The Confidence of a Man Who’s Never Known Defeat

“And today I will trust you with the confidence
Of a man who’s never known defeat
And I’ll try my best to just forget
That that man isn’t me”

-Relient K, Let It All Out

Three stories:

I like what those Relient K lyrics up above say about confidence.  Lately I’ve been working on having more confidence in God, and I really like the thought of living like a guy who has never known defeat.  A person who has never been defeated is the most confident person around.  And this makes me think about running.  More specifically, this makes me think about the dogs I encounter when I run (because heaven knows that I rarely come out on top when I’m racing).  I may not be undefeated on the racecourse, but I have certainly never been attacked by a dog when I was out on my own for a jog.  Countless dogs have run at me, run after me, barked at me, growled at me, etc, but none of them have ever attacked.  And because of this, my confidence has grown.  It may be a stupid confidence, but I have it none the less.  I am confident that no matter how much the dogs growl and bark, they are not actually going to bite me.  I’m also confident that if a dog did decide to attack me, I would do whatever it took to hurt that dog more than it hurt me.  I love dogs, but if one decided he would love to have a piece of my leg, I would kick and punch and do whatever else to scare it off.  I have already resolved this in my head, and since I haven’t ever been attacked and I have not known defeat, I remain completely confident that I could do this.  It’s a pretty necessary attitude to have as well.  If I wasn’t confident I could whoop these dogs, I wouldn’t be able to run down a lot of these Kentucky roads.  (Note for Mom and Dad: I do avoid the pit bull.)

However, most of the time living with that kind of confidence doesn’t seem realistic, because the fact is that we know all too well how it feels to experience defeat.  Defeat causes us to lose confidence in ourselves, and it may even cause us to lose confidence in God.  Many times I lack the will to get up and try again, to keep pursuing holiness, because I’ve been defeated over and over and I figure I’ll just go down again.  Recently I’ve heard a couple of stories that have given me some motivation to get up and try again.  The first one comes from ancient Rome, and is actually about the Roman people as a whole.  Most of the time when we think of Rome, we think of a powerhouse nation that steamrolled every little country in its path.  The Romans didn’t seem to know defeat.  I’ve been listening to a podcast about how the Roman republic was formed and came to dominate all of Italy and eventually the world.  It turns out that the Romans were not always the victors that we usually hear about, but one thing always set them apart from the other cities on the Italian peninsula: they never gave up.  The historian keeps saying two things about the Romans: they refused to ever admit defeat, and they prided themselves on their ability to learn from their mistakes.  These two qualities set them apart from the other nations and helped them rise to the top of the heap.  Several times Rome lost a whole army and its enemies expected Rome to surrender, but instead they raised another army, vowed to not make the same mistakes again, and then went out and stomped their amazed enemies.  The Romans were very aware that they had been defeated once, but they never let that fact prevent them from succeeding the next time.  This attitude has amazed me, and I’ve realized I want it in my own spiritual life.

Now, back to running.  I heard a story about a Tanzanian marathon runner named John Stephen Akhwari who was favored to medal at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. In a terrible turn of events, he cut his leg and dislocated his knee a few miles into the race, and the emergency team pulled him off the course.  He immediately asked them to pop his knee back into place, and when it was done he got up and took off again, despite the doctors’ protests.  Well, the medalists came across the finish line, and then the rest of the field finished, and they had the medal ceremony, and everybody started leaving to go home.  Finally, Akhwari limped into the stadium and across the finish line.  The crowd that was left cheered him in, and one reporter asked him why he had done it.  Why had he fought through so much pain to finish the marathon?  His answer: “You don’t understand.  My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start a race; they sent me to finish it.”

Paul understood this better than most.  “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).  I’m convinced that Christ did not die on the cross so we could keep on being defeated over and over again.  We forget that in his death and resurrection we find victory in everyday life.  Let us live with a confidence based not on our own abilities to be good but based on our trust in him to make us good.  And when we do go down, let us not stay down.  We are never meant to stay down but to rise again.  I may trip up some along the course, but I want to get up, learn from my mistakes, grow in grace, and finish well.  To quote Relient K one more time, “I’m pressin’ on.”

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3 responses to “The Confidence of a Man Who’s Never Known Defeat

  1. I think I’ve been learning the exact opposite lesson lately. All of my failures are teaching me how empty of righteousness I really am and how completely I need to depend on God. I’ve also been thinking about how important it is to sometimes give yourself the freedom to fail. Many of my best learning experiences have been failures, and all of them have come when I put aside any fear of what would happen if things didn’t work out, when I wasn’t too proud to look (or be) incredibly stupid.

    “Talk with your mouth full,
    Bite the hand that feeds you,
    Bite off more than you can chew,
    What can you do?
    Dare to be stupid”
    –Weird Al Yankovic, “Dare to Be Stupid”

    • I had in mind sinful behaviors that keep knocking me down. I’m trying to learn to have the confidence in Christ to keep getting up from that stuff, but I think you bring up the other side of life that I need to learn. I can’t be afraid of the things in life that will make me look silly in front of people. I think these two things go hand in hand as we grow in freedom in Christ.

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