THE DOWN SIDE OF BEING SURE

If you’re anything like me, I know you like to be sure about things. We like to be confident, knowledgeable, and self-assured. We like being right about things. And when we know we’re right a lot of us savor a fight, a show-down, to prove we’re right.

I just hate it when I’m not sure! Worse yet, I hate it when I work hard to make sure I’m sure and, after all the time and effort trying, I still end up not being sure at all.

Like I said, we like being confident about things. We don’t like the unknown. We want to know what’s real and true. We want to be right. Believing we’re right is nice. But it’s not enough. We want to know beyond all shadow of a doubt that we’re right.

But as commendable as that desire may be, the down side of being sure is this. Being sure isn’t necessarily the same thing as being right. It’s nice to be sure. But just because we’re sure doesn’t automatically mean we’re right.

That sounds oxymoronic, doesn’t it? After all, we equate being sure with being right. We like being sure! And when we’re sure about something we automatically assume we’re right.

But are we really? Not necessarily. Not always. Think about it. Dig into the vast hard drive of your memory and see if you can recall a time when you thought you were right, but weren’t. While you ponder on your own life’s experiences I’ll like for us to look at a life experience of a mortal such as ourselves. His name is Hananiah.

Now Hananiah was a prophet in Judah. He lived during a very tumultuous time in Jewish history. The  Babylonians have attacked and subjugated the Jews.  Jerusalem has been plundered. The rich and the noble, along with tens of thousands of Jews, have been carried away captive to Babylonia. Only a few were left behind in Jerusalem. Through the Babylonian King’s good grace, a Jewish King was installed and allowed to rule in Jerusalem. There were three such kings and the last of these was King Zedekiah.

Anyways, throughout this whole ordeal—even before the Babylonians descended on Jerusalem—the prophet Jeremiah, among other faithful prophets of the Lord, advised the King to surrender to the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and avoid needless bloodshed. Judah’s fall and captivity was ordained of the Lord and any resistance to Nebuchadnezzar would be futile.

Naturally, the prophet’s advice didn’t go over well. It was treasonous and unpatriotic, to say the least. And besides, there were prophets aplenty who advised the King to disregard Jeremiah’s doom-and-gloom approach to life.

Hananiah was one of these prophets. Four years into Zedekiah’s eleven-year reign, Hananiah stood up in the Temple and prophesied aloud, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon.  (3)  Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon.  (4)  I will also bring back to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, declares the Lord, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon (Jeremiah 28:2-4).

Wow! This was great news! It was exactly what the nation needed to hear in such dismal, depressing times. Even Jeremiah jumped with elation and declared, Amen, Hananiah! May your words come true indeed!

But Jeremiah knew better. He’d heard from the Lord and what the Lord told him stood in stark contrast to Hananiah’s uplifting prophecy of hope. Yet hear now this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people.  (8)  The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms.  (9)  As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet (Jeremiah 28:7-9).

Here were two men of God with two very different, conflicting, prophecies. Both prophets claimed to speak for the Lord. Both preceded their prophecies with a thus saith the Lord. And both men were utterly sure of themselves!

In fact, Hananiah was so sure that he was right that he took the yoke that Jeremiah wore around his neck and he broke it and said, Thus says the Lord: Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within two years (Jeremiah 28:11).

How did Hananiah get to this point of confidence and assurance? He was so sure of himself!

Yet, we know in hindsight, he was miserably, tragically, wrong.

Sometime after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke-bars from off the neck of Jeremiah the prophet, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah:  (13)  “Go, tell Hananiah, ‘Thus says the Lord: You have broken wooden bars, but you have made in their place bars of iron.  (14)  For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: I have put upon the neck of all these nations an iron yoke to serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they shall serve him, for I have given to him even the beasts of the field.'”  (15)  And Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie.  (16)  Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the Lord’ (Jeremiah 28:12-16).

In two months’ time, Hananiah was dead (Jeremiah 28:1, 17).

Hananiah was so sure of himself! But he was wrong in spite of the fact that he was sure! Which is to say, it’s possible to be wrong about something that you’re sure about.

Don’t get me wrong here because I’m not knocking being sure. I think we all should be sure, if not absolutely sure and confident, about the things we believe, the decisions we make, and the actions we take.

What I’m asking is, What makes us so sure about the things we’re sure about? How do we get to this point of surety, confidence, and certainty?

