BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
Edward Mote and William B. Bradbury wrote the lyrics and the music of that powerful song entitled “My Hope Is Built” (The Solid Rock) respectively. The song captures fully the essence of this message. I love the lyrics of the song. The song is quite deep. The first stanza reads:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
We live in an age when there is so much focus on ourselves. Much importance is given to self-esteem, self-actualization, and self-confidence. Believers are also focusing so much on these in their walk with God. However, there is a danger in focusing on self. There is the danger of comparison. It may lead to pride. It may also lead to frustration. Self-confidence could be dangerous if not put in a correct perspective; if it is superficial and not rooted in Christ.
The danger of pride
There is pride when one gets carried away by whatever one thinks one has achieved not giving God the glory for the grace and His mercy that has made it possible. That was the problem with Nebuchadnezzar which made God dethrone him temporarily. The Bible says, “The king spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30 NKJV).
Compare Nebuchadnezzar’s pride to the humility of Cyrus who said, “All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah” (Ezra 1:2 NKJV).
But after Nebuchadnezzar’s sojourn in the forest and subsequent restoration to the throne, Nebuchadnezzar showed he had learnt his lessons. His utterances showed he was no longer the same king who saw himself as the all-powerful – one who could do and undo. We see that his humility and confidence were no longer in himself but in God (Dan 4:34-37).
In Deut 8:11-17, God had warned the children of Israel about this type of sin where they arrogated to themselves what God had done for them say in their heart, their power and the might of my hand had gained them their wealth. But did they heed God’s warning? No.
There is pride when one becomes conceited and begins to celebrate self, behaving as if one is better than others. The Bible calls such comparison foolishness. “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12 NKJV). The Bible says pride goes before destruction (Proverbs 16:18). James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:3 say, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (NKJV). Till today, this remains God’s attitude to the proud and the humble.
The possibility of frustration
There is frustration when one looks at oneself and feels absolutely inadequate and dissatisfied. One sees oneself as a failure and gives up. One thinks that everything starts and ends with one. No allowance is made for the power of God, His help, and the accomplished work of Christ on the cross.
As a child of God, you must not be intoxicated by a feeling of self-importance that has blinded so many to the help that is available to mortals in God. You must not come to a place where you are engaging in self-worship – egoism.
The work of the cross
You must understand that your acceptance by God when you came to Him by salvation was never based on your work; you didn’t deserve to be saved. It was founded on the work of grace accomplished by Jesus on the cross at Calvary. Therefore you must never seek to replace Jesus with anything or anyone or promote your works above the work of grace. Titus 3:4-7 says, “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (NKJV).
You were saved by mercy; you were justified by grace. You didn’t deserve it. Paul called himself the chief of sinners before he was saved (1 Timothy 1:15). But many today justify themselves and feel they did God a favour when they gave their lives to Jesus. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (NKJV). And in fact, many even think they did God a greater favour when they answered the call into ministry.
But Paul considered it was a favour and privilege to be called into the ministry. He said in Ephesians 3:7 that he became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to him by the effective working of His power. He continued: “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ” (verses 8-9 NKJV). It is a wonderful privilege to be called to preach the Gospel and not something that anyone should think he deserves and boasts about.
Paul, an epitome of confidence in Christ
Paul, the apostle, whose former name was Saul (Saul of Tarsus) from the tribe of a Benjamin, epitomizes confidence in Christ as opposed to confidence in self. His name, Paul from Paulus (Greek), which is of Latin origin, meant “small” or “humble”. And true to his name, Paul did not regard himself as someone important but little in his own eyes. In his writings, we see someone who did not attach too much importance to himself. He was not propelled by pride. He was a humble man. He was a man who gave God credit for all that God did through him. He did not ascribe any achievement to himself.
His confidence was not in himself but in Christ. Paul said he knew how to abase and how to abound. He had learnt how to be full or to be hungry and how to abound and to suffer. His sufficiency was not dependent on what people gave him. God was his sufficiency. No wonder, he said confidently, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV). Let your confidence be rooted in Christ and not in your ability, your intelligence, your eloquence, your wealth, your success, etc. Christ is the only solid ground to stand on; all other ground is sinking sand.
Paul’s confidence was in Christ. He didn’t use as props his accomplishments in the world before he came to the Lord. There are ministers today that you have to make reference to their successes or their accomplishments in the world prior to their call before they feel acknowledged. But Apostle Paul had no confidence in the flesh. He considered his own accomplishments as dung.
Paul said, “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:3-11 NKJV).
Paul didn’t need any prop; he needed Jesus Christ alone. Your doctorate, your academic or secular professional titles, etc., as good as they are, should not be your source of confidence as a minister of the Gospel. On Christ alone should you stand; not on your credentials. If as a minister of the Gospel, you need a title, whether religious or academic, to make you feel adequate, something is wrong with you. Christ alone should be your sufficiency. 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 says, “And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (NKJV).
Are you sufficient of yourself or you have acknowledged God is your sufficiency? God told Paul it was not the presence or the absence of the thorn in the flesh given him to buffet him that was the issue; it was knowing that God was sufficient for him. “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV).
It is self-deception to make your strength your confidence. No one is truly strong without God. You can fail woefully in the area of your strength! Psalm 33:16-17 says, “No king is saved by the multitude of an army; A mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety; Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.” The New Living Translation puts it this way: “The best-equipped army cannot save a king, nor is great strength enough to save a warrior. Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory — for all its strength, it cannot save you.”
According to Proverbs 21:31, “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But deliverance is of the LORD” (NKJV). God is able to throw the horses and their riders into the sea and cause them to perish. Moses experienced this type of victory while leading the children of Israel across the Red Sea. In Exodus 15:1, he sang this song of victory: “I will sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!” (NKJV).
