All of us have confidence in some areas and are lacking in others. A proper balance is important. Confidence run amuck leads to arrogance. No confidence leads to a poor self-esteem.
Henry Ford said, “If you think you can or think you can’t you are right.” The power of the mind is a power that cannot be replaced, bought or sold. We are successful first in our minds. Then, depending on the amount of determination, hard work and on occasion a bit of luck, our vision becomes reality.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
In general, luck has nothing to do with success. What we call luck is usually little more than making good decisions that place us in a position to be blessed. Even when unexpected, uncalculated fortune befalls us, we still have many decisions to make that will determine whether we can successfully take advantage of what has been given to us.
Success is mostly the result of hard work, which usually corresponds with the amount of confidence we have that we can succeed. The Wright brothers were successful in building and flying the first airplane because they believed that flight was possible. And they believed in themselves, despite failed attempt after failed attempt, and despite those who thought they were fools for attempting to defy gravity.
Brian Jordan, Colquitt County High School Class of 2000, is playing for the Georgia Bulldogs right now because he believed in his ability to snap footballs. His name isn’t going to make the papers very often, but his ability to snap footballs to the punter and placekicker can make the difference in a win or loss for the team. Brian is making a contribution right now because he believed he could succeed. No college scout believed in him as much as he believed in himself.
When my children were young, I remember reading to them about the little red train engine that went up the hill saying over and over, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” This book was written to communicate to children that we each need to have confidence that we can accomplish very difficult tasks. Confidence is an important factor in successful living.
All of us have confidence in some areas and are lacking in others. A proper balance is important. Confidence run amuck leads to arrogance. No confidence leads to a poor self-esteem. The key is to learn to embrace our strengths, acknowledge our weaknesses, and in every case remember that God is the force that enables us to accomplish anything at all.
The Apostle Paul had a lot of confidence, but notice where his confidence was placed. He said to the church at <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Philippi, “I can do everything through him (Christ) who gives me strength” (Phil 4:12-13).
What’s the key word or phrase in this scripture? Is it “I”? Is the key phrase “I can do”? No, that’s not it. If people look within to find the strength to reach their potential, they may find strength, but it will be fleeting strength. It will not last forever. Confidence is important, but confidence in the flesh will ultimately fail us.
Paul wrote to the church at Philippi that he had plenty of reasons to put confidence in the flesh: “Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic
righteousness, faultless” (Phil 3:4-6). This resume was impressive to Paul’s audience.
Paul had the privileges of birth and circumstance. If anyone could brag about his credentials, it was Paul. He had confidence in himself. But after his conversion to Christianity, Paul no longer believed that his power came from within. He believed that power to succeed came from Jesus Christ.
Paul warned the Philippians about placing their belief in the flesh. His warning is still worth hearing. You may be handsome, beautiful, strong, attractive, healthy, wealthy and wise. But these traits can all be taken from you in the blink of an eye. Where will your confidence be then?
And even if you live the American dream, Paul reminds us that things of the world are rubbish compared to what one gains in Christ. Whatever Paul had once gained by his impressive credentials before becoming a Christian, he considered it a loss for the sake of Christ.
The lesson Paul teaches is that we can never reach our full potential if we focus only on the “I.” In fact, “I” is in the middle of “S-I-N.” We are supposed to love ourselves, but when we love only ourselves and do not love our neighbor as ourselves or love our Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we’ve turned the focus inward.
Only when we focus on the phrase “through Christ Jesus who strengthens me,” can we hope to reach our full potential and attain the kind of success that will be pleasing to God and credited to us in both this life and the one to come.
Michael Helms is pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Moultrie, Ga. A version of this column first appeared in The Moultrie Observer.