Being confident without arrogance

Published 8:51 pm Monday, June 25, 2018

Several years ago one of the young men in a certain church lost his life in a ship accident. When the news reached his mother, she showed a magnificent fortitude. One of her friends asked how she kept from going to pieces, and this how she answered, “What is our faith for, if not to make us strong.”

When we are sure of our ground, when out of our own experience we can say, “I believe,” we can keep our cool and for the most part live our lives with confidence.

Our focus today is confidence. But as a theological professor observed, “Sometimes confidence is mistaken for arrogance. Arrogance comes from confidence in yourself.”

Be sure I’m not talking about that kind of confidence. You see, that kind of confidence alone simply will not make it through the “tough times” of life.

There’s the problem of confidence. A minister friend told about a young preacher who had given a practice sermon in a seminary class. His professor was giving him a hard time.

Finally, the young preacher said, “I thought it was a pretty good sermon.”

The professor asked, “Why do you think so?”

The student answered, “Well, I preached it last Sunday in my church, and three people cried.”

The professor responded, “I almost cried myself.”

Now, I’m sure that young preacher lost a little confidence. I know because I’ve been there.

One of the main problems of confidence is that we carry it in a fragile human vessel, and it can be so easily shattered.

Our relationships and our world always seem so tentative. They change so quickly and usually our confidence is not helped. Confidence is another one of those qualities that is constantly in danger of extinction.

Most of us are aware that children love to swing. There is no doubt about it. Children love to thrust their feet toward the sky and then lean back so far that everything looks upside down. Swinging is special.

Max Lucado, well-known minister and author, said he learned a lot about trust in a swing. As a child, he only trusted certain people to push his swing. If he were being pushed by people he trusted (like dad or mom) they could do anything they wanted — twist him, turn him, stop him, and he loved it.

“But then,” Lucado stated, “Let a stranger push my swing (which often happened at family reunions), and it was hang on baby. Who knows what this stranger would do? When a stranger pushes your swing, you tense up, ball up and hang on. It’s no fun when your swing is in the hands of someone you don’t know.”

Max Lucado has nailed it, hasn’t he. That’s the feeling so many people have in our world today. They are afraid that their swing is in the hands of someone they don’t know. And that’s the problem with confidence.

Then there’s the source of confidence. The kind of confidence I’m talking about here is no “hit or miss” kind of confidence.

The psalmist who wrote Psalm 46 is not naive.

He knows that there is nothing easy about life. He also has every reason to be fearful or anxious.

Here the psalmist provides us with the absolute “worse case scenario.” The change affecting the earth in verses two and three involved  a direct-hit tornado and an earthquake that measures ten on the Richter Scale.

Actually, the situation is worse than that. In the ancient near eastern understanding of the universe, the mountains were the foundation that anchored the dry land and held up the sky. The most terrible thing that could happen would be for the mountains to “shake” or “tremble.” In essence, verses two and three are the psalmist’s description of the world falling apart.

Hear me now. But in this “worst of all situations,” the psalmist affirms God as “refuge,”strength” and “help.” When the very structure of this world cannot be depended upon, when our world is literally falling apart, God can still be depended on.

In Hebrew, “God is our refuge and strength” means a “high tower” or “protection place.” And a “very present help in trouble” means “one willing to be found.”

The late Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, late president of the University of Notre Dame, had a famous line that he liked to quote, “The only thing we really know about tomorrow is that the providence of God will be up before dawn.” The psalmist would have agreed.

Lloyd Ogilvie, former chaplain of the United States Senate, said that there are three things to remember about God’s dependability: God is on our side. God is by our side. And God gives us God’s peace inside.

Someone once asked the great preacher Phillips Brooks why he was so confident and optimistic about life.

He answered, “Because I am a Christian!” So simple and yet so profound. Among other things, Phillips Brooks was referring to the dependability of God — the source of our confidence. So the little girl was right on when she concluded her prayer with these words, “And please God, look after yourself because if anything happens to you we are all sunk.”