When confidences become a snare

Sam Petitfils

“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14)

Golfing great Arnold Palmer speaks about a lesson in overconfidence:

“It was the final hole of the 1961 Masters tournament, and I had a one-stroke lead and had just hit a very satisfying tee shot.  I felt I was in pretty good shape.  As I approached my ball, I saw an old friend standing at the edge of the gallery.  He motioned me over, stuck out his hand and said, ‘Congratulations.’  I took his hand and shook it, but as soon as I did, I knew I had lost my focus.  On my next two shots, I hit the ball into a sand trap, and then put it over the edge of the green.  I missed a putt and lost the Masters.  You don't forget a mistake like that; you just learn from it and become determined that you will never do that again.  I haven't in the 30 years since.”

When God committed Himself to taking good care of His children, He meant something different than what we might suppose.  We want God to comfort us, bail us out of our mistakes, and deliver the goods we think we need. But only He can determine what we ultimately need and what is best for us.  When we swell up with confidence and suppose we know exactly where we’re going and the precise steps to take, we may be in for a surprise.  God wants us to trust Him every step of the way.  Our confidence can get in the way.

Modern technology promises progress beyond our wildest dreams, and sometimes medicine does the same.  But only God knows what’s best for us, and we don’t always know the answer.  The Apostle Paul wrote about strength and weakness, and concluded, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).  God performed a two-fold work in Paul’s life: 1) He dismantled Paul’s confidence in his religious efforts apart from Christ, and 2) built him up in Christ.  When God worked in Paul’s life, his trust in God grew, but his trust in himself shrunk (see Philippians 3:3-9).  Sometimes God does that in our lives.  He removes those things we used to put confidence in, but also increases our trust in Him.  He truly knows what’s best for us, but we don’t always know.

When the average person loses confidence, he or she can begin to stumble.  But when a Christian places confidence where it belongs, in God, then he or she rises up with greater confidence than ever before because they place that confidence in God.  Humble Christians do not walk about with all kinds of self-doubt.  In fact, they’re not concerned with self at all.  They place their trust in God and know what God can do, even in dire circumstances.

Have you experienced some setbacks lately, and lost your footing?  Do not feel bad, because you are not alone. You might be entering a new glorious stage in your faith!  We all misplace our trust at times and, like Arnold Palmer, live to regret it.  But look upwards in calm trust.  God has a remarkable plan that He designed just for you.  He will bring about His good plan for you, all in His time.  Until that time, take comfort in knowing that He presently continues to perform a good work in you, and will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6).

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