but may have been “too smart for his own good.”
His “roots” were right. His attitude was wrong. His desire was for the right thing. He wanted the blessing and received it, but receiving the blessing did not bring the ultimate fulfillment. He continued in his self-reliant, manipulative, ingenious ways until, in desperation, he had to recognize he was not in control. Humble, but persevering, he prevailed when he had failed. It seems a bit strange to me that there is no record of Jacob communicating with God between his first encounter at Bethel until he is commanded to return to his homeland (Genesis 28, 31). Perhaps he did, but it appears praying, talking to God, was not his strong point. His only reference to God is when he became angry at Rachel’s despair because of her barrenness. “Am I in the place of God…,” he snapped, side-stepping the issue because he couldn’t control it (Genesis 30:2).
God will suffer long to bring an heir of promise into divine destiny. He even allowed Jacob to use the riches of his blessings to try to manipulate receiving the fulfillment of his promise. He was on his way to the land God promised him. Esau was an obstacle. So in order to find favor, Jacob recounts to Esau all of the blessings God has given to him (Genesis 32:5). He then reorganizes to be more effective and impressive (Genesis 32:7-8). In a last attempt at controlling the situation he gives abundant gifts from what God had given him (Genesis 32:13-20). But none of this worked to bring the desired results.
In spite of his character flaws and his self-sufficient ways, God was committed to fulfill his promises of great blessing and continual presence to him. However, this could only happen after he faced God alone, separated from all God had given him and done for him in circumstances he could not manipulate or control (Genesis 28:10-15). In desperation, he wrestled until God touched him and changed him. Only then could he move into the inheritance the Lord had promised.
Humble desperation comes when we quit talking about who we are and what God has given us, and are willing to admit that we are not smart enough, spiritual enough, or rich enough to receive the fullness of the promise of the great and massive last day outpouring. We cannot manipulate revival. We may mask what we know God wants to do by exploiting what God is doing. Could our busyness in counting and our impressive talk of organizing and planning only postpone an encounter with God that could bring the ultimate fulfillment of the promise of the fresh outpouring we dream of? Jacob tried this. He was an heir to the promise but he had to reach a point of humble desperation to fully receive what had been promised.
We are heirs of the promise. We have been blessed abundantly. Our leadership has formulated plans and programs that have increased our effectiveness. The blessings of God upon our fellowship are often discussed and for these things we are thankful. Our giving, out of what God has given us, has escalated. All of this is good but the deep desire of our hearts will only be fulfilled when we separate ourselves alone with God and in humble desperation prevail with Him until he touches us in a way that will change us.
No amount of growth, giving, talk or trying will take the place of a spirit of humble desperation. We must forget our self-sufficiency in our spiritual work, our ability to make things happen, our effectiveness in impressing people and focus on seeking God in humble desperation.
Yes, the promises are true. Yes, they are ours for the believing. Yes, we are a people peculiar to Him, called by His name. But God is always drawn to the humble, and the desperate, not those who proclaim His blessings for the sake of impression or attempted manipulation.
Desperation is a result of facing a need beyond our ability and control. Humility is an acquired attitude. Scriptures are replete with admonitions for us to humble ourselves (Matthew 18:4, Luke 18:14, James 5:6, Psalms 35:13). Humility is an honest appraisal of ourselves, recognizing what God has done for us and who we are in Him, but knowing we haven’t received all or become all He wants. Humility brings honesty concerning our need. In view of the need for a massive harvest of souls in this world we must guard against our thanksgiving becoming braggadocios and numbing our sense of need for God. The Psalmist reminds us “…he forgetteth not the cry of the humble” (Psalms 9:12).
In the much claimed promise of II Chronicles 7:14, we should note that “humble” precedes “pray.” Prayer is the basic and essential ingredient for revival, but it must flow from a humble heart, desperate for God to touch us and change us.
All that we are is not sufficient. All that we have is not enough. All that we can do will never suffice. Our only hope is to wrestle in prayer with humble desperation. The world waits for the church to pray the promise into fulfillment.