Every day in my work I try to help people with some of the deepest issues of the heart. As I have this privilege, I am often fascinated about how others are navigating life. I know that deep down we are all craving, missing, desiring the love and affirmation of God. However, each day as we wake up striving again, waiting again, living again…we are bombarded with new opportunities to seek affirmation and confidence from others things besides God. Perhaps its the competing desire to get promoted, to make a name for ourselves, or maybe to be the best parent, to be the healthiest person, etc. If we are not careful we can begin to derive our confidence from these other things rather than the One whom we should be looking to for confidence. The Bible makes it clear that we should let the Lord be our confidence (Proverbs 3:26). But how can we experience confidence that is not rooted in ourselves? Better yet, how can I have confidence without being prideful?
This has really been a defining question of my adult life. The reason being is that I began life seeking affirmation and love like everyone else, but developed the bad habit of seeking it through achievement and not grace. My pride said, “You deserve it. Look at what you have accomplished.” My confidence had then become rooted in that pride. Well… my loving Father didn’t allow me to remain in that deception and I am so very thankful for that! After much humbling that came through the consequences of my own sin, my own failures, weaknesses, and yes some sin that was committed against me…I surrendered my life fully and completely, totally to God. It was in that moment that I died to myself and began anew learning how to allow God to be my confidence.
Humility is a defining characteristic of holiness. Humility is not no much self-deprecating as it is self-forgetting. Pride of course is the opposite of both. Self-aggrandizement and self-centeredness result in the perfect recipe for a disaster. Proverbs 16:18 (NLT) 18Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.
Trusting in the Lord’s grace is the best strategy for real sustainable, humble, confidence in Him. On of my favorite quotes from The Cross Before Me by Wilbourne and Gregor is profound:
“True humility is the ability to delight in our gifts without attaching our egos to our work.”1
But how is this possible? It’s possible with God’s help; impossible on our own. Remember how I said that I began life seeking affirmation and love from accomplishments? The assumption that undergirded that pursuit was that my accomplishments were deserving. I also assumed that my value was directly connected to my production. This is something our culture has engrained in us, by the way. Nevertheless, the problem with my work was my sinful heart; my pride being the perfect example. If accomplishments happened and only led to me being more puffed up and conceited, it’s obvious this result shouldn’t be confused as virtuous. Instead, I needed to learn the cruciformed way. I am valuable to God as a sinner and failure and His loving grace is more than enough for me to anchor my confidence.
Wilbourne and Gregor also say it well, “The true method of profiting from the humiliation of our faults is to see them in all their deformity without losing our hope in God and without having any confidence in ourselves.”2
Now because of God’s undeserved, miraculous, incredible, amazing grace illustrated in Jesus dying on the cross for my sins, I am counted as righteous because I trust in what He did for me, not what I did for Him. Now everything is different. There is no more inevitable failure of performance anxiety. I am confident in His loving underserved grace! Now I am confident that even when I am weak, He is strong! (2 Cor 12:9)
Everyday I have to wake up and get off my high horse and get on my knees to situate myself once more. I have to die to the old Jason who pridefully sought affirmation, love, and value from self and realize by faith that I have all of that and so much more in the exceedingly abundant riches of God’s grace! Now my confidence is in God without being prideful. Yes, I still slip up. When I do I confess my sin and get right back to serving God with the proper heart. He is faithful to forgive us when we confess our sins. (1 John 1:9) But oh how much better it is to be satisfied in His sufficient grace compared to the unending and doomed pursuit of affirmation through self accomplishment. True, it is paradoxical from the way of the world, but it is the way of Christ and it is an abundantly more satisfying life every day!
1 Wilbourne and Brian Gregor, The Cross before Me: Reimagining the Way to the Good Life (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2019).