Stewarding a Course Through a Crisis of Confidence
In an address to the nation on July 15, 1979, then President Jimmy Carter claimed that the US was suffering from a “crisis of confidence” that led to domestic turmoil and “the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.”
Those words seem quite fitting to describe our nearly-post-pandemic culture today. Think back to your attitudes (generally) in 2019. Would you say you had a higher level of confidence in life than you do now? Have the actions and attitudes of others left you less confident in who we are as a nation, where we are going and whether we will ever get there? Do you have less confidence in national, regional and local leaders to move us to a brighter future? Do you have more or less confidence that we are becoming a better nation, giving our kids a more hopeful future and expanding access to the American dream to a greater percentage of our fellow citizens?
And what about within the church? Are you confident that we are a stronger, more closely knit fellowship? Do you have more confidence in our Christian leaders to understand our times and lead us to be salt and light in this world? Do you have more or less confidence in your fellow believers to make God-honoring decisions and speak truth into our culture?
We can continue this line of inquiry for every section of society; our progress in overcoming racism, breaking the cycle of poverty, ending homelessness? Do you react to these challenges with greater confidence or a declining hope?
Perhaps a better way to assess whether we have a ‘crisis in confidence’ would be to look at our world from all of these different aspects and ask the question, “have we ever needed God more?”
I believe we are seeing the consequences of a crisis in confidence all around us. Losing confidence means losing hope, and a loss of hope leads to discouragement, despair, and ultimately to depression. Out of such attitudes comes anger that is manifest in everything from the biting remarks that surprise us when they come from our mouth toward someone in our neighborhood or family, to the vitriolic language used across our country to vilify enemies and destroy all attempts at unity or reconciliation. This national temper is fueled by a populace that has lost confidence in the future, and in those who they used to look to to help us secure a better way forward.
How do we, as the people of God, navigate our way through a time of such crisis? I would propose that it begins with each of us re-committing ourselves to our role as stewards of these times. By understanding our role in stewardship terms, we are able to affirm the source of our confidence and be at peace with it.
Consider Jeremiah’s assertion, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).
Stewarding life in a time of a crisis in confidence frees us to allow God to produce green leaves in the midst of heat and fruit in a year of drought. This is possible because we recognize that our confidence is in God alone. We are able to name the counterfeit sources of confidence, and we do not despair when they ultimately fail us.
Such stewarding means we understand our role as stewards. The writer of Hebrews describes this as being the House of God, “Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory” (Hebrews 3:6). We live and serve in the House of God in confidence because it is not our house. The writer of Hebrews goes on to remind us that our entire Christian faith is based on this steward confidence, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
Once again, the writer of Hebrews tells us that being confident in God means a full surrender of our life to him and our understanding that life itself, including its hopes, its comforts and its meaning is fully dependent on our willingness to lose it for his sake that we might find it in our role as stewards. “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6)
What indeed! How will you steward your life in this moment when so much confidence is being lost in so many places for so many people? What an opportunity for the gospel, what a moment for the people of God to let their lights shine as joyful, faithful stewards who live with peace and confidence because their lives are not their own, they have been bought with a price. Perhaps never before in our lifetime has the concept of totally losing our lives for Christ been the door through which so many opportunities await.
Will you surrender anew to him today? Are you willing to lose your life at that level, that you might find it in Christ in such a way that you can steward it joyfully and faithfully in the midst of all that’s happening in the world around us? For the follower of Jesus there is no crisis of confidence because the one in whom we place our confidence, indeed our entire life, is faithful. May that faithfulness strengthen, encourage and compel you for the days ahead.