Confidence: What it is and where to get the best kind

“Now, as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were  uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

The religious authorities–rulers, elders, scribes, Annas the godfather of high priests, Caiaphas, his son-in-law and present high priest, and others of high priestly lineage–were stunned. They had not seen this before.

A small group of nobodies, untrained and unlettered rough fishermen-types, stood before them, resisting them and speaking up as eloquently and boldly as though they themselves were in charge.

Who did they think they were?

The authorities were used to people cowering in their presence.  They spoke and no one dared to say otherwise. They decreed, and it was so. No one dared defy them.

And yet, that’s what was happening today.

“Where did they get this confidence?” the rulers asked each other.

The word translated “confidence” (the KJV makes it “boldness”) literally means “all speech,” indicating a freedom of speech, a fearlessness.  Our word “confidence” comes from the prefix meaning “with” and the word for faith or trust.

A few readers will remember the old television commercials where actor Jack Palance, by then in his 70s, smiled into the camera and said, “Confidence is sexy. Don’t you think?”  I forget what he was selling, but will never forget what he communicated.

God wants His servants to go forth into the world doing His work in the full confidence they are right, they are His, and that He is alongside them.  He said to Jeremiah, “Do not be afraid of your audience. If you get stage fright, I will humiliate you before them!” (My paraphrase of Jeremiah 1:17)

“Where did they get this confidence?”

Bible students smile at that, remembering a similar moment in the distant history when a pagan king asked the same question of a Jewish ruler.  Hezekiah was refusing to cave in to the mighty Assyrians–this would be the late 8th century B.C.–even though every other nation of any size they had gone up against had fallen before these warriors. The Assyrians had an unbroken string of victories. Why then did this ruler of a postage-stamp-sized nation called Judah dare resist them?

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, sent his general into Jerusalem with a simple question for King Hezekiah: “What is this confidence that you have?” (II Kings 18:19).

You’ve gotta love the question.  Wouldn’t it be sweet if God’s people were so faithful in troubled times, so generous when the economy goes south, so joyous when all around them are beside themselves with grief and worry, and so steady when everything not nailed down was coming loose that outsiders turned to them to find their secret.

Hezekiah had earlier told his people, “With him (the Assyrian king) is only an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles” (II Chronicles 32:8).

Ah, that’s always the answer. “With us, God!”

What confidence looks like

The Assyrians noticed Hezekiah and his people resisting their mighty army against overwhelming odds.  And they did it confidently. (That Hezekiah was secretly shaking in his boots does not negate the great faith he showed.)

The religious authorities noticed Peter and John resisting their authority and maintaining their determination to go right on preaching Jesus.  They did not hesitate, did not shake in their boots, and did not go into a huddle to determine their plans. They seemed to have settled this from the beginning, that they had something (Someone!) needed by the entire world and they were chosen to preach that message.

It takes courage and confidence to stand up to great odds.

It takes even greater courage and confidence to do so without quivering, without second-guessing oneself, and boldly declaring their message: “There is salvation in no one else! For there is no other name under Heaven given among men whereby we must be saved!” (Acts 4:12)  Far from acquiescing to the rulers’ demands that they “speak no more to any man in this name” (4:17), the disciples loudly insisted, “We cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard!”

The source of one’s confidence tells the story

The religious rulers knew that positions of authority give a person confidence.  They had no doubt that historical lineage and wealth did also.  Power gives confidence.

My dentist has as his slogan, “Smile with confidence.”  A mouthful of great teeth and a winning appearance can give confidence.

Clothing stores sell confidence.

Peter and John and their colleagues had none of this.  And yet their confidence was unbounded.

“They had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

They had “seen and heard” (4:20), and knew whereof they spoke.

A person with a testimony is never at the mercy of someone with an argument.

An old southern gospel song says, “I was there when it happened, so I guess I oughta know.”

Sometime later, when the Apostle John was penning the first epistle bearing his name, he began, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life….what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also….” (I John 1:1-3).

What do you know? The answer will go a long way in determining the strength of your confidence and the power of your boldness.

Our secret is no secret.

The presence of our Lord and Savior with us–indwelling us, overshadowing us, undergirding us, going before us, coming behind us, everything!–makes all the difference in the world.

