Don’t listen to yourself.
You are not the best judge of how you’re doing. In fact, it’s most likely that you are the worst.
I think, ‘I’m doing fine,” when I’m not. I believe that I’m “hopeless and rubbish,” when I’m loved and chosen by God and filled by his Holy Spirit. I assume that, “I’ll never succeed so I’d better give up…” when true glory isn’t winning, but stepping out and stumbling on.
There are a thousand reasons I shouldn’t trust myself. For one thing, I’m biased. You run a red light and you’re an idiot. I run a red light and it was an easy mistake. We’re arguing in the same room – but our stories never match. It doesn’t matter – I just know that I am right.
I know what will make me happy, even though it makes me miserable. I know what will set me free; even though I’m enslaved. And I can predict the future too. Looking forwards, I know there’s no use trying, because I know how it will turn out. Looking back, I knew it was going to happen. I could have told you, right from the start.
I drink a coffee and I can take on the world. I miss a few hour’s sleep and the apocalypse is nigh. I pass an exam and I know I’m a genius. I fail the test and I’m the stupidest person alive.
I know who I am. But I’m different all the time. To my mum, my husband, the ticket inspector, the vicar. Which one is me? Which one is real?
To address this confusion, Paul says I need to be distrustful and dependent. I’m to distrust the self that thinks it knows best. And I’m to depend Christ’s love for the me with nothing to offer.
“I was crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
When Paul speaks of the “I” who no longer lives, it’s literally the word ego. My ego is dead – Christ killed it on the cross. He took it where it belonged – hell. Now He’s risen up to give me a new kind of life. Not the self-trusting, active ego but the Christ-trusting, passive me; the me that is loved by Jesus; the me that can’t make herself worthy, but is loved nonetheless.
The Christian life is lived by trust. That’s the message of this verse – and the whole Bible. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” says Proverbs 3, verse 5. But notice how it continues: “And lean not on your own understanding.”
As vital as it is to live by faith I also need to learn to live by doubt. I ought to be highly suspicious of my intentions, suspicious of my gut feelings, suspicious of my flesh, suspicious of my ego. And instead of looking within, I need the truth that is outside of me to set me right.
I need you with your wisdom and insight. I need my church family, filled with different personalities and perspectives. I need the Bible with its confronting wisdom. I need worship to tune my heart to fresh songs. I need preaching to tell me all what I suppress and forget. I need bread and wine to feed my faith with the reality of Christ. I need the Truth that is outside of me – to kill my lying ego and raise me to newness of life.
To live by faith, I must also live by doubt.