One of the definitions of “confidence” is “full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing” (quote source here). Who or what do we put our confidence in when the going gets tough, or in life in general when we need it? Do we put our trust in our own abilities to get us through, or perhaps in a spouse or family and/or friends to help in time of need? Perhaps we place our trust in our employers or our government. However, they may or may not come through for us.
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. (Quote source here.)
Confidence is putting our trust in God. Proverbs 3:5-6 instructs us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” I can honestly admit that it’s hard not to want to lean on my own understanding regarding things going on in my life, yet my understanding is limited to my own perception of what is going on. None of us has the full picture of what is really going on all around us at any given point in time. That is why placing our trust in God to direct our paths is crucial.
So what does it mean to “lean not on our own understanding”? GotQuestions.org has an answer to that question, too:
Proverbs 3:5-6 is a familiar passage to many: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.” Verse 5 is a complementary pair of commands. We are told, positively, to trust the Lord and, negatively, not to trust our own understanding. Those two things are mutually exclusive. In other words, if we trust in the Lord, we cannot also depend upon our own ability to understand everything God is doing.
First Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” We only see part of the picture God is painting. If we are to truly trust Him, we have to let go of our pride, our programs, and our plans. Even the best-laid human plans cannot begin to approach the magnificent sagacity of God’s plan. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:25).
Most of us have a desperate desire to understand, but in so many areas we must acknowledge that we cannot understand. We must approve of God’s ways, even when we can’t comprehend them. Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us why we often don’t understand what God is doing: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'” God sees the whole picture, while we only see our tiny corner of it. To trust in the Lord with all our heart means we can’t place our own right to understand above His right to direct our lives the way He sees fit. When we insist on God always making sense to our finite minds, we are setting ourselves up for spiritual trouble.
Our limited understanding can easily lead us astray. Proverbs 16:25 says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” When we choose to direct our lives according to what seems right to us, we often reap disaster (Judges 21:25). Every culture has tried to get God to approve of its definition of right and wrong, but God never changes and His standards never change (Numbers 23:19; James 1:17; Romans 11:29). Every person must make a decision whether to live his or her life according to personal preference or according to the unchanging Word of God. We often will not understand how God is causing “all things to work together for good” (Romans 8:28), but when we trust Him with all our hearts, we know that He is. He will never fail us (Psalm 119:142; Philippians 2:13). (Quote source here.)
Proverbs 3:5-6 gives God’s guidance for life–“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” These words challenge believers to put more confidence in God’s ability than in their own, to not try to analyze and figure out every detail themselves, but to place their belief in God’s wisdom, love and strength, to lean on God instead of relying on themselves or anyone else.
C. S. Lewis wrote, “To trust Him means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way.”
God makes the distinction between the heart and the mind. There is nothing wrong with using one’s mind, and this verse is not telling you to stop thinking. But some situations are complex and cannot be successfully understood and still make sense. Rather than making foolish and perhaps risky decisions and leaping off a precipice into a chasm of catastrophe, it’s much better to trust God. God is the One with foreknowledge. Proverbs 3:7 says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes.” Romans 12:16 rephrases this, “Never overestimate yourself or be wise in your own conceits.” (Amplified Bible). God is all-knowing, all-powerful and everywhere-present. He is tried, true and trustworthy. (Quote source here.)
One of the great promises of the Bible is found in the book of Proverbs, which came from the writing of Solomon, often called “the wisest man who ever lived.”
He wrote, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Solomon understood that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the promises of God and their fulfillment. He knew that with almost every promise there is a condition attached to it. He also knew something of the conflict between the known and the unknown, trusting God for what you cannot see.
Today it’s difficult to trust anyone. “Never trust anyone unless you have the agreement in writing,” we say, and then, quite often, the agreement is meaningless. But the dictionary says that trust means, “assured reliance; confidence, appropriation.”
But what does “trusting with all your heart,” as Solomon advised, really mean? In Solomon’s day there were two Hebrew words for trust. They were similar yet had slightly different meanings. The first word meant that when you trust someone, you have the confidence to flee to that person, knowing there will be safety. A bully picks on you as you come home from school, or someone stops you and you are fearful for your safety, so you run to someone who is stronger, whom you know will protect you. That’s trust.
The second word is the picture of a little child who is learning to walk. His father reaches out a hand and says, “Come to daddy. I won’t let you down. I’ll catch you before you fall.” This word is the one used in Proverbs 3:5-6. It means, “to rely upon, to have confidence in someone, to lean upon another.” I like that picture, and it is the advice of the wise old sage, Solomon, who urges, “Do it with all your heart,” no matter how foolish it may appear, because God will never let you fall.
When missionary John Patton was translating the New Testament in the New Hebrides, he sought for a word which was the equivalent of this one which Solomon used, and, in the language of the people he was striving to help, there was no equivalent, at least, none that he could find.
One day a native came into his little hut and, for the first time in his life, saw a chair that the missionary had built. Though it may seem strange to you that someone would never have seen a chair, strive to remember that in many cultures, chairs, as we know them, are just not used.
“What is that?” he asked Patton. Patton then replied, “A chair–you can put your weight on it; it won’t let you down,” and ever so cautiously the native followed Patton’s example and place his full weight on the chair.
“Ah,” thought Patton, “that concept is what Solomon was saying; and thus he translated the text of Proverbs, “You can put your full weight on God and not attempt to understand everything. Acknowledge God in everything you do, and God will direct your steps.”
Our problem is our hesitation to put our full weight on God when we can’t see the future. Today, as in Solomon’s day, our own understanding is often the hindrance to trusting Him, yet if you are convinced that God won’t lie to you, that He is also accessible, and that the promises of His word become the key that opens the door to His presence, then you can rely upon His goodness to meet you.
How God does something is His business, but your failure to rest in Him and to trust Him often keeps you in poverty of soul and spiritually depleted. How much better to rest in Him and realize His understanding goes far beyond ours. Resource reading: Proverbs 3. (Quote source here.)
Our confidence comes from knowing that God is in control, and He can be trusted with our lives and our circumstances. I’ll end this post with, appropriately, the words from Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV): Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…
In all your ways acknowledge Him . . .
And He shall . . .
Direct your paths . . . .
YouTube Video: “Confidence” by Sanctus Real: