As preachers we must guard against pride. It is a trap that can destroy our effectiveness and our ministries. But we need confidence in order to boldly proclaim God’s word. A tension exists between pride and confidence.
Most of us would say that being confident in our abilities is generally good, but being prideful in ourselves is detrimental. We know that the Scriptures contain harsh warnings against pride. You can be a confident person without being prideful, but it often seems like a fine line.
A closely related character trait to pride and confidence is fear. Fear can be a huge inhibitor. Most of us bounce back and forth between pride and fear. Sometimes we’re prideful of our accomplishments looking for others to notice how awesome we are and validate us. Other times we are insecure in our abilities and fearful of what other people might think. We like confidence because it seems to be a good middle ground, but it is difficult to stay there as a way of life.
PRIDE . . . . . . . . CONFIDENCE . . . . . . . . FEAR
I preached my first sermon when I was seventeen. People praised me for my deep insights and how well I communicated them. But those “deep insights” weren’t mine, I had stolen the content from someone else. I wanted to be impressive, and I didn’t realize at the time that I was committing plagiarism. (I have long since stopped using other people’s ideas without crediting them).
At the time I was deeply insecure in my own abilities. I thought that if I actually wrote and delivered a sermon, people wouldn’t like it. I didn’t think it would be powerful. It was not my primary goal to be used by God to change lives by communicating his word. Rather, approval and validation were all I needed at that point.
My motivation was fear. If I don’t wow them, they’ll overlook me. Fear looks different for different people. Some fears may lead you to avoid certain biblical topics because you are afraid of how people will respond.
In my fear I also struggled with pride. Look what I did, they loved it! Both of these extremes left me feeling very insecure and not very confident. My fear led me to fake it and my pride was based in someone else’s work. That’s a lonely place to be as a leader. Even so, we usually swing back and forth in the pendulum of pride and fear.
How do we stop preaching out of pride and fear?
If pride and fear are two ends of the spectrum and confidence is somewhere in the middle, does that mean we should just be half prideful and half fearful? Surely confidence is better than that.
I saw Ed Young speak on this topic in a message to pastors. He talked about pride and fear and said most of us lean toward one or the other. But instead of confidence being the safe middle ground he changed it to Godfidence. Godfidence is different than confidence.
Confidence still relies on self. I still have to make sure that I am confident in what I am trying to do. But Godfidence suggests that my task is from God, my abilities are from God, my gifts are from God. If I am Godfident, then I have a keen understanding of what God has called me to do. I understand it is not about whether I’m fearful, prideful or even confident. It is all about God and the task he has given me. If God has called me, then he has equipped me.
Godfidence seeks to give God all the glory. The Godfident person is not fearful of what others think or prideful of their accomplishments. They are totally bought in to the glory of God in all things. Including preaching.
I work hard to be as effective a communicator as possible. But I know for sure: God changes lives, not me. God’s Word transforms minds, not my words. God’s Spirit moves hearts, not my ability to pursuade. This is Godfidence.
I want to be Godfident. Not prideful in my abilities, nor fearful of what others might say or do. But Godfident in Him.
This is a form of repentance. A changing of mind. Most of my writing focuses on helping preachers communicate better by removing barriers to effective communication. A lot of these barriers are can be worked on and improved by tweaking approach and technique. But pride and fear are matters of the heart that no amount of coaching can overcome. You have to let Christ reign in your mind every time you preach.
So the next time you preach try praying this prayer before you get up to speak: God, give me a holy Godfidence in you today. Give me boldness and confidence not in myself, but in you.
Do you lean toward pride or fear? Why? What does Godfidence look like in your life?