A few months ago, I had the opportunity to return to the Christian School which I had attended for much of my youth and preach in their Sr. High chapel. Preparing for this opportunity allowed me to reflect on my time there, and especially on my decision to leave that school prior to my senior year.
The summer before my last year of high school, the leadership of the Christian school made some decisions I didn’t agree with, so I chose to finish high school at the local public Sr. High. At the time, I thought my decision was good and right. However, looking back on it now, I realize that the heart that made that choice was full of self-righteousness and pride. I remember telling other people, “I guess by going to a public school, I’ll discover how strong my Christianity is- how strong my faith is.” I remember even thinking that to myself.
The truth was that behind that statement was this thought: “watch me show everyone how strong I am.” I wanted to show everyone that I could stand on my own. I wanted everyone to see what a great Christian I was.
Care to guess what happened?
Three words: “crash and burn.”
It wasn’t more than two months into my senior year that I began to turn my back on my faith. That year was a nightmare, and it didn’t stop at graduation. I kept tumbling in a downward spiral and, two years later, most people who met me didn’t even realize I was a Christian.
As I reflect on it now, I see that awful season of my life as God, in His grace, revealing to me how weak I was. He was graciously showing me the folly of my misplaced confidence. Instead of trusting fully in God and looking each moment to Him, I thought I was strong enough to stand on my own. I had foolishly put my confidence in my own ability and found the futility of self-trust.
Anybody else familiar with this lesson? Ever had to learn this one personally?
Actually, I think this is something we probably all do from time to time. We all have moments when we overestimate our knowledge, wisdom, and experience and underestimate our heart, our weakness, and God’s standard.
Thankfully, though, we don’t all have to learn this lesson through a two year self-destructive nightmare. God has revealed the foolishness of our self-confidence through numerous examples in the Scripture.
Here are just a few…
Remember what happened when Eve put her confidence in her own wisdom and ability to judge the goodness of God’s commands? Ruin for the entire race.
Here’s another one. Over in 1 Samuel 13, we read of Saul’s impatience while waiting for Samuel and the ruin it caused. Instead of trusting in God’s command and waiting for God’s servant, he decided he could offer the sacrifice himself. He overestimated his abilities as King and it cost him his throne.
Or how about the Apostle Peter’s reply to Jesus after the disciples were told that, on the night of Jesus’ arrest, they would all fall away. Do you remember what he said?
“Even though all may fall away, yet I will not“ (Mark 14:29).
We all know what happened. Poor Peter crashed and burned, revealing that his confidence was set upon the weak and dangerous foundation of his own ability.
However, one of the texts that drives this lesson home the strongest to me is found in Exodus 19. In this chapter, we find a pious promise made by the Israelites as they gathered at Sinai to receive the Law. Look at what they said:
So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the LORD had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do!’ And Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD. (Exodus 19:7-8)
Did you catch the promise? How faithful were they to it? What does their promise (and colossal failure to keep it) reveal about their confidence?
Starting tomorrow, I plan to do a series of post examining their statement. I want to reflect on what this statement teaches us about our own heart and our desperate need for the Gospel. My hope is that we will all discover some very practical advice to help us keep our confidence in the right place, namely, off of our shoulders and squarely upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ.