I like the term confidence; many prefer boldness. Boldness is an interesting concept in Christianity. I’m taking my title from Hebrews 4:16, and in fact most of my thoughts here are based on the book of Hebrews.
I first encountered the claim of boldness when I was quite young, and I heard a taped sermon in which the speaker claimed that he had been in need of transportation. Upon discussion with his wife, they had determined that God desired that they own a Cadillac, so they prayed and claimed their Cadillac. According to the tape, they were, in fact, provided with, you guessed it, a Cadillac.
I was living in southern Mexico at the time, where my parents were serving people who were too poor to own a car. Many were too poor to own a donkey or a mule. Often these people would walk through the jungle for two or three days in order to receive medical care at the clinic where my parents worked. We had a discussion as a family as to whether this demand for a Cadillac was faith or presumption.
Since then, I’ve heard it called boldness. In fact, when I have heard people discuss “approaching the throne of grace boldly,” they’ve generally been referring to asking God for the things they (think they) need, or that they want. Sometimes boldness is represented as asking God for luxurious consumer goods, always, of course, destined to help one build the kingdom or carry out one’s mission. I have always found it hard to understand why people need such expensive things.
But that isn’t my topic here. What is the author of Hebrews talking about here? Does he have Cadillacs (or luxury chariots, fine horses, or fine clothes) in mind? No, that’s not the topic. He has been developing his ideas of what God has done with us, how God has communicated with us, and the basis for our trust in God. He has just summarized in the previous couple of verses (14-15) that Jesus is like us, except without sin.
He will move on in chapters 5 and 6 to discuss faithfulness and endurance. This is for our spiritual well-being. We need to understand the basis of our salvation and the faithfulness of God who saves us in order to receive endurance. The foundation is solid, so we can be confident as we build on it.
This confidence is needed for:
- Our salvation. It is through trust in God who is trustworthy that we are saved.
- Our sanctification. It is in response to God’s faithfulness that we follow, learn, and grow. The conclusion to Hebrews 11 and its examples of faith is not what we can receive, but rather that we need to turn away from everything else and turn to the one who is faithful as we are surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses (12:1-3)
- Our witness. Our witness is implied as we are called to witness the endurance of others and to encourage one another. Hebrews says little explicitly about evangelism, but witness is woven through it.
- Our faithfulness. It’s not even really our faithfulness, it’s God’s faithfulness working in and through us. It’s interesting to read the stories of the examples of faith from the Old Testament and then compare them to the stories told in Hebrews 11. Many of them don’t look nearly as good in the original story. Is the author of Hebrews lying? Not at all! He’s telling the story of God’s faithfulness in and through them.
- Our reward. Again, this comes only through God’s faithfulness. Our confidence grows out of what God has done for us.
Because of this, our confidence should mirror God’s faithfulness. Our confidence is about God, not about the stuff that we can get, or what we can make God do by praying in the proper manner. Prayer is not magic. Prayer is talking to a faithful God in response to the faithfulness God has displayed.
God may provide you with things that you wouldn’t otherwise have. But those things will be because you need them to be the person God wants you to be and to carry out the plan he has for you. God may even be generous with you, but you should never assume you’re better because of what God has given you. You should never take God’s gifts in the material realm for granted.
God is indeed faithful and we can be bold. But the major result of God’s faithfulness in us is our endurance–right to the end.