How to Be Confident
How to Be Confident
To describe someone as ‘confident’ is usually meant as a compliment. But, there is a right and wrong form of confidence. The wrong form of confidence involves valuing yourself over and against God. This is arrogance. The right form of confidence involves valuing yourself in and through Christ. ‘Confidence in the natural world is self-reliance. In the spiritual world, it is God-reliance’. Supremely, it involves confidence in the presence of God.
Confidence lostPsalm 137:1–9
There is something very comforting about the raw anger that is expressed in this psalm. It is a reminder that you can be real and honest with God, and that you don’t need to censor your prayers. He can cope with even your darkest thoughts.
The people of God had lost their confidence in the presence of God. The psalmist is in exile, in Babylon, away from Jerusalem and the temple of God’s presence. The worst thing about the exile for God’s people was this sense of being away from God’s presence: ‘By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion’ (v.1).
Their violent response and desire for revenge – ‘treat them as they treated us’ (vv.8–9) – is a far cry from the New Testament command to love your enemies (see Matthew 5:44). But it is a cry within a lament of people tormented (Psalm 137:3), and desperate for God’s presence.
Lord, I long for your presence today.
Confidence restored1 John 3:11–4:6
Confidence and love go hand in hand. If you know God’s love for you, you love him and you love others, then you will live confidently before God and before your fellow human beings.
Love is not just a feeling. It involves action: ‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another. If anyone of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you?’ (3:16–17).
It is important to tell people that God loves them and that you love them. However, words are not enough: ‘My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love’ (v.18, MSG). Demonstrate your love in the way that Jesus did – by actions, especially towards the poor.
This is a hugely challenging command in a world where many of our brothers and sisters are in desperate need. We must take action on issues of global poverty, injustice and preventable disease. Also, in the context of the local church, show your love, not just with words, but also with actions and in truth.
God wants you to be confident before him (v.21). He wants you to be ‘bold and free before God!’ (v.21, MSG).
Confidence is the opposite of condemnation. Condemnation never comes from God: ‘There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1). Condemnation comes either from the devil – who is the accuser – or from our own hearts (1 John 3:20).
There is a big difference between condemnation – ‘debilitating self-criticism’ (v.20, MSG) – and conviction of sin, which comes from the Holy Spirit (John 16:8). When the Holy Spirit convinces me about my sins it is very specific. I know what I have done wrong. The purpose is to help me repent, be restored and lifted up again.
On the other hand, condemnation is more of a nebulous feeling of guilt and shame that makes us feel bad about ourselves – even after we’ve repented and asked for forgiveness. It steals our confidence before God.
The wonderful reassurance is that ‘God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves’ (1 John 3:20, MSG). No one is perfect. But even imperfect love is evidence of the Spirit at work in your life. When you recognise the failings in your heart, your hunger for a more perfect Christ-like love should not shake your assurance, but rather confirm it.
God does not condemn you, but he accepts you, in spite of your failures, weaknesses and imperfections. Indeed, he promises that you will receive from him anything you ask, because you obey his commands and do what pleases him (v.22).
What does it mean to obey his commands and do what pleases him? It is very simple. Two things are required: first, to believe in Jesus, and second, to love one another. If you do these two things, you can be assured that you live in him and that he lives in you: ‘This is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us’ (v.24, MSG).
How do we know that it is God’s Spirit and not some other spirit who lives in us? ‘Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God’ (4:2).
We will fight many battles. We will be hated by the world (3:13). There will be many false prophets: ‘Not everyone who talks about God comes from God’ (4:1, MSG). But you can be confident because ‘the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world’ (v.4).
Lord, thank you that I can know your presence through your Spirit, and that I can have confidence before you. Help me today to love in the way that Jesus loved – to be willing to lay down my life for others.
Confidence givenDaniel 9:20–11:1
It is encouraging to me that Daniel was not perfect. Up to now, most of what we have read about Daniel suggests he was faultless. However, here we read: ‘I was pouring out my heart, baring my sins and the sins of my people’ (9:20, MSG). Yet, as soon as he began to pray an answer was given and he is called ‘highly esteemed’ (v.23; 10:11): ‘You are much loved!’ (9:23, MSG).
The vision and the prophecy, like so many prophecies, have different layers of fulfilment. There is the immediate historical fulfilment and there is a long-term fulfilment.
The long-term fulfilment was in the death of Jesus. He is the one ‘to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness’ (v.24). He is the anointed one (Luke 4:18). He is the one who will return and the end will come like a flood.
Jesus echoed these words to his disciples when speaking about the struggles that his followers would face after he had gone, and until his final return (see Matthew 24:6,8,15–16). They are partly fulfilled whenever someone sets themselves up against God, from Roman Emperors to Stalin, and will one day be fulfilled in Jesus’ final victory over evil.
Daniel has a vision, which, when read through the lens of the New Testament, we understand to be a vision of Jesus: ‘I looked up and to my surprise saw a man dressed in linen with a belt of pure gold around his waist. His body was hard and glistening, as if sculpted from a precious stone, his face radiant, his eyes bright and penetrating like torches, his arms and feet glistening like polished bronze, and his voice, deep and resonant, sounded like a huge choir of voices’ (Daniel 10:5–6, MSG).
This is very similar to the description of Jesus in Revelation 1:12–18. When Daniel sees this vision of Jesus he ‘went weak in the knees, the blood drained from [his] face’ (Daniel 10:8, MSG).
As Daniel humbles himself he receives reassurance. A voice tells him, ‘Relax, Daniel… don’t be afraid. From the moment you decided to humble yourself to receive understanding, your prayer was heard’ (v.12, MSG).
The vision continues and Daniel describes how he ‘was surprised by something like a human hand that touched [his] lips.’ He goes on, ‘I opened my mouth and started talking… this humanlike figure touched me again and gave me strength. He said, “Don’t be afraid, friend. Peace. Everything is going to be all right. Take courage. Be strong.” Even as he spoke, courage surged up within me. I said, “Go ahead, let my master speak. You’ve given me courage”’ (vv.15–19, MSG).
When Jesus touches your lips, you are given the confidence and ability to speak (v.16). When Jesus touches your body, you are given the confidence and strength to act (v.18).
The message given to Daniel is, ‘Do not be afraid... Peace! Be strong’ (v.19). This confidence comes to you because Jesus gives you boldness, peace and strength.
Lord, I desperately need the presence of Jesus with me. Help me to understand your word and to humble myself before you (v.12). Give me confidence in your presence. Please touch my lips and give me the confidence and ability to speak your words. Please touch my body and give me the confidence and strength to act. Take away my fears and give me your peace.
‘When he [God] spoke, I was strengthened…’
Verse of the Day
‘… the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world’ (1 John 4:4).
Oswald Chambers, If You Will Ask: Reflections on the Power of Prayer (Discovery Books, 1994) p.30.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.