There are dangers in being a wealthy person, or a strong person, or a worldly wise person. One of the worst is that our strengths are so easily trusted in the place of trusting the Lord . . .
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23–24)
The Apostle Paul knew this was true. He had many strengths he could have trusted and even boasted about, but he choose otherwise . . .
“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord . . . for we worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”
This list may not impress us, but it was impressive to the people who read his letter and the Jews who were attacking Christianity because they were not living as ‘good’ Jews. Paul knew that all his credentials meant nothing toward his salvation or toward his walk with God. He went on . . .
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:1–14)
Paul wrote these verses late in his ministry, yet was still pressing on, and still growing in Christ. This is a comfort to me as I wonder if I will ever ‘grow up’ and become mature. As indicated, that desire is not obtained without pressing on, without strain, and it is a lifetime pursuit.
How easily I trust in the strengths that I have. This is sin. I know that my flesh is not an ally but an enemy that I must be wary about . . .
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:16–17)
This passage goes on to list the works of the flesh and says they are “evident” — but they are not at first. The enemy of our souls can make at least some of them seem to be good ideas, even good actions. He did that to Eve in Eden and is still duping people, even God’s people, into thinking that God really didn’t say that, or he makes sin look good. For example, “fits of anger” (verse 20) can appear to be ‘righteous indignation’ and “envy” can start out as ‘I’m following a good example.’
Ephesians 6:14 tells me to fasten on the belt of truth. Pages could be written on the implications for doing this. One important reason is that truth is necessary to battle the lies, and in this constant war against evil, one of those lies is that I can trust my own ideas. Not.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5–7)
Lord Jesus, perhaps some find it easier to trust You for everything than I do. Raised and educated the way I have been, the pattern was set early to trust my understanding. Trusting You instead has been a target for the enemy. I am thankful that You are truth, that truth sets free, and that You live forever to pray for me and lift me out of danger. Fill me with Your Spirit continually so I will not trust my flesh or be lured away by the enemy’s constant lies.