Trust (Part 1)

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Copyright Apr. 5, 2013 by Sarah G. Pemberton

I was a freshman at a small, evangelical Christian college in New England. I can still hear former missionary /author Elisabeth Elliot Gren’s quiet, authoritative voice speaking to the students gathered for chapel that morning some 30+ years ago. This was a lady whose husband had been martyred, leaving her a young widow, with a toddler to raise alone, in the remote jungles of Ecuador. We were so mesmerized by her stories that one could have heard a pin drop:

“People often ask me, ‘Mrs. Gren, what is the most profound advice you can give to a young Christian, as the secret to spiritual success?’ …As a child, my siblings and I were not allowed to talk after going to bed. But we were allowed to sing hymns, as we drifted off toward sleep. One of our favorites was always, ‘Trust and obey; For there’s no other way To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey!’ That is the most profound advice I can ever give anyone.”

For anyone who has been a professing believer in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, for any length of time, trust in God is one of those foundational truths to which we reply, “Of course! ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding!’ Yet memorizing the Scripture, or the beautiful old hymn to which Betty Elliot referred, is much easier than learning how to live out of this foundational reality. It is the core of what it means to “be led” or “walk by the Spirit.” (Gal. 5)

I have walked with Jesus since the age of 9 ¾, been baptized in His Holy Spirit since age 10, and have had many wonderful experiences of God’s love and grace along the way. I know He has done many a deep, genuine, life-changing work in my soul. Yet now, nearly 44 years later, I am only beginning to realize how far short I fall in living out of this essential state of faith and trust that results in confident obedience the first time He speaks, every time. I am painfully and acutely aware that I am no better than the Israelites who died in the wilderness because of the slavery still in their minds to fear, anxiety, and lack of trust in the faithfulness and goodness of the God Who had delivered them miraculously from Egypt. The only thing which gives me greater hope than they is that [1] I am still breathing, and [2] I am under a New Covenant. Therefore, there is still hope for God to finish rebuilding my foundation of trust in Him. That has been the dry of my heart for many years, increasingly the past three or four.

So let’s look at this crucial concept from Scripture – trust – and how to put it into practical shoe leather. Here is a list of powerful Scriptures on trust, on which one might meditate and chew:

Lack of trust becomes a bad habit, when we grow up without a proper relationship with the Lord, especially when our human relationships are completely dysfunctional, and we lack good role models in healthy trust. The Israelites were enslaved for 400 years in Egypt, and the stories of God’s mighty, faithful works to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had become but dim memories and stories of the past. So, despite the miracles of the ten plagues, of the Passover, and of the parting of the Red Sea, Israel still revealed a lack of deeply-rooted trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness, for a full 40 years in the desert. It took one decade for each century of slavery to retrain a new generation to trust in God. Only two men (Joshua and Caleb) out of over a million original people passed the test of trusting God in the desert:

“Therefore, the Lord was full of wrath… against Israel, because they did not believe in God and did not trust in His salvation. Yet He… opened the doors of heaven, and He rained down manna for them to eat, and gave them food from heaven… He rained meat upon them… So they ate and were well-filled, and their desire, He gave to them… In spite of all this, they sinned and did not believe in His wonderful works.” (Ps. 78:21-32)

It is just as important to be reminded what NOT to trust, as Whom we should trust:

“Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us… Do NOT trust in oppression, and do not vainly hope in robbery. If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them.” (Ps 62:8, 10)

Trusting in anything of our own manipulative power of control is no better than trusting in witchcraft. “…For rebellion is as the sin of divination [or witchcraft], and insubordination as the sin of iniquity and idolatry…” [I Sam. 15:20-23]

Refusing to trust in the goodness and faithfulness of a God Who has demonstrated His mighty works, love, patience, and faithfulness repeatedly, is the Old Testament definition of wickedness. Again, it is not the sins of the ignorant, but of those who claim covenant, who have been such recipients of grace and mercy as to have no excuse, which are judged as wicked. This refers to the fulfillment of the warnings of Deuteronomy, to those who choose death, instead of life. But the one who stays in the place of trusting God’s covenant promises will find himself surrounded by mercy on all sides, like a castle wall:

“Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness [mercy] shall surround him.” (Ps.32:10)

When David says he hates those who trust in idols, he is not speaking of the ignorant pagans of the Gentile nations, but of his fellow Israelites who are supposedly in covenant with Yahweh, but who turn to every god but Him. It is the hypocrisy he despises:

“I hate those who regard vain idols, but I trust in the Lord… For I have heard the slander of many; terror is on every side, while they took their counsel together against me; they schemed to take away my life. But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your Hand. Deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.” (Ps.31:6, 14)

