Right, let’s start with a questionnaire. I am going to give you a few different scenarios that (theoretically) you could experience this week, and for each one I want you to choose one of two options to describe how that potential scenario makes you feel. Option A is that you feel something along the lines of positive, strong, optimistic or energized. Option B is the opposite; you feel negative, weak, apprehensive or drained. There are no right or wrong answers, just pick the one that best reflects how you feel. Here goes:
- You must have something new for breakfast every day that you’ve never had before.
- You have to wear tartan trousers to work.
- Someone criticises you for something you have said or done.
- Something stops working properly on your computer.
- You have to go swimming at your local pool.
- You must have the next five people that you meet round for dinner together one evening this week.
Were you A’s or B’s? The chances are you were a mixture because we are all different. Some might be very positive and energised at the thought of having new people for dinner; others may dread the prospect. Swimming at your local pool might be something you do all the time; it might be your worst nightmare. And a problem on your computer might feel like a doddle for you, or it might feel like a disaster.
Whatever your answers, I want to suggest that your reaction to all these questions is profoundly affected by one key thing: Confidence. For all of these, if you feel confident in relation to that specific issue, then you will likely be an A. But if you were a B, then it means that that scenario is one where you probably don’t feel confident at all. That is why confidence is such a massive part of life, it will have a huge effect on whether your experiences this week will be positive and energizing, or negative and draining.
With all that in mind, let me give you one more scenario for this week, and again, I want you to choose Option A or Option B:
- You have a conversation with someone about Jesus.
I don’t know what your answer would be, but I know mine. I am Option B. Even though I desperately want people to come to know Jesus, and even though I pray that God would use me to reach others with the gospel, the actual thought of speaking to someone about Jesus is not one that makes me feel positive and strong. It is a prospect that makes me feel weak and apprehensive. And a key reason for that is because, when it comes to sharing my faith, I lack confidence. And I am sure it is the same for many of you. Of all the different areas of our lives as followers of Jesus, sharing our faith with other people is very often the one where we feel at our most inadequate and ineffective. For many of us, it is the place where our confidence is at rock bottom.
Even though I desperately want people to come to know Jesus, and even though I pray that God would use me to reach others with the gospel, the actual thought of speaking to someone about Jesus is not one that makes me feel positive and strong. It is a prospect that makes me feel weak and apprehensive.
The question that all that raises, then, is this: When it comes to sharing our faith, can we find confidence? And if so, where should we be looking to get it from? The second half of that question is crucial, because often in life we look for confidence in our immediate surroundings. Sometimes that is in relation to opinions, whether that is what other people think of us, or what we think of ourselves. Or it can be related to our circumstances; if we are in a familiar setting then that can help our confidence, if it is unfamiliar territory, our confidence plummets. So, when it comes to opinions, if people are positive about us then that will often be a confidence boost. With regards to circumstances, if things are familiar and ‘normal’ then we are more confident. And that is true whether it is the places we go, the routines we have, or even the clothes we wear. (If you don’t believe me, then try going to church this Sunday in your pyjamas and see how confident you feel!)
At one level, all of that is natural and fine. But there’s a problem. The problem is that if our confidence is grounded on the opinions and circumstances around us, then there is always a risk that the opinions we rely on might be wrong and that the circumstances we cling to might change. And that means that if we ground our confidence in opinions and circumstances, then we are looking for confidence in the very place where we might lose it. So when it comes to sharing my faith, if my confidence with my friend is based on them thinking positively about me, then I am likely to avoid talking about something that could be awkward or that might risk offending them. And likewise, if my confidence is grounded on staying within the safe territory of familiar circumstances, then I am less likely to talk about something different, something that to them is potentially weird. And a classic example of a conversation that is perhaps awkward, possibly offensive, definitely different and potentially weird is a conversation about Jesus.
All that makes sharing our faith difficult, which is why my instinctive reaction to the thought of speaking to someone about Jesus is Option B. But that is because I am looking for confidence in the wrong place. Our immediate surroundings – the opinions around us and the circumstances that we are comfortable in – are not the place to find confidence. The place where we need to find confidence is in the truth that God has revealed in his word. That revelation is a source of utterly reliable knowledge, and contained within it there is a goldmine of truth that can give us a massive confidence boost for sharing our faith. That’s a confidence boost that I desperately need. So, I have written a book that tries to dig a little deeper into that goldmine. It is called God is God and You are You. I’d love for you to read it, and if you do, my prayer is that you will indeed find confidence for sharing your faith.
Our immediate surroundings – the opinions around us and the circumstances that we are comfortable in – are not the place to find confidence. The place where we need to find confidence is in the truth that God has revealed in his word.