God-Confidence vs Self-Confidence

by Armand Kruger and Doug Cartwright.

 Summary: The authors are deliberately putting the two confidences into opposition since each on its own have implied frames, which might exclude each other. Experiencing God, being a Christian (Christ-centred) implies a way of life, a way of framing which takes serious issue with some of the frames implied in the nominalization “self-confidence”. Unpacking this concept of self-confidence takes issue with the content of “self” or “who am I?” “As a Christian I am twice His: created for good works and bought by the death of His Son”. “After all, Elijah was a man just like us, he prayed earnestly for it not to rain and the skys did not open for three years.” (James 5:17)  Of course, he had GOD CONFIDENCE! The authors touch on the “price tag” of living God-confidence.

Who is God?

The unseen One, exceeding our understanding, is frequently “filled in” with our experience of what we attribute to God. In the old testament God had many names, reflecting the multiple experiences of God. Examples are:

Elohim, the Strong One;

El-roi, the Strong One who sees;

Jehovah-jireh, He is our Provider;

Jehovah-raffa, He is our Healer;

Jehovah-nissi, He is our Banner;

Jehovah-ra'ah, He is our Shepherd;

Jehovah-shalom, He is our Peace;

Jehovah-tsidkenu, He is our Righteousness;

Jehovah-shammah, He is Present.” (From Jeff vanVonderen: Tired of Trying to Measure Up: getting free from the demands, expectations, and intimidations of well-meaning people. @1989; Bethany House Publishers; p.115). They say further: “These names don't merely describe the ways in which God acts. He does provide, heal, go before us, give us peace, make us righteous. But these are His Names; they tell us about His nature....There are many more names of God that aren't listed here, but there is one I want to emphasize-Immanuel. It means "God is with us"; Jesus.” (VanVonderen, p.115).

Modern day experience of God might not include names like those quoted above. We all to frequently replace them with names like “by chance”, “coincidentally,” “accidentally,” and “it just happened that way”.

As counsellors, both authors have experienced that people attribute content to God based on some life experiences we (think) have of God, or god-equivalents. God can be the punishing one, the fickle one, the one who rewards only if you have done good, the unpredictable and unreliable one, who has limited power, who is absent when you need Him (see Philip Yancey’s Where is God when it Hurts?) and only takes care of his favourites of which I am not one. Stretching in faith to “Reach(ing) for the Invisible God” (title of the book by Philip Yancey) is out of their ken. Why?

The perceived nature and attributes of God ties in directly with our own convincer strategy. How do we recognise God, and how many times (frequency) or over what period of time do we need to have that information for us to be convinced that God quintessentially personifies the reality of His Names from the Bible?

For example: if your convincer strategy is one of “constant” then you will consistently search for evidence not only of God’s existence but also of His influence in your life. This will hold true unless, in God’s case, you make the exception in how you are convinced, like with a constant reminder, something like “because the Bible says”.

“Really Armand, this is my point. Faith is not something that goes up and down like a thermostat (see Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Spiritual Depression,1998, Marshell Pickering, G.B., p142) but rather something we can increase by ourselves to some extent. Being aware that I constantly need reassurance actually HELPS me accept that tendency and act to ignore it/change it. I believe that the same goes for all of our NLP knowledge – that to some extent we should be using it to destroy our obstacles to serving Him. Then again, there is the situation where I used it for years and it did not work until I surrendered to God. So how do we know when to do what? I think we must surrender it to God first!” (DC)

God is invisible but then is so much evidence of design and creation it's not hard to draw a conclusion for His existence. (Romans 1: 19-21) Same with all the archaeology of the bible. Other 'proof' (not necessarily measurable in the scientific sense) comes from the effect YOU see the gospel having on your life and the life of others. Remember how you/they were – look at how you/they ARE now!


Here are some food-for-thought issues about self-confidence.

  1. It is a nominalization. As a process it is not something you have, it is something you do, a continual process of making distinctions and comparisons resulting in a conclusion about the competencies of the cluster called “self” (which might or might not include statements of value). People with poor self-confidence tend to make two thought-errors: what does not meet their criteria for good or competent carries more value; and is more convincing of the truth about them than that which is good or indicative of strength. The next error anchors the first one: what is not good is a complete statement about who I am; any exceptions are not paid attention to or are “not convincing”.

  2. The source of knowledge for the conviction on which rests “self-confidence” is past performance. Modelling (AK) people with “natural” self-confidence the one common denominator was how comfortably they could offer examples of where, when and with whom they did... This information, and the readiness with which they could access it, formed the basis of their self-confidence, “because they knew from past experience.”

This information from the past is projected into the future, ergo the confidence about handling the future.

