Christian Living

Do You Have This Kind of Confidence? Mentoring Letter—October 2015

Author Greg Koukl Published on 10/01/2015

When it seems like the church at large is absolutely thick with tares—unregenerate people in our midst who think they’re Christians, but are not (also in Matt. 13)—I ask myself, “What specifically gives me any confidence I’m not among the spiritually self-deluded?”

Twenty-two years ago in our inaugural STR brochure I wrote, “Christians need a good dose of confidence.” Of course I was referring to the Christian’s confidence that the smart money was on Jesus in a toe-to-toe contest with secular alternatives.

I’m deeply grateful because the generosity of supporters have made it possible for STR to create resources for the past two decades that help give Christians confidence.

Sometimes, though, we need confidence of a different kind.

It’s one I think about a lot, especially since I encounter scores of people utterly convinced they’re on the right religious path, yet seem to me to be deeply deceived. Something like 75% of the people in this country believe in Hell, yet almost no one thinks he’s going there. If the gate is narrow—as Jesus said—multitudes are in for a terrifying turn.

It makes me wonder: Will I be one of them?

During the Jesus Movement, it all seemed so simple: Pray the prayer and you’re in. I have a more sober—and I think more biblical—view now. In Jesus’ parable of the sower in Matt. 13, two of the four types of soil produced lively growth for a season, then withered to firewood.

When it seems like the church at large is absolutely thick with tares—unregenerate people in our midst who think they’re Christians, but are not (also in Matt. 13)—I ask myself, “What specifically gives me any confidence I’m not among the spiritually self-deluded?”

Questions like these drive me back to the text, hungry for that second kind of confidence. Here’s what I found: four markers giving me assurance the benefits of my faith are actually in force. Conveniently, they all start with P.

First is promise. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God,” John assures, “in order that you may know you have eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:13). No guessing here. Knowledge.

Jesus said the sinner who beat his breast in remorse and begged for forgiveness received it. Period. (Lk. 18:13-14) Jesus is a reliable refuge. Flee to Him, trust in Him, find rest in Him. Without this promise, there simply is no hope for any of us.

Second is presence, a deep sense that God is near because we belong to Him. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” Paul says in Rom. 8. We are His and He is ours. As adopted children we cry out, “Abba! Father!”

Where promise is objective, presence is subjective. It’s something we feel, so it varies with personality, circumstance, and mood. Every Christian feels forsaken at times. Also, the sense of God’s presence can be counterfeited (as with the LDS “witness”).

Consequently, I take presence to be an evidence (an indicator), not a test (a requirement). Whenever the feelings of God’s presence evade me, I find my footing in promise, as David did frequently (note in Psalms the record of his travails).

Third is persistence—we actively press forward in Christ. We keep our hands to the plow and don’t look back. Growth in godliness is evidence of new life.

James made it clear that there is faith and there is “faith.” One works the other doesn’t—in both senses of the word (if you work, your faith is working; if you don’t, it isn’t). John has the same view: “And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 Jn. 2:3-6). This is not works earning salvation, but growth in goodness evidencing salvation, giving us confidence.

Finally, perseverance. You go the distance. Scripture consistently teaches this: “If we endure, we shall also reign” (2 Tim. 2:12); “We have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end” (Heb. 3:14). Paul’s confidence at the end of his own life was, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).

Do you want confidence in Christ? Then trust the promise and follow hard after Him. Daily press on towards the goal. Fix your eyes on Christ and finish the course.

Confidence for every Christian is part of our vision at STR.

Will you give today to prepare more Christian ambassadors with clear thinking for every challenge, and the courage and grace needed for every encounter?

When you respond with a donation, be sure to ask for my talk on three must-have skills for every encounter. “Ambassadors for Christ: The Essential Skills” shows why basic knowledge, tactical diplomacy, and an attractive manner are all crucial in a culture increasingly hostile to Christian values.

It’s a key tool to help you make a difference—and our way of saying thanks for your gracious friendship and support today.

Safely in His hands,

Gregory Koukl