This next passage reveals that trust doesn’t just “come naturally” to some, but not to others. It has to be cultivated, as carefully as one would cultivate a successful garden (Matt. 13:1-33) Gardens do not bear fruit overnight, neither does faith nor trust:

“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell [stay, put down roots, abide] in the land [of God’s Promises] and cultivate faithfulness [faith in Him which results in trusting, consistent obedience]. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you [grant, fulfill, freely offer] the desires of your heart [He will cause your desires to righteously align with His]. Commit [hand over the charge, authority of] your way [the direction your life is headed] to the Lord; trust also in Him and He will do it [, i.e., fulfill the righteous desires of your heart, which you have entrusted to His wisdom, timing, and care].” (Ps. 37:3-5)

The psalms are full of admonitions about trusting in God. But in religious settings, we can become numb to what these admonitions actually mean. We may flippantly tell someone in trouble, “Oh, just trust God!” Few who make such statements so swiftly actually know how to live them, themselves. But prayerful study and meditation upon the actual, sometimes dire personal circumstances of people in the Bible, asking, “To which of these can I relate in my own life?” can open the door to our recognizing the strongholds of fear, anger, unbelief, or unforgiveness which hinder our deep, genuine trust in the goodness and faithfulness of God. Such meditation can also help us recognize the places of false trust in false “gods” by which we have been disappointed, and to understand why our attempts at trusting God fall short. This recognition is not revealed by the Holy Spirit merely to make us feel guilty, but to simply guide us back on track where we got lost on our spiritual journey and perhaps didn’t even notice it, until things began to go terribly wrong:

“How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? …How long will I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? …Consider and answer me, O Lord… lest my enemy say, “I have overcome him.” …But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness [and mercy]; my heart shall rejoice [celebrate] in Your salvation…” (Ps. 13:5)
“For the king trusts in the Lord [implication: not in his own earthly power and authority to make things happen his own way] And through the lovingkindness and mercy of the Most High, he shall not be shaken.” (Ps 21:7)

In Psalm 143, David is crying out to God in total desperation. The request for mercy in the morning, trusts that the light of God’s hope and promises will dawn, after this dark night of the soul:

“Answer me quickly, O Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide Yourself from me, lest I become like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear of Your lovingkindness in the morning. For I trust in You….”(Ps. 143:8)

Trust is cultivated by means of healthy, nurturing, primary relationships. Although this Psalm is used prophetically in the gospel of Luke to demonstrate Jesus’ trust in His heavenly Father even from conception, yet it speaks of the born-again faith of every believer, learning from the beginning of our faith to trust God to nurture us and protect us, providing everything we need, as we rest in Holy Spirit’s comforting arms:

“Yet, You are He Who brought me forth from the womb; You made me trust when upon my mother’s breasts. Upon You, I was cast from birth; You have been my God from my mother’s womb.” (Ps. 22:9; Lk. 1:35; Lk. 2:46-52)

Psalm 28:7 is best understood when we first envision its opposite meaning. When we feel vulnerable, unprotected, worn out and unable to go on, that is the time to pray this prayer; and as we worship, choosing to agree with His Word, rather than agreeing with our negative circumstance, the faith and trust will begin to grow within. He defends those who refuse to defend themselves by self-trust, but who cry out to Him, especially when they have no one to whom they may turn:

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.” (Ps. 28:7)

Not only can God be trusted to always do what is right, and to do it powerfully to save those who trust Him, but there is no boundary too far from His love and mercy in all of creation. We may feel alone or far from God sometimes, but that emotion is not telling us the truth:

“By awesome deeds, You answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation; You are the trust of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea.” (Ps. 65:5)

While in exile as a foreign captive – a challenging enough situation alone – Daniel was asked to do the impossible – to not just interpret the dream of the foreign, pagan king, but to tell the dream by divine revelation, so that the king would know the interpretation was from God, not just something made up to flatter him. The consequence for failure was to be death, and the king was already threatening his pagan prophets, conjurers, astrologers, and seers, who had been unable to do as he asked. Daniel sought God, not only for himself, but out of compassion even for these ignorant pagan counselors! That’s a pretty strong motivation for trusting the wisdom of the Holy Spirit! Not only did Daniel accurately reveal and interpret the dream, and save the lives of all the king’s counselors, but he got a promotion, as well:

“Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold, the Great God has made known to the king what would take place in the future; so the dream is true, and its interpretation is trustworthy.” (Dan. 2:45)

Psalm 91 is all about the many ways in which we can trust in God’s protection. It is the best fear, anxiety, and stress-relief medication one can take on a daily basis:

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, My God in Whom I trust!’ For it is He Who delivers you from the snare of the trapper, and from the deadly pestilence…” (Ps. 91:1-2)

