A Letter to Start
Dear Brothers & Sisters,
When something unexpected happens what is your first reaction? Some of us might grip tight to the illusion of control — leading to a loss of patience or sleep as anxiety takes the wheel during challenges. Others escape to what’s comfortable, avoiding reality at all costs. Many of us hide in fear or shame, blaming ourselves for all that has transpired. And still others take matters into their own hands and deal with the pressures of this world in such a way that leaves them dry, empty, and exhausted. I’m going to point out something obvious: there actually is a better way.
A long time ago when studying the book of Hebrews, our group leader quoted Martin Luther’s definition of faith. I wrote it down in the margin of Hebrews 11. Martin Luther said this, “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that the believer would stake his life on it a thousand times.” A definition like that is both captivating and convicting in equal measure. While we would yearn for this kind of faith to be our first response and an ongoing description of our lives, the mirror says otherwise. Most likely we fall way short of “sure, certain, daring confidence.”
Did you know that the Latin root for the word confidence is con fide, which literally means “with faith”? Confidence comes when we actively put our trust in God’s promises, as we live by faith in the face of uncertainty in circumstances, adversity in relationships, and difficulty in suffering. Confidence develops when you take a step of faith and put to death the deeds of your flesh, believing that Christ’s way actually brings joy and freedom. Confidence rises when your hope in God does not put you to shame but delivers on its promises. Confidence grows when you, as a limited, created creature, sense your lack of control and in place of fear that naturally comes, you turn your eyes to your sovereign, eternal Father.
So if confidence is cultivated where your faith is put to the test, confidence, then, comes through endurance. Endurance in knowing God through his Word, through his people, and through knowing and believing he is who he says he is. Endurance is fighting sin, fighting lies, and fighting temptation.
Confidence comes on the other side of those moments when real disappointment is countered with the promise of an imperishable inheritance, when anxiety is overcome by peace, and when grief moves us deeper into the power of the resurrection.
In other words, endurance produces confidence.
I pray that through this Lenten season, you’ll grow your confidence in God’s faithfulness by witnessing the faith of those recounted in Hebrews 11. I hope that you’ll be reminded that your confidence is not in yourself or in what you can do, but in Jesus, the Son of God, who took on flesh and offered himself for payment of your sins to deliver you from death. Your confidence rests in his forever position as High Priest, welcoming you to his throne of grace, interceding for you, sympathizing with you, sitting until the day he rises and returns to bring you home.
May the God of endurance and encouragement strengthen your hearts with grace, that you may abound in hope, producing lives of faith that glorify him.