Sunday morning, Jurie kicked off our new sermon series called Transcendent Confidence. When we were discussing potential names for a sermon series about Paul’s letter to the Philippians, my pitch was for it to be something about joy. Paul’s joy despite his truly dire situation is nothing short of astonishing. But as I’ve read and re-read the book, “confidence” does feel like the right fit.
As I often do when researching for the blog, I looked up the word “confidence” in the dictionary. Well… Google at least. It’s interesting. The first definition I found was, “the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust.” But almost every hit on the page leaned toward this definition: “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.”
During Jurie’s sermon, he actually brought up the same Google definitions. And he let us know that in Paul’s imprisoned, hungry, disenfranchised state, a letter of encouragement would not be the letter Jurie would write. Somehow, knowing Jurie, I doubt that. In any case, there really is something about Paul’s confidence in God that’s “next level” faith.
But the word “confidence,” at least based on the hits I see on the Google search, isn’t usually used in the context of faith in an outside force – it’s used for self-confidence. One of the things Jurie said was, “Stop saying, ‘I’ve got this.’ God’s got this, and you can lean on Him.”
I am reminded of all the self-help and motivational posters out there with the slogan, “You are enough,” or “You’ve got this.” In my own life, there have been so many times when those were mantras I tried to rely on. I remember being in high school, working for straight A’s, practicing for first chair in the flute section, and trying to be the best at everything. I wanted to be the teachers’ favorite, my parents’ darling, and my siblings’ role model. I wanted to be a star, in my own little sphere of influence.
While I called myself a believer during that time, and while I thought I was horribly insecure, all my confidence was in myself. I was going to pick myself up by my own bootstraps and accomplish everything under my own power. One of my freshman-year teachers called my mom to tell her that if I didn’t stop trying to overachieve on every single assignment, I was going to crash and burn. Yet I was very successful all throughout high school, and I felt like I could live that way forever.
Real life, though, has not been the carefully-curated and sheltered life that I had in high school. As a working professional, I learned that I couldn’t just power my way through every project – I needed people. After I had my daughter, I realized that people weren’t enough – I needed supernatural help. There were many days when I cried all the way to work and all the way home, wondering how I was ever going to be “Employee #1,” “Mom of the Year,” and “Best Wife Ever.” I felt like a failure.
Nowadays, I steer clear of the motivational, “You’ve got this,” or “You are enough” sentiments. We have to be SO careful what we say to people. For some, those are just trite sentiments – a buff for their ego. But for people like me, those statements get autocorrected to, “You must have this,” and “You must be enough.” This is where, “Let go and let God” comes in… another trite little motivational statement. But this one is freeing.
When you’re gripping the steering wheel of life, white-knuckled and sweating, you get tunnel vision. You’re so focused on your own destination and your own safety that you forget there are other cars on the road. You forget to enjoy the trip, you cut people off in traffic, and you miss some of the best experiences along the way. But when somebody else is doing the driving, you’re able to look around, see the bigger picture, and wave at the people on the sidewalk. You can spot places to stop and enjoy, see people who need help, and realize that the trip isn’t only about the destination – it’s about the journey.
Where your confidence lies dictates how you perceive success. If your confidence is in yourself, your success is limited to where your own talents can take you. You may have a vision for success at work or at home, but there’s only so much time in the day, and you only have so much emotional and physical energy. But with confidence in the Lord, your success is expanded to, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and your goals center around what brings God glory. Suddenly, you’re saying, “Praise God that I don’t have to be enough. He is enough, and I can rest in Him.” When your plans fall through, you’re not defeated – you can say, “OK God, then what’s next?” It’s like having a very adventurous travel agent… you’re going places you’ve never dreamed of and accomplishing more for the Lord than you ever would’ve accomplished for yourself. This was Paul’s confidence, and it is also mine.
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