The sudden events of life have a way of stripping from us all we have trusted and placed our confidence. We have found through this pandemic the “things” we have been putting our confidence in to give our lives stability, when taken away, what we thought was stable ground is little more than shifting sands. When we find ourselves confined, we are faced with the stark reality that confidence in our “normal” routine of life can vanish like steam from a teakettle. How true this is in the materialistic realm and even more so is it true in the spiritual realm.
When Paul wrote the book of Philippians, he was confined to a Roman prison cell. Where was he going to place his confidence? He had been stripped of all materialistic stability and he had long since been stripped of his stability in his religious heritage. As he faced an uncertain future, and eventual death, he evaluated his past spiritual heritage as being unworthy of his confidence in times of trial, trouble, and death.
Far too many people have placed their spiritual confidence in “things” that are not sufficient to bring stability in the unchanging events of life and when death comes calling. Paul warns about putting faith in false confidences. He should know, for at one time he had. Listen to Paul: “If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Phil. 3:4-6).
Frist, don’t put confidence in a rite. Paul says he was circumcised the eighth day (v. 5). That was an important Jewish rite that could be traced back to Abraham. But this important rite in Judaism didn’t aid Paul while in prison or facing the executioner. There are many people who have placed all their hope in some rite (baptism, catechism, ceremony, etc) to be adequate to enable them to stand in confidence before a holy God. Paul reminds us confidence in rites will fail us when we stand before a righteous God.
Second, don’t put confidence in race. Paul says he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews (v. 5). His race created pride in him, but his race didn’t help him when bound in chains, facing death. Sadly, there are many who think they are superior to others because of their race. Well, God is no respecter of persons, and anyone who is trusting in their race in hopes of finding approval in the sight of God is going to be in for a rude awakening.
Third, don’t put confidence in religion. When it came to keeping the Mosaic Law, Paul was blameless (v. 5-6). Paul was immersed in the Jewish religion and had few equals (Gal. 1:14). But his religion was devoid of a relationship with God and left him empty, dissatisfied and unprepared to stand before the Lord in confidence. Religion without a relationship with God is like a thirsty man trying to draw water from a dry well.
Fourth, don’t put confidence in a record. Paul had attained before man a blameless life and he had on his resume of being a Pharisee (v. 5-6). Many people have all the qualities of being a “good person,” of doing good works; their record is enviable. But it takes more than good record before men to enable us to be acceptable before a holy God.
Fifth, don’t put confidence in personal righteousness. Paul had placed his confidence in his own righteousness (v. 6). He thought the life he was living and the works he had done was all the righteousness (right-ness) he needed to earn him standing before God someday. There are too many people today who are trusting in their own righteousness, thinking the life they are living measures up and complies with the requirements of being able to stand with confidence before a righteous, perfect and holy God.
Thankfully, Paul’s heart was awakened to realize that confidence in rites, race, religion, record and personal righteousness, was all to no avail in that day when he would stand before God. Paul writes, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my LORD: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil 3:7-9).
When all in this life we have placed our confidence in is stripped away from us, we come to the realization there is only one place we can rest our confidence….in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, who has provided for us all we need to be able to find stability in this life and possess confidence in that day when we stand before our holy God. It is not religion or works that saves us, but it is through a relationship with the living Christ, who in His life, death on the cross, and resurrection has provided us that quality of right-ness that allows us to stand before the Lord someday with confidence. God in Christ has done for us what we could never do for yourselves. Our confidence before God is not earned, but is a gift of grace!
Anything other than Christ we are placing our confidence in, Paul says it is “dung” (v. 8). The Greek word is σκύβαλον (skubalon – skoo’-bal-on), found only here in the NT. The word had a wide range of meaning in Greek literature, used to refer to “waste thrown to dogs, like filthy scraps of garbage; excrement; rubbish; trash that is the result from sweeping, that which is worthless, what is good-for-nothing except to be thrown out.” Paul is clear, if we are placing our confidence in anything or anybody other than Christ, our confidence is in vain and will fail us in times of extreme trial and when we are called upon to give an account of our lives to God.
Where is your and my confidence placed? If not in Christ, our confidence is misplaced. It is my earnest prayer that through this pandemic it has resulted in all of us learning to sing the hymn Edward Mote penned in 1834: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ, my righteousness, I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but only lean on Jesus’ name! On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.”
O, what a Savior.