I did a search on Amazon.com and there are around 8,000 books available for purchase that are on the subject of confidence. The listed categories of books range from business to Arts & Photography (“Drawing with confidence”) – it appears the everyone wants confidence in what they do. One of the popular statistics that’s been thrown around lately involves this subject. In an international study of teenagers it was found that (no surprise) American teens are bad at Math – some of the worst in the world apparently. What makes this statistic interesting is that American teenagers scored the highest in another area: Confidence. The same group of people that scored lowest in math scored highest in confidence.
The reason is clear – when my generation started arriving on the scene back in 1984 many of our parents and teachers decided that it was important that we be confident so they worked hard to make us feel good about ourselves regardless of what we were actually capable of. They gave us ribbons for participating even if we did a terrible job. They had people come to our schools who did magic tricks, gymnastics and motivational talks all of whom told us to be confident. They told us if we believe in ourselves that we can achieve our dreams as long as we just be ourselves because we’re unique and wonderful. This, of course, is total crap, but it actually accomplished something: many of us believed it and we developed disproportionate and totally unfounded confidence.
I’ve worked with some very talented people over the years, but the most impressive human trait I’ve seen is humility when coupled with skill. That’s because to be humble while possessing great ability is to be Christ-like.
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having confidence, in fact I think that its safe to say that anyone who really succeeds has a healthy measure of it. I think that the real issue with confidence isn’t as much about having the right amount as much as it is getting it from the right place and putting it in the right person. You can put confidence in yourself, your parents, your pastor, your boss, your job, your spouse, your spouse’s job, your children, the government, your school, your sports team, your car, technology, your favorite author, a diet, your favorite news station… and the list goes on and on. As I said there’s nothing wrong with confidence. Look at these two verses from first Corinthians:
“Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Cor 1:31
“Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” 1 Cor 3:4-5
I’m going to say something that might sound crazy to us americans. I believe that God basically doesn’t want us to have confidence in ourselves. I know that sounds crazy to some of us. He doesn’t want us to hate ourselves either – he wants us to have self respect; to believe that we’re vessels capable of containing the holy spirit. But he wants our confidence to be in him and him alone so that he can do through us things that we never thought were possible. Its like Oswald Chambers says:
”We can only be used by God after we allow Him to show us the deep, hidden areas of our own character. It is astounding how ignorant we are about ourselves!” – O.Chambers
Our ability to accomplish the work of God is directly corollary to our surrender to him; until we submit to him we have no way of knowing what we’re truly capable of. To reach that place of surrender our confidence needs to come from God and it needs to be placed back in God alone. But we have to believe we’re capable of being use by God – that his power can work in us and that it can overcome the challenges around us. Look at Peter when when Jesus calls to him to walk on water:
And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Matthew 14:29-30
Based on this, I’d propose that confidence is a cycle. We submit to God and he gives us confidence saying “I’m giving you this task because I made you capable of doing this and I will strengthen you” we then say “I can only do this because God is strengthening me.” therefore we submit to God and he continues to strengthen us.
Just the other day I was talking to a friend who’s had an exciting, but daunting opportunity put before him. He admitted as the time drew nearer that he was getting nervous. He said he wasn’t sure he could do it. I told him that I didn’t think that he could either. That might sound like I was being a bad friend or just hurtfully honest, but I also said that I believed that God could do it through him. I told him that he’s having those nervous feelings is God’s way of drawing him closer. If you feel like you can’t do something that you’ve been called to do, maybe that’s because you can’t – and you need to realize that before you can let God do it through you.
False confidence can come from lots of places. And whether I buy the fitness magazine “Get in shape and everything will fall in place” myth or the Wizard of Oz “you had it all along” myth or the motivational speaker “you can do anything if you follow your dream” myth, I’ll never reach my full potential until I put my confidence in Christ.
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13