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The Folly of Self-Confidence

July 17, 2015 No Comment

by Paul Zabel

“And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.” (1 Corinthians 2:3)

Rev. Paul Zabel

Rev. Paul Zabel

Did you ever stop to think that recognizing your own weaknesses and inadequacies is a first and necessary step to becoming strong? It is no proof of spiritual advancement when you feel that you yourself are capable of doing anything for God. For when Christ gave His warning to the members of the Church in Laodicea in the Book of Revelation, He wrote: “When you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

In other words, if we feel strong in and of ourselves, we are apt to look to ourselves. We begin to think we can manage very well on our own. We are in danger of believing we can overcome our enemies and gain for ourselves and others the way to eternal life in heaven. By contrast, when we feel weak, we are more disposed to go to Him who alone can give all strength—to Him who is all strength, our Lord Jesus Christ. As Psalm 75:3 says, “When the earth totters, with all its inhabitants, it is I who keep its pillars steady.”

Every day of our life we have some duty to perform for God from which we are likely to shrink. Our sense of inadequacy whispers to us, “You can’t do it!” Yet, the same apostle who confessed his own weaknesses and fears said, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

If we have any real difficulty, there is no kind of help, no kind of strength, no kind of comfort we need that God is not ready to give to us. He not only has the right help, but it comes exactly at the right moment and in the right way. Only notice this: as it never comes a moment too late, so it rarely comes a moment too soon. For example, when the Children of Israel were about to cross the Jordan, Joshua commanded the priests to take up the Ark of the Covenant and go down into the river. “Into the river?” they asked. “But it is impossible! We shall be swept away! We cannot cross! Let God work such a miracle as He did when we crossed the Red Sea! Let Him bid the waters to part, and will we trust Him and go down at once!”

But that was exactly what God was not going to do. He commanded them to go down as it was—the great river before them, foaming and rushing along—and to trust in Him. They obeyed. They came nearer and nearer to the water. Still there was no sign that God would stretch His arm over the water. They reached the edge—no sign yet. They put their feet into the river. And then, in a moment, the waters were stayed on the one side, and stood up in a heap, and on the other they rolled away and left the whole bed of the river dry. Just when the priests felt they were most helpless, just when they saw that they were in the greatest danger, then God stretched out His hand to save them. When they were weak, then they were strong. Or if you like it in the words of a proverb: “When thou fearest, God is nearest!”

Just when they saw that they were in the greatest danger, then God stretched out His hand to save them. When they were weak, then they were strong. Or if you like it in the words of a proverb: “When thou fearest, God is nearest!”

The source of triumphant living is not the strong will that refuses to bend or budge, but the will that yields itself to God. One of the best hours of his life is when through sickness, toil, or persecution the child of God realizes that while his own powers are inadequate, God steps in with His power to get him through the difficulty at hand.

Strength comes when, overwhelmed with a sense of unutterable weakness, one flings oneself at the feet of Christ and prays as Peter did when he was attempting to walk with Christ on the water, “Lord, save me!”

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Rev. Paul Zabel is President of the East District of Lutheran Church-Canada.