Where does your confidence come from? Do you have enough of it? Do you have too much? Over the next few weeks, we are diving into the character of Jacob to see what biblical confidence looks like and how we gain confidence in and through God. God wants us to be confident, not self-confident, but to have confidence in Him. The question we explore this week is, “How do I learn to live with authentic confidence?”.
- This week I won’t compare myself to anyone.
- This week I’ll say what I’m really thinking in great confidence and trust that God is at work.
- This week I won’t obsess or worry over money.
- This week at school or work, instead of worrying about problems, I will be confident that God and I, together, can handle any problem.
To start this series today, I want to ask you a question — “What’s the number one thing a woman looks for in a man?” What do you think is number one? Maybe your first thought was money. Money is not the number one thing a woman looks for in a man. But given our society, it’s not a surprise if you think that. According to what I read recently, the answer is actually Confidence What a woman looks for most in a man is confidence. If you think about it, when someone is living with authentic confidence — * When they look you right in the eye when they’re talking to you. * When they have a conviction that they can handle whatever life throws at them. * When they’re willing to take risks. * When they’re willing to take on challenges. * When they talk to you, you don’t have to guess what they really think. They just speak the truth, but they do it in a gracious way. Right now, if this is you — you’re sitting straight up, your shoulders are back, your head is high, you’re ready for life. I mean, who doesn’t want to be around that? On the other hand, when someone is living where their confidence has gotten beaten out of them, when the Evil One whispers to you, “You can’t do this. You can’t make it. You don’t have what it takes,” it makes you less joyful. It actually makes you less generous. It kind of robs you of life. It makes everything harder. * It’s harder to do a job interview. * It’s harder to ask someone out on a date. * It’s harder to take a test. * It’s harder to perform well at work. Now a natural question is, “Where can I get confidence?” Because we’d all rather live with confidence. I was thinking this week, maybe the person who has more grounds for confidence humanly speaking than anyone else would be this guy right here: Tom Brady. Do you know this guy? * This year, at age 45, Tom Brady was voted the number one player on the NFLs top 100 list, above Aaron Donald, Aaron Rogers, and Cooper Kupp. * He’s widely regarded as the greatest quarterback of all time. * He won 7 Super Bowls and 5 Super Bowl MVPs, the most by any player in the NFL. * He’s just ridiculously good-looking — great hair, incredible smile, amazingly talented. * He’s married to a supermodel, for crying out loud. * He’s famous all around the world. * He has a gazillion dollars. So humanly speaking, if you want to live always confident, just be born Tom Brady — just be born with incredible athletic ability, amazing leadership gifts, win 7 Super Bowls, marry a supermodel, have great hair, great teeth and be a world famous gazillionaire. Alright, so you’re not going to be born Tom Brady, but there’s another way if you’re interested in confidence. The apostle Paul made what I submit might be the most staggering claim about confident living that’s ever been spoken by a member of the human race. This is what Paul said. Think about this. He’s wrote this to the church in Corinth: Therefore, we are always confident… 2 Corinthians 5:6 Now Paul didn’t just throw words around loosely. Think about this — what would it mean to be always confident? — good day, bad day, good mood, bad mood, difficult task, hard circumstances. Always confident. Here’s the thing about Paul. He was no Tom Brady. We don’t know for sure what he looked like, but the oldest description of Paul is he was short, bald, and had a hook-nose. * He didn’t have a lot of money — he had no money. * He wasn’t famous — he was kind of infamous. * He was in prison. * He wasn’t married to a supermodel or a trophy wife — he wasn’t married at all. Here’s the thing about Paul. He was confident, but he wasn’t self-confident. We live in the Bay Area and a lot of people live with confidence — to believe in yourself, to be confident in yourself, that’s like the Holy Grail. With Paul, he had enormous confidence, but it wasn’t in himself. It was in God. Paul actually put it like this — “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” How weird is that? When I’m weak? Really? This really gets into profound dynamics about human life. A guy by the name of Andy Crouch has written a little book called Strong and Weak. He talks about how we tend to think of weakness and strength as a continuum where you either have one or the other. He talks about two dynamics — vulnerability and authority, and how we think you’re either one or the other — you’re either vulnerable, or you have authority. But then he talks about how we ought to think about it as two continuums — [ ] You can be high or low in authority. [ ] And you can be high or low in vulnerability. When you look at the Bible, it’s very interesting because the writers of Scripture say God made us to have an enormous amount of authority. When God created human beings, he says he made us in his image. God actually said to human beings, “I want you to exercise dominion. I want you to