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June 23, 2011 / joelmalm

Naked and Confident

The church was packed.  Several hundred congregants filled the pews as I stepped out to give my message.  From the outset I noticed something wasn’t quite right.  The faces of the crowd gave it away.  Some had a look of plain horror on their faces, others were giggling and whispering to their friends.  I tried to read what exactly was going on but it wasn’t until my wife motioned to me from the front row that I realized – I had no shirt.  I was humiliated!  Breaking into a sweat I bolted off the stage.  Seconds later I was on my back staring at the ceiling above me.  My sheets off to the side of my bed.  I felt my chest – I was clothed.  Thank God.  It was only a dream!

Ever had one of those naked dreams?  They are horrible.   We are all terrified of being naked in front of people.  It’s nothing new.  Adam and Eve realized it and hid from God.  After eating the forbidden fruit, “their eyes were opened” (Gen. 3:7) and they recognized they were unprotected, vulnerable.  God immediately asked them, “who told you that you were naked?” (Gen. 3:11) He knew the answer.  He just wanted them to admit what had happened.

Since that moment the human race has been deeply insecure.  Philosophers call it existential guilt, theologians call it original sin.  Whatever title you choose to give, it all defines the same thing: that uncomfortable feeling deep within your gut that says, “I am not what I should be.”  It’s the truth that underneath our clothes we are naked.  We all have it, but for some reason we all try to hide the fact that it’s there.  It’s insecurity.

The great Swiss doctor and philosopher Paul Tournier says everyone tries to cover their insecurity in one of two ways: the strong response or the weak response.

The strong are easy to spot.  When their insecurity has a potential for being revealed they immediately pull the power card.  You aren’t going to reveal their weakness – they won’t let you.  They will overpower, dominate and manipulate to make sure you never see they are just as insecure as you.  They will always keep you on the defensive to establish a powerbase that stays in their favor.  By capitalizing on your weakness, they don’t have to face theirs.

The weak back away and immediately surrender themselves to everything.  They are forever oppressed by past hurt and failure and always blame themselves for everything that goes wrong.  They don’t assert themselves in any way, they give in and let the strong run them over.

So which one are you?  I am a strong responder.  I hate looking foolish or vulnerable.  So, when I see it coming, I cut it off at the pass.  I immediately jump into defensive mode.  Pointing out the other person’s flaws, overpowering, manipulating – I stay in control and no one sees my weakness.  Or do they?

The King Has No Clothes
King Saul was deeply insecure.  When Samuel called him on the carpet for disobeying a direct order from the Lord he confessed and admitted “I feared the people and obeyed their voice.” (1 Sa. 15:24)  The most powerful man in the kingdom desperately sought approval.  God rejected Saul for his sin and chose David to take his place.

Saul’s identity came from what he did.  In another one of Saul’s stellar moments he made an illegal sacrifice to the Lord.  Samuel , the one who was supposed to do the sacrifice, was late showing up and the crowd awaiting his arrival began to leave.  Saul got nervous.  “… I saw the people scattering from me…” Saul was afraid that people would lose respect for him.  He felt foolish, so he took matters into his own hands.  His identity was wrapped up in what he did, not who he was.

Saul saw the writing on the wall.  David had been anointed to be his replacement and was quickly growing in popularity.  The chant of the crowd tells it all, “Saul has killed his thousands, David his ten thousands.”  Saul was intimidated.  He chose the strong response and attempted to assassinate David.  Ultimately it led to Saul and his son’s death.  How much easier would it have been for Saul to say, “David, I see that God’s favor is on you.  Let me step back and you take over.  I am here to support you in whatever you need.”  An unrealistic response you say?  Maybe, but not impossible.  David did it.

Years pass and David is king.  His son Absalom foments an insurrection against him.  David’s advisors get nervous.  “The hearts of the men of Israel have gone after Absalom.” (2 Sa. 15:13)  David sees the writing on the wall.  Whether it was right or not, Absalom had favor.  David had a choice to make.   David was no coward; he was a warrior surrounded by warriors.  God even told David he couldn’t build a temple because he had too much blood on his hands.  David could have fought back.

David’s response: “Arise and let us flee.” (2 Sa. 15:15)  Why did he decide to leave?  His answer comes when the priests follow him out of town with the Ark of the Covenant in tow.  The Ark was the sign of God’s presence and blessing on Israel.  The priests wanted it to go with David.  He wouldn’t have it.  “Carry the ark of God back into the city.  If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord he will bring me back…but if he says, ‘ I have no pleasure in you,’ behold here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him.” (2 Sa. 15:25-26)  Weak response?  Not likely.

David’s identity was not in what he did.  His identity was in who God had made him.  He was secure enough to acknowledge that his time might be over.  A time will come in each of our lives where we will be called to take a backseat.  We have been on the front lines, but now it may be time to step back and let someone else take over.   This can be hard if your identity is wrapped up in what you do.  Are you secure enough in who you are to step away?  Far too many people hold on far too long and create problems because they refuse to let go.

Secure people don’t hold things too tightly.  They realize that they aren’t that important in the big scheme of things.  Their value comes from somewhere else.  It’s not what they do; it’s who they are that gives them security.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…” (Eph. 2:9)  God created you because he delights in you.  In the joy and security we have in him he allows us to be part of doing good works – in that order.  Your good works don’t come first.  They will never get you approval. (Isa. 64:6)  As a forgiven saint, you are accepted just as you are.  You don’t have to prove anything.  You are his workmanship.

When you realize your inherent value you can stop trying to prove yourself to everyone.  Your insecurity can stop reacting to other peoples’ insecurities.  You can relax and begin to help others see they are accepted.  They don’t have to prove anything – you accept them and, more importantly, God accepts them.

Secure people don’t have to fight their way through “one-up” conversations.

“I went to Florida.”
“Well, I went to Uzbekistan.”
“Ya, well I just got back from the moon.”

Ever found yourself in one of those?   It’s easy to get sucked in by responding to your combatant’s insecurity with your own.

Secure people don’t throw themselves at everyone seeking acceptance.  Your “body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you… You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Co. 6:19-20)

Ladies, you don’t have to flaunt your bodies and give yourself to every man that comes down the drain.  You are valuable and were bought at a very high price.  Look at your price tag and don’t give yourself away.

Guys, your work does not define you.  Your ministry does not define you.  God’s love for you defines you.  Jobless, ministryless, homeless or moneyless you have value.  Don’t sell yourself out to compromise for a little success.  You are a big-ticket item so don’t give yourself away.

We are all deeply insecure.  The most difficult people are deeply insecure.  Mean people are deeply insecure.  “Confident” power-mongers are deeply insecure.  Your parents are deeply insecure.  Your pastor is deeply insecure.   Your friends are deeply insecure.  Armed with this knowledge you can work with anyone on this planet and be a powerful force for the kingdom of God.  Be secure in your nakedness and you will find people flocking to you, stripping their defenses down and becoming more and more confident in who they are – naked.

The freedom of the spirit (the freedom in which Christ makes one free) is the freedom of knowing God, being accepted by God’s grace, and living intimately and honestly with God through prayer. In the life of the spirit, the strong can stop pretending to be above pain and fear, and the weak can come out from behind the shield of past hurts and failures. The strong can relax and be cared for, while the weak can stretch and assert themselves.

– Paul Tournier



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