Not by might, but by my Spirit, the Lord promised. There’s a certain confidence in knowing what we’re about. With the violence we face just to live, I’ll admit that it took a while to understand what that meant. I remember rocks clacking and skipping by my feet, going home from the gym one evening, and stopping to turn to see what was happening. I understand now that I should’ve been terrified of what I saw in light of the damage it could have done. But I was calm as I turned away and started walking, confident I didn’t have to run, just walk. I was calm when I got home. I was calm when I got to school the next day, and I can chuckle a little at it now as an adult. That day taught me something important I carry with me even today; running causes problems. If you have to run, run toward, not away. And it is still a thousand times better to walk away.
Over the years, through many trials one thing remained. The same calm that took me home is the same calm that has rescued me from many trials as I matured and life became more complicated. I believe the first time I paid full attention was a day I walked into an office and heard a growl, then saw a large brown dog come from inside a door, trotting threateningly toward me. Had no idea people brought their dogs to work until that day – but my feet moved me forward at a calm pace and somehow, my voice sounded steady when I said, hello. I became aware of my heart pounding as woman emerged from an office and called to the big brown dog and it turned and went to her. I was thinking again. But there was a calm confidence as I greeted the client and got directions for the work I needed to do.
There was a time, I’ll admit, I thought I had to show a tough façade. That’s what boys hear when they are growing up. But as I grew, the refiner showed me something else. I finally asked the right questions and the refiner showed me what all this calm meant. As I listen to rising voices in front of me, and am able to pay attention and slow down, listening to the calmness of my answers, I realized that my hatred for violence filtered out into the answers and, abated what I heard coming from those who are on the other side of an argument. Anger in check, I can say that the same God who calls me to worship and called me to get in the water, is the confidence I speak by today. I realized, growing up, what I was all about but didn’t know what it meant.
I can remember saying the words, “God is my pride” for the first time, as an adult. The words exploded into a conversation about having too much pride in one’s self. I was coming out of the refiner’s furnace at that time. But I realized something that day. When God says by his Spirit, He means by His Spirit. They were words I meant, too. And there was something else I realized: the Holy Spirit doesn’t hide anything from the ones he is working to refine; not the situation or its circumstances and not the sins within them. Everything is front and center for everyone involved to see and correct.
The issue we have with other people comes down to confidence and where we put our confidence. “Not by Might or by power”, says the Lord almighty, “But by my Spirit.” When our confidence is in the Spirit, situational reactions are totally different from placing our confidence in our pride. Placing our confidence in our pride leads to wanting to dominate and therefore leads to violent reactions because, if pride meets pride, then they must battle for superiority. But, confidence in the Spirit allows Emmanuel to be present in every situation and, the importance is then about proving the Spirit of God rather than proving our might. No matter how dreadful things get or how frightened we are, we’re still able to keep a calm mind, and through the eyes of the Holy Spirit see everything as it unfolds, sometimes things we would prefer not to see at the time. And when we’re in those situations our confidence in the Spirit shows us that God doesn’t show us the reality we’re facing for us to mount an attack. But, like David, when he asked God if Saul would come to Keilah, and God said, Saul would, in 1 Samuel 23:11, to think it through.
Not everything we see is to give us a better position to fight. Sometimes what we see is for us to move aside so that God can continue his work. David knew to ask God the next question; if the men of Kielah would hand him over to Saul, and God said “They would”. Confidence during these times requires us to consider carefully what God is saying and act accordingly. In these times, planning an attack is like looking at the Law and missing the central theme to what God repeats about Law and sin, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
One precious gift of the Holy Spirit is peace and another, is understanding. “My peace I leave with you,” Jesus says. While we may perceive peace to mean, living life without strife, we forget peace begins, like most things human, inside of us. Trusting God gives us confidence in His promises as we live. Our minds remain calm in situations where people normally look to fight. When we are in the refiner’s furnace, we can easily lose sight of that. But when we pay attention things slow down enough for us to breath, and pay attention and take appropriate action rather than the action people are prone to take in those situations.
There is a certain confidence in knowing what we’re about. But, if that confidence is misplaced in the pride of the individual, it becomes a tool for wanton destruction. Pride is a fool’s cudgel used to bludgeon those who do not conform or get out the way. It causes strife. That is why it seems like God detests pride and prefers confidence in his children. And with confidence in the Spirit, rather than the strength of the arms, legs, and weapons, we can take time in any situation to understand that the correct decision is not always going to benefit the individual making the decision. It’s a tough pill to swallow, for most of us.
The reality of making a decision that causes us to lose something may seem like a cop-out to most egos; the truth we gain in knowledge and in life is that when the Spirit says “stand” – it is time to pray that our brother or sister, the adversary, take note and change course because they have been handed over. Mercy not sacrifice relates at these times; if they change and say forgive me, then seventy times seven in one day those who have confidence in the Spirit will be willing to walk away with a handshake rather than fists. I specifically recall the story of Stephen arguing with some brothers. When they decided to kill him for blasphemy, instead of calling down a curse on them he shouted, “Lord forgive them, they know not what they do.” With this decision, Stephen kept his hands from violence and began the fulfillment of two prophesies; the rejection of Emmanuel, Jesus as Messiah by the old regime, and the word Jesus had spoken against the Scribes and Pharisees, “I will send you prophets, some you will kill, some you will persecute, some you while hand over to be beaten on account of me”.
The deceptiveness of placing our confidence in pride, rather than the Spirit of God gains context in the realm of peace. We may win fights that come from appeasing pride and swinging to prove our might. But, I’ll tell you the truth; in every situation we face in life, if we understand the Spirit of God and have the confidence in Him, it is better to be a fool and a weakling for God. In strife we give ground either because we’re afraid or because we want to keep the peace and those who see may scorn and laugh. Some will stay angry. Others will spread the word, true or not; those words will get to places long before you do. One or two of those who witnessed your struggle may have questions about your decisions. God may be able to reach that one or two. If God is able to celebrate one or two more turning to Him, then our decision to put our confidence in the Spirit is worth more than you will be able to imagine at that moment.
There is a certain confidence in knowing what we’re all about. Because even when we stray, if we are willing to listen, the Spirit will keep bringing us back to the path God put down for us to walk. But, we must be willing to listen. We must have our confidence in the Lord and submit to the Messiah, Jesus the Nazarene. Not only will we have the confidence, by the Spirit to be born again in the water, but of the Holy Spirit and will walk with our cross proudly day by day. The refining process is never fun, but I love my confidence even when my hands shake and my heart races, because I know he’s about to send me to go speak to someone I may never meet until the resurrection.
The confidence I have in the Spirit allows me to praise God for His rod of correction, and for the times He dragged me back to the path when I wandered, and instilled confidence in these anxious bones to stand in storms. I have confidence in the Holy Spirit to believe that one day I will meet one or two brothers or sisters who will testify that “bro, your screw-ups were epic. But thank you for trusting in God, our Father to deliver you because I knew from watching you, I could count on Him.” I will keep my confidence firmly planted in the Spirit, In Christ, the Lord almighty, My Everlasting Father. With my confidence in His Spirit, I know what I’m about. I know what I am looking forward to, no matter what I lose in situations I could have played mighty man.
My confidence in the Spirit of the Lord explains in detail what I am about. The Spirit shows me that my home is with God, who provided the Messiah so that I can speak to Him freely and call to Him in times of need, and celebrate with Him in times of victory because He is the Father who enthusiastically says, “Yes, and will surely be victorious.” Not by my might or by my power, but by His Spirit. And you should own that confidence because it was given to us all as children born to God in Christ.