Confidence is a popular subject today. We are told to think confidently, to be self-assured, to live brashly, boldly, and brazenly. In a myriad of ways, the theme of modern society is to be self-confident. Popular religious leaders make confidence the centerpiece of their teaching. Does the Bible agree with this "positive thinking" mantra? If the Bible teaches us to be confident, what should we be confident about? If not, why not?
The word confidence (or its close derivatives) is used 54 times in the King James Version and 60 times in the New International Version. The majority of uses concern trust in people, circumstances, or God.
The Bible says there are some things we should not have confidence in. For example, "Have no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3). Paul wrote these words to counter the claims of those who thought they were acceptable to God based on their heredity, training, or religious devotion. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), and our résumés and geneaologies don’t matter much to Him.
Proverbs 14:16 says that a righteous man departs from evil, but a fool rages in his confidence. In other words, to arrogantly assume that sin has no consequences is a foolish confidence.
If we’re going to be confident in something, Psalm 118:8, 9 tells us what it should be: "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes." Those who trust in government, finances, other people, or themselves will be disappointed in the end. On the other hand, those who put their confidence in God will never be ashamed (Romans 10:11).
Psalm 16 is an excellent example of a positive confidence in God. David takes no credit for his own goodness (verse 2), nor does he extol his own abilities. Instead, every good thing is ascribed to God (verse 6), and every hope is based on God’s character (verse 1). Because God is unchanging, David can confidently rest in hope (verse 9), despite any hardships he faces in life (verse 10).
Our confidence comes from our relationship with Christ. He is our High Priest, and through His intercession, we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). The apostles before the Sanhedrin displayed an assurance that amazed their antagonists: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
We can follow God in full confidence in His wisdom, power, and plan. As we obey the Lord, we have assurance of our salvation (1 John 2:3). Also, having a good conscience aids our confidence, for we will have nothing to hide. “The righteous are as bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1).
Paul gives us something else we can have faith in: "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). Knowing that God promises to work in the lives of His children, Paul was confident that God would help the Galatians stand fast in the truth (Galatians 5:10).
When we put our trust in God and His revealed Word, our lives take on a new stability, focus, and poise. A biblical self-confidence is really a confidence in God’s Word and character. We put no confidence in our flesh, but we have every confidence in the God who made us, called us, saved us and keeps us.