What is the difference between confidence and conceit? There’s definitely a distinction, right? Both of these exhibit a sort of bravado in the face of a challenge, but confidence seems virtuous while conceit appears to be immoral or at least a character flaw. To me, it seems the major difference between the two is that conceit is overwhelming and possibly undeserved self-esteem, while confidence may be framed up on conditions that have little to nothing to do with “self”.
Years ago, while our son Colton was still in foster care, we started him in soccer. He’s become a pretty stellar soccer player in the years since, but he didn’t wait until his skill was up to snuff to exhibit overt disdain for his opposition. The first time he and his team put on uniforms and stepped up to the line to get their cleats checked and hear game-rule-reminders from the referee, Colton completely ignored the referee in favor of telling the opposition standing across from him how he was going to beat them, that he would personally take the ball away from them. He then proceeded to glare at the 4-year-old standing across from him and indicated through gestures that he was watching him (2 fingers to his eyes, followed by a gesture of the same two fingers turned around and aimed at the child looking back at him). Lisa and I never taught the boy smack-talk, but he was laying it on thick without any training that we knew of. Well, that first game had less than stellar results for Colton but didn’t quell his confidence or enthusiasm. He knew he was a winner even if the final score said otherwise.
When it comes to spiritual warfare is this kind of certainty reasonable confidence or is it worthless conceit? Consider the story of David and Goliath, some of the greatest gloating smack-talk in the scriptures. David was a competent shepherd, but his opposition was physically and experientially superior (“a warrior from his youth” 1 Sam 17:33), There’s no question that David felt terrified and overmatched, and for David to feel that HEcould overwhelm the powerful Philistine would have been conceit. But David’s confidence wasn’t in his personal prowess. Listen to his words:
1 Sam 17:45-47 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. 46 This day the Lordwill deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.”
There are personal pronouns in there “my hand,” or “I will give” but you cannot read that passage and think that David’s confidence is in his own power. David’s confidence is like ours: if the Lord is in the battle and we are with Him, then the ultimate outcome is assured. This week we’ll be discussing a strange strategy for starting a spiritual war: Confidently Declaring Victory at the outset.