I am not, by nature, a person who has a lot of self-confidence. Quite the opposite, really. I care far too much about what other people think about me and concern myself far too much with looking good in their eyes. I can torment myself with shame and regret for little foibles and miscues, imagining what people are thinking, what they are saying to one another. For that reason I have spent much of my life trying to be unnoticed.
As a child I put great effort into trying to determine the seat in the classroom that was least conspicuous and would require the least eye-contact with the teacher. I did all I could to get out of situations that would put me before other students. I avoided plays and presentations and anything else that would make people notice me. It probably all bordered on a kind of neurosis. And it continued unabated into my teens and twenties.
That was then. Today I can usually stand in front of a group of people and do so with a pretty significant degree of confidence. I can stand in front of thousands of people (which is actually quite easy) or before a tiny group of people (which is far tougher) to speak, preach, or answer questions.
What made the difference? How did I gain that kind of confidence? I’m sure age and maturity helped, but there was one difference-maker that rises above all the rest: I determined that when I spoke I would do so with God’s authority, not mine. I decided I wouldn’t stand up in front of people and share my own opinions or bestow my own wisdom. Rather, I would ground what I say in the Bible. Lacking in confidence as I am, I would take my confidence from God. This is why I almost invariably ground not just sermons but also mere speeches or conference talks in a text of Scripture. This gives me the confidence that what I say is not my own, but God’s. It allows me to gain confidence that I’m standing on the most solid of ground, that I am communicating a message consistent with the Word of God and empowered by the Spirit of God.
Here is how I encourage others who are equally lacking in self-confidence: Grow in your knowledge of God’s Word. And having grown in your knowledge of that Word, grow in your ability to communicate it. Then, when given an opportunity to stand before people, ground your message in the timeless, unchanging truth of God’s Word. Make God’s wisdom your wisdom, shape your words by his words, let his confidence be your confidence. When you feel those waves of self-doubt rising, remind yourself that even though you’ve got nothing to say and no wisdom to offer, God most certainly does.