Confidence – The Right Kind

The fuel that drives so much of modern society seems to be a form of bravado, expressed in terms of confidence. Confidence is one of those many terms which can be enhancing or destructive; it may enable us or disable
us. Even more than that, it may give us strength through humility, or weakness through deception.

Politicians express confidence in the electorate, footballers are confident about the skills of their team-mates, and students are told to believe in themselves. It is all rather reminiscent of Julie Andrews’ singing in The Sound of Music:

It tells me all I trust I lead my heart to;
All I trust becomes my own.
I have confidence in confidence alone (Oh help!),
I have confidence in confidence alone,
Besides which you see
I have confidence in me!

It is a rousing tune, and there is something in it to gladden the heart, but it is also a little cringe-worthy.

The rich fool managed to be confident about his future: ‘I will say to may soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry”’ (Luke 12:19). However, it was all misplaced as he left the Ruler of the universe out of the equation: ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you’ (Luke 12:20a). We are not masters of our own destiny. Every plan we concoct is provisional. This is true whether we are seeking to travel in order to do business (James 4:13-16) or even if we are apostles making plans for proclaiming the gospel (1 Cor.16:7). We live under the umbrella of ‘If the Lord wills’. Actually, this should not take away our confidence but direct it to the right place. David wrote: ‘My times are in Your hand’ (Ps.31:15a). The hymn-writer, W. F. Lloyd, cited that, and then added: ‘My God, I wish them there.’

Those with saving faith in Christ can still be prone to be confident when they ought not to be. Peter told Christ, referring to the other apostles: ‘Though they all fall away because of You, I will never fall away’ (Matt.26:33). Peter was to learn things about himself that he wished he never had to learn – he denied his Lord when he felt sure he could die for Him. The congregation at Laodicea also failed to see itself truly, so Christ spoke sharply to it: ‘For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked’ (Rev.3:17). The believer can sound like the unbeliever at times. King Nebuchadnezzar bragged: ‘Is this not great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?’ (Dan.4:30) The only thing that keeps us from being so outlandish in our confident conceit is that we have no Hanging Gardens of Babylon to point to.

Yet there is a true Christian confidence. We have no confidence in confidence alone, but we ought to be upheld by the fact that the Lord is our confidence (Prov.4:26). This finds greater fulfilment in the New Testament revelation of the coming of the Messiah, His death and resurrection, and ascension to await His coming again in power. He sits upon a throne of grace, and this gives all penitent sinners confidence to draw near (Heb.4:16). We have a great High Priest who shed His blood for sinners, so we can approach the heavenly throne, not by means of our goodness or works, but His goodness and work (Heb.10:19-21). In Christ Jesus we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him (Eph.3:12).

A pattern emerges from all this: in earthly matters of ambition and talents, the world bids us to be confident, but God warns us against such an attitude. On the other hand, in heavenly matters of sins forgiven and access to God, where the world would say there is no reason for confidence, God declares that by faith in His promises made known in Christ we can have every confidence. That is the sound of divine music.

With warmest regards in Christ,
Peter Barnes