Being a confident Christian

Being a confident Christian

Are you feeling confident today?

My guess is that many of us will be feeling various levels of confidence about different areas of our lives. Perhaps we are feeling especially confident in our career at the moment, or in our love life, or our decision making, or any one of a thousand different parts of our everyday life. But what about our life as a follower of Jesus? Do we feel confident as a Christian?

In my experience many, if not most, Christians don’t feel confident in their faith. Not only do they lack confidence as a Christian, it feels somehow wrong to talk about confidence as a disciple. Surely the Christian life is supposed to be marked by humility and self-sacrifice. Those things don’t seem to sit well with the idea of confidence, so surely I don’t need to pursue confidence as a Christian believer?

Here’s the surprise: God wants you to be confident. Listen to these words of encouragement from the apostle Paul to Timothy, a young church leader:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

God did not give us a spirit of timidity or, as some translations put it, a spirit of fear. Interestingly enough the ancient Greeks had three words for ‘fear’. One of these words is ‘phobos’ from which we get many fear-related words in English, such as ‘phobia’. Phobos is a word that can be used in both a negative and a positive sense, and there is a second word that the Greeks used to describe a positive sense of fear as well – the things we genuinely should be afraid of, or the fear that comes from respect and honour. Yet it is the third word for fear that Paul uses here with Timothy, and it’s a word that always has a negative connotation.

Timidity and fear in our faith is not a positive thing. God does not want to foster or grow timidity in us as Christians. Fear, when it comes to living for Jesus, does not come from God. Rather, God wants us to be confident as Christians,

So why are so many Christians lacking in confidence?

I think one of the reasons is because we want to avoid some of the dangers of confidence. Sometimes confidence can develop in dangerous ways in the life of the church and cause a great deal of pain and confusion. These are the twin dangers of arrogance and overconfidence.

Arrogance is by no means absent from church life sadly, nor from church leadership. Arrogance can seem on the surface like confidence and can lead us to reject the idea of being confident as Christians. But arrogance is not the same as confidence. In fact, arrogance is actually evidence of a lack of confidence.

You see, arrogance tries to build confidence but from the wrong place. Arrogance attempts to get confidence from looking down on others and feeling superior. If you are lacking in confidence, either as a leader or not, you can hide your timidity behind a bluster of arrogance. Putting other people down makes you look better (or so it can be tempting to think) and replaces the desire for true and solid confidence. Because of this we need to acknowledge that arrgoance is never a Christian trait nor evidence of the Holy Spirit at work.

Alongside arrogance, we can also come across the danger of overconfidence. Overconfidence embraces confidence but uses it as an excuse for not thinking. In this scenario, we overestimate our abilities, ignore the needs and input of others, and so quickly get over our heads and cause much damage. You may have seen ways in which overconfidence has caused havoc in church life. If you have, then it’s easy to equate confidence with overconfidence and shy away from the pursuit of confidence entirely.

With those two dangers in mind, let’s look at Paul’s words again:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

God wants us to be confident Christians. The way he does that is by replacing the spirit of timidity that we too easily buy into with his own Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings true and stable confidence in God, who is the source of all our confidence.

This same Holy Spirit who is at work to bring confidence into our lives is described by Paul as the spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. These three bring with them the antidote to arrogance and overconfidence.

The Holy Spirit is a spirit of power. This is wonderful because it means that we always have the Holy Spirit with us to empower us and enable us. It is also a powerful corrective for us, because it reminds us that the source of power lies outside of us. This means Christians, empowered by the Holy Spirit, can never be arrogant, becauses the power is not ours. It is not our power nor does it come from us. We can never be superior when we have no claim on the skill or ability ourselves.

The Holy Spirit is a spirit of love. This works wonderfully against arrogance too, because we cannot look down on others if we are loving others. The Holy Spirit is never involved with arrogance; he is involved with loving and building up others, not looking down on them. But love is also an antidote to overconfidence, because love binds us together in community. Overconfidence usually comes when we do things alone, but discipleship and ministry is a community effort. We need others and we need to rely on others to achieve anything in God’s kingdom. Overconfidence is our enemy because it says we can go it alone. It is driven out when we do things together in love from the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is a spirit of self-discipline. This is a concept that talks about controlling yourself and directly yourself rightly. The word that Paul uses is connected with the idea of being sober. So the Holy Spirit brings with him a clear-headed attitude and clear thinking. The Holy Spirit never encourages us to bulldoze into situations unthinkingly, as overconfidence often does. Rather the Spirit helps us to think clearly, about our situation, about our skills and their limits, and about the needs and feelings of others. The Holy Spirit clears our heads to see things clearly and avoid arrogance and overconfidence.

So will you allow the Spirit to bring confidence into your life as a Christian? Don’t suppress this work of the Holy Spirit because of the damage of arrogance and overconfidence that can creep in. Don’t succumb to the spirit of timidity once again. Rather let the Holy Spirit do his work of confidence building with power, love and self-discipline, so that we become confident believers, not in our own abilities, but in God.