Miriam the prophetess, leading the women, also sang the same song in Exodus 15:21 in honour of God for His wondrous works in the miraculous deliverance of the children of Israel from Pharaoh and his army. Only God could have done that. Let your confidence be in Christ. Make God your strength as the psalms said (Psalms 28:7; 31:4; 43:2; 118:14).
Let me return to Paul. After many years of great exploits in the faith, Paul remained a humble person whose confidence continued to be God. Hear what he said in Phil 3:13-15: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you” (NKJV). If he had been like many ministers of God today, he would have been so full of himself that he would be speaking of himself in the superlative, singing his exploits to high heaven, but not Paul. Paul remained a little man like his name. He refused to make boast about himself or his exploits rather he chose to boast in Christ.
Referring to Christ and his boast in Him, Paul said, “And I know such a man — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows — how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities. For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me” (2 Corinthians 12:3-6 NKJV).
Did you see what Paul said there? Take note of that statement: “yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities.” Paul chose to boast of Christ and to also boast in his infirmities, not in his accomplishments. Hear him make such a boast in his infirmities: “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? — I speak as a fool — I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness — besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?” (2 Corinthians 11:22-29 NKJV).
Did you see that Paul made himself vulnerable here? He spoke of the weakness he had like others. He didn’t present himself as a superman or a superstar. He never said when he was attacked he disappeared! No, he showed himself as a man – a man with human frailties, a man of like passion. He didn’t create a larger-than-life image for himself.
Earlier in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul had spoken about his weakness, fear, and trembling when he came to minister to them. He said, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor 2:1-5 NKJV).
When, as ministers, we boast about our church building projects, the number of branches we have, the annual budget of our ministries, the size of our universities, and the size of our congregation, we should think of Jesus Christ, Paul, and the early apostles. Did they make this kind of boast? Would they have made this kind of boast if they were alive today? We make boast of our accomplishments because our confidence is not in Christ but in ourselves, our intelligence, and our abilities to make things happen!
Even after Paul’s pace-setting missionary work which is far above what any of the original apostles did, he didn’t take credit for it. Rather he said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed” (1 Corinthians 15:10-11 NKJV). I wonder where we learnt all the boasting we make nowadays – certainly not from Christ or the early apostles.
The humility of Jesus
Jesus our Savior did not concentrate on Himself despite being the Son of God who knew no sin. His focus was on God. He never saw anything He did as a personal achievement. He knew He wouldn’t have been able to do anything without His Father. He said in John 5:30, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (NKJV). That is what you and I must do, otherwise, we will begin to praise ourselves or become frustrated because of depression from our current unsatisfactory status.
The Bible says, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV).
The New King James Version says in verse 7 that Jesus made Himself of no reputation. The New Century Version says, “But he gave up his place with God and made himself nothing.” But what do we see today? Everybody wants to become a celebrity. We are so concerned about our reputation; our confidence is not in Christ but in ourselves and our accomplishments. But what was the result of Jesus’ humility? “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11 NKJV).
We, ministers of God and Christians today need to repent of our confidence that is not rooted in Christ but rooted in our abilities, achievements, status, etc. We need to repent of our failure to acknowledge that there is nothing we have that we have not received from God. Hear the humble, Christ confident Paul again: “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:6-7 NKJV).
Does this sound similar to what you hear among believers and ministers of the Gospel today? No. Many boast about their accomplishments hardly giving glory to God. Thank God for your prayers and fasting, your preaching ability, your managerial acumen, etc. But you could have done all you did and still not get the result you got. What do you have that you didn’t receive? If you were given, then where is the pride? Thank God for the “remnant” in our day who recognize they’re mere instruments in God’s hand and give to Him the glory that is due to Him alone.
1 Corinthians 3:6-7 says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (NKJV). That was Paul again despite all he did for the Lord or as he would prefer to say it: all that the Lord did through him. I’m not sure any minister of the Gospel today has done anything close to one-quarter of what this giant of God did yet we make so many boasts which Paul never did. We need to go back to the Bible and learn how to be humble even in success.
If you’re going to succeed in your walk with God, you must not focus on yourself. You must focus on Jesus. Don’t concentrate on your success and don’t meditate on your failures. Look unto Jesus alone either in the success or in failure. I love what Corrie ten Boom said. She said, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.” That is profound! Think about that.
Conclusion: The world says you need self-confidence. But I tell you what you need for victory in life is not self-confidence that is based on some psychological therapy or motivational tips. What you need to be more than a conqueror in this life is not self-confidence but Christ-confidence. Your confidence must be established in Christ. Col 1:27 says Christ in you is the hope of glory. Let your confidence be built on him and on nothing else. Look unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:2).
There is a difference between spiritual maturity and physical maturity. The older you become as a human being, the less dependent on your parents you become – that is what is called physical maturity. But the reverse is the case spiritually. In spiritual maturity, the older you become as a Christian, the more dependent on God you become. As you mature in the faith, you trust yourself less and trust God more; you put less confidence in yourself and more confidence in God and His Christ. Proverbs 3:5-8 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones” (NKJV).
Don’t look unto your successes or unto your failures. I am not saying you should doubt yourself but never promote whatever you have above the invaluable and the unquantifiable resources available to you in God. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12 NKJV). Thank God for your intelligence, wisdom, ability, skills, etc. but don’t exaggerate any of these – they have their limitations. Self-confidence is hollow if not founded on Christ. Be Christ confident. Stand on solid ground by standing on the solid Rock – Jesus Christ.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and God raised Him on the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President of Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.Phone No: +2348155744752, +2348033113523
WhatsApp No: +2349081295947