“This is the path of those who have foolish confidence; yet after them people approve of their boasts.” (Psalm 49:13)
Confidence is another one of these issues that we hardly address or even question. Today, confidence is something we even praise. In fact many parents, friends, or teachers applaud confidence so readily and completely ignore the roots from which such confidence in us can spring. Similar to identity, our morality, or coping mechanisms, confidence is something we often too easily accept in our own lives and the lives of others.
When Confidence Is Just Pride
Part of our self-deception in pride is that we think that whatever promotes our confidence, whatever promotes us feeling good, is something to be approved of and sought. Because pride makes us feel good, we often accept it with open arms. We are guided by our desires and feelings rather than guided by the truth. We merely want to feel good and we don’t care how, or if what we use as our foundation for feeling good is grounded in the truth or not.
What Psalm 49:13 shows us is that not only do people walk around in foolish confidence, but other people actually approve of this behavior. This is a sad truth for many of us who think that since we merely encourage others we are doing God’s work. The reality is that encouraging others can often be a very sinful and dangerous thing to do. This is because when we encourage people, we often encourage the pride in others and do not discern where to encourage true godliness in others and where to disapprove of sin. We merely encourage the person as a whole, and therefore approve of the whole of them.
And again, this is why people often don’t see how confidence is a bad thing. Many people feel that to encourage people’s confidence is a benign and even good thing. But the reality is that these people do not know that confidence that springs from the self is evil. They also don’t realize that this type of confidence is even wickedness against themselves. That is because this type of confidence springs from the same pride, conceit, and selfishness mentioned before—a pride that reduces others for selfish gain and is founded upon self-deluded ideas about one’s self. While people think they’re loving others, and even serving others, often they are doing nothing more than degrading themselves, serving evil and sin, and being used as a stepping stone for a person’s pride.
This is often because they have chosen to serve man rather than to serve God (Eph 6:6-7). And because of this we often become servants to a person’s sin, rather than being a servant to God and holiness. The difference is often hard for us to distinguish because we are so busy with serving and we think that our serving is good. But it is often our “encouraging” or “people pleasing” (Eph 6:6) that is the greatest sign that we have become servants to man rather than to God.
The difference is often hard for us to distinguish because we are so busy with serving and we think that our serving is good. But it is often our “encouraging” or “people pleasing” that is the greatest sign that we have become servants to man rather than to God.
We often fail to realize just how diabolical this confidence truly is, and how evil it is to serve it. And the sad truth is that when we serve others in this way we’re not merely victims. The truth is that we often serve this pride in others because we want the same pride and conceit. We want the same high and to believe lies for ourselves. We often serve man because we want to serve ourselves, rather than truly die to ourselves and serve God.
The Error of Encouragement
Many people today feel safe in the notion that as long as they simply encourage others they are safe. They believe they are safe from being harsh, unloving, and selfish. But the sad reality is that they take this road because it seems easier to them. Rather than developing true discernment and love for others, we often settle for all these little “get rich quick” schemes in our own morality. And being a person who “only loves and encourages others” is one of these.
What we fail to realize in the midst of these ideas of “only encouraging and never rebuking” is that we have failed, entirely, to realize the truth about pride and sin. When one is only encouraged, then they take this as affirmation to keep doing whatever behavior is right in their own eyes, to follow whatever idea is in their own head, and live their lives however they please.
Now, I am sure that most of the people who are guilty of these things would say, “Well, I don’t just encourage anything!” But the reality is that they encourage however they see fit. And this is no less proud or rebellious against God.
For the truth is that all of us are called not to live in our own ideas, but are called to walk in submission and repentance towards God. Walking in faith and obedience to Him. If we believe that “love” and encouragement alone are all that’s needed, then we truly do not understand our own sin or the sin in others. I say “love” simply because of what people imagine love truly is.
If we believe that “love” and encouragement alone are all that’s needed, then we truly do not understand our own sin or the sin in others.
The reality is that God has shown us that love, real love, includes sometimes even severe rebuke, affliction from God, and especially correction (Heb 12:6).
We often merely encourage people at the surface because we are truthfully too lazy to apply ourselves to discern the depths in people. We encourage people in a general sense and fail to realize that when we encourage people in general, rather than only in what is of God, then we also encourage them to continue in sin and rebellion against God.
To merely encourage people is to encourage them in whatever idea or morality they come up with, identity they choose, confidence they walk in, or plan they dream up. And to do so is to outright deny our duty as Christians to call all people to walk in submission to God alone, to build our confidence in Him alone, and to obey Him alone. Encouragement should only be given where people are walking with God, having faith in God, and obeying Him. We must realize that our confidence and the encouragement of such confidence can be the very tools of rebellion against God, and the furtherment of sin.
