“It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone…..It is written, You shall worship the Lord you God…….It has been said, You shall not tempt the Lord your God” Luke 4:4, 8,12
“…Trust in the Lord, He is your help and your shield” Psalm 115:9
“….be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God…..For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers…rulers of the darkness of this age” Ephesians 6:11,12
There is much said, written concerning, contemplated about self-respect. However, there is a term that I don’t hear used much yet I think is a concept that is equally worth the mental and spiritual effort we put towards respect and that is the concept of self-trust. Now I will grant you that is not a term that is used with any sort of frequency and I’m not sure why not.
Why the importance? Why devote a post to it? First because, in my experience working with groups, trust is a fundamental attribute of success in how a group can function together. When relationships end and especially end badly; one often common theme is that one party has done something, committed some infraction that has caused the other to lose trust in them and feel they can never recover it. Trust seems to be one of those fundamental values, underlying characteristics that drive a tremendous amount of our feelings and therefore, behaviors towards others and different situations.
Yet in this post I want to approach trust from a different standpoint, a different perspective that I believe is vital, if not critical to our spiritual success and wellbeing. It concerns that amount of trust we place in ourselves; especially when it entails “doing the right thing” or “overcoming temptation”.
I am constantly amazed at how we (or at least I) trust myself, yet am often not willing to extend that trust beyond me. I would not steal, but I have to keep a wary eye on you. Trust me, take me at my word; but I want you to jump through a lot of hoops to prove what you’re saying to me. If I say I’m going to, I’m going to….but you better show me your plan to prove that you will do it. And I could go on and on…
So here’s the critical question: “Is the trust, sometimes absolute trust I place in myself really justified; especially when it comes to spiritual matters?” We might be wise to look how Jesus Christ handled temptation.
There are many mysteries around Jesus Christ that I can’t fully understand, let alone explain, yet I faithfully accept. Jesus Christ was both completely God and completely human. Thus Jesus Christ could be and indeed was tempted. Yet, being also completely God, Jesus Christ was able to completely resist the temptation, remaining perfect without sin. Yet, let us look at how Jesus Christ answered the temptations of Satan. Jesus Christ did not declare or simply rely on or in His own power as the One Begotten Son of God that Satan should depart or be destroyed. No, Jesus Christ quoted the words of His Father in Heaven; Jesus quoted scripture. Jesus used the power of His Father’s words to refute the temptations of Satan and thwart Satan’s attempts to cause Him to sin. Did Jesus have to do that or was He giving us an example to learn from, I don’t know and in fact I think is irrelevant. Jesus was not too proud to forsake using His own words or power but instead to reach for the Words of His Father.
At another time, a time of deep distress for Jesus, when He was in the garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus was facing the prospect of becoming sin for all time and dying an excruciating death on the cross; Jesus did not just spend time in mediation, He did not say to Himself: “It is time to pull myself up by my bootstraps and face this”. No, Jesus prayed. He prayed to His Heavenly Father for help to go through it in fulfilling the Father’s Will through the Son.
So here’s the crucial concept for us. Whether or not we’ve ever been, I don’t see us as a particularly humble people today. Our society extolls concepts like self reliance and self determination as great virtues. We tell, almost preaching to our children; you can be or do anything you put your mind to or dream you can do. So does it follow that if we or our children fall short, the problem was that we didn’t put our mind to it enough? We did dream or want it bad enough? I trust that I should be able to do this or that on my own?
You see, dear Sisters and Brothers, we may very well want to be good. We also may very well understand and admit that there are temptations in this world that lead us to sin. Yet if we trust solely, souly or even primarily in ourselves, our own power, our own determination to defeat those temptations; we do place ourselves in great peril of sinning. I know that I am tempted in this way so I trust my own strength to stop drinking this or eating that. I trust in my own will power to stop saying this, visiting that, watching those things. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians spells it out plainly that without trusting in something greater than ourselves, and that being the whole armor of God; we will fail in our battle against the evil arrayed against us.
You see Jesus Christ defeated temptation the way He did because He is God. We are not God and as His creation, in and of ourselves, we will not be equal to God. Thus to be victorious over temptation and sin, we must humble ourselves and call upon the power of Almighty God. We must understand that only through abiding in Jesus Christ, studying and relying on the Word of God, praying for His strength to overcome the power of Satan, can we have confidence in being able to defeat the powers of darkness. Satan would have us believe it is a weakness to not trust ourselves, but Jesus Christ would tell us it is a blessing, an act of loving relationship; that our Creator God, cares enough for us that He will share His power with us to defeat our greatest enemy. He gave His only Son, in proof of His redemptive love and grace filled plan for us. Please, please let us put our full and true trust souly in Him.
Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly admit that we are not You and are not powerful enough to defeat the enemy of this world and the temptations he brings against us. Yet we also confidently proclaim that we are Your creation and through You and the gift of Your power and grace; we can be victorious over the enemy and his temptations. As Your Son taught us to pray; keep us from temptation and deliver us from evil. Help us to rely on You and not trust in ourselves. Forgive us when, in our own pride and arrogance, we fall by attempting to defeat the enemy on our own, with our own devices. That in trusting in You and sharing Your victory, we will lead lives of praise to Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.