The Incompetence of Overconfidence

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  (John 15:5 NIV)

It was somewhere around my sophomore year of high school, when our football team had been having an exceptionally good year.  I can’t remember the stats (I never was a huge sports nut…I was just there to play in the band!), but we were gaining a reputation of being a team who could beat the stuffin’s out of just about anyone else.  Our reputation, however, was our downfall on one particular night.

It was a team who hadn’t won a game all year who took us out.  Oh, it was bad.  We’d driven forever to get there, and when the trek is in a school bus over winding roads such as we have here in rural West Virginia, it can seem an eternity.  But an overconfident team of boys went out on the field, unprepared.  The hare and the tortoise, if you will.  And 4 quarters later, some of those big, tough boys were sitting in the middle of the ball field, crying in disbelief, pride crushed.  I remember our coach stomping  through the lot of them barking, “Get up!  Get up!  Stop sniveling like a bunch of girls and take your whipping like a man!”

It’s humorous now, but it was a somber night, and an even longer drive back home in that weaving, fume-sputtering old bus.  Oh, I don’t remember it because of the boys crying over losing a ballgame;  I remember the lesson from it all.  Overconfidence breeds underestimation of one’s opponent.  I’m not talking about overconfidence in God; no, I’m referring to overconfidence in our own might; overconfidence in our numbers, our success rate, and our ability to do it with one arm tied behind our backs.  Feeling as if we’re entitled to be on top just because of our track record.  Humility vacates the premises whenever pride takes center stage.  There’s a real danger of defeat when we look at God’s provision with presumption instead of recognizing His favor as a privilege.  And yes, great is the fall which follows pride.

Just like those boys who got their clock cleaned by the team lowest on the ratings roster, we are no match for the enemy if we’re riding on yesterday’s victories instead of today’s preparation and a healthy, current relationship with the One Who’s really doing the fighting.  We can’t afford to take Him for granted!  Sometimes, because we feel particularly strong—invincible even—we go forward feeling that we need no further preparation in prayer and the Word.  We may even gain a further false sense of security when we successfully jump a few little hurdles, and when we see we were able to do coast along, we get lax.  Don’t be fooled, friend.  You need a daily experience with the Father, and so do I.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some things you carry forward with you, like years of investment in reading and memorizing the Word.  Scriptures which come freely into my mind now aren’t there because I picked up the Bible just last week; no, much of that comes from revisiting passages over and over again since I was a small child.  Chewing on them.  Speaking them.  And the Holy Spirit will bring to our memories the things He’s commanded us.  Thing is, though, if you’ve not read it, how can you possibly remember it?  And when I needed to draw on deep strength to get me through the traumatizing months of recovery from Dana’s and my accident, there was confidence in God because in the past I had invested time into my relationship with Him.  But the immediate “push forward” burst of faith came because I was currently in close fellowship with God.  I needed both: long-term relationship and daily renewal.

Any pond which has no inlet and outlet will eventually turn stagnant.  An empty belly today isn’t satisfied just remembering that it was full yesterday.  Our spirit man is no different.

The best analogy I’ve ever heard drawn was by the late Dr. Adrian Rogers, in a series on the Lord’s Prayer.  In covering the passage where Jesus’ model prayer asked for “daily bread,” (Matthew 6:11) Pastor Rogers compared our relationship with God to a trolley car, rather than an automobile.  A car fills up and drives till it’s empty, but a trolley has an arm directly connected to a constant source of electrical current.  He said, “My strength is not in my tank, it’s not in the bank, it’s in the Lord God and my hands are raised, constantly reaching for His daily provision.”  So should we also be, not leaning to our own understanding, our “handle on things,” or an encounter we had perhaps years ago with God.

If you’re new in the faith, take confidence that God meets you where you are.  He can accelerate your understanding of His Word and His grace will carry you over the waves of inexperience, so just know that He is in your corner and He’ll send reinforcements if you need it.  But there’s a profound truth that you’ll need to remember, long after the new has worn off your encounter with God and you’re a “seasoned” believer:  a daily walk with Jesus is your key to survival.  Daily.  And until you make it across the finish line, until your scoreboard clock runs out and the players walk off the field, You’ll need to constantly renew your mind to the Word.  There will never be a time when you don’t really need His mercy, grace, and the sustenance of daily bread…so get started building up those spiritual muscles.  To borrow a slogan from a famous sneaker maker, “Just do it.” Right now.

“At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.” (Hebrews 12:11 The Message)

©2012 Lisa Crum

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