Successful leaders in ministry know of a secret source of confidence. Confidence in Christ. Like the climber above puts confidence in his anchor, successful leadership according to the Bible comes from drawing confidence from Christ, and then freely telling others where to find the real source of confidence.
On the other hand, human-centered confidence (which does not last) is so common it grows on trees. Humans like to bask in their past achievements like sunbathers on a Florida beach. We do this to make ourselves feel relevant and powerful. The only problem is, just like a sun tan, the effect does not last very long. This is the story of pride, and pride will derail any leader who does not continually remind himself that he has been crucified with Christ and his flesh (prideful passions) are dead:
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Only when we deny ourselves and believe that we have been crucified with Christ are we able to stop putting confidence in our own achievements or abilities. Confidence in self is an empty pursuit. To put it another way, seeking confidence by focusing on your own skill or achievement is like trying to use a sieve to drink from… the moment you get water in it, it drains out before you can even get a drink.
Break in the Cup
David Wilcox wrote a great song called “Break in the Cup” that speaks poetically about this mysterious and powerful truth:
So if you’re tempted to rescue me / Drowning in this quicksand up to my neck / Before you grab my hand to save me / Why don’t you ask me if I’m finished yet
Because you cannot make me happy / Not when I’m empty inside of me / But you can pull yourself right in here with me / My misery’d love to have your company
We cannot trade empty for empty / We must go to the waterfall / For there’s a break in the cup that holds love / A break in the cup that holds love / A break in the cup that holds love / Inside us all / Inside us all
Successful leaders view confidence differently. They bask confidently in God’s love, ability and achievements, not their own.
David, Saul, and Goliath | A Tale of Three Confidences
The story of David and Goliath provides a perfect example of a young man who had found the secret of true confidence. His lifestyle as a desert shepherd was one of worship. When game time came for him to lead, his confidence was proven true and powerful. When young David saw Goliath taunting God’s people and riddling them with fear, he said to King Saul:
“Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” (1 Sam 17:31,33)
Saul was not confident that David had what it took because his outward appearance was small and young. Saul understood confidence from a human perspective. Goliath also displayed complete confidence in himself, even to the point of mocking David. Boy were Saul and Goliath wrong.
David responds to the shock of everyone around him:
“You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” (1 Sam 17:45)
Looking for the Umbrella | Building a team of people who have confidence in Christ
One of the best interview questions to ask someone is, “What is the source of your confidence?” If they say, “myself” or “my abilities and experience”, the interview is probably over. Truly successful people from a biblical perspective are living under a larger umbrella. People who are confident in themselves have come outside of the protective covering of God’s authority, and for that reason they are extremely vulnerable to discouragement and moodiness. If you want to build a team of truly confident leaders, don’t be fooled by the sun tan–it will wear off because their source of confidence is temporary.
Great leaders on the other hand are “great” because they have made themselves small, under the large protective covering of God’s grace and authority. Let’s face it, leaders (especially outdoor leaders) have responsibilities and they just can’t be that vulnerable to tossing emotions.
1. Have you come out from under God’s protective umbrella of grace and authority by pursuing achievements with false confidence in your own abilities?
2. What will it take for you to stop drinking from the well of the world’s affirmation and beat down a new path to the secret source of true confidence, Jesus Christ? Make a specific plan today.