‘He passes through like the wind and invades; but he will be held guilty, the one whose strength is his god’ (Habakkuk 1:11/CEB)***
[The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines confidence as ‘firm trust,’ ‘assured expectation,’ ‘boldness’]
There is a huge emphasis today on personal ‘confidence.’ Research on the raising of children has shown that saturating them with super self-confidence, e.g. ‘You can do anything, you can achieve anything’ can also set them up for failure when encountering real life and perhaps not gaining the promised/imagined/expected results. We hear the success stories but not the drop-out ones. This is what happens, I believe, when we over-exalt human achievement, reason and ‘success’ in our society.
There is of course a valid and healthy self-confidence, when we recognize that each of us has been created uniquely in the image of God, having been given different gifts according to our Father’s wisdom. If you have parents/mentors who nurture this value, you are most fortunate.
On the other hand there is a self/over-confidence which is built on extreme self-belief and pride. E.g. the (smile) example of South Africans priding themselves on leading the top rugby-playing nations of the world. Traditionally the champions have vacillated between our ‘Springboks’ (type of leaping antelope) and the New Zealand ‘All Blacks’ (that’s their uniform).
We recently thrashed the Kiwis in a test-match only to fall prey a week later to over-confidence and succumb before a record crowd of 63,000 at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg. How embarrassing! There’s the example of world-famous Virat Kohli, India’s incredible cricketing batsman, confessing just a while ago that he was suffering from a mental slump in his health, so that he now often feels ‘alone’ in a room full of people. He’s short on runs and his confidence has gone through the floor, the same man who has over many years enthralled hundreds of thousands of people across the globe with his talented captaincy and batting. Think of Steve Jobs of Apple renown: he (understandably) took pride in his magnificent achievements: however before he died a few years ago of pancreatic cancer at the age of 56, he declared that none of his business successes really mattered, the only thing that mattered were relationships and life itself.
Is this not the story of God’s covenant people Israel, repeatedly turning from reliance on GOD to reliance on themselves and the pagan idols of the surrounding nations? Take the account in Judges 6 of Israel being plagued by the Midianites, until God calls one man, Gideon, to stand up and blow the trumpet of truth and call out the nation’s trust in dead idols. The Book of Hebrews chap.’s 2 and 4 emphasize the importance of hearing and obeying God’s Word when he speaks, for he reigns supreme! However in our present Western world we (both society and Church) are ‘thick into idolatry!’ (Walther Brueggemann) We are bound to the gods of military consumerism, greed, fear-driven violence, materialism, exceptionalism (our nation’s enemies are God’s enemies), power and control – only to reap the judgment of a collapsing morality all around us (witness the Russian-Ukrainian war; US gun-violence resulting in the deaths of 12 children every day; etc). And it all starts with the individual, you and me: I’m reminded of the words of William Cowper, ‘The dearest idol I have known, whate’er that idol be, help me to tear it from thy throne And worship only Thee!’ (the hymn is pasted in the opening page of my Bible, but is it pasted in my heart? And yours?) [btw, Brueggemann concludes that the only way to a peacable society is by living the meta-narrative of the Gospel, viz, God’s holiness and neighbourliness]
Then there are assaults on our confidence through personal trials. In my case sickness: I’ve been hospitalized 6 times this year, including for a quadruple bypass with several complications. Beforehand I was issued a pamphlet warning that often males undergoing bypass surgery suffer a collapse of personal confidence during the long recovery period. And yes, it happened in my case! Needless to say, the road back to a healthy self-confidence is a long one and takes constant working on in the power of the Lord. Like the psalmist of old I have to remind myself regularly, ‘Light, space, zest – that’s GOD! So, with him on my side I’m fearless, afraid of no one and nothing. I’m asking GOD for one thing… To live within his house my whole life long. I’ll contemplate his beauty; I’ll study at his feet. That’s the only quiet place in a noisy world, The perfect getaway, from the buzz of traffic. God holds me head and shoulders above all who try to pull me down (Ps. 27:1 and 4ff/MSG). How often, on a daily basis I have to tell myself that my life and circumstances are in the Lord’s hands and that I cannot hasten his healing in my life in the least way.
Thus we all need to build a biblical confidence, learning to confide in GOD as our chief confidant on a daily basis. This is underlined by literally scores of biblical references, including Ps. 27 already referred to, where David addresses some of his personal fears, e.g. personal enemies (like King Saul) seeking his death, etc. But he re-assures himself of ‘living/abiding in’ the LORD’S house (presence) all his days, sure of his defence and protection at all times: ‘But I have sure faith that I will experience the LORD’s goodness in the land of the living…’Hope in the LORD!’ Be strong! Let your heart take courage! Hope in the LORD!’ (v. 13-14/ CEB).
Think of wise King Solomon in Prov. 3: ‘Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart don’t try to figure out everything on your own (how we love to do that). Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track… ‘(MSG/v. 5ff) ‘The LORD will be your confidence, he will guard your feet from being snared!’ (Prov. 3:25/CEB)
In the NT, the apostle Paul, having unpacked the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Roman church, rejoiced in the Good News reaching the Gentile world so that they also ‘might give glory to God for his mercies to them’ (Rom. 15:9/NLT). In the next few verses, citing the Psalms and the prophet Isaiah, he rejoices in Christ who rules over all and who alone is our abiding hope. “I pray that God, the source of all hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit!’ (15:13/NLT)
My friend, I don’t know where you are in terms of true confidence as you read this, but trust some of the biblical and experiential principles shared from my heart will be, by the revelation of God, of help and blessing to you. Shalom!
The abiding value of Habakkuk’s little prophecy (late 600’s BC?) is that it presents the picture of a man who believes and yet questions. God explains that he has sent the surrounding pagan nations to chastise his people Judah, who despite God’s many mercies insisted in corrupting themselves and yielding to pagan idolatry. The next instrument God would use would be the mighty Chaldeans, who ‘worshiped their own strength.’ Habakkuk’s confidence in God amid trial is vindicated by his towering expression of faith scarcely equaled anywhere else in the OT (cf. 3:17ff).