Have a seat on the couch of our virtual talk show. Today’s topic is confidence.
You might turn on your TV to find Oprah, Dr. Phil or Tyra Banks giving you all kinds of advice or lists on ways to improve your self-confidence, but I’ll bet this one is not on their list… “You are not competent!” That’s right. “You are not competent to claim anything as coming from yourself!” No, this confidence booster doesn’t come out of the Army Boot Camp either, though you might find it more fitting that scene with blood, sweat, pointing fingers and yelling drill sergeants. It actually comes right from the pages of the Holy Scriptures. 2 Cor 3:4 says, “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us”.
Before we rectify things, let’s go even deeper…
In John 15:5 Jesus tells his disciples, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
He explains that He is the vine and they are the branches; apart from Him they can’t survive. So, coupling this with our previous verse, what exactly are we looking at? Is this a threat from a cruel dictator wanting to keep his lowly subjects in their places, cowering in fear that they will draw their last pathetic breath if they disconnect from Him?
Maybe we need some more context…
Our competence comes from God.
If we finish out the first verse, we’ll see that 2 Cor 4:5 actually doesn’t leave us hanging with no competence at all. It says that our competence just doesn’t come from ourselves. Instead, our competence comes from God. That word competence means “sufficient in ability” or “fit”. Wow, I would love to be more fit than I am, but it just takes so much work! It takes work to be sufficient in ability, or to be competent. I could strive and work to get really good at doing something, but the Bible says that anything that resembles competence didn’t come from my feeble strength, it came from God.
So, what if it isn’t my own “fitness,” my own ability, my own competence that is necessary?
What if it doesn’t take my strength to get me to the place I want to go spiritually? Now, call me lazy, but that would be good news! I would no longer have to strive and work and try and do in my own guaranteed failing strength. I could rest in God and trust in His competence, which compares to mine like all the flaming stars in the universe are to one grain of cold sand. It was senseless to put any confidence in my own competence in the first place.
John 15 :5 now goes from being the threat of a harsh supervisor to the invitation of a gentle protecting shepherd. “Don’t part from me because when you stay with me you will bear much fruit.” “You will get where you want to go.” He is sharing His strength and competence. He is giving it to us, for free. “Apart from You I can do nothing” is a reminder not to try doing things in my own strength which will run out very quickly, draining my confidence and resulting in frustration.
His competence can be mine.
Gal 2:19-20 is more good news that this confidence can actually be a lifestyle and not just a drive-thru fix. It says, “I have been crucified with Christ, so it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” Crucifixion sounds pretty permanent. I don’t have to just go running to God for a confidence boost now and then when I have failed in my own flesh, asking Him to prop me up until next time. I can actually allow Him to live in me every day. His competence can be mine. I can abide with Him so that I become an extension, a branch, of who He is. On my own I will surely fail. But if I no longer live, it is Him living in me, I surely cannot fail. This gives me great confidence- a confidence that won’t run out because it doesn’t depend on my competence!
Now I understand why Paul could say “therefore I am content with my weaknesses” (2Cor 12:9-10) God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. The less of me, the more of Him there can be. When I am strong in my own abilities and resources, I am tempted to do God’s work in my own strength. This will only lead to pride in self, which is bound to end in a fall. But when I am weak, or just humbly accept the reality of my competence verses Christ’s competence, and allow Christ to live in me, then I am strong since His power is limitless.
Oprah might encourage me to just believe in myself. Tyra might show me the latest fashions to make me more confident that I can fit in with the world, or stand out in the world. But I know that neither of these will make me any more competent than before. I’m counting on the competence of the One who spoke the world into existence. Now that gives me confidence!
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God,2 Cor 3:4-5
I am the vine and you are the branches. Apart from me you can do nothing.John 15:5
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.2 Cor 12:9-10
I have been crucified with Christ;and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.Gal 2:19-20