Nichols, Stephen J. A Time for Confidence: Trusting God in a Post-Christian Society. Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2016. 152 pp.
The culture of the United States is increasingly post-Christian. With the legalization of same-sex marriage and the prevailing winds of transgenderism working alongside a secularized culture that has a disdain for Christianity’s exclusivism and sexual morality, Christianity is not only being dismissed; it’s being warred against in many respects. With the temptation to cower, cave, and capitulate under such cultural pressure, Stephen Nichols’ sets forth a gospel-centered response for Christians to employ in A Time for Confidence: Trusting God in a Post-Christian Society.
In A Time for Confidence, Nichols contends that American Christians see “cultural shifts and capitulations and we instinctively know they only portend worse things yet” as we believe, like Chicken Little, the sky is falling and world is coming to an end (15). Yet, he declares, “But this is not a time to cower, cave, or capitulate. It is a time for confidence…Our confidence must be in God. All else will disappoint.” (15). Nichols proceeds to argue that Christians ought to be confident in God, the Bible, Christ, the Gospel, and Hope in these days.
Right off the bat, Nichols’ words are prophetic as he calls American Christians to vision over sight (2-3). Sight is the temporal realities and circumstances viewed with our eyes. Vision looks beyond immediate circumstances to the eternal realities revealed in the promises of God. Seeing breeds fear as things appear out of control, but gospel vision breeds confidence knowing that all things work together for good for Christians because of Jesus Christ crucified, resurrected, and reigning as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rom. 8:28). Nichols accurately contends, “[W]e need to cultivate our vision” (3).
In chapter 2 on Confidence in God, Nichols provides great encouragement for Christians as he walks through the power of God displayed in Isaiah 40. Isaiah 40 was given to an exiled Israelite people in the midst of bleak circumstances in a foreign place with a hostile culture. Yet Isaiah 40 comforts as it reminds God’s people that he cares for us at all times and in all circumstances, even as he meets us in mundane things like walking (Is. 40:31). “It is in the activities of our lives and the events of our lives that God shows Himself and proves Himself able” (41). Nichols points us to the cross to remind us how the Lord has proven his power for us most clearly. We can walk and not faint and run and not grow weary because “[t]here is One who did faint for us” and “[t]here is One who was crushed for us” (42). “Because of that demonstration of God’s power at the cross and at the resurrection, we are His people, we are His lambs. God will gather us up in His arms,” and we can have confidence no matter what because “God will never disappoint” (42).
Within the book, Confidence in the Bible is the weakest chapter. Nichols rightly posits that the Bible is under attack as he gives examples of such hostility on pages 43-50, even as he urges Christians to take confidence in Scripture. Pages 50-56 reaffirm the Christian position that the Bible is the word of God. Pages 60-66 then go on to articulate a mini-theology of Scripture, characterizing the Bible as authoritative, inspired, inerrant, infallible, and sufficient. However, the chapter lacks a demonstration of that which is under attack: the trustworthiness of Scripture. The chapter would be bolstered and the reader would be left with a greater confidence in Scripture if the reader was shown that God’s promises trustworthily “find their yes” in Christ and that trusting the Bible’s wisdom results in joy both in this life and the one to come (2 Cor. 1:20).
Not be overlooked, chapter 5 instructs Christians not to overlook confidence in love, humility, the church, and prayer before zeroing in on confidence in hope and identity. Rooted in 1 John 3:1-3, Nichols assures us we can be confident of our identity because of Christ. Once children of wrath, we are now children of God. We’ve been given all rights and privileges as sons because of our crucified-yet-resurrected elder brother, Jesus, which gives us sustaining hope for the future knowing that we will one day be like Jesus, pure and resurrected, when he appears. The resurrection rescues us from our performance-driven identity struggles as it frees us to rest securely in the adoptive love of God for us in Jesus.
A Time for Confidence is a short, poignant, easy-to-read, gospel-centered, Christ-exalting book that calls American Christians in our day to lift our gaze beyond our immediate circumstances to our exalted Lord. As we see all things not with sight, but with gospel vision through the lens of the victorious King and kingdom of God, we will find confidence that not even the gates of Hell will overcome. And like the Apostle Paul, we’ll be able to confidently say, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Php. 4:11). May this book help it be so.