How do we maintain our confidence when we are in the heat of the battle and we’re confronted with stuff we’ve never seen or experienced before?
I believe the answer to this question is found in the relationship between confidence and memory. Put another way, confidence has to do with the strength and vibrancy of our memory.
For example, one of the reasons why baseball players go to spring training or football players go to training camp is so that they can sharpen their skills and focus under repetitive, simulated game situations. When the season starts and the games count, they say to themselves, “We remember what to do.”
When it comes to the depth and vibrancy of our confidence, there are four things we need to remember.
1. God’s Leading
First, we need to remember how God has led us. The first part of Deuteronomy 8:2 says, “And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness.” God told his people to keep a record of his guiding hand. When they didn’t know where they were going, God did, and he protected them and directed their steps. He led them by means of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When the pillar of cloud or fire moved, they were to move. When it stopped, they were to stop.
When we look back over our lives, we realize that not knowing what to do next did not mean that we were without direction.
Perhaps not as dramatically, the same is true for us. When we look back over our lives, we realize that not knowing what to do next did not mean that we were without direction. Our great God was orchestrating the events and circumstances of our lives to get us where he wanted us to be. When we cried out to him for direction, he answered our prayers. When we were impatient and acted impulsively, and thus ended up getting into jams, in his mercy he came to us and put us back on track.
2. God’s Testing
Second, we need to remember how God has tested us. At first glance, this sounds a bit odd, doesn’t it? What is the relationship between God’s “tests” in my life and my confidence? Isn’t my confidence lodged in his faithfulness, not mine?
Yes, and that’s the point.
Look at the second part of Deuteronomy 8:2: “that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.”
Just before they were to march into the Promised Land, God reminded his people that they didn’t have a good record when it came to passing tests. But, you ask, how did that build their confidence? Look at the phrase “that he might humble you.” The message was that failure should have taught them that they were inadequate and that they didn’t have what it took to consistently obey God and do his will.
Humble people are dependent people. God’s tests in the wilderness were meant to send a message to the Israelites: “Don’t trust yourself and don’t depend on yourself.” God wanted his people to see the glaring contrast between their inadequacy and inconsistency and his supreme sufficiency and unfailing faithfulness. He allowed them to fail not so that they would give up, but so that they would turn from themselves to him. He wanted them to redirect their confidence, placing it in a God who cannot lie, cannot fail, and is never without options or resources. They needed to know that God was everything that they were not, and the tests in the wilderness were trophies to this reality.
3. God’s Provision
Third, we need to remember how God has provided for us. Before the Israelites set foot in the land that was the fulfillment of God’s promise, God called them to take a bit of a time-out to think about and savor his care and provision for them. Once again, he wanted them to remember something. God did not want them to ever question whether he loved and cared for them. He reminded them that he had taken care of them every step of the way.
God takes care of what belongs to him. He reminded his people of this so that they would not transfer their confidence in him to what this new land would provide for them. In other words, he wanted them to be aware that whether in the wilderness or in a place where there was plenty and prosperity, God was the provider. And the way to keep this reality fresh in their minds was to remember the timely supernatural provision of their loving Father during their tentative, transient existence in the wilderness.
4. God’s Discipline
Fourth, we need to remember how God has disciplined us. God’s “no” responses, deprivations, and corrections are gifts. They provide focus and direction, for they are reminders that some things are right and some things are wrong. There’s a price to be paid when we head off in the wrong direction. It’s called consequences. Those who remember the consequences and embrace the lessons are those who are growing in their faithfulness and their God confidence.
As God prepared the Israelites to step into the Promised Land, he told them to remember the consequences, some excruciatingly painful, they had had to face for their disobedient, willful behavior. God was warning them that even though their nomadic journey was over, they must not forget the lessons from his discipline. If they did, they would have no sense of mission or direction. To forget is to wander, lost and aimless.
Believe it or not, nothing destroys your confidence more than ignoring the wisdom that is available from God’s discipline in your life. To ignore the lessons and the message in the consequences is to choose our way over God’s. Welcome to self- deception, the featured course on the menu of fools and the path to confusion and purposelessness.
This article is adapted from Unshaken: Real Faith in Our Faithful God by Crawford W. Loritts.