A Loaded Question
Behold, God s my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid. (Isaiah 12:2)
The question “Can you trust God?” has various possible meanings. Can you trust God? In other words, is He dependable in times of adversity? But the second meaning is also crucial. Can you trust God? Do you have such a relation with God,such a confidence in Him, that you believe He is with you in your adversity even though you do not see any evidence of His presence and His power?
It isn’t easy to trust God in times of adversity. No one enjoys pain, and when it comes, we want it relieved as quickly possible. Even the apostle Paul pleaded with God three times to take away the thorn in his flesh before he finally found God’s grace to be sufficient(2 Corinthians 12: 7-10) Joseph pleaded with Pharaoh’s cupbearer to get him out of prison (Genesis 40:14). And the writer of Hebrews very honestly states, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant” (Hebrews 12:11)
While writing this, I experienced one of those periods of adversity when I found it difficult to trust God. Mine happened to be a physical ailment that exacerbated a lifelong infirmity. It came at a very convenient time and for several weeks would not respond to any medical treatment.
During those weeks, as I continually prayed to God for relief, I was reminded of Solomon’s words: “Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?”(Ecclesiastes 7:13)
God had brought a “crooked” event into my life,and I became acutely aware that only He could straighten it. Could I trust God whether or not he straightened my “crook” and relieved my distress? Did I really believe that a God who loved me and knew what was best for me was in control of my situation? Could I trust Him even if I didn’t understand? That’s a question for us all.
There is a trust that goes beyond faith. A dear pastor friend of mine calls it the “state of indifference”. I remember my thoughts when I first heard that phrase. I certainly wasn’t indifferent about my situation. Indeed, I had the solution and the desired answer, I just needed God to agree with me and make it happen. Faith is believing that God has the ability to change our circumstances whether that is to bring healing to our body, meet some physical need, or solve some major problem. Faith is believing in who God is and what He can do and that we can be the recipient of His power and grace. I have had people to say to me, “If I could see God do one miracle, I could believe in Him and my faith would be strong.” What I’ve learned is that if you’ve ever experienced or seen a miracle, in adversity, there is a more intense struggle with faith and trust.
When my friend begin to define what this “state of indifference” was, I began to understand trust. He defined this place and coming to God with your situation, making your case to God, and telling Him your desired outcome. You find and present the promises of God to your need. This state is not one of throwing up one’s hands in hopeless despair or learning to live with the situation with no expectation that I could ever change. It is a consistent bringing that thing before God in expectant faith and prayer until God speaks. We are not demanding our way or walking away from God as though faith when it works somehow forces God to give us exactly what we ask. I often am grieved to hear those who say that it is lack of faith when things don’t turn out as expected. This “state of indifference” is boldly bringing our need before God, believing that He is able to meet it and then trusting Him with the outcome. It goes something like this: the Hebrew boys, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were facing the fiery furnace and the wrath of the king. Hear their words:
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to answer you on this point. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up!”
Their answer defines this “state of indifference”. “Our God is able to….. But even if He does not…..”
This is trust that goes beyond faith. Often God will say to us as He said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient.” It is not easy to trust God with all things especially in those painful times of adversity. Peter gives us a wonderful view this perspective:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test you [that is, to test the quality of your faith], as though something strange or unusual were happening to you. But insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, keep on rejoicing, so that when His glory [filled with His radiance and splendor] is revealed, you may rejoice with great joy. If you are insulted and reviled for [bearing] the name of Christ, you are blessed [happy, with life-joy and comfort in God’s salvation regardless of your circumstances], because the Spirit of glory and of God is resting on you [and indwelling you—He whom they curse, you glorify]. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or a thief, or any sort of criminal [in response to persecution], or as a troublesome meddler interfering in the affairs of others; but if anyone suffers [ill-treatment] as a Christian [because of his belief], he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God [because he is considered worthy to suffer] in this name.
1 Peter 4:12-16
The contemporary song, We Believe, captures the essence of this;
“In this time of desperation when all we know is doubt and fear, there is only one foundation, we believe! We believe in God the Father, we believe in Jesus Christ, we believe in the Holy Spirit, and He’s coming back again…..”
While we wait let us trust that God is fully aware of our circumstances. Let us trust in His great love for us. Let us trust His wisdom and grace. Let us bring our needs to Him with expectant faith and then trust a Him to work what is best for us in the light of His eternal view though we may not at this moment understand.
As we continue to feel our way through these dark times and as we struggle with all that’s taking place around us, let us trust that God is in the midst working “all things for the good.” As the church let us see the incredible opportunities we are being given rather than the challenges that we do not understand nor like. Our question may ought to be, “God how can we use this for greater growth of Your kingdom?” rather than “God when will all this end and we can get back to “normal”? I believe that these times are defining moments for us. Just as the fiery furnace was a defining moment in the Hebrews, so is this time of trial a defining moment for believers individually and the church collectively. We are being pushed to discover what is real and what is froth. We are learning that our faith and work as the church can function without some of the established ways. We are learning that our relationship with God is not defined by church activities but in the personal walk with Him even if we cannot be together corporately. We are learning how to be creative in sharing the message of the Gospel. I believe that we will either come out of this crisis with stronger faith, a definitive mission and purpose or we will either be so nominal that the church will have no effect on its world or that it will cease to exist. This is the time to trust while we don’t understand. This is no time to sit and wait for the return of the old norm. This is the time to tap into the creative power of God and ask the question that the crowd asked Peter on the Day of Pentecost,
“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart [with remorse and anxiety], and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what are we to do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent [change your old way of thinking, turn from your sinful ways, accept and follow Jesus as the Messiah] and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ because of the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise [of the Holy Spirit] is for you and your children and for all who are far away [including the Gentiles], as many as the Lord our God calls to Himself.”
Dr. John Thompson