There are two sorts of journeys we travel; Familiar journeys and unfamiliar journeys. The familiar journeys require little planning and thought but the unfamiliar journeys often require more from us. Many have found themselves travelling a less familiar journey over the last few years and it’s taken a lot out of them – for some it has particularly taken a toll on their confidence.
I’m not talking about the general demeanour of a person. The issue is not about swagger but whether we are placing our confidence in something that is able to withstand the rigours of an unfamiliar journey. Let me illustrate this….
A number of years ago I was invited to speak at an event in Italy which began on Friday evening. I had diary commitments on Friday morning in the UK but I found a way I could make it work which involved taking two flights – one from my nearest airport and the other from a connecting flight. As I arrived at Birmingham airport and checked in my baggage, I was given two boarding passes. One was for the flight from Birmingham to Paris and the other for my flight from Paris to Pisa. I boarded my first flight, taking off on time and arriving ahead of schedule. I quickly made my way through the various security checks in Paris and eventually arrived at my next departure gate. I had some free time so I took the kindle out of my bag and began to read.
Here I was sat in another country, surrounded by a language I didn’t speak – with the exception of a rudimentary ability to say ‘hello’ and ‘I am eleven’ (that’s how old I was when I learnt to say it) – when my sub-conscious attention is captured away from my book by an announcement. I had no understanding of what was being said, but I found the reference to a ‘Monsieur Pug’ rather humorous. I lowered my gaze back into my book and a few minutes later heard the same reference to ‘Monsieur Pug’. I chuckled before redirecting my thoughts back to my reading. A few minutes later I heard a slightly more exasperated voice referencing this same ‘Monsieur Pug’ and then it dawned on me. My surname is Pugh and other languages may be tempted to pronounce it as ‘Pug’ – maybe it was me they were trying to get hold of.
I packed away my book and made my way to the desk. In my limited French I introduced myself and managed to work out ( thanks to their English speaking skills) that it was me they were trying to get hold of. They had overbooked the flight and there was no longer a space for me – but they would book me into a lovely hotel, give me financial compensation and arrange for me to take a flight first thing the following morning. I proceeded to say their offer wouldn’t work for me and I needed to be on this flight due to a commitment that evening. They replied it wasn’t possible.
So I’m in an unfamiliar place, on an unfamiliar journey, surrounded by an unfamiliar language and with very little to bolster my sense of confidence. I had no swagger but I did have a boarding pass with a seat number. I pulled it out of my pocket and politely said ‘I have this which I believe is my legal right to be on that plane. I need to get on that flight’.
I was asked to take a seat and the staff member made another announcement before a smartly dressed man approached the desk. The staff member called me over and explained that this gentleman was very happy to take the offer of a hotel room and compensation and make room for me on the flight. I thanked him – he thanked me – I got on the flight and arrived on time in Pisa for the conference.
Where did my confidence come from? It didn’t come from familiarity, my capability or my swagger. My confidence came from knowing what I was holding in my hand. It leads me to the question, if we have lost some confidence, have we been holding the right thing in our hands?
When King David faced unfamiliar situations or new enemies he said these words:
Psalm 20:7 ESV “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”
Some trust in chariots and horses – I get it – they were great symbols of power and glory in their day – but everyone comes to a place when the things we put our confidence in gets tested. Our chariots and horses may have ‘won us the last battle’, resulting in us placing our confidence in them. But when we suddenly find the ‘wheels have come off’ we can feel very vulnerable.
I believe God has allowed our ‘chariots’ to be sabotaged. We thought they were our strength but they really weren’t and never will be. In church leadership, the ABC’s have often been seen as symbols of strength. A – the attendance. B – the buildings we own and C – the cash we have in the bank. Post lockdown, many churches have struggled to get their attendance back to where it was. Some big building plans have been put on hold and for many churches finances are under real pressure. Some trust in attendance, some trust in buildings and some trust in cash – but these things are not the things where we will find our strength. They are not the source of our confidence.
It’s time to repent for ever trusting in ‘our chariots’ and it’s time to realign and place our confidence in the Lord. If you are stood in at the side of a road next to your damaged ‘chariot’, don’t think that getting it fixed is the answer. Our answer is found in our vulnerability and weakness. Although surrounded by the unfamiliar, we can humble ourselves and put our trust in the Lord. The world doesn’t need a church with swagger, or gold-plated chariots – the world needs a humble church who know that without the Lord we can do nothing. It’s time to stop mourning our losses. It’s time to get on our knees and fix our gaze heavenward. It’s time to seek the Lord. It’s time to place our full confidence in Him.
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