Throughout Scripture, everytime someone started making excuses as to why answering God’s call was probably not a good idea, the Lord answered the same way, almost like a broken record, for those familiar with that.  “I will be with you.”

He said it to Moses in Exodus 3-4 and 33:14, to Joshua in Josh. 1:5, to Gideon in Judges 6:12,16, and to Jeremiah (Jer. 1:8,19), among other places. To the nation Israel, He issued the same promise repeatedly (see Deuteronomy 20:1 and Isaiah 43:2).  In the New Testament, over and over we find Jesus assuring His people they are not on their own out here, but He will be with them (Matthew 18:20; 28:18-20; John 14:18,23; Hebrews 13:5-6).

The story is that Katie Luther, wife of Martin Luther himself, became exasperated by the moodiness of her man and decided to teach him a lesson. She donned all black clothes, the costume of a mourner. “Who died?” Martin asked her. “God died,” she answered.  The reformer bellowed, “Woman, do not utter such blasphemy in this house!”  Katie said,”Which is worse, my saying it or your living like it. Look at yourself–so discouraged, so disheartened, dragging and moping around here. One would think the Lord had gone off and abandoned us to look at you!”*

Confidence and courage, boldness and brightness, are such strong inner qualities that it’s impossible to possess them secretly.  If they  are in you, everything about you–your facial expression, the tone of your voice, your posture, everything!–will register it.  You will walk a little taller (let’s have a tiny bit of swagger in your walk, child of God!), smile a little more often (let’s have people wondering what you know and what you’ve been up to!), and devote yourself to spreading the joy (to the point they will call you an encourager–and how good is that!).

Don’t wimp out here, child of God. You’re on the winning team; lift up your head!

This is not about you.  You are not godly enough, good enough, or gifted enough for the confidence to be your own.  “The arm of flesh will fail you; you dare not trust your own.”  Without Jesus, you can do nothing (John 15:5).

However, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.  From here on in, the news is all good.

How about acting like it.


4 thoughts on “Confidence: What it is and where to get the best kind

  1. This blog follows yesterday’s blog perfectly. The most inspiring sermons are those that bear the mark of Jesus’ input in the life of the minister; that it’s obvious Jesus had something to say to THEM before they shared it with us.

    A few years ago I was writing a spiritual column for my small town weekly paper. I prayed for my inspiration each week and God would challenge me in some way and from that I was able to craft my experience into a vignette about the Christian life.

    One week I had on my heart to write about how God communicated to me guidance specific to my circumstances. I struggled with this tremendously because I was raised in a denomination that taught God was finished with all direct communication with believers; that we only had the Bible and common sense to apply it to our lives. These people would read my column and condemn me and I was trying to write in a way that would convince them as well as encourage those who believe as I do now.

    I had written the whole column without saying anything like, “God said to me,” and I knew something was wrong with it. I was praying to understand what was wrong and I explained to God ( smiley face here ) that “there are people who won’t believe this and won’t understand and who will say I’m listening to Satan because they believe You don’t speak to us.”

    I will never forget the question that came to my mind: “Who are these people? Do I know them?” Tears came to my eyes and the next question I heard was, “Would I allow Satan to speak to you and yet be unwilling to speak to you Myself?” After that the column wrote itself and I turned it in to the newspaper with confidence.

    Before we can have the confidence that you describe we have to commit to follow Jesus, obeying His word even when we think we can’t (and there are so many ways we think we can’t). God will test our commitment and put us on our faces, showing us it’s true that we can’t – without His grace – but we have His grace! And when He gets us to the place where we submit unerringly to His will and say, “Only if You are with me, only if you enable me, I can stand anything if You are by my side,” there we discover His and our joy, peace and confidence.

  2. While reading this I was thinking; “wow, that’s a good thought, that’s a good thought too, that’s the truth, I could highlight that. Then I thought, oh just highlight the whole thing! Better yet, I am going to print it out! Thanks Joe, this is wonderful! I have never read where you claimed to be a charismatic or someone who believed that a person was really missing out if they hadn’t received the “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” but it is obvious to me that you are filled with the Holy Spirit.

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