By Roland W. Keith
For those of us who have made a study of the life of the apostle Paul one thing stands out— he was a confident man. Whether he was persecuting Christians or trying to convert the world to Christianity he did everything in the confidence of his convictions, so much so that when standing before the council for preaching in the name of Jesus he told them, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day” (Acts 23:1). Even when he railed against God in trying to destroy the church Paul was a man of integrity, zealous for God and the traditions of his forefathers (Acts 24:16; 22:3; Galatians 1:14). It may be that God chose Paul to carry the word into the Gentile world, precisely because of these personal attributes. As the Lord told Ananias, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of My name” (Acts 9:15-16).
It would take a man of tenacity and toughness to succeed in bridging the two worlds of the Jews and Gentiles in order to bring them together as one in Christ (Ephesians 2:13-22). That such a man would suffer in his efforts was an unavoidable part of the job description (II Corinthians 11:22-33).
Many years after his conversion Paul would write, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13). Suffering for Christ had taught Paul to distinguish between need and want, between the power of the Spirit and the desires of the world. Among the things that he had learned was the joy of knowing Christ and the sufficiency of God’s mercy and grace, and the right of the Lord’s followers to approach the throne of God with boldness and confidence to receive more when in need, in the assurance of passing every test with the faithful execution of God’s commands (Hebrews 4:16; Ephesians 3:1-12; I Thessalonians 2:1-4; I Corinthians 7:19).
How did Paul gain such confidence? As noted, before he was a zealous follower of God (Galatians 1:14), who had studied the law at the feet of his generations most noted scholar, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). In his letter to the Ephesians Paul instructed his readers in how they could prepare themselves to face everything that Satan and the world would throw at them, equating it with a soldier preparing for battle by putting on the appropriate armor and taking up his shield and sword (Ephesians 6:10-18). Included in that instruction was the need for prayer, preparation in the knowledge of God’s word, and perseverance in effort. The reward for the determined soldier of God? Nothing less than his own salvation and that of those he helped to free in the fray between good and evil.
For those who serve their King faithfully Paul wrote, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39). Paul’s confidence was unshakeable. He was fully convinced that no matter how fevered the battle became, no matter what the enemy did to him, the Lord would ultimately rescue him and usher him to safety (II Timothy 4:18).
The apostle John also had something to say about our trust in God. When we compare his writings to Paul’s, we see revealed two vastly different personalities. Paul was the bull of the woods, a man of action, with the battle scars to prove his mettle. John was the apostle of love. His confidence came from allowing Christ to perfect His love within us. Where love reigns fear is banished, replaced by our confidence in the Lord and the surety of His promises. When that love is achieved one need never shrink back from God in fear or shame. We stand uncondemned in our own hearts, knowing we have kept the Lord’s commandments, and with such knowledge we can stand before the Lord with confidence (I John 4:17-18; 2:28; 3:21; 5:14).
The Lord’s brother James also spoke of confidence. Jesus had once said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household” (Matthew 13:57). Indeed, none of Jesus’ brothers believed in Him growing up, or even throughout His ministry (John7:5). In fact, they thought He was crazy! (Mark 3:21). Apparently, it wasn’t until His resurrection that they finally came around and were noted to be in the upper room with their mother and the other women who followed Jesus, along with the apostles waiting in devotion and prayer. Speaking from the perspective of one who had grown up in the same house with Jesus, refusing to believe until unbelief was no longer an option James’ advice? Banish doubt from your mind (James 1:5-6) and have faith.
For the Christian faith and confidence should go hand-in-hand. John said, “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18). However, the Bible speaks of two types of fear. One is the fear of evil, or the “spirit of fear” that does not come from God (II Timothy 1:7), which is what John was alluding to. The other is the fear of the Lord. King David spoke of the first when he wrote, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). It is this fear that we overcome with faith and confidence. David’s son, Solomon wrote of the second type of fear in Proverbs 14:26: “In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence.” The first form of fear is born of dread. The second is born of awe and reverence for God, His power and glory, and His mercy and love. One saps our confidence away, the other is our basis for trust and spiritual strength. As the Psalmist wrote: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111:10).
It was such understanding that led Paul to write, “So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:6). It is this combination of fear and confidence, containing all the love of God and faith in Him that compels His followers to seek and attain the spiritual heights that are possible when we give our all as workers in service to His name (II Timothy 2:15). Those who reach such heights will not be ashamed to be found doing the Lord’s work or to be called a follower of Christ (II Timothy 1:12). The struggle for most Christians is in seeking those heights and maintaining them. How do we find and strengthen our confidence, thus securing our reward (Hebrews 10:35-36)?
Put on the armor of God that Paul spoke of (Ephesians 6:10-18). Study and work hard (II Timothy 2:15). Assemble with the saints encouraging and strengthening one another (Hebrews 10:23-25). Endure persecution (I Peter 5:10). Pray (I Thessalonians 5:17). And follow Paul’s example. Even when everyone around him deserted him he refused to lose faith, writing, “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth” (II Timothy 4:16-17). Paul did everything listed above in this paragraph, yet one thing that he did came above all others— he put his faith in God, trusting in Him for deliverance (II Timothy 4:18).
Paul was determined to honor Christ even to the point of death (Philippians 1:20; II Timothy 4:6). He encouraged everyone to share in the suffering for the gospel (II Timothy 1:8-9). He did not want to be like others, but he did want them to be like him— in following Christ (Acts 26:28-29). Paul was belittled and beaten, chained and held in contempt, yet he was never ashamed of who he was or Who he belonged to (Romans 1:16). He was justly proud of the example he had set for others in following Christ (Philippians 1:14), ceaselessly encouraging those he taught. In his second letter to his young protégé, Timothy, he wrote, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (II Timothy 1: 6-7).
None of us has had a miraculous gift imparted to us. Nonetheless, we do have God-given abilities that we can flame into a fire of action. We can exercise our abilities in the spirit of power, love and self-control that we have developed in applying the Bible’s wisdom to our lives. We can be a part of the church’s work in making known the manifold wisdom of God’s plan of salvation— a plan that was fully realized when Christ Jesus rose from the dead and subsequently established His church (Ephesians 3:10-12). And we can do all these things in Christ’s name with complete confidence so long as we are willing to hold onto that confidence firm to the end (Hebrews 3:14).
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.