Meaning of Confidence in the Bible
When the Bible speaks of confidence, it speaks of hope, but not just in an abstract future outcome. Confidence comes from trusting both the capacity and the will of the one in whom we place our confidence:
Paul had already experienced the grace and power of God. So because God had already demonstrated His will and His capacity, Paul approaches Him with confidence.
Still, it is necessary to approach God in accordance with His will—that is what Jesus means when He instructs us to ask in his name—and not just seek God for the sake of our own agenda.
John instructs us to test our hearts by our conscience and the revealed will of God:
God knows our hearts, and if they are not in line with His heart, He will reveal this truth through the Holy Spirit. But when we trust God in obedience and ask according to His will, we can have confidence in His answer.
No Confidence in Ourselves
It is the blood of Christ that makes us righteous before God. And it is our communion with Christ that keeps our hearts conformed to God’s will.
So before we can approach God with confidence, we must understand that He has made us able to do so. As Paul wrote, “For it is we … who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.” (Philippians 3:3-4). To prove his point, Paul itemizes all of the reasons that he should, by the world’s standards be self-confident (vs 3-6):
- Circumcised on the eighth day
- Of the people of Israel
- Of the tribe of Benjamin
- A Hebrew of Hebrews;
- In regard to the law, a Pharisee;
- As for zeal, persecuting the church
- As for righteousness based on the law, faultless
Then he dismisses all of these qualities as garbage because Christ alone is his source of confidence. (v 8)
Similarly, our confidence in each other comes not from ourselves, but from God:
- Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask. – Philemon 1:21
- I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. – Galatians 5:10a
It is the power of God, working through the obedience of Paul’s hearers that informs his confidence, and not the audience themselves.
Confidence in God Alone
Our confidence is in God because our solution comes from God. He has already saved us by His mercy and renewed us by His grace. The writer to the Hebrews prefaces this call to confidence by reminding us that Jesus is not an impersonal being, but that he proved his grace by walking among us and sharing our experiences.
So we approach God with confidence not only because He is God, but because He knows us, fully and completely. His life and death proved His love for us, and His blameless walk proved His power.
Yet, even before Jesus walked among us, God was our sole source of confidence:
The grace of God has always been the means of our deliverance from ruin. And the grace remains with all who trust in Him. When the Lord commissioned Joshua to succeed Moses as the leader of the Israelites and conquer the Promised Land, He encouraged Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9).
Joshua experienced victory in God’s power, as have others who put their confidence in Him.
Examples of Confidence in the Bible
Israel was overcome with fear because of a menacing giant named Goliath. Not a single soldier in the king’s army was willing to face the Philistine champion.
David wasn’t even a soldier, but when he learned of the threat, he was undeterred and pleaded with King Saul to send him up against Goliath:
David went into the fight without armor and without a sword because God had already proven Himself faithful to David, giving him all of the confidence he needed.
The people of Judah were threatened by the Assyrian army at their doorstep. So King Hezekiah gathered his fighting men and encouraged them:
As the Assyrians laid siege to Lachish, their king sent a taunting message to the people of Judah gathered in Jerusalem:
The Assyrians had mistakenly believed that Hezekiah had turned the people of Judah away from God. But Hezekiah had only removed the altars to false gods that had been set up by his predecessor. In reality, Hezekiah had returned Judah to pure worship of the One True God.
And Hezekiah’s worship and confidence were well placed:
So the Lord saved Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all others” 2 Chronicles 32:20-22
When You Lack Confidence
David and Hezekiah make confidence look easy. So easy that we might become discouraged by our own lack of confidence. But even the ‘heroes of faith’ that we read about in the Bible wrestled with fear and suffering to reach a place of such confidence.
When we read David’s psalms, it is clear that He does not take his confidence in God lightly. We can bookend a couple of verses from Psalm 27:
Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. (v 3)
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living. (v 13)
But between these proclamations of confidence, David pleads for mercy, instruction, and God’s presence. Our own challenges will, at times, lead us down a similar path of contemplating the danger and difficulty around us. Because it is only against the magnitude of our problems that true confidence is revealed.
So that difficult road is often the best one for us to take. When we come up against our own limitations and weaknesses, that is where God’s love and power are magnified, and that is where we grow in our confidence in God: