The Demolition of Self-Confidence

Humble“How to Build Self-Confidence” is a good title for a self-help book, article, or talk. Think about it, who would buy a book, read an article, or pay to attend a talk titled, “How to Demolish Self-Confidence?”

I like feeling self-confident. Through my years in pastoral ministry it felt good to step to the center of the platform to begin my sermon with the feeling I was going to knock their socks off and leave them standing barefoot on holy ground during the singing of the closing song. I liked going into a congregational meeting with the self-confidence that I was going to boldly lead the congregation where they had never gone before (for the record, this rarely, if ever happened).

There are plenty of times I’ve lacked self-confidence. Preaching in general is a daunting task, but Christmas and Easter seemed to be especially so for me. How can you encapsulate in the length of a message the incomprehensible action of God’s incarnation in the Christmas story or the resurrection of God from the dead in the Easter story? Then there were the calls that someone had suddenly and tragically lost a loved one, and I wondered how I could possibly bring something from God into the situation as I drove to their house or the hospital. Why did I always feel like an amateur pastor as I approached such situations?

Yes, having self-confidence seems like a good place to be. I have come to discover, however, that God doesn’t want me to be self-confident. You’re probably way ahead of me here, saying to yourself, “We’re not to be self-confident but God-confident!” As pastors our Biblically centered and theologically focused brains know this truth, but to get that truth to the heart, well, it’s a long journey from head to heart!

It’s not easy feeling inadequate and feeling good about that, but I’m thinking this is the place where God is leading me to meet Him. In my more sane and more spiritual moments I have to admit that I can’t really experience God’s adequacy unless I experience inadequacy in myself. This means I must go against the hype of the self-help movement and go with the hope of finding my adequacy in God.

I know this stuff, I’ve preached it for years. However, I’m still working on the personal application part, you too? Take a deep breath with me, now exhale slowly, and whisper with me, “It’s OK to feel inadequate.”

“For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.” (Psalm 149:4)

Advertisements

No Longer a Moping Ministry

mopingsmallDo we ever go moping about in our ministry? If you’re like me you might find it easy to confuse moping with mopping, there’s only a letter “p” that distinguishes the two words. Mopping is what you do when you use a mop to clean up. Moping means being dejected, listless, apathetic, sulking, brooding, or downcast.

It might be good to make a list of these defining words for moping and see how many we have to check off as having been part of our mindset in the last week or two:

dejected

listless

apathetic

sulking

brooding

downcast

Ouch! I feel your pain, because it’s my pain too!

Moping isn’t frequently listed as a sin, but I’m thinking it should be. I can’t imagine Jesus ever moping, and He’s the defining standard for us. Moping about could be called grumbling without using words, and you don’t have to look long to find Biblical references as to how God doesn’t think much of grumbling!

If you’re moping through your day or your week you probably are thinking that the last thing you need is to be reprimanded for moping! Now you have another reason to mope, right? Sorry, I really didn’t intend to make matters worse. It’s just that sometimes the best way for us to get beyond a moping attitude is to be reminded that we’re moping!

I don’t have any magic fix for moping, just the sober reminder that we shouldn’t let ourselves get away with it and that a minister who mopes isn’t much good to anyone. I also want to remind us of the combination self-talk/prayer of the psalmist. Modeling his words sounds like a good way to keep from moping about!

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5,11, 43:5)

With Me, Through Me

DaveWalkingI try to keep my prayers from “vain repetitions,” but I still find myself using certain phrases in my conversations with the Lord over and over again. One such phrase, “Lord, work with me and through me.” After having prayed this again just yesterday, I paused to reflect on what my words meant (I suppose trying to backpedal from it being a vain repetition).

I came to the conclusion that it’s a good phrase for me to pray, as long as I mean it when I pray it. Yes, I need to let God work with me before I can hope He will work through me in the lives of others. Sure, I’ve known this all along, but I also know I need to be reminded of this truth time and time again.

I can only share how God can be real and work in the life of someone else if I have experienced that in some measure in my own life first. I can’t give what I don’t have. What this means, then, is that if I have the goal of providing spiritual food for the souls of others I must first feed and nurture my own soul. Over my years of pastoral ministry I’ve had to resist the temptation to go off running in all directions to minister to people and rather move in His direction, allowing Him to minister to me first and to first transform me. Rushing off to others had to take second place to first resting in the Lord. My quiet times with the Lord helped me with the busy times of being with His people. “Yes, Lord, first work with me and then work through me. Amen.”

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’” (Mark 6:31)