The idea that all the answers we will ever need are contained within us actually comes from Socrates! It has also found its way into modern pop-religion with reasoning like: 'As God is in everything, therefore you are God' – the God within etc. This happens even in the interpretation of the NLP presupposition “You have all the resources you need within you”, which we think has been misinterpreted by Christians.

“I have had people talk with me saying 'that excludes God' (DC) – but if you instead think of it  as just meaning that you have the basic physiological-mental building blocks already in place, ready to be filled with whatever content necessary, then it makes more sense.  After all, “Elijah was a man just like us, he earnestly prayed for it not to rain and the skies did not open for three years.”1 He had GOD CONFIDENCE!

Data for self-confidence includes “inside-outside” cause-effect connectivity. This will be about how the person has “handled” things or people. (For the NLP-reader: you might have some fun denominalizing “handling” or by asking some questions about the unspecified verb “handled”). They come away with the conclusion that “I have handled it once, therefore I can do it again” or “it is similar to X, and I handled it then, therefore I can do Y”. Conclusion: “I can handle these events”.

“This takes us back to the ideas we are fed about self-sufficiency – in this country (UK) even the Burger King ads were 'Have it YOUR WAY!' Interestingly, I also believe the idea that we are responsible for everything in our lives (which is often taught on popular psychology courses) can feed this. I believe we are responsible for what WE think-do but I'm not sure how much more than that we can include. Of course, God gives us responsibilities as well – aiding the poor/challenging brothers/sisters, to run the race, to have faith.” (DC)

  1. Data includes conclusions about experiencing inside-inside cause-effect connections, i.e. how the person responds to, and “manages” their internal experiencing. Here the source of the data is “in experience” and refers to how the person processes information only about their own, personal experience (“down-time” as we in NLP would call it; also know as “trance”). Dealing with the internal stream of emotions (“dealing” is typically a process/nominalization applied to negative and intensely negative emotions) in a way that meets one’s criteria, would then lead to the conclusion: “I can handle me.” The correlate conclusion would be “I can change me,” and this is in conflict with some Christian issues like the gift of the fruit of the Spirit.

“I (DC) learnt this one the hard way after years and years of trying to beat temptations (and failures) from certain sins – using mostly NLP in my attempts. When I said to Jesus “I can't do it. I give up - “give me rest” - the pressure lifted immediately – and He did (James 4:6). What a paradox – in surrender to Him we find the strength to do what we could not ourselves do in ourselves. I now believe that while we probably can make all the changes we need to make with NLP/NS – if we belong to God - He expects us to turn to Him first – to grow our God-confidence. He is our loving Father, after all.

The nature of the information upon which rests the “self-confidence” is the seen, felt, heard, smelt and tasted. It is not about confidence in faith and hope: Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

”Having grown up in a technology focussed society, we have more of the scientific mindset in our frameworks of mind than we realise. 'I'll see it when I believe it' is a regular catch phrase. This is 'empiricism' – believing the evidence of the eyes and can be a stumbling block for Christians. However, Romans 1:19-21 accounts for this saying “what is known about God is evident from what is seen”. Personally (DC), I find the decision to believe that God is invisible etc comes from just that – a decision. I admit it is easy to say 'you just have to decide to believe'. We are not often called to make life-changing decisions so perhaps we are out of practice.  But, in the end, faith is a decision to believe things are one way when it seems they are going another! Own your power zones!”

  1. From a Christian perspective, the nature of the conclusions about my self-confidence can only be about the unholy trinity “me, mine, my” otherwise one has to factor in the unknown, or the not-me.

  2. The process called self-confidence would require a self-starting point with a strong preference for self- and inner-orientation. To move out of any of these two preferences would be met with resistance of discomfort, which is equally true of Christians when they have self-confidence as their source of deciding on whether they can do, or not. In other words, the values one operates out of would be guided mostly by “me-thinking” and “what my decision is” rather than run the check of “the Word says” which is, in a way, other-referencing and outside/objective source of information. To check this in yourself try operating for the day out of 'God-confidence'. Just as an exercise, conceptually, 'send' your consciousness to a place where you are willing to let the scriptures you have memorised speak to you in moments of decision. Get 'out of your self' as some people say. Check you level of internal comfort as you do this. Of course, this is only playing with an internal strategy but it may indicate to you know how much confidence you put in Him versus your 'self's ability to 'handle things' i.e inside your normal comfort zone. If you feel 100% great about letting God handle all things – congratulations!

Bringing God Home

Knowing about God does not mean we have a relationship with Him. Saying this another way: “Do I bring God “home?” Do I make God and His Word the highest authority in my life; the constant reference to what I do and how I do it? As I look into the future of my career, the significant people in my life, my dreams of what is still to come, my home, my world, how am I involving God in all of that?