Psalm 112 contrasts the peace and confidence of those who are freely generous, with the misery of those stingy people who are so fearful of never having enough for themselves, that they become angry and jealous of God’s generous saints who prosper unselfishly. But don’t be too quick to judge! How many of us have lived in fear of lack, which has caused us to rationally say, “I can’t give to such-and-such because I may not have enough money to _____.” The opposite attitude – giving money or service out of guilt-and-manipulation-motivation – is not truly trusting God, either, but is merely co-dependent, people-pleasing, performance-oriented, works-righteousness. Only peace in grace, to listen to and obey the Voice of the Lord from situation to situation, will give us generous hearts which do not fear how to pay the bills, nor how to survive a “tough economy”:

“Hallelujah! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord… He will not fear evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is upheld; he will not fear, until he looks with satisfaction on his adversaries. He has given freely to the poor… The wicked will see it and be vexed… The desire of the wicked will perish.” (Ps.112:1, 7-10; Pro. 11:23-31)

Psalm 115 compares the empty, useless, lifelessness of idols with the empty, useless, lifelessness of those who design and worship them. Those who worship false gods may look religiously impressive, even resembling that which is “real” on the surface; but like their gods, they have no real ability to communicate love or discern truth, to do anything of real consequence, to have real relationships, nor to go anywhere in this life without outward manipulation. Contrasted with this is an appeal to Israel to have real trust in the Only Real God, which produces real miracles, real protection, and genuine works of righteousness, rooted in Him:

“Their idols are… the work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak; eyes, but cannot see; ears, but cannot hear; noses, but cannot smell; hands but cannot feel; feet, but cannot walk… those who make them will become like them, everyone who trusts in them. O, Israel, trust in the Lord! He is [your] Help and [your] Shield!” (Ps. 115:8)

We all know cynics who question and scorn our faith. It is biblical to ask God to faithfully fulfill His Promises to put the scorners to shame:

“May Your lovingkindness also come to me, O Lord; Your salvation according to Your Word; that way, I shall have an answer for him who reproaches me, for I trust in Your Word.” (Ps. 119:42)

God assures us that nothing is mightier or more difficult to move than one who trusts in the Lord:

“Those who trust in the Lord are as Mt. Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.” (Ps. 125:1)

Yet the Lord also said:
“Whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it shall be granted him.” (Mk. 11:23)

The mountain of which Jesus spoke was the mountain of the Old Covenant failures and sins of Israel. In other words, only faith in God’s New Covenant Promises trumps even the mightiest trust based on God’s Old Covenant faithfulness.

Being merely religious never saved anyone. Trusting in the THINGS of God, like a good luck charm, [Acts 19:13-16] is not the same as trusting in the Lord Himself, which results in a changed life and character:

“Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord!’ …Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, and swear falsely and offer sacrifices to Baal, and walk with other gods that you have not known, then come and stand before Me in this House, which is called by My Name, and say, ‘We are delivered’? – that you may do all of these abominations? …Therefore, I will do to this House which is called by My Name – in which you trust, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers – as I did to Shiloh, …and I will cast you out of My sight…” (Jer. 7:4-14)

Jesus exposed hypocrisy of outward “righteousness” as a major root of judgment for an appearance of trusting God, which is really self-trust:

“He also told this parable to certain ones who trusted in THEMSELVES that they were righteous, and who viewed others with contempt:” (Lk. 18:9) [Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, praying in the Temple – the Pharisee boasting in his credentials, the tax collector confessing his sins and asking God’s grace and mercy.]

In the midst of God’s severe warnings to the Ammonites and to the Edomites of the coming judgment and destruction, God says, nevertheless:

“Leave your orphans behind; I will keep them alive; and let your widows trust in Me.” (Jer. 49:11)

He is a Champion of the desperate, not of those who think they have the means in themselves to “make it through the crisis OK.”

Compare this illustration of God’s discipline of His favorite, yet rebellious children, with Jesus’ promise, “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light…”:

“And Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh; but I will come over her fair neck with a yoke; I will harness Ephraim [Twice-Fruitful]; Judah [Praise] will plow; Jacob [Supplanter, Deceiver, Trickster] will *harrow for himself. Sow [invest by faith] with a view [prophetic vision, revelation] to righteousness [God’s character formed in us]; reap [collect the mature results] in accordance with kindness [God’s kindness leads to repentance; Rom. 2:4]; break up your fallow ground [Parable of the Sower, Mt. 13:4-8; 19-23], for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes to rain righteousness on you. [Eph. 2:1-10] You have plowed wickedness; you have reaped injustice; [II Cor. 9:6; Gal. 6:7-8] you have eaten the fruit of lies, because you trusted in your way [of doing things], in your numerous warriors [big, impressive armies; Ps. 4:4; 46:10; Neh. 8:11]. Therefore a tumult [because lack of trust in God produces chaos] will arise among your people, and all your fortresses will be destroyed… [II Cor. 10:3-7a] at Bethel [judgment begins with the House of God I Pet.4:17] because of your great wickedness.” (Hos. 10:11-15 NASV)

This above passage could be an entire sermon in itself. First let’s look at the meaning of the words themselves and break them down:
*harrow: noun
1. an agricultural implement with spike-like teeth or upright disks, drawn chiefly over plowed land to level it, break up clods, root up weeds, etc.
verb (used with object)
2. to draw a harrow over (land).
3. to disturb keenly or painfully; distress the mind, feelings, etc., of.

