A Pleasing Trust
I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed.(2 Timothy 1:12)
Why is unbelief sin? To refuse to believe God is to be guilty of slandering His righteous character. It is to assume that either God does not know what He is talking about or that what He says is in fact evil. Either way we assault His divine integrity. Either His omniscience or His righteousness is brought into question.
But isn’t blind faith weak? Indeed it is. There is a great difference between faith and credulity. Credulity is gullibility, naïveté. It is based on superstition and irrational prejudice. To believe something with no reason for believing is not a virtue. But God does not require that. He asks us to believe in that which He utters in the fullness of light and with consummate evidence. He does not ask us to believe in a Resurrection without first bringing Jesus forth from the grave. He does ask us to trust Him for the future, but such trust is not blind. It rests upon God’s perfect track record. He has demonstrated over and over that His promises are certain.
If Satan can destroy our implicit trust in God, then his goal of seduction is achieved. We fall into the temptation of unbelief. Adam fell. He did not believe God. Jesus, the second Adam, lived by the Word of God. His trust in the Father could not be shaken. He did not yield to the tempter.
Before Jesus’ temptation, He heard the voice of the Father, who declared His approval of the Son: “I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). We can feel certain that God was also well pleased at Jesus’ victory in the temptation. Jesus chose well between the word of Satan the liar and the Word of God. He cast His lot with trust and belief instead of selfish doubt and skepticism. Both then and now, God takes pleasure in His children when they trust.
Romans tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God so all that God expects us to believe we are first told. In other words God never expects us to randomly without evidence to trust Him or believe. Even in salvation, we first hear the word, then God provides us the gift of faith and then we believe and receive. Everything God asks us to believe He first declares. Everything He declares has evidential proof.
When God declared to Abraham that He was going to give him and Sarah a son, God provided evidence. In Genesis 15 we find God reaffirming His promise to Abraham. Abraham then asks God for verification. Let me pause here and say that in spite of some teaching, asking for verification is not lack of faith. It is the logical response to the promise of God. God was not displeased with Abraham for asking. Instead God provided evidence to support the promise.
And the Lord brought Abram outside [his tent into the night] and said, “Look now toward the heavens and count the stars—if you are able to count them.” Then He said to him, “So [numerous] shall your descendants be.” Then Abram believed in (affirmed, trusted in, relied on, remained steadfast to) the Lord; and He counted (credited) it to him as righteousness (doing right in regard to God and man). And He said to him, “I am the [same] Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land as an inheritance.” But Abram said, “Lord God, by what [proof] will I know that I will inherit it?” When the sun was setting, a deep sleep overcame Abram; and a horror (terror, shuddering fear, nightmare) of great darkness overcame him. God said to Abram, “Know for sure that your descendants will be strangers [living temporarily] in a land (Egypt) that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. But on that nation whom your descendants will serve I will bring judgment, and afterward they will come out [of that land] with great possessions. As for you, you shall [die and] go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation your descendants shall return here [to Canaan, the land of promise], for the wickedness and guilt of the Amorites is not yet complete (finished).” When the sun had gone down and a [deep] darkness had come, there appeared a smoking brazier and a flaming torch which passed between the [divided] pieces [of the animals]. On the same day the Lord made a covenant (promise, pledge) with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt to the great river Euphrates—
Romans 4 says that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.
What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
This trust in God was not without struggle and sometimes failure. We read that though Abraham believed God, there came the moment when he and Sarah conspired to help the promise come to pass by their own means. We find Abraham having a son by the maid Hagar thinking that this was the way God was working. But God was faithful to His promise and in due time Sarah gave birth to the son of promise, Isaac.
Though like Abraham we may need confirmation of the promise and we might even try to provide our own substitute, God who has begun this good work in us will bring it to pass just as He promised. Those who please God will continue to trust Him and His promises even against all odds.
The failure of Eve in the Garden was that of mistrust. Satan was able to convince her that God was holding out something that she needed. He pressured her to know the difference between good and evil rather than trusting God to guide and instruct. This is the very same temptation that we all face. We are tempted to trust our reason, intellect and knowledge rather than to believe and accept the promises of God. And when we choose our reason over the Word of God, that is unbelief. The Pharisees chose their reason and knowledge over the acceptance of Christ as the Messiah. They reasoned that nothing good had ever come from Nazareth and certainly the Messiah would not come from there. They reasoned that the Messiah would be so holy that only the truly righteous could be in His presence and so when Jesus ate with sinners, they rejected Him as such. They reasoned that if they could kill Him, He would go away and they could continue life as before and to their surprise, their actions caused greater problems for them for He rose from the dead.
We, too, are tempted to trust reason and experience over faith and trust in God. Whenever life brings a challenge, we often perceive that the only solutions are those we have experienced before or those that are “logical” and yet the Bible is filled with unreasonable actions by God. Who ever heard of tearing down a strong wall with the blowing of trumpets and a shout and yet Joshua did. Whoever heard of taking down a giant with a stone and a sling, but David did. Whoever heard of someone being raised from the dead after four days in the grave, but Lazarus rose.
We quite often hear the phrase, “we’ve never done it that way” as though it couldn’t be done another way. Yet the Bible records a lot of “firsts.” Just because we have never seen it or experienced it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for the Bible says that “all things are possible to him that believes.”
So whatever challenge you are facing today, let me encourage to bring it before God and wait for Him to speak to it. Don’t try to solve it by yourself. By this time you have probably tried all that you know and all that others know and nothing has worked. Don’t give up, for when all hope seems lost, there’s God. Listen to Him carefully and follow His instructions even if they seem foolish to your reason. Much of God’s ways are contradictory to the norms of this world. Remember that we have been affected by sin and therefore our minds are not able to think godly. Ask God to increase your faith and to verify His promise. Open your Bible and search the Scriptures for the promises of God that pertains to your situation. Write them down and read them out loud to yourself frequently so that you are building up your faith. Pray the promises. And then wait for God to speak. Most of the things we struggle with didn’t start today. Most of them have been nagging us for a while so don’t panic if God doesn’t answer or move immediately. He knows the timing and the means to handle this thing. With all your heart trust Him. When doubt rises up take it to the Lord in prayer and confess it. Ask for His strength and help and you will find God pleased with you as you press to trust Him.
Dr. John Thompson