In the classic musical, The Sound of Music, the storyline follows the main character, Maria, as she is sent from her life in an Abbey to become a governess over seven children. We learn of her doubts, fears, and her approach to her new life through a song she sings called I Have Confidence. Maria supposes she will overcome all of her fears and worries with confidence in herself. “I have confidence they’ll put me to the test, but I’ll make them see I have confidence in me.” She is certain that the respect of the children will be gained once they see she is confident in herself and in her own actions. This approach proved beneficial for Maria, it earned her respect and the courage to serve well. We can however, carry this approach over into our relationship with God, which is anything but beneficial.
The original sin of Adam and Eve in the garden could be condensed into the phrase, “I have confidence in me!” God had given a promise. “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17) The whisper of doubt in the devil’s words, “did God really say,” called into question their confidence in God’s Word. A decision was made and that decision to eat of the tree God had forbidden revealed where their confidence was anchored. They had more confidence in the devil’s lie and their own understanding than God’s Word. Adam and Eve had confidence that, in taking the fruit, they could gain something good for themselves apart from God. They heedlessly accused God of lying to them.
“I have confidence in me” is the song my old Adam loves to sing. My sinful nature craves assurance from my own performance. The old Adam has a “can do” approach to the Law. The Law was not given for this purpose. The Law’s work is actually to destroy any confidence I have in myself and my ability to keep the Law. “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped” (Romans 3:19) The Law was given to silence my self righteousness. The Law shows me my true nature. The Law brings out into the open what I would rather have kept hidden away. A hymn written by Paul Spratus describes the Law in this way, “The Law is but a mirror bright to bring the inbred sin to light that lurks within our nature.”
Faith must have an object. In the garden, the object of faith was not the promise of God but an accepted lie. The object of faith apart from the Word of God and Christ will always be unstable. Luther referred to looking for faith or assurance in oneself the “monster of uncertainty.” If faith must have an object, we need one in which there is no uncertainty. God does not change and cannot lie. If I am to have confidence in my relationship with God, my faith must be anchored in certainty—it must be anchored in Christ.
“One must learn that God is not uncertain, ambiguous, equivocal, and slippery like a wavering reed, but that he is unambiguous and certain. He says, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; I absolve you of your sins.” Here the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make no mistake; they are not tossed about by the wind but are rocks and seal, as God is often named in the Psalms because he is absolutely firm. You may rely solidly on him and say, “I am holy and saved. I am God’s child and heir because I have been baptized.” —Martin Luther
God doesn’t go back on His Word. He promises that forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and peace are ours through Christ. My confidence resides in the nail pierced hands that hold me and that were pierced for me. My confidence is rooted in the God who has kept and is keeping His promises to me in and through Christ for me. The faith that saves lies in the objective work and Word of Christ, not in ourselves, our feelings, or in what we can or cannot accomplish. It’s confidence lies in Christ who does it all for me.
“Let us then approach God’s 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 writer of Hebrews directs us to approach God expecting to receive grace because of Jesus our great High Priest. We are encouraged to approach God with confidence because Jesus is there for us ready to lavishly dole out His unending mercy and grace. Jesus is our High Priest who intimately knows our weaknesses and our struggles—He suffered for our weakness and failure. We receive because of Jesus’ work for us. Our confidence is in the One “who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
This faith is a God created, sustained, gifted confidence declaring I belong to Him. In a letter to the Philippians, Paul writes,”And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) Paul had confidence in the faith of the saints at Philippi because it was God who was working in them and carrying them. It is God who does everything from beginning to end. It is God alone who makes and keeps His promises and it is God alone who produces the faith in me to believe it. The only real confidence I have is the confidence given to me in Christ.
Kathy graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran College with a B.A. in Media Design. She is currently a writing contributor with Christ Hold Fast, Higher Things, and Coffee by Gillespie, as well as a freelance graphic designer. She is the co-author of The Sinner/Saint Lenten Devotional from 1517 Publishing.