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Confidence: it’s a good word, a positive word; a reassuring word.

It would be infinitely reassuring to be certain we could have complete confidence in ourselves to invariably do the wise thing; in those close to us to be unfailingly trustworthy; in our institutions to be always just, fair and compassionate.

That would be wonderful, but it doesn’t happen. The world and our own experience has taught us that we can never trust completely. And one of the lessons is that confidence becomes more tenuous with distance. The closer we are to a person, the easier it is to decide whether or not they are someone in whom we can have confidence. The farther removed we are, the less personal the relationship, the harder it is to trust.

Because we can’t always trust others, and we know we can’t always trust ourselves, our confidence tends to become conditional. We have confidence sometimes, but not others. Sometimes, the higher the stakes, the lower the trust. The bigger question is, have we unwittingly transposed this level of conditional confidence to our relationship with God?

This is a crucial question, and worth exploring. Do I really trust God absolutely, or am I afraid He might betray me? Do I have complete confidence in Him, or do I suspect that He might let me down?

Confidence is central to our faith; the beginning, middle and end. If we think of the starting points of Christianity, the ABCs, we could call them Assurance, Belief and Certainty: assurance of the goodness and love of God, belief in the atoning death and resurrection of His Son for our salvation, and certainty that His Holy Spirit lives in those who have committed their lives to Him.

This confidence isn’t based on wishful thinking or fantasy. Throughout Scripture, the character and nature of God is revealed — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We see open before us His Goodness, His Love, His Faithfulness, His Justice, His Power, His Promises.

We can be certain of these because we have the inspired Word or God, the evidence of Jesus’ death and resurrection, His witnesses down through history, our own experiences and those of others. We can’t have real confidence in someone we don’t know, or know nothing about. Confidence grows with time spent together, evidence of character, the testimony of trusted sources. The more we know about God and in relationship with God, the more confident we become. When we reach the place where our confidence is complete, then we reap the full benefits of the relationship: Faith, Trust, and Reliance.

Faith is born of and nurtured by confidence in God, of His revealed Word, and the reality of the work of His Holy Spirit within us. Faith is able to grapple with doubt through prayer, searching the Word, and seeking the counsel of mature believers — emerging stronger and more resilient because of it. Faith understands that we can’t know all the answers to why things happen as they do: only God can know on that level. Faith doesn’t depend on getting what we consider an acceptable answer to every question before we will believe. Faith starts from the unaccountable and astounding fact of Jesus’ death for my life, and determines to file any unanswered questions against that reality.

Faith and trust are mutually dependant. There can be no trust without faith, nor faith without trust. We can usually gauge our trust level by how much — or little — we have come to rely on God; not just about the big, scary or perplexing questions, but throughout each day. Bottom line? If I trust God’s character and promises and love for me, I will be eager to rely on Him to guide me in all things. When I choose instead to rely on myself, what does that reveal? That I think I’m smarter, wiser, more capable than God? That I doubt His motives? Or, more likely, that I’m afraid He might ask me to do or go through something I don’t want to, even though it might mature me or benefit others?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. . . .He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Rom 8:28, 32)

How can I doubt the God who gave His own Son up to undeserved ridicule, derision, torture and death for my salvation? How can I not want more of His presence, more of His direction, more of His comfort, more of His wisdom? Am I really that self-satisfied, that self-centred, that spiritually lazy?

Quite possibly. I was born that way, and the world encourages me to keep running on that track, going around in the same circles again and again and again, imagining I’m going to get somewhere.

That’s why I’m so thankful to God that He showed me a different road; one that started where Jesus met me, and with Him alongside me is leading somewhere worth going.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness.

But when grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness. (Isa 26:3, 9-10)

Trust evokes yearning for God, invites us to confide in Him. We have confidence in His judgments and their purposes for our benefit, and learn important lessons from them. Those who don’t trust don’t learn, no matter how much grace God gives.

Confidence is what brings us close to God, leading us to rely on Him instead of ourselves or others. And the closer we get, the more our confidence will be affirmed.

Be confident: God loves you, longs to bring you close to Him, and will keep every one of His promises. Be confident: yearn for Him, learn from Him, know His peace.

Remember what Jesus has done, and be confident.