Confessing our inability to God gives us an incredible confidence before him. It does so because the source of our confidence shifts from our limited ability to his infinite willingness. Isaiah left his encounter with God’s holiness a changed man. His writing takes on a different character. His preaching becomes personal and passionate, and he gained the courage to stand against the whole world.
At the end of this encounter, God recommissioned Isaiah into ministry with these words:
Go and tell this people:
“Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.” (Isa 6:9–10)
On the one hand, that’s not an encouraging prognosis. “Isaiah, for the rest of your life people are going to misunderstand and malign you.” And that’s exactly what happened. Jewish history tells us that Isaiah died by being put inside a log and sawn in two. But Isaiah went into this frightening future undaunted because he was now more confident in the God who stood behind him than he was afraid of the dangers that lay before him.
That kind of confidence comes from only one place: basing your hope on God’s grace and not on yourself. Trusting in his wisdom and not your intellect. Relying on his strength and not your ability.
When my oldest daughter was five, I was amazed by how often she would notice planes in the sky. “Look, Dad! Way up there—a plane!” she would say. I wondered how she always knew they were there when I hadn’t seen or heard anything.
One day the answer occurred to me. At three-foot-four she was always looking up. Everything in the world was “up” to her! And because she was always looking up, she saw what was high above both of us.
The people who see and know God are those whose sense of smallness, unworthiness, and inability always causes them to look upward toward his holiness, trusting in his incredible promises of grace and not in their abilities to figure him out but his willingness to reveal himself.
Seeing your weakness and sinfulness before God is a good thing. It’s the beginning of an experience of grace. It’s the beginning of knowledge of God. As Billy Graham says, “When we have come to the end of ourselves, we find the beginning of God.”
This encounter calls for a very specific response, and whether you respond that way is the most important decision you will ever make.
Greear, J. D., and David Jeremiah. 2018. Not God Enough: Why Your Small God Leads to Big Problems. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
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