In God We Trust

Proverbs 3:5-6

There is a phrase imprinted on our money: “In God We Trust.” If only it were true, but from the spiritual condition of our nation, it’s more like the punchline to an inside joke – everybody knows what it says, nobody knows what it means. It would be better if it were imprinted on our hearts.

I’m sure every dad has played the game with their kids – Jump, I’ll catch you.  I built bunk beds when our kids were little, and I’m sure from the top bunk it looked like a long way down to the floor.  And they would stand on the top and I’d hold out my hands and say “Jump, I’ll catch you.”  And they’d start and stop and finally lunge off the bunk into my arms, squealing with delight.  And then, we’d do it again and again, until I wouldn’t even have to tell them – they knew I would catch them.  Part of our problem with not trusting God is that we haven’t jumped often enough to figure out that he will always be there to catch us.

Where did faith begin for you? And I don’t necessarily mean faith in God. Because faith is ultimately a matter of trust – you learn faith in God by trusting your parents, trusting your family, trusting your friends. Knowing that certain people will treat you right, and unfortunately, learning that there are other kinds of people in the world. We have to learn not to trust certain people. And all of that eventually comes together in determining whether we learn to trust God. 

In the Garden, Adam and Eve lived in complete trust and dependence upon God. He provided for their every need, there was never any question of his goodness and love for them. But God gave them one prohibition: they were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – and one consequence: on the day they violated that prohibition they would surely die.

And it was at this one point that Satan drove a wedge of distrust in between them and God. Do you remember the conversation? Satan asked the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

And with those words, Satan planted the seed of distrust. Is God withholding something good from us? Does God really have our best interests at heart?

That first sin, when they ate of the fruit that God had forbidden them, was not a violation of some arbitrary rule, but a violation of their trust in God. And from that moment on, death overshadowed that relationship.

And the truth is, that’s the problem with our relationship with God, as well. It’s not that we violate some rules that God has given us, but that we violate the trust between us. We don’t take him at his word, we distrust him when he tells us what we don’t want to hear, and we choose to rely on our own resources instead of God’s goodness and generosity.

Trust is the key element of every relationship, and when we violate that trust, we damage the relationship

Solomon wrote, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Prov 3:5-6)

Trusting in the Lord means that we follow him and rely on him, even when every fiber of our being says to follow our own instincts, even when we don’t understand and his demands don’t make sense.

That’s the story of Noah. God tells Noah to build an ark because he was going to send a flood to wipe all people from the face of the earth. In all likelihood, Noah had never seen a boat, had never seen an ocean, had never seen it rain. Everything God is telling him is without context or understanding. And yet, Genesis 6:22 says, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.”

Generations later, Abraham is living a comfortable life with Sarah his wife in the city of Ur, when God tells him to pick up and move to a place he’ll lead him. The Hebrews writer tells us Abraham “obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Heb 11:8)

We, on the other hand want everything spelled out and explained in detail. We won’t make a move unless it makes perfect sense to us, and we certainly aren’t going to invest ourselves in something unless we had a say in the planning.

There is a story in 2 Kings 5 that illustrates this kind of self-determining mindset powerfully:

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.

Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.” As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”

When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

What are the favorite phrases of a two year old? “No,” and “Me do it.” What is the favorite word of a three year old? “Why?”  Isn’t that what Naaman sounded like? Like a two year old who is asserting his self-dependence and a three year old, who won’t do something because he doesn’t understand the reason for it.

But you know that’s not the end of the story, because Naaman had some faithful servants who stopped Naaman and reasoned with him:

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel….”

Don’t you wish you had someone following around and every time you made a self-reliant, faith-less decision they stopped you and asked, “John, is that what you really want to do?”

Do you want a closer walk with God? Do you want to have greater faith in him? Trust him. Do what he says unconditionally. Don’t hold out, don’t wait, do it. Trust that what he says is for your good, with your best interests at heart.

There was a fad that swept the country a few years ago. It was the “What Would Jesus Do?” campaign. And it’s unfortunate that it was such a fad, because it trivialized one of the best theological filters you could ever devise. If you were to ask yourself of every situation, “What would Jesus do?” you would have the purest picture of trust possible. Jesus always acted in perfect love for people, in absolute trust in the Father. If you could always know what Jesus’ response would be – that would be what you should do.

And, while obviously we can’t always know what Jesus would do, we’ll get a lot closer to God’s will than asking “What sounds good to me?”

Trusting in ourselves is always short-sighted and short-lived…

Her car was stalled at the intersection, the hood was up, and she flagged him down to help.  "I can't get it started," she said.  "But if you jiggle the wire on the battery, I think it will work."  He grabbed the wire on the positive battery cable and it came off in my hand.  Definitely too loose.  "The terminal needs to be tightened up," I told her.  "I can fix it if you have some tools."  "My husband says to just jiggle the wire," she replied.  "It always works.  Why don't you just try that?" He said, "Ma'am, if I jiggle the wire, you're going to need someone else to do it every time you shut the engine off.  If you'll give me two minutes and a wrench, we can solve the problem and you can forget about it."  Reluctantly, she fumbled under the front seat and then extended a crescent wrench through the window of the old car.  In less than two minutes the wire was clamped firmly to the battery terminal, and the car started easily. And I thought how many times we try to get the "quick fix" from God.  "I have this problem, Lord, and if You'll just jiggle the wire, things will be okay.  I'm in a hurry, so let's just get me going again the quickest way possible."  But God doesn't want to "jiggle the wire".  He wants to take the time necessary to deal with my real problem and fix it. 

You will remember the Hebrews writer’s definition of faith: “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Heb 11:1)

Faith is living, not for this moment in this world, but with an eye on the eternal. Our actions aren’t based on the immediate gratification of our wants, but on God’s promise of what is yet to come. And I don’t have to tell you that takes a lot of discipline. It isn’t natural.

Our nature says live for the moment, grab everything you can right now, because you never know what might happen tomorrow. Faith says, live for eternity, because you absolutely do know what tomorrow might bring.

Jesus said it this way: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:19-21)

There in the Garden, Satan told Eve, “Don’t trust God, he’s holding out on you. You can be just like God if you’ll just trust yourself.” It’s an age-old battle still being fought within each of us.

The underlying lie in Satan’s temptation is that you are in control of your life and your destiny. He tells us if you don’t look after yourself, no one else will. But the resounding chorus of scripture comes back: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Cor 6:19-20)

Our human nature says, “Trust yourself.” Faith says, “Trust in God.” Every time you make a decision to trust God, you’re taking a step closer to him. That’s what James wrote in James 4:8, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”

God’s invitation to you isn’t to find yourself drowning in a sea of rules that can only leave you frustrated and in despair, but to be immersed in a relationship with him that brings life and hope and joy. When you are walking in faith with God, your focus is not on you with all of your weakness and failings, but on God who is always faithful.