Jacob is left to “harrow for himself.” Other translations include: “Jacob will break up the clods.” (Recov. Version) or “Jacob must break up the ground.” (NIV)
God’s judgments against His Own Covenant People sound terrible, when expressed in terms such as being conquered, carried off into captivity, dying in war, having their land left desolate, etc. But God knows the alternatives are much worse in terms of eternal consequences, if He allows us to keep going in a direction of unrestrained sin. So it is His love which harnesses the power of our own foolishness, to be forced in humiliation to serve others whom we had not chosen as masters, because we would not willingly serve the Lord in trust and faith. If we fail to listen to a kind messenger, a cruel one will be sent. [Pro. 17:10-11]

Ironically, God used the exiles of Israel and Judah to sow seeds of righteousness and truth in the lands to which they were exiled, so that they could fulfill their neglected destiny to be a light of Truth to the Gentiles. All we have to do to see the good fruit of God’s judgment of Israel is to read the books of Daniel, Esther, Nehemiah, and Ezra, where we will see the beautiful fulfillment of this prophecy. Double Fruitfulness is harnessed [its stubborn will brought under control], and Praise [the spiritual rain of worshipful testimonies to the faithfulness and goodness of God] plows [loosens the ground of hardened hearts], while a Supplanter – once deceived by his own lies, yet hungry for a true, double-portion inheritance and blessing – breaks up the fallow ground of those hearts hardened by Satan’s lies, which previously could not receive the Word of God with any depth of soil to bear fruit. But now, under pressure in a foreign land, God’s people learn to become the true inheritance of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob which they were created to be. And a deeply humbled remnant finally returns a lifetime later to begin to embrace God’s Word with reverence and awe. God’s severe discipline of love produces trust. [Heb. 12:1-29; Rom. 5:1-6]

Our trust is not in our education to make our paths straight, nor in one’s high IQ, nor in self-made or “traditional” doctrines designed to “explain” why things go wrong, why prayers sometimes seem to go unanswered, etc. But true faith trusts entirely in the Lord Himself, even when life makes no immediate sense. It refuses to fill in answers where God has provided none. Such sincere efforts inevitably veer off from pure faith and trust in God’s promises, reducing them to less than He intended. (“Well, it’s just not always God’s will to heal…” or,”You just didn’t have enough faith…”) Trust doesn’t waste time trying to intellectually figure out anything beyond the parameters of God’s Word. Sciences cannot explain the answers to the difficult personal challenges of life. Only hearing the mind, will, and heart of the Father, through Scripture and through intimate Communion with Him, can do that:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Pro. 3:5)

Paul’s trust under persecution is a good example of this. He maintains a good attitude in prison, but he doesn’t just passively say, “I’ll just stay here as long as God wills…” Rather, he makes bold, yet humble, faith statements, envisioning himself being released soon enough:

“And I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall be coming to you shortly…” (Php 2:24)

The trustworthiness of the gospel is entirely rooted in that which is demonstrably of God, in both power and in character, rather than that which is merely speculative, or popular opinion[Titus 3:1-11]:

“But have nothing to do with worldly fables [myths, fairy tales, old wives tales, urban legends, unproven ideas] fit only for old women [i.e., those who are set in their ways, and not operating in the strength of the Lord]. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit; but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life, and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the Living God, Who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.” (I Tim. 4:7-10)

Jesus’ trust in the Father is our standard for trusting the Father ourselves:

“For both He Who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from One Father, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying ‘I will proclaim Your Name to My brethren; in the midst of the congregation, I will sing Your praise.’ And again, ‘I will put my trust in Him.’ And again, ‘Behold, I and the children whom God has given Me…’ (Heb.2:13)

The most powerful way I know to grow in trust and faith is to meditate on the promises of God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness. That is not merely memorizing Scripture, but chewing on it, with direct, constant application to any challenging situation one is going through. Applying a Scripture, as if it were written personally to you in that particular situation is the fastest way to cut through Satan’s ancient lie, of “Did God REALLY say…” (Gen. 3:1)

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One thought on “Trust (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: The Two Most Important Words in the Bible | LifeVesting

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