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.
1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.
7 Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
“tear it down to its foundations!”
8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us.
9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.
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.
1 John 3:11-4:6
More on Love and Hatred
11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
16 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 our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone 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 that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
On Denying the Incarnation
4 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
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 injustice, global poverty, creation care 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).
The Seventy “Sevens”
20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill — 21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision:
24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.
25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”
Daniel’s Vision of a Man
10 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding of the message came to him in a vision.
2 At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.
4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, 5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.
7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground.
10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.
12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come. ”
15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, “I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. 17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.”
18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. 19 “Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.”
When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.”
20 So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince.
11 And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him.)
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; 10:11,19): ‘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.
In Daniel 10:19, Daniel says, ‘When he [God] spoke, I was strengthened…’
If you are feeling, like Daniel, that your strength is gone and can hardly even breathe, you too can hear the voice of God today, saying, 'Do not be afraid… Peace... Be strong now, be strong.’
Verse of the Day
Daniel 10:18 (MSG)
‘Don’t be afraid, friend. Peace. Everything is going to be all right. Take courage. Be strong.’
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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.