Where do you find your confidence?  When you feel really good about yourself what’s going on in your life?  Just like our joy and happiness is tied to our value, so is our confidence.  Would you agree that we are happier when we feel confident?  There are a lot of reasons for that:

  • We are more productive when we are confident.
  • We laugh easier when we are confident
  • We are able to express ourselves when we are confident
  • We connect better with others when we are confident

Since our joy and our confidence are interconnected, it makes sense that we should make sure that we are looking to the right things to build our confidence. If you are a follower of this blog, hopefully you remember that last week we examined the book of Philippians to see what Paul had to say about joy. Let’s take a look at the same text to see if Paul has anything to say about confidence:

The Book of Philippians

1 Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

Dogs, Evildoers, Mutilators of the Flesh

Who are these dogs, evildoers, mutilators of the flesh who Paul is referring to? Those are some pretty harsh words to be calling someone, don’t you think? So who are these men who Paul thinks so little of? And what do they have to do with confidence?

Paul was referring to a group of people who took the word of God and made it into a list of rules.  You see God gave us his word in order to give us principles so that we can live a more fulfilled life; His word is designed to help us have a better life in this world, not to limit us or to tie us down but this group of people took those principles and life guidelines and made them into a set of difficult to follow strictures.

Follow the Rules

Let me explain what Paul is talking about:

For as long as there have been Christians, there have been people who have taken God’s word and made it into a long list of hard to follow rules.  We generally don’t like people who do this, but it’s an easy trap to fall into.  For example, Someone might go to church and hear, “It’s good to read your bible.” That is true.  This book is filled with wisdom and truth about living life.  You’ll be better if you follow it. So this person will say, I’m going to read it. Over time it becomes a rule.  I will read this book and I will read it 10 minutes a day. Then, maybe they decide to up it to 20 minutes a day. Then a half hour a day.  Still, there is no problem with that if reading the Bible for an hour a day brings them joy, guidance and comfort. The problem comes when they decide to make it a rule for everyone to follow that everyone should read the Bible an hour a day just because they do. God wants us to read the Bible so that we can find the answers we are looking for but He never specified how long or how often someone should read the Bible.

Let me give you more examples that might sound familiar:

  • I love God and I read 30 minutes a day.  You should read 30 minutes a day.    Rule.
  • says pray.  I pray.  These are the words I pray.  You should pray this same prayer.  If you don’t pray this prayer, you’re not as spiritual as I am.  Rule.
  • I serve.  You should serve.  You’re not a real Christian unless you serve like I serve. Rule.

That’s Going Too Far

Paul gave a very specific example of this type of rule-based thinking from Biblical times. That’s what he’s talking about when he refers to those people as “mutilators of the flesh.”  In the Old Testament God challenged his people to be different so he told all the Hebrew men to be circumcised.  I’m guessing that was a fun conversation the first time that was introduced.   The people Paul is talking about heard the Old Testament law that God followers should be circumcised and they decided to take it up a notch…a really, really big notch:  If God says we should be circumcised, we’ll go even one better and we’ll get castrated.  Kids, if you don’t know what that means, ask mom and dad.

You see these men got their confidence by not only being strict followers of God’s law but also by doing extreme things in the name of religion so that they could claim to be more spiritual than those around them. That’s how they built up their confidence and we all know what Paul thought about that; that’s why he called them dogs. Let me be clear this is not a compliment. I’m sure there are a lot of dog lovers out there but you have to understand, Americans have a very different view of dogs than most of the world.  Have you ever been to a developing country and looked at the dogs living there? Their dirty and mangy and gross.  At the orphanage we work at in Haiti there is this dog named Princess who is just disgusting.  If you were an inch smaller than princess she would eat you which is exactly the kind of dog Paul is talking about. You see, these men put their confidence in the flesh and Paul is very clear…do not do that.

Confidence in the Flesh

Of course, what these guys did was nuts and it’s not really an issue for us.  I don’t think any one of us is in danger of signing up to castrated like these guys. But the reality is, there are a lot of other ways we put our confidence in our flesh in today’s world:

  • Work outs
  • Spin class
  • Road biking
  • Mountain biking
  • Pilates
  • Yoga
  • Bikram Yoga
  • Marathons
  • Half marathons
  • Sprint Triathlons

The list of ways to test, strengthen, show off your body these days is long. My buddy Paul just did an Ironman.  That’s a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride then a marathon.  He’s over 200 pounds so his division was called the Clydesdale division. There’s also woman in our church who swam the English channel; only a few hundred women in the world can say that they’ve done that. In fact, I’ve never met more people who are more into their body than those at my own church.  And let me tell you something. There is nothing wrong with that.  God is okay with us taking care of our bodies.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. I Corinthians 6:19,20

God wants us to care for our bodies.  He just doesn’t want our bodies to be the center of our confidence.  If you put your confidence in your bodies, I’ve got bad news for you: It will let you down. The time is coming when your body will break down. It’s just a fact of life.

Listen, I don’t think God has a problem with us being in shape. But I do think many people in our society base too much of who they are on their body. Am I in shape?  Am I thin enough? How do I compare with my neighbors?  How’s my fitness?

Mark Twain said that “comparison is the death of joy,” and the science agrees. Research has found that comparing breeds feelings of envy, low-self confidence, and depression, as well as compromises our ability to trust others.  Ruminating about how someone else is better looking, has more friends, or is more successful than you is both time-consuming and ineffective.

[bctt tweet=”If comparing is how you evaluate your worth, you will always be losing. — Daniella Tempesta, psychotherapist.” username=”canyon_springs”]

How much joy have we wasted with body comparison? That is not where our confidence should come from.  God has a better plan for us. Do you think you know what it is? Do you want to know? In this post, I’ve discussed one place where we shouldn’t look for confidence; in my next post I’ll explore another common mistake we make when trying to build our confidence but more importantly, I’ll show you the one true place where confidence can be found. Intrigued? I hope so. Until next time…