Here’s something else I have been pondering for the last six months or so: the difference between certainty and confidence. Many times our world doesn’t make a distinction between the two – if we are confident then we must be certain of our goals and direction in life. Or if we project a sense certainty to others, that must be a sign of inner confidence. But the Bible approaches this issue in a very different way.
Though our world seeks certainty in news reports, market trends, and sports statistics, the Bible says there’s little value in our ability to judge the certainty of anything in this life. Success or failure. Winners or losers. Everybody already knows this…but it doesn’t stop us from acting as if there’s a “connect-the-dots” lifestyle that promotes success and happiness. In fact, much of our pomp, hand-waving, and posturing is simply to give credibility to something everyone already knows we don’t possess: certainty. This is the point of James 4:12-14:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
Now, confidence is something totally different. While certainty has to do with circumstances, confidence has to do with identity. I love Paul’s approach to ministry and relationships in 2 Corinthians 1:12-14:
We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you. Our letters have been straightforward, and there is nothing written between the lines and nothing you can’t understand. I hope someday you will fully understand us, even if you don’t understand us now.
Those Christians who are confident in who Christ has made them to be are comfortable in their own skin. Notice some of the emphasized words in that passage. Paul is confident that he is living sincerely before God. He allows God to lead his decision-making processes. He has conducted himself with honor to the best of his ability and has been straightforward with no double-speak. And here’s the best part: though circumstances may not make sense and people may not understand him, he trusts in his relationship with God more than the “questions” that may hang over his head. He’s not certain…but he’s confident.
Sometimes confidence comes across as naiveté or hubris…simply because there’s no reason to be quite so optimistic about life. But confident Christians have figured out something that eludes most people trapped inside the quest for certainty: God thinks we’re okay. They are just simple enough to believe such a preposterous assertion. Any of us can discard the fake notion that we are certain of anything. We can rest in the truth that we are accepted by God and that this truth (and this truth alone) determines our focus in life.