The answers to these questions, we think, would give you an idea of the state of your God confidence.

You can also get some idea by reading - Experiencing the Touch of Jesus - as it will only work to its full extent if you believe in the infinite power of Jesus to affect and effect change in you from the heavenly realms. Technically speaking, if you have frames of reference which 'sit above' and cause you to doubt your confidence in God's abilities they may impede the working of this process.

I once asked a friend when he was taking about “loving Jesus” what does it mean when he says that, and how does he know?  His answer was: “I try to constantly imagine Jesus as a presence ready to appear. If I am doing something, and imagine I would look up and see Jesus, would I invite Him closer because I am glad to see Him, or will I be ashamed and say “not now Jesus”? Asking him where does he imagine Jesus, he immediately and comfortably said “in front, the right hand side.” The aliveness of our relationship with God is the issue here. It is decidedly different from thinking “about” God, to experiencing the reality of God where “I live”- a reality so real that talking and being with is as natural as one would talk to an absent spouse or other loved one. Knowing God exists, and conceptually understanding His attributes does not yet mean that He is a compelling reality infusing the every day doings, goings and decisions of the person. Believing in Christ, and standing fast in that belief, is remembering this “in-fused” reality of Christ/Holy Spirit and referring to it as the “highest” or “bottom-line” criterion for do or don’t, go or no-go.

(The next paragraph is for the person who is trained in NLP:)

We will recognise the reality of God in our experience to the extend that we become aware of the submodalities of the trinity in our experience. Not only that, but the coding of the content of our experience will be how we recognise the compelling reality of God as an essential part of our experience, ergo “having a relationship with God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit.”)

The Price Tag

God-confidence is not a given in those who call themselves “Christian.” To have a reliable, sustainable confidence in God requires many “against the grain” decisions as well as paying serious attention to ones “controlling source of authority”. Below are some starting points about the thinking-requirements for God-confidence.

  1. You must believe. Hebrews 11: 6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (NIV) It is possible to approach God in last instances after all 'self' efforts have failed. Turning to God only in times of immense trouble – God help me! It is indeed possible to have God confidence as a last-ditch effort. As opposed to having a frame of Psalm 24, “The earth is the Lord's and everything in it”, which means always referencing God when making decisions concerning things that are His i.e us!, our possessions etc. The common denominator is the reality of God, the “bringing God home”-reality of God! It implies faith in the reality of God as defined in the Bible, with only biblical guarantees for what is important in life, excluding any thoughts of God as the instrument to my personally defined outcomes.

  2. Your world hypothesis will include the invisible as well as the tension of seemingly opposite contents, for example, have faith and by the grace of God you believe; run the race and your strength is from the Lord; stand fast, clothe yourself with the armour - not in your own strength; etc.

  3. Sort for the Trinity: ask and expect to find answers about the Trinity in the events and experiences of your life. Organise your understanding with reference to, and as your source of authority, the Word of God. The dynamics as well as the end-result will be defined in terms of the plan of God’s will.

  4. Sort for biblical/outside source of authority. We are committed to an “objective truth,” a truth not defined by me, and its source is outside of the boundaries of the reality as defined by me. Curtis and Eldredge in their The Sacred Romance makes the point that this life is not our party, it is God’s party.

  5. Attention direction: others. Rick Warren in his Purpose Driven Life in referring the one of the 5 important tasks of the Christian, namely service, emphasises that serving God is by also serving others with the mindset of a servant (p.264 ff). Ro 15:1 “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.” 1Co 10:33 “just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.”


God-confidence is an ongoing process and not something one has or have done once for all, it is not a nominalization. God-confidence would seem to correlate well with certain sorting styles and frames, which puts God as the controlling authority in the midst of our daily life. It is not only a source of decision-making, it is also a fallback position where ultimate wisdom for what and how is found. It is one aspect of exploring the meaning of “a living relationship with God.” It is subscribing to a logic that makes no economical sense (as Philip Yancey points out in his remarkable “What is so Amazing about Grace?”) but relying (holding) on that logic with its tension of seeming opposites.  It is repeatedly making the discovery of the “truth” and internal consistency of these seeming opposites, and to be amazed again and again.

John piper in his “Desiring God” (2nd ed. 1996; Intervarsity Press) says, “the Christian…has discovered that self-confidence will never satisfy the longing of his heart to overcome finitude.

He has learned that what we are really made for is not the thrill of feeling our experience increase, but the thrill of feeling God’s power increase-conquering the precipices of un-love in our sinful hearts.” (p.120)

Author Contact Information:

Doug Cartwright


Armand Kruger



2004 Armand Kruger and Doug Cartwright All rights reserved.