I think one of the worst things we can teach one another is to believe in ourselves. I’m not talking about having appropriate self-confidence, I am talking about encouraging each other to live as though everything depends on us. That seems pretty foolhardy, if not downright prideful, doesn’t it?
The more I dig into the major themes of Scripture, and how God began to reveal His plan to rescue and redeem the world, the more I see that come through, especially in the life of Abram. Many of us know the famous line in response to God once again promising that Abram would have a son, “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). And many of us also know what happened after: Abram believed God would keep His promise and give him an heir, but he also faltered, forgetting what God had told him earlier, words that were foundational to his faith:
“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield; your reward will be very great” (vv.1–2).
But Abram was afraid. His wife Sarai was afraid too. And out of their fear, they acted arrogantly. They acted as though God’s plan depended on them and on their actions, and so they did what was right in their own eyes, and it led to disaster—as it always does.
This is why I fear encouraging anyone to believe in themselves. When we put our trust in our own abilities, we wind up creating a giant mess. This is so much of what Paul wanted to get across to the Galatian and Roman churches, and to us as well. We cannot forget that our standing before God doesn’t come from our attempts to make it happen; we can’t earn our way into redemption (Romans 4:1–5). Redemption is built upon faith in Jesus as the One who God’s covenant pointed to: the seed of Abraham, the Son through whom Abraham would have may descendents. And by faith, we are brought into Abraham’s family “according to the promise” (Galatians 3:27).
All of it comes from one place and one place alone: faith in the one who said to Abram, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield; your reward will be very great” (Genesis 15:1–2). Basically, God said, “Believe me. Trust me. I will do what I said I will do.” Like Abram, we are all tempted to doubt this. But if the gospel is true, we don’t need to be afraid. We don’t need to take our salvation into our own hands. We need to believe, to trust that God is our shield, and live out of that trust. And when we do, the reward is great indeed.
Written by Aaron Armstrong