Ungodly Confidence Resists God
Now let's be clear, not all confidence is wicked. In fact, the Christian is meant to have confidence: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace…” (Heb 4:16) The difference is when we have confidence in God—obeying God and faith in His promises—and when we have confidence in ourselves and anything that stems from ourselves.
Similar to identity, ungodly confidence can be a means by which we try to lift ourselves above the truth and above others. It is founded on the thought of being better, higher, or more than others. And it is a confidence that lives in rebellion against God—it is a confidence that feels safe in opposition to God rather than safe in submission to God.
It is wicked in nature against our neighbor because it is founded upon the idea of one having and others not having. It is never the first without the second, for the first entirely depends upon the second. The wickedness of conceit is that it would rob others of what they have in order to feel secure.
This conceit can be many things: We can trust in our money, our “can-do attitude”, our work ethic, muscle strength, education, intelligence, empathy, ideas, plans, appearance, gender, family, etc… All of these things come from the self rather than from God. And we purely have confidence because of something to do with ourselves, rather than having confidence because of something to do with God.
This “confidence” can still get along with others and that’s often why it fools us. But we fail to realize in these instances that this confidence is merely being selective. It is choosing those who help further its vain little pride, and patting on the head those that don’t make the cut in order to have the appearance of goodness. Again, we’re often even fooled by people using their confidence to pat people on the head as if they’re loving other people, when they’re doing nothing more than acting in total arrogance. Even when people do these good acts out of their perceived desire for a genuine good, they are still done in rebellion against God. And that is because they are done from self-confidence and not done for God but against God. They are done from an attitude that says one does not need God to do good. Or one will do good in spite of God who they believe does not do good.
This confidence lives in complete opposition to man. And this confidence lives in complete opposition to God.
This confidence resists God 100%. While many people fool themselves into thinking they are working with God, it does not change the truth that all pride is opposition to God.
Confidence in the self lives by its own rules, rather than God’s, its own plans and not God’s, its own will rather than God’s, its own desires contrary to God. It lives in sin without fear of God’s judgement, and ultimately rest self-satisfied against the entire truth of God’s Word that we are wicked, fallen, in need of salvation and far from holiness and goodness.
The reason for this is because this confidence in the self lives by its own rules, rather than God’s, its own plans and not God’s, its own will rather than God’s, its own desires contrary to God, lives in sin without fear of God’s judgement, and ultimately rest self-satisfied against the entire truth of God’s Word that we are wicked, fallen, and in need of salvation and far from holiness and goodness. While this self-confidence may imagine that it shakes hands with God, the truth is that it lives in entire rebellion against God. For it is founded entirely upon a lie that is contrary to the truth that has revealed about us. Believing we are strong when God shows us we are weak, wise when God shows us we are foolish, good when God shows us that we are evil, and honest when God shows us that we are liars. The very thing we rest our confidence upon is rebellion against God because it’s always upon lies.
Godly Confidence Is Founded on Christ
Godly confidence is something entirely needful for every Christian (Heb 4:16). Nothing said here is to dissuade anyone from confidence in God but rather in themselves. Even as I say that, I say it with a heavy heart, for I know how so many people can convince themselves that their confidence is of God, when it is still only of their own hearts and fallen nature. And this is still nothing more than confidence in one’s self.
Our confidence is found in Christ rather than in ourselves. In God’s promises, His commands, and His whole Word. The Christian is called to turn away from this wicked self-confidence and to turn to true confidence in God. This can be very hard work, but we see it as truly needful when we see how truly wicked our self-confidence is. And we see just how dangerous it is for us to build upon a lie rather than the truth.
And lastly, the distinguishing difference between godly confidence and worldly confidence is measured by our obedience to God. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matt 7:24) While our righteousness is always found in Christ and not in ourselves, it is only those who are actively obeying God and seeking God that are truly living in reliance upon Him. The stark truth is that when we are walking in disobedience to God we are trusting in a lie. It can be the lie that God won’t judge whatever sins we’re walking in, that “the Bible doesn’t really say that”, that there is no God, that as Christians we’re somehow not commanded to still walk in obedience to God, or many other such lies. But the very measure of our self-confidence versus our godly confidence is shown by our disobedience or obedience. Christ tells us this in Matt 7:24-27, that it is the one who “does them”, the one who obeys that is trusting in Christ, not the other way around.
Confidence is one of the greatest faces of pride, and many are deceived by it. It is another one of these sins that runs around masquerading as something else. And each believer is in need of learning the difference between self-confidence and godly confidence, and ensuring that we each seek and only promote that confidence which is truly of God. May the Lord continue to guide each of us more and more into the truth.