By Michael Risley
When I was a young man, my first pastorate was as a high school pastor of a well-known church in Pasadena, California called Lake Avenue Congregational Church. Occasionally I was asked to pray in our worship service a prayer which we called “The Prayer of Praise.” This prayer would come towards the beginning of the worship service, after our choir and congregation would have typically sang with all their hearts a song of glorious praise to God. Mind you, this song would usually lift the rafters as the people sang with such gusto; and the church organ, one of the largest in our area, had all the pipes reverberating with heavenly sound! As the song was coming to the end, I would make my way to the pulpit. Suffice it to say, this was no time to be timid! After exalting our big God together in worship for all He is and does, it was easy to have confidence in Him and excitement for His greatness and wonderful attributes. Once the song concluded, with boldness, confidence, and great love and passion for our God, I would exalt Him in prayer with many Scriptures and words of praise. It was such a joy to pray to God like this in the midst of God’s people.
The word confidence is used many times in Scripture. The majority of uses concern firm trust in people, circumstances, or God. Scripture tells us not to put our confidence in some things. For example, Philippians 3:3 says, “We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort.” Here the Apostle Paul is saying that human achievements, no matter how impressive, cannot earn a person salvation with God. Another example would be Proverbs 14:16 which says, “The wise are cautious and avoid danger; fools plunge ahead with reckless confidence.” Again, not the kind of confidence God wants us to practice.
If you and I are going to be confident in something, it should be confidence in God. Think about it: each day we must put our confidence in something or someone. If we are willing to trust a plane or car or bus to get us to our destination, are we willing to trust God to guide us here on earth and ultimately to heaven? How futile it really is to trust anything or anyone more than God.
One of the greatest ways in building confidence or firm trust in God is by allowing God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to control the way we think. Romans 8:5- 6 says, “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” It is critical that we let the Holy Spirit control our minds and enable us to focus upon that which pleases the Spirit. When we think God’s way and experience real life and peace, our confidence in God will soar! We will become more assured and certain in Him, and be bold and courageous for Him! In contrast, when we focus our minds on worldly and sinful things (I John 2:15-17), we become weighed down by worry, anger, envy, lust, selfish ambition, and other sinful thoughts (Galatians 5:19-21) which result in shame, guilt, fear and death.
The challenge we have is to deny ourselves and follow God. This begins with confessing any known sin (I John 1:9) and surrendering ourselves fully to God by asking the Holy Spirit to fill or control us (Ephesians 5:18). You might even choose to do what I do almost every morning by praying Galatians 2:20; we might call it a prayer of confidence: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me”–talk about building confidence in God! Then with the Holy Spirit’s enabling, we fix our minds on things that please the Spirit. Philippians 4:8 teaches, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” This would include regular reading, meditation and study of God’s Word (Ps.119:11), prayer (Eph.6:18), and worshipful singing and thankfulness (Eph. 5:18-20). When most of our thinking is focused upon the things of God, you and I are on our way to developing a solid and unbreakable confidence in God.
Lastly, this confidence in God will also impact our worship of Him. For we will be able to sing with all of our hearts and minds a song of confidence like the modern hymn “Christ Alone” which states:
“No guilt in life, no fear of death, this is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand,
Till He returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand!”