Last Monday Boris Johnson faced a vote of No Confidence from within his own party, following the steady drip of allegations surrounding what has become known as ‘Partygate’. The reason why Boris is in such a difficult position is because he has been seen to fail what used to be one of the golden rules of politics and of life: “Practise what you preach”. It’s a rule that we would all do well to reflect on. Not so long ago a politician would do the honourable thing if they were found to have said one thing and then done another. Now there are those who think it doesn’t matter; trust in what politicians say has been broken for some time, we almost expect to be lied to.
Actions always speak louder than words, and when a man is ordained as a Deacon the following words are spoken by the bishop (or archbishop) as the Book of Gospels is presented:
“Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practise what you teach.”
These are powerful words, to ‘Practise what you teach’, and what we believe, is what we are all aiming for; in our everyday lives and in the many ways that we interact with our sisters and brothers. But, as we all know, it’s difficult to achieve this ideal everyday.
Confidence is bound up with trust, in fact we often use the words interchangeably, but they have different meanings. Confidence is an assurance that is actually built on past experience; when we think of Boris Johnson then perhaps recent experience has inspired a lack of confidence among some of his own supporters, after all 148 of them feel that their trust has been betrayed.
Trust itself is not based on evidence, but on belief. Are we willing to accept without question? In the way that St Thomas, Doubting Thomas, just could not, after Christ’s resurrection. There is an obvious relationship between faith and trust, it is implicit that if we believe in God we must trust Him. But how many of us truly trust the Lord our God, and genuinely allow our confidence to flow directly from him? As Jeremiah (17:7) says: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord”. Trusting that God’s path is the best path for us isn’t necessarily easy, and for many of us this can be the most difficult part of being a Christian, learning to ‘let go’. Through trust we can learn to build confidence – belief and trust in God is the key to being confident that He will always be there for us.
Self-confidence is a highly prized quality in our modern society, there are so many books, articles, and podcasts on the subject; we are told that if we acquire this confidence then everything that we want can be ours. We are told that we need to “take control” and “bet on yourself”. This inward looking confidence, confidence of the flesh (as St Paul called it, Philippians 3:3), is actually the opposite of the quality that we need to develop. The book of Proverbs (28:1) tells us that “The righteous are as bold as a lion.” If we put our trust in God, and in his revelation, then our lives will be transformed; we can be confident that the God who created us, calls us, saves us and keeps us, will be there whenever we need Him.
So if trust in the Lord is so powerful and the confidence that it brings can transform our lives what stops us trusting God? What gets in the way?
Perhaps we blame God for things that have gone wrong. If there has been a tragedy or misfortune in our lives it’s easy to see the all powerful creator as being at fault. Couldn’t He have prevented this? It’s so unfair, why me? The reporting, or lack of it, on the Pentecost massacre in Southern Nigeria reminds us that terrible things are happening in the world. Around 50 men, women and children were murdered during Mass, but faith remains strong at St Francis Xavier parish in Owo.
God asks us to step outside our comfort zone, to take a leap of faith to somewhere new. What if it doesn’t work out? Perhaps you’re comfortable where you are. God promises us a better life if we trust Him. Last weekend Fr Steve Confirmed nearly 30 of our young people in their Catholic faith. One of the key themes of the Confirmation programme is encouraging our young people to actively embrace their faith, to be ‘rebels’ against popular culture, and to put their trust in God.
Trusting God has consequences. We need to ignore our own desires, our instincts and accept that His way is best. We have to surrender control. For most people that is so very difficult to do. As Christians and as Catholics we will often find ourselves standing in opposition to what secular culture says is right, if we are confident in our faith and trust in God then we can find the strength to resist the temptation to conform.
We need help to trust God. Is our faith unshakeable, or do we doubt? He is ready to strengthen our trust in Him, if we are ready to ask.