A few weeks ago I watched a TED talk on Netflix about how to develop a “more confident you” through what they called “power poses.” Like an animal asserting its territory or like Superman, if you “power pose” for at least three minutes it will have an effect on your self-confidence to be able to conquer your life’s difficult circumstances. The speaker suggested that the poses were especially useful for those needing a boost of confidence before something like a job interview or a public speaking engagement. The talk was very convincing and persuasive. Since I regularly present before groups of people (I am a preaching minister), I decided to try it.
About 45 minutes before our Sunday morning worship began, I hovered over my sermon striking a power pose that has been called the “Superhero stance”—standing upright, chest out, hands on my hips. I did the recommended 3 minutes and then a bonus one for an extra dose of confidence (that last minute was self-prescribed). I would like to report that it made a great difference in my presentation that morning leading to a sermon of sermons attested to by many tears and public conversions, but it did not. If it helped me be more confident that morning I honestly don’t remember.
We many times believe that happiness and success in life comes when we can manufacture more confidence in ourselves. We often believe that if we just try hard enough, flex enough muscle, and ooze confidence we will come out on top in life. We believe that when we are strong we succeed and win. I am definitely not against hard work and a healthy sense of self worth within its proper framework, but I’m not too sure that striving for more self confidence is the way to go. Let me explain a little more.
Israel’s story gives us a good framework for thinking about this. In the Old Testament we learn that God caused Israel to wander in the desert for 40 years because of their sin but ultimately he wanted to use the wilderness years to humble them and to test their hearts. God says that he was disciplining his Israelite children to teach them to obey.
After Moses was out of the picture, God raised up Joshua as their leader. This is what God tells Joshua before leading the Israelites to the Promised Land:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
God wanted Joshua to lead with strength and courage. Sounds good so far. But what kind of strength? Is it a strength grounded in personal ability and leadership? No. If we read a little more we learn that it is a strength based in obedience to God’s laws and a submission to God alone.
To be strong and courageous does not mean that we are able to trust in ourselves to provide victories in life. We naturally do this though. We naturally want to trust in ourselves, whether we like ourselves or not. Whether we have low self-esteem or inflated self-esteem, we got to these undesirable places by trusting in ourselves. We should not be trusted to win the battles of our lives or to bring about success and prosperity in our life.
I believe that the greatest battles in life are won when the weak lean on God’s power.
The first thing for us to recognize is that we are weak. Israel was a very weak nation. They were wandering without a home in the desert for 40 years. They had a limited diet. As far as their army, they did not have “state of the art” weaponry, and they had no military training as far as we can tell. They were an army to laugh at really. But they knew they had their Father’s power. They knew where the power source was.
A couple of days ago, Luke was trying to open some of his birthday presents. He tried to do it himself at first. Only when he recognized that he was too weak to do it was he able to turn it over to his father who could and was willing. He even said, “Daddy your so strong.” It was sweet to hear that from my boy, although ripping open a box doesn’t prove that I am strong.
The most important thing that we need to learn in facing our life battles is recognizing God’s strength.
I am weak… but our God is strong.
I am weak…but our God is with us.
Paul knew that God’s power was shown in weakness. In 2 Corinthians he writes:
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
As I thought more about the positions of power taught on the TED Netflix video, I realized that finding ways to rely more on myself is probably not a good idea. God instead has prescribed for us positions of weakness so that we will rely more on him. These positions come in heartache and backache, in tears and in anger, in all of our struggles and sufferings. God uses weakness to bring about humility. This is a quality in a person that God can do something with. He ultimately wants us to be like Jesus, who humbled himself for the good of mankind.
Maybe instead of practicing positions of power requiring a proud stance with a puffed out chest and arms on the side, I should get on my knees, hands on the ground, bowing before my powerful God, seeking His power. Such a position of weakness, aka. prayer, reminds all of us that power and victory in life is found in God, not in ourselves. When we are weak, then we are strong. May God help me to stay humble and rely on his power in attitude, actions, and posture. I vow to use this pose before sermons from now on too.