  • We can have the facts to back us up. The evidence. The proof. But the facts, evidence, and proof can be misleading. They can be mis-interpreted. Tampered with. The people who supply us with the facts, the evidence, and the proof can distort and manipulate the truth. People lie in order to conceal the truth.
  • Circumstances can be so convincing and fool us into faith and surety.
  • A person with charisma inspires confidence. But charisma is a poor determinant of the truth. Ever heard of Jim (James Warren) Jones?
  • Majority opinion or the unanimous voice of others can fill us with confidence and boldness. But people can be wrong and the majority likewise. The majority and unanimity of the masses are not a reliable gauge of truth or right.
  • Many of us go by logic. If it makes sense, then it’s right and true.
  • If it’s scientific or if it can be scientifically proven, then it’s right and true.
  • Sometimes, wealth and power imbue us with confidence.

If you do what I just did, that is, stop and think about all the ways you get confident and become sure of yourself; I think you’ll understand the basis, source, or reason for your confidence. And you can gauge the real strength or weakness of your confidence.

So let’s look at the diversity of opinions and beliefs that we’re confronted with. The atheist mocks and decries the existence of God. The Satanist insists Satan is God. The evolutionist has a scientific explanation for the origin and diversity of life. The rationalist has an air-tight logical argument against faith. The secularist disproves the Bible. The skeptic insists there’s no heaven or hell or judgment. The ecumenicalist claims all roads, all religions, lead to God. Each religionist adamantly insists that his religion is the only true, right religion. The Christian sticks by the Bible and decries everyone else to be wrong, deceived, and damned.

Each one, like Hananiah, is so sure of himself. There is no entertaining the possibility of being wrong. No matter what each one of us believes, we’re sure about what we believe. And because we’re sure, then we’re right.

But, as in the contrast between Jeremiah and Hananiah, two persons with two very divergent and contradictory views can’t both be equally true or right. One is true and one is false. One is right and one is wrong.

So how do we tell who’s right or wrong? Jeremiah said, As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet (Jeremiah 28:9). In other words, when what we believe or say comes to pass—or doesn’t—then we’ll know who’s right and who’s wrong.

You’ve heard of the adage, you’ll just have to wait and see. In other words, we won’t really know for sure until it happens. Or doesn’t. It’s like God’s saying, Okay. If you won’t believe Me or the Bible, I guess you’ll just have to wait and see who’s right and who’s wrong.

How long must we wait? Well, when it comes to proving the existence of God, of heaven, and hell; or disproving it; when it comes to proving the truthfulness of the Bible, or disproving it; we’ll all have to wait till we die to know for sure. If perchance we awake after death and find ourselves face to face with God, then we’ll know that Christians got it right after all. If we live on after death and find ourselves standing before Buddha, then we’ll know that all the world should have listened to Buddha and none other. If we don’t awake after death and aren’t conscious in some other world or kind of existence, then we’ll all know that the atheists were right after all.

But, until history or reality proves us right or wrong, we nevertheless press on with a remarkable confidence that we’re right. How can we be confident in something that hasn’t yet been proven right or hasn’t yet come to pass?  Say what you will, but I say this. Until we’re proven right or wrong, we only believe we right. All confidence and surety is a matter of faith. The Christian, the atheist, the evolutionist, the rationalist, and all the others—whether they will admit it or not—only believe they’re right. They can’t prove it until history or reality proves them right or wrong.

I’m a Christian. I believe unfailingly in the Divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. And I believe the Bible is always right. I would like to say I believe I’m right. I’m not gonna say I’m right because I’m honest enough to say that there’s been times when I’ve been wrong. Even when it comes to the Scriptures, there have been times when I believed I was right, I was Biblical; but was later shown to be unscriptural and wrong. So the most I will say at this time is, I believe I’m right.

The point is, our confidence or assurance, that state of being absolutely sure and adamantly convinced, is a matter of faith.

You can believe in your logic, your science, your religion, or whatever it is you firmly believe. I’ll stick to my faith in God and the Bible. We are all persons of faith. We’re all alike in this one respect. But, unfortunately, we’re not all right. You may think otherwise and be absolutely convinced you’re right. Hananiah was similarly convinced. And if I’ve succeeded in showing you anything, I hope you’ll see in all honesty—both from the Scriptures and from your very own life’s experiences—that  it’s possible to be sure and still not be right. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

1 Comment

  1. queenlorene said,

    January 2, 2013 at 7:35 PM

    I understand what you say. And you give convincing arguments to a very controversial topic. The example of Jeremiah and Hannaniah is a very interesting example. And hindsight is 20/20–but cant be misconstrued as well. So testing a surety after the fact is not always an absolute either. But can you really apply the questionability of truth and right and sure everywhere? It undermines faith a bit in my opinion. There are real, concrete reasons for Christianity, not just faith. In any case, I appreciate you making me think!


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