reign for good, powerfully over the earth, like a queen, like a king — really high in authority.” Then when it comes to vulnerability, he also made human beings very vulnerable. The writer of Genesis said, “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” Naked is a word about vulnerability. We say in our day if I feel really vulnerable, “I feel naked. I feel so exposed.” Well God made us to be high in authority but also high in vulnerability. When the greatest human being who ever lived (Jesus) came, he was very high in authority. He actually said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” At the same time, he was the most vulnerable human being who ever lived. The apostle Paul said he humbled himself, took on the form of a servant, and became obedient to death, even death on a cross — the humiliating death of a slave. People saw in Jesus more authority than they had ever seen, and they saw vulnerability like they had never seen. See, he was revealing to us something very deep about the human condition. This little book is brilliant. He says if you think about it as four quadrants it basically describes the different modes of life we can enter into. If someone has a lot of authority and they feel like they’re not vulnerable — that moves them into [ ] Exploiting or oppressing. Bullies do this. Tyrants do this. We read about this every day in our world. Now if someone has no authority but they also don’t want to experience vulnerability, then they’re [ ] Withdrawing — they’ll be withdrawn, trying to live in bubble wrap. A lot of people live there. If someone has very little authority, very little power, little education and resources but they’re extremely vulnerable, then they experience [ ] Suffering If we experience great authority and great vulnerability, we’re [ ] Flourishing — where there’s dignity and worth as image bearers of God — we’re transparent with each other, we’re vulnerable with each other, and we’re dependent on God, not ourselves. This is what we’ll be looking at in this series. And man, is this so needed, I believe, all over the world where everyone wants to have a lot of authority, but no one wants to be vulnerable. We’re going to go after this by looking at a character in the Bible who wrestled a lot with confidence and authority and vulnerability. He’s a fascinating guy by the name of Jacob We’re going to go on this journey with him for the next few weeks. It’s going to be, I think, fun and potentially life changing. Jacob’s struggle begins even before he was born. There’s kind of a fun beginning to his story. His mom and dad are Isaac and Rebekah. They were married for 20 years. They weren’t able to have children. In the ancient world, that’s an even bigger deal than it is in our world. So Isaac prayed for 20 years, and finally God moved. Rebekah got pregnant. But her pregnancy was so painful, she didn’t think she could stand it. This is where this story starts. When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Genesis 25:24-26 Which could mean “the grabber” or “the deceiver.” The idea here is that his story begins even in the womb. Way back in the womb, little fetal Jacob looks at little fetal Esau and says, “He’s closer to the exit than me. He’s going to get out first. That will make him the firstborn. That means he’ll be the heir. He’ll get the birthright. He’ll get the blessing. He’ll get the land and all the money. He’ll be Dad’s favorite, and I won’t. He’ll be number one, and I’ll always be number two. I can’t trust Mom or the universe or the uterus or whatever is in charge out there to take care of me, so I have to look after myself. I’ll grab my brother’s heel and yank him back at the last minute, and I’ll get out of the womb. Then I’ll be number one. I’ll be the firstborn.” But his plan doesn’t work. There’s all this travail inside Rebekah, but he doesn’t get out first. He fails. He’s a little fetal failure. And that’s going to haunt him his whole life long. So they’re born. And then the writer goes on. The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. Genesis 25:27 So Esau has it. He’s like Tom Brady with hair — with fur. Jacob has a lot less testosterone. Then their parents come into play. We’re told: Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Genesis 25:28 Esau was a hunter. Isaac loved the food Esau would bring him. People are such mixed bags. You have to know this about the Bible. Someone asked, “Why is God gracious to Jacob in this story when he gets so much wrong?” Well, the Bible is not a story about examples of character virtues. It’s a story about God working with real, ordinary, mixed-up people like you and me. People who don’t understand this about the Bible — they never get it. Isaac, on the one hand, is so devoted to God that he prays for 20 years for God to make his wife pregnant. He is so shallow that he plays favorites with his own sons — He loves Esau for this reason: because he likes the food Esau brings him. He might as well have named him “Outback Steakhouse.” That’s why he loves him best. “But Rebekah loved Jacob.” Why does Rebekah love Jacob the most? Again, the Bible is so fascinating. The writer of Scripture doesn’t tell us. We have to fill in the blanks. * Maybe it’s because she felt sorry for him. * Maybe it’s because he was an indoor kid, so he was with her more. * Maybe it was because she had problems with Isaac, and this was a way of getting back at him. For whatever reason, she loved Jacob but not Esau. As Jacob grew up, his identity became, “I’m not Esau. Esau is the