There's a big difference between self-confidence and having confidence in the Lord. Self-confidence is believing in yourself. It’s like the little train that thought it could. It’s the attitude that “if I think I can do something, then I can do it.” It’s summed up by the expression, “You can do whatever you put your mind to.”
But you will find no place in the Word of God where we are taught to have such self-confidence. It’s simply not Scriptural. This philosophy comes from the world, and it’s quite a central part of today’s self-help, New Age teachings.
On the other hand, confidence in the Lord is knowing HE can do it. This is not semantics or a minor variation of self-confidence. It’s the opposite of it!
From Self-Confidence to Confidence in the Lord
Moses is a great example who illustrates this for us. At age forty, Moses was self-confident and killed the Egyptian. He already had the burden in his heart to deliver the Hebrew people from the cruel bondage of their taskmasters. But he went about it in his own strength. And being the bold, strong man that he was, he managed to free one Hebrew from one situation. But he was not yet ready to accomplish the mighty works God had prepared for him to do. He could not fulfill God’s purpose for his life yet, because there was still too much Moses in him. He was in God’s way.
Once he realized his crime was discovered, he fled for his life to the backside of the desert, to a place called Midian. There he married a woman and tended sheep for forty years in obscurity. But by age eighty, he had been humbled greatly. When God spoke to him from the burning bush, he was quite self-deprecating. The Lord told him to speak to the king and tell him everything the Lord spoke to him. Moses basically responded by saying, "Lord, you know I'm such a poor speaker. Why should the king listen to me?"
But the Lord assured him that he would provide a spokesman for Moses in his brother Aaron. The Lord also promised to back up His word with power. So Moses obeyed God and went before Pharaoh. He did so not in his own strength or in any kind of self-confidence. He had long ago given up on trusting in himself to do anything. In the end, God used him mightily. He successfully led the Hebrew people out of Egypt with great signs and wonders. And he proved to be one of the greatest leaders in the history of Israel. It was all through his confidence in the Lord.
Trusting in man
Perhaps those who trust in themselves are not aware of the warnings in Scripture about that. The prophet Jeremiah said, "Thus says the LORD, 'Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD. For he will be like a bush in the desert And will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant.'" (Jer 17:5-6). No matter how you read this, you don't want to be found trusting in mankind or depending on the flesh, including your own self. Jeremiah continued to say that "The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?" (Jer 17:9). If your heart is more deceitful than all else, then why trust it? Why put your confidence in it?
Not that we are adequate in ourselves
The apostle Paul stated that he had no confidence in himself. He wrote to the Corinthians:
"You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2Co 3:2-6)
So as he wrote, he did not consider himself adequate in himself and did not consider anything he did as coming from himself. Rather, his adequacy was from God. He said, “We have confidence toward God through Christ.”
We can do nothing without Jesus
Even Jesus knew that He could do nothing apart from the Father. He said, "I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (Joh 5:30). He was completely dependent upon the Father who sent Him.
Jesus also taught that we can do nothing without Him. He said to his disciples, "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (Joh 15:5).
We need to understand our relationship to Him. He is the Vine and we are the branches. A branch on a grapevine cannot bear fruit on its own. It must remain connected to the vine. The same is true of us. Those who abide in Jesus bear much fruit. But apart from Him we can do nothing.
I can do all things through Christ
So how can we do anything at all in life? How can we serve the Lord? If I can do nothing and I am confident that the Lord can do all things, shouldn’t I just sit back and wait for God to do it? Why should I attempt anything?
Well, Paul had the right attitude. He wrote: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phi 4:13). This is true, biblical confidence. Not a confidence in oneself, but a confidence in the Lord. And look at the fruit from Paul's life! He wrote half of the books in the New Testament Scriptures. He moved in miraculous power, healing the sick, raising the dead, and taking the gospel to every region of the known world.
Paul was confident that he could do all things, but not in his own strength. He said that he could do all things through Christ. He knew that it was Christ who strengthened him and through Christ, he could do everything.
This is how each disciple of Christ should live today. It should be with this same attitude.
Trust in the Lord alone
When you really get this and understand it, you will trust in the Lord alone. You will heed the words of wise King Solomon, who said, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding." (Pro 3:5). As wise as he was, even he did not lean on his own understanding, but trusted in the Lord alone.
When you do this you will be blessed! "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit." (Jer 17:7-8). When you trust in the Lord, you'll be like a tree planted by water, green and fruitful.
Putting it all together
Don’t listen to people who say, “Just believe in yourself.” That's a worldly, New Age philosophy. If you have that attitude, you may get some results, but you will eventually find that you cannot do all things. There will be something you cannot accomplish, and you will be devastated to discover that believing in yourself does not work. Don't trust in your own self, but trust in the Lord. He can do more in three minutes than you can do in a lifetime.
As long as Moses was self-confident, the Lord couldn't use him. Moses was in the way. But once he became humbled, the Lord used Him mightily and with great power.
A Scriptural attitude is "Lord, I can do nothing without you. But I can do ALL things through Christ, Who strengthens me."
One thing that no person can do for himself is to save himself from perishing. Only Jesus can save you. That's the reason He came to earth, died on a cross for you, and rose from the dead. Whether you have known Him for many years or have never known Him, I encourage you today not to trust in yourself or any man, no matter if that person is with the Lord in heaven or alive on earth. Rather trust in the Lord with all your heart.
Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.
Author's note: This "Seeking the Lord" blog has become very popular in France. The reason for this is uncertain, but I am humbled and delighted that it has generated such a great interest there. To God be all the glory! If you enjoyed this post, you may also like the other posts in this blog available through the links in the side bar. You may also access my blog directory at "Writing for the Master."
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.