As we have done throughout previous Lenten and Advent seasons, we are again blogging through the Lectionary readings in this Lenten season. This year, however, due to our travels in Central Asia, we have asked a number of guests to blog for us. These guests are individuals who are influential in our lives and work. We're honored to share this space with them-and with you–in this season of reflection.
A reading from Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians.
Remember our history, friends, and be warned. All our ancestors were led by the providential Cloud and taken miraculously through the Sea. They went through the waters, in a baptism like ours, as Moses led them from enslaving death to salvation life. They all ate and drank identical food and drink, meals provided daily by God. They drank from the Rock, God's fountain for them that stayed with them wherever they were. And the Rock was Christ. But just experiencing God's wonder and grace didn't seem to mean much—most of them were defeated by temptation during the hard times in the desert, and God was not pleased.
The same thing could happen to us. We must be on guard so that we never get caught up in wanting our own way as they did. And we must not turn our religion into a circus as they did—”First the people partied, then they threw a dance.” We must not be sexually promiscuous—they paid for that, remember, with 23,000 deaths in one day! We must never try to get Christ to serve us instead of us serving him; they tried it, and God launched an epidemic of poisonous snakes. We must be careful not to stir up discontent; discontent destroyed them.
These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don't repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don't be so naive and self-confident. You're not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it's useless. Cultivate God-confidence.
No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he'll never let you be pushed past your limit; he'll always be there to help you come through it.
— 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 (MSG)
Paul strikes us with a great truth that we often read past. We like the whole “God won't give me more than I can bear” stuff, but we miss a much more important–foundational truth. A truth that runs contrary to a worldview with which most of us were raised.
“Forget about self-confidence,” Paul says, “It's useless. Cultivate God confidence.”
We are raised–at least in America–with the thought that “we can do it.” Countless volumes have been written to help us get enough self-confidence to make it happen. To win. To succeed. To just do it.
Self-confidence, Paul tells us, is useless. It doesn't work. It doesn't help us succeed.
Prior to this painful declaration, Paul explains a deep truth to the church at Corinth. He walks the church quickly through the Israelite story. In doing this, he makes the case that no amount of self-confidence in the world was going to get these people from Egypt to Canaan. They needed something else. They needed God-Confidence.
He goes even further to say to the church at Corinth–and to us–that we're in the same boat. Trials and tempatations are going to come, and if you are reliant on your own self-confidence, they will be more than you can handle. But, if you have cultivated God-Confidence, then you can handle them.
We have done at least a few generations (my generation and later) of young people a great disservice. We've planted within them an idea that they can make it on their own. All you need is hard work, ingenuity, and self-confidence. But, Paul, smacks that idea in the face.
One day I was in a Barnes and Nobles and stumbled upon a book called “The Complete Idiots Guide to Ventriloquism”. Quickly, I snapped a photo and posted it on FaceBook with the caption, “I guess Ventriloquism for Dummies” was already taken. But, now, it makes me wonder if we haven't taken this “building of self-confidence” to a whole new–and unhealthy–level.
Paul, would argue we have. We don't need self-confidence. Self-confidence won't help us. We need a complete and utter dependency on God. We need to admit that we can do nothing of our own accord. If we are going to succeed–in the Kingdom (the only place success matters)–then we must realize that our success is dependent totally on God.
We MUST develop a confidence in His abilities. We must understand that outside of Him our own self-confidence (the opposite of God-Confidence, and therefore, a part of the kingdom of darkness) is never going to lead us to success.
Relying on our own self-confidence will cause us to truly have more than we can handle. But, relying on God, we can handle anything. Why? Becuase, it's Him and not me.
God-Confidence is that one thing that will cause to remember that “God will never let you down; he'll never let you be pushed past your limit; he'll always be there to help you come through it.”