Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God.
2 Corinthians 3:4-5
Theologian David Upshaw tells of the “apostolic swagger” seen in the early Christians as they moved out on the world with the secret to human history and the keys to God’s Kingdom. They lived with remarkable confidence: not self-confidence, but God-confidence.
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian Christians he is writing about the key to living with confidence. Everyone wants to get confidence. Browse through any self-help book, turn on the television, or pick up a magazine and you will be offered tips on how to be a confident person. The message is always the same: confidence comes from within. Somehow you’ve got to find your confidence, claim it, and use it.
The apostle Paul knows that he needs confidence; yet he doesn’t look for confidence from within, but from God. “Such is the confidence”, Paul says, “that we have through Christ toward God…our competence comes from God.” The basis for Paul’s for confidence is not self-confidence, but confidence in a far greater power and ability – God!
In this section of 2 Corinthians Paul is remembering how he proclaimed the Gospel to the Corinthians and they flourished in the faith. Yet for this Paul will claim no credit. What was accomplished among the Corinthian Christians was not Paul’s work but the work of God. The Good News Translation of today’s text catches the gist of Paul’s thought: “There is nothing in us that allows us to claim that we are capable of doing this work. The capacity we have comes from God.” Paul wants no one to confuse the confidence with which he lives with any confidence that comes from self. He claims that his effectiveness comes only from the power of the risen Christ at work in Him. God alone can do God’s work. Paul will never say, “Look at what I’ve done!” He will only say, “To God be the glory!”
Thus Paul writes to the Philippians Christians about the key to confident living: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). To the Churches of Galatia Paul writes: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is not longer I who live but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Paul admits to the Colossian Christians: “For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me” (Colossians 1:29). Our service to God is really God working in us rather that our serving Him. Paul points out that it is God alone who makes us competent for service: “our competence comes from God”.
Page through the New Testament book of Acts or any of Paul’s letters and you will see that Paul never thought of himself as competent for any task God gave Him. He knew his competence for serving God could come only from God. That is why, though conscious of great weakness (1 Corinthians 2:1-4), Paul boldly set about his work. He knew that God worked powerfully in him and all His people. He lived drawing his sufficiency from God.
Time and again God calls us to do things for which we feel incompetent. If we only attempt things for which we are competent, then naturally we get the glory, but the world misses out on the wonder of seeing God doing His work.
How are you sensing God’s call to do something for which you do not feel ‘competent’? Where is God leading that you are afraid to follow? Where are you needing to say to God: “I can’t, but you can”?
Boldly go where you have never gone before with apostolic swagger!
Grace and peace,
P.S. Water from Rock’s 2016 Lent devotional “Worthy Is The Lamb: Seeing the World in the Light of God” is available to order. Order copies for yourself, your family and friends, study group, Sunday School class, church, etc., by using our order form. Books ship starting Feb. 2nd. Lent begins Feb. 10th.