Monday, 3 May 2021

Thought for the Day 03/05/21 - Confidence!

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I'm writing this Thought on a wet, windy Spring bank holiday, so nothing is open and very little's happening today, but tomorrow? 

Oh, tomorrow I have a list of phone calls ... dentist, vet, skip company ... that I have to make because other people don't want to 'ask'.

I am no more the expert on dentists, vets or skip companies than anyone else.

But they don't feel confident to, so it's been a matter once again of: 'can you just .. ?

And it falls to me.

I have to make the call.

Maybe I'm overstating all of this.

Probably.

None of these people would dream of treating me like a public convenience.

No way!

But while they probably could  do it themselves, the job's list has been given to me.

And I have to admit, I don't like being the 'piggy in ther middle' because I KNOW I will be bound to get SOMETHING wrong.

Handling requests of the sort people don't feel able to make for themselves - third hand - is a risky business!

Requests other people want you to make on their behalf ...
  • tend to be the more complex ones

  • tend to be the ones where the detail you have little mastery of will be of most significance

  • and they tend to have more importance riding on them too.

Those are the sorts of features that make the person asking you to act as intermediary most nervous to ask themselves, and to lack the confidence needed to advocate for themselves.

And that leaves me asking:

Where is all the confidence gone?


This lack of confidence in the face of making the official phone call is surprising. There's a strange set of circumstances in play.

Firstly because ...

Deference is dead now

It used to be the case that British society had a hierarchy that - across the board - people had to respect.

There was a class system in society, you see, with clear hierarchies. 

I remember seeing it my paternal grandfather in particular ... a boy born into a large family at a small house in Durham Road, inner-urban Newport who lied about his age to fight in the trenches of the Somme. Yes, he was particularly a part of that Deference culture.

He'd salute anything with a posh accent in a suit!

But those days are gone.

It's one of the most noticeable features of secularising twentieth century Britain that no-one tugs their forelock any more.

So where is the unwillingness to phone up and speak to any sort of officialdom coming from?

Confidence is a problem now

With secularisation - the leaving off of God -   has come a rapidly rising flight of personal confidence.

With the loss of consciousness of God in these much safer times has come, paradoxically, a rise in personal insecurity and a failure in confidence, alongside the growth of the 'Positive Thinking' philosophy.

And subsequently towards the end of the twentieth century and into the next one we've seen a rise in the paid profession of 'advocacy'.

Advocacy is a 'thing', now

When I was a lad, an advocate was a lawyer in court. These days it could be a lawyer, but increasingly it may well be someone called in to go to official meetings with someone else ... someone who needs somebody with them to take care of them as they face up to authority or the authorities.

I've had to do this sort of thing for people - and I''ve been happy to - in my work as a Rural Chaplain. I understand that it can be very helpful.

I'm not knocking the practice and that's not my point. but this is ...

The Point

This lack of confidence is a very secular, first world social and psychological problem.

These changes have come about hand-in-hand with secularisation as people have taken leave of God and tried to 'stand on their own two feet' without a thought of Who made those feet, nor their Maker's design specification for these appendages.

Positive thinking doesn't cover the need. In fact, the darker side of Positive Thinking as a means to fill the gaps in human psychology have been usefully explored in this Royal Society of Arts short animation from Barbara Ehrenreich .

The Apostle John speaks of a more Design Spec-compliant approach to the issue in the words of our Verse for the Day:

"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: 
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 
And if we know that he hears us 
– whatever we ask – 
we know that we have what we asked of him."

                                             1 John 5:14-15




The solution the New Testament offers for the damage done by the abandonment of DUE AND PROPER deference (as John describes it for us) stands on three legs ... three things that we need to revive.

Revive deference (to God)

Firstly, we need to revive deference to God.

John is convinced that not my will but God's will is the best:

"if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us."

When you've prayed, it's true, your confidence grows.

When your friends are also praying for you, again, confidence mounts.

You can face a LOT of stuff when you know that you've spoken with the God Who loves you and makes your future His business. As David sings in 2 Samuel 22:29-30 

"You, Lord, are my lamp;
    the Lord turns my darkness into light.
30 With your help I can advance against a troop;
    with my God I can scale a wall."

Revive advocacy (of the Spirit)

When we don't know what or how to ask God for in a difficult situation, the Spirit assists His people with groans too deep for words, Romans 8:26 puts it like this:

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans."

And the effect of all of this is to restore confidence, not in our weak selves, but confidence in the Advocacy for us of the truly awesome God.

Revive confidence (in Christ ) now

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: 
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 
And if we know that he hears us 
– whatever we ask – 
we know that we have what we asked of him."

How does THAT work?

Christ is His people's Heavenly advocate (whereas the Spirit appears to be our earthly advocate) and He stands before the throne of God in Heaven interceding, praying and pleading for the people of God.

Romans 8:34 is a powerful verse that addresses our human lack of confidence head on:

"Who then is the one who condemns? 
No one. 
Christ Jesus who died 
– more than that, who was raised to life – 
is at the right hand of God and 
is also interceding for us."

Troops on the ground always need the back-up of 'air cover' and it looks like those who lay off self-confidence for God-confidence are assured 'air cover', as it were, from the hand of their Maker!

The Takeaway

The solution to our sense of weakness and insecurity is not to tell ourselves we're adequate and fine.

It isn't true, so that can be a cruel thing to do when we're led to believe it, go out and fall flat on our face!

The solution is to put proper deference to, dependance on and confidence in God Father, Son and Spirit in place of a misplaced self-confidence and self-reliance. 

So how will you build your conscious confidence in your all-sufficient God, not your weak and human 'self', in the day that lies ahead of you today?

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