strong one. Esau is the hunter. Esau is my dad’s favorite.” Your self is so extremely sensitive to rejection, to not being loved. This is Jacob’s identity — “I am the one my father doesn’t love.” And that will wound you right to the core. Everyone knows that feeling one way or another — * I’m the one my mother doesn’t love. * I’m the one my husband doesn’t love. * I’m the one my wife doesn’t love. * I’m the one my daughter does not love. * I’m the one my son does not love. We can’t bear that. Then all of this stuff happens inside us. We think, “You know, if only I were Esau. If only I had Esau’s body or Esau’s wealth or Esau’s gifts or Esau’s personality.” You carry this wound, this scar that you weren’t made to carry. You were just made to be you. If God is ever going to bless you, it will have to be you — your body, your circumstance, your age, your situation. That’s the only place where God can bless you. Jacob just thinks, “If I were only Esau.” We’ll look at more of the struggle between the two of them in just a moment. Announcements Alright, there’s this struggle between Esau and Jacob all throughout their lives, and that is — “Who is going to get the birthright? Who is going to get the blessing?” Then when Isaac is an old man, his senses are failing. He’s quite feeble, and he thinks he might be dying. He says to Esau, his favorite, “Go kill an animal, and make some stew I love. I’ll eat it, and then I’ll give you the blessing.” Now Rebekah (the mom), hears this, so she gets her son Jacob (her favorite), and she tells him what’s going on. She says, “I’ll make some stew really fast before Esau can get back. You go into your dad, and you pretend to be Esau. You get the blessing. You get the good stuff. You grab it.” Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.” Genesis 27:11-12 He’s not concerned about the ethics of this. He just doesn’t want to get in trouble — “I don’t want to have a curse.” Rebekah’s response is so interesting. His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say.” Genesis 27:13 Now this tells us something about Rebekah. If we go back to those four quadrants — [ ] Rebekah has a very high sense of authority, but she doesn’t feel vulnerable at all. They lived in a patriarchal world. Isaac is the dad. He’s the one who’s supposed to be in charge, but the wife, the woman, actually has a stronger personality. She actually has a more forceful will. Her response to Jacob is, “Yeah, but I’m really worried about your dad. He really scares me. Let the curse fall on me.” She’ll use her authority and her invulnerability to exploit Isaac, her husband, and Esau, her son. She says to Jacob, “Just do what I tell you to do. You can pretend. You can put on Esau’s clothes and smell just like him. We’ll put a goatskin on you so you’ll be hairy. You’ll feel just like him, and you can talk like him and act like him.” So Jacob goes in to his dad. At this point Isaac is very feeble, and his senses are failing. It’s like a scene in a movie. It’s amazing drama. Imagine what’s going on in Jacob’s heart in this moment. He went to his father and said, “My father.” “Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is it?” Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.” Genesis 27:18-19 Jacob says, “I’m your firstborn son Esau. Son number one. The one you love.” And it works. He fools his dad. And Jacob learns this little lesson that if you can’t get what you want by being who you really are, maybe you can get it by pretending to be who you’re not. Maybe if you can’t get it by being Jacob, you can get it by trying to be Esau. I was thinking about how often we just pretend. We just pretend to be and think and believe who we’re not. I grew up as a kid in church, and I just got good at pretending. I’d pretend with my parents when I was really little to be smarter than I really was and happier than I really was and more popular at school than I really was. I’d pretend as I was growing up that I didn’t want to drink because, “I’m really devoted to God, and I wouldn’t want to do something like that” when the reality is actually I kind of really did, but I didn’t want to get caught. I was afraid of getting caught. I didn’t date very much, so when I was growing up, I would kind of pretend like, “I’m kind of above that. I’m really into getting good grades and I’m really into sports and stuff like that. I’m not really into girls.” In my head, I was desperate to date a cute girl. I would’ve sold my grandmother to date a cute girl, and I loved my grandmother. Literally over time, I pretended to agree with people I don’t agree with. Who is this person? Why would I do that? Why would I try to be someone I’m not? Because I think, “If I’m just me, if I show up with just me, I can’t get the good stuff.” See, when Jesus came, all authority and all vulnerability — he had this amazing dynamic where people would just be themselves. They’d stop pretending. Tax collectors and Gentiles and prostitutes and lepers — this little community where people would just take off masks. He hated it when people pretended. He actually went after it. He called it hypocrisy. He actually coined hypocrisy as we use that word. Jesus was the first one to use it in that way, because he hated it when people would use faith or God or religion to make other people pretend to be better than they are, to be someone they’re not. You see, for us to be a community where you can just come in and be real, that’s the only way to actually have true confidence. But Jacob doesn’t do that. [ ] What happens is Jacob ends up in quadrant two. His brother Esau says, “I’m going to kill him.” Rebekah hears about that, and she says to Jacob, “You know, Esau is the hunter. You don’t stand a chance against him.” So he runs away from home (40 years old). He had lost everything. [ ] And now he’s completely vulnerable — no authority and completely vulnerable. Then it happens — He has a vision. He sees a ladder. In this story, Jacob is not climbing up to God. Heaven is coming down to Jacob. The angels are gone. