Wednesday
Nov122008

Confidence About Eternity

Confidence is a powerful attitude, an infectious expectation of success that is often self-fulfilling.

God said about the ancient Behemoth that, “if the river is turbulent he is not frightened; he is confident though Jordan rushes against his mouth” (Job 40:23). If Behemoth was a dinosaur – a now extinct animal species – his confidence eventually was misguided, but optimism through might is still a worthy consideration.

Behemoth was confident because his size dwarfed that of any predator; humans have the same confidence when confronted with grasshoppers or earthworms. Confidence in physical might, however, has its limitations – there is always the potential that someone bigger will come along. Eventually somebody knocked out Mike Tyson, pinned Hulk Hogan and chased the Russians out of Afghanistan.

The Christian’s confidence must rest somewhere other than his size, or even his intellect, prosperity and charisma (see Philippians 3:3-4). His confidence must be in Almighty God who answers prayers, rewards the faithful and punishes the evildoer. 

David wrote, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident” (Psalm 27:1-3).

The world has of late been plunged into an era of uncertainty. Economies are suffering, war on land and piracy on the seas is persistent, crime and immorality are rampant. It is easy to understand how God’s children might especially become discouraged, downtrodden and pessimistic. A consultation with the New Testament reveals the conversions of thousands in the early days of the church, but today a single community visitor at a gospel meeting is cause enough for celebration.

Our confidence, however, should not be shaken by the state of affairs in our own nation or upon the planet as a whole (see First John 3:21). The country and the planet are doomed. Absolutely. No amount of recycling at the dump or peace talks in Geneva can alter the fact that life on Earth is temporal and that the planet itself has a date with destiny – annihilation at the second coming of Jesus Christ (see Second Peter 3:1-13). If our confidence is wed to our 401(k) and the thickness of the ozone layer, it is tragically misplaced.

Our confidence must be in a merciful God, the atoning blood of a glorious savior, the guidance of a Holy Spirit, and the singular hope of spending eternity in Heaven (Ephesians 4:1-6). Every single other thing can do nothing but disappoint eventually (see Matthew 6:19-21).

It is important that we live our lives with confidence in a blessed outcome (see First John 4:17). Too many Christians express insecurities about their immortal spirits, unsure of whether they will be rewarded with a mansion in Heaven or an express ride to Hell. Many lack confidence because they fear they are not good enough to merit Heaven, but they are looking at things through smudged lenses, seeing only works, but not grace. Honestly, no one is good enough to merit Heaven, but every faithful, obedient, penitent believer can approach God with confidence of his acceptance. “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession …  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

We are confident in our salvation, not so much because we are confident in ourselves – our piety is as imperfect as the strong man’s muscles and the genius’s gray matter. We are confident in our salvation because we have confidence in Jesus Christ who conquered the tomb and blazed the trail into Heaven (Second Corinthians 3:4). John addressed himself “to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (First John 5:13-14). Our eternal life is according to his will and an obedient, though imperfect, approach to life will render us good and faithful servants (Matthew 25:21).

Spiritual confidence gives birth to emotional contentment. Suddenly, the drive to accumulate wealth and experience carnal ecstasy matters less. Even life’s disappointments – death, disease, dismissal – pack less punch. And why not when “we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me’” (Hebrews 13:6)?

Surely there are some at the other extreme whose confidence has soured into arrogance, who are oblivious to the shrinking of their faithfulness and the dissipation of God’s fellowship with them. Foolishly, they rush in where angels fear to tread, risking their eternal life by throwing themselves down from the pinnacle of divine fellowship, abstaining from the bread of life, and blindly falling at the feet of the Enticer (see Luke 4:1-13). 

Remember Behemoth? Haven’t seen one lately, have you? His confidence swelled until it led to his extinction and a Christian who becomes arrogant enough that he feels he can sin and backslide with impunity is slated for the same result. The fallen disciple is ashamed and disappointed because his confidence was misplaced and delusional (Job 6:20, Second Thessalonians 2:8-12). 

“Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope” (Job 4:6)? “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward” (Hebrews 10:35).