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.” Genesis 28:13 Now of course Isaac was Jacob’s real dad, so why didn’t God say, “I’m the God of your father Isaac”? Well, Isaac was Esau’s dad. Isaac was the father who loved Esau. Jacob was not Esau. I think God is saying, “I know. I care. I’ll be your father. I’ll heal you if you’ll let me.” Jacob has his first spiritual awakening. It doesn’t solve all of his problems. He has a lot of mess to go through in this story, but what he says is: “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it. How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” Genesis 28:16-17 “God has come to me, little Jacob, son number two, the deceiver, the grabber. I can trust God. God will be with me.” Think about what God says next to Jacob — the grabber, the deceiver. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. Genesis 28:14-15 Wherever you are, the most ordinary place could be extraordinary, not because you’re doing something extraordinary but because God will be with you. He invites Jacob into a life where he could be always confident in the quadrant of flourishing, where he could live with all the authority of being an image bearer of God and all the vulnerability of a dependent, finite, sinful human being. That’s where it becomes possible to live with genuine confidence. And what matters is not how much confidence you have. What matters is what are you putting your confidence in? Here’s the deal — it’s better to have a little confidence in the right object than massive confidence in the wrong object. It’s better to have a little confidence in God than massive confidence in yourself. That’s what Paul is writing about. Your self is going to be in trouble one day. Your self is going to take on an enemy that your self cannot handle. That’s the enemy Paul is talking about when he talks about being always confident. This is the verse. Paul says: Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 Paul, who is no Tom Brady, says, “When the ultimate enemy, when death comes, I will be confident because my confidence is not in myself.” I’ll tell you something about yourself. * No matter how magnificent your self looks… * No matter how educated your self might be… * No matter what kind of great connections your self has piled up… * No matter how impressive a résumé your self has written… The day is going to come when your self is going to be old and wrinkled and feeble and frail. Death is going to come upon your self, and your self is not going to beat death. I don’t care where your self has been or how strong it’s looked. It doesn’t matter how connected you are, how bright you are, how smart you are, how pretty you are. Our confidence is not in anything we have done. Our confidence is this — our God is able. * Our God is able to roll away stones. * Our God is able to forgive sinners. * Our God is able to give grace. * Our God is able to replace despair with hope. * Our God is able to make weak hands strong. * Our God is able to make the lame leap for joy. * Our God is able to bring light into darkness. * Our God is able to do immeasurably more than all you can ask or imagine. Our confidence is in the God who is able. That’s where our confidence is. That’s why Paul says, “Therefore we are always confident…” So this week practice confidence in God. When you wake up in the morning, make your first thought, “God, this is you and me facing this day together. I look forward to what we’re going to accomplish together. When I’m with other people, I’ll look them right in the eye and be confident in God. God, I’ll be confident that through you, there is some way you’re going to care for this person, some way you’re going to love this person. I don’t have to worry about, ‘What am I going to say?’” This week I won’t compare myself to anyone. This week I’ll say what it is I’m really thinking in great confidence and trust that God will be at work in that. This week I won’t obsess over money. I won’t worry about that. It’s so interesting, with Jacob, when he has this encounter with God, the response is, the last thing he says is, “God, I’m going to tithe everything I have.” Why? “Because now I trust, God, that you’re watching out for me.” So Jacob the grabber becomes Jacob the giver. This week when you go to school, when you go to work, instead of worrying about all the problems and all the stuff you haven’t figured out — “I will be confident it’s not just me. It’s me and God together, and we can do this.” “Always confident” Paul says. Alright, I want to invite you now — * Wherever you might feel vulnerable… * Wherever you might feel hurt… * Wherever you might feel disappointed — “I wish I was someone else.” * Wherever you might be tempted to believe you’re not loved. God is saying to you right now, “I will be with you wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever you’ve done, wherever you’ve been. I will love you. I will watch over you.” Bring all your vulnerability to God. Alright, let me pray for you. Blue Oaks Church Pleasanton, CA