God is Trustworthy, Part 4: What Does Real Trust Look Like?

I want the real thing.  Nothing fake.  Nothing counterfeit.  Just the real thing.

Unfortunately, I rarely can afford the real thing.  I don’t wear designer clothes.  My wedding ring contains the only diamond I own.  My beauty regimen consists of cheap products from Target. No fancy name-brand cosmetics here.

There is one thing I cannot afford to have if it is counterfeit:  Trust.  Specifically, trust in God.  I can’t afford fake trust.

I have tried fake trust before.  It has looked like this:  I encounter a trial.  I say the appropriate Christian cliche to myself or others, “I trust the Lord.”  Then, I quickly fall into worry, anger, demands to get  my own way, hurtful responses towards those I love, and self-protecting solutions–all which compound my problems.  Sound familiar?  Probably.

The problem with this kind of trust is that it always fails.  My faith falters.  Peace eludes me.  I make sinful choices.  Why?  This trust fails because regardless of what I say, the object of the trust is ME, and I will fail me every time.  The object of my trust must be GOD, and GOD ALONE.  Apart from Him, I will never walk wisely and victoriously through suffering.

Throughout the Scriptures, we see that biblical trust is active reliance on the one true God.  Think of Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and Ruth.  Consider Samuel, David, Elijah, Daniel, and Esther.  Remember Mary, John the Baptist, Peter, Mary Magdalene, Stephen, and Paul.  These are just a few of those who have gone before us, walking wisely in this world by not trusting God merely with their WORDS, but with their ACTIONS.  Though sometimes strong or weak, their trust was genuine.

Genuine biblical trust is a combination of knowledge, belief, attitude, and action:  Knowledge of the character of God, Belief in the truthfulness of who God is and what He is like, an Attitude of humble confidence in the Lord, and the Action of submitting to God’s care–“casting all your anxiety upon the Lord, because He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7)

“So,” you may be asking, “HOW am I to ‘cast’ my cares on the Lord?  HOW am I to respond to a trustworthy God?  What does trusting God look like in every day life?” 

To answer these questions, I encourage you to read and print the following list, and then put it somewhere you will see it regularly.  When you find your mind wandering (or marching) down the path of worry and despair, turn around and follow this path of active trust as you “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”  (II Corinthians 10:5):

1.  Acknowledge and believe the truth about God’s character.  Recount the attributes of God.  Remember His deeds of faithfulness throughout the Scriptures, in your own life, and in the lives of people you know.  Literally list all the ways that He has been faithful.  In prayer, begin thanking Him for who He is and what He has done.  If in your distress you are unable to do this, pray the Psalms.  “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

2.  Confess your unbelief and lack of trust in Him.  Admit to the Lord your lack of trust.  Ask Him to forgive you for your unbelief, worry, fear, anger, etc.  Find rest and comfort in His promise that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (I John 1:9)

3.  Cry out to God for help.  Ask your Heavenly Father for a steadfast heart that is loyal to Him despite your circumstances; “Unite my heart to fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11)  Also, pray that He will move in your situation in very specific ways; “In everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)  

4.  Rely on the encouragement that comes from Scripture.  Read the Word.  Listen to it.  Memorize it.  Think on it.  You will be renewed as your mind is transformed by God’s Word.   His promises are the lifeblood for strengthening your faint heart.  If you are at the point at which you don’t know where to turn in the Bible, read any of the Psalms, stopping to think and pray through the verses that encourage you in your situation.  “My soul weeps because of grief; Strengthen me according to your Word.” (Psalm 119:32)

5.  Obey God’s revealed will in Scripture.  If God has given a command or a principle in Scripture that applies to your situation, then obey it.  Glorify the Lord in your life by doing what He commands.  Accept God’s wisdom, even if it is hard or doesn’t make sense to you.  Obey His Word, and leave the results to Him.  “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people, and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.” (Jeremiah 7: 23)

6.  Focus your attention on God and the eternal.  Focus . . . refocus . . . and focus again.  We are creatures of habit who often return to trusting ourselves and focusing on our troubles.  If that is where you find yourself, walk again through this path of trust that I have outlined.  Trusting God wholeheartedly takes practice!  Direct your attention to the unseen:  who God is, what He has done, His promises, His commands, His salvation, His glory that awaits you, and His very presence today.  “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:2-3)

Fully trusting God in the midst of our troubles can seem like an impossibility, especially when our trials appear insurmountable and our own weaknesses seem over-powering.  But, God does not command us to do anything that He will not give the grace, strength, and ability to accomplish.  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.”  (Psalm 46:1)   

Lean hard on Him.  He will not fail you.

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God is Trustworthy, Part 3: Seeing Him as He Really Is

My mother has kept the same article from a church newsletter in her Bible since the 1970s.  On the yellowing paper with tattered edges are the reflections of a woman who attended my mother’s church.  She wrote from her hospital bed, and her name was Linda Harry—a woman who walked wisely.

Linda had a rare environmental disease that required her to live in a sterile environment.  She was allergic to almost everything.  In fact, because she was allergic to printer’s ink, her church family wrote out most of the Bible for her—in pencil.  Linda’s condition was so severe that it would sometimes throw her into a coma.  One of few foods she could eat was raw goat’s milk cheese.  No cow’s milk was allowed.  Tragically, on one occasion she ate some goat’s milk cheese that was supposed to be pure, but it wasn’t.  It contained 5% cow’s milk.

Linda became violently ill and could not tolerate any food for two weeks.  She was flown to a Houston hospital for special tests and treatments, and from there she wrote her thoughts about this significant setback in her life.  Linda’s words were printed in her church newsletter back in California:

“I began to ask God why.  Why hadn’t He protected me from this?  If I’ve   learned one thing from my beloved Prophets, it’s whenever I ask why, first look at God’s character and then His works done in the past.  So I began to analyze it.  (1)  God is sovereign.  Therefore, it was not outside of His control to have prevented all this.  So, it was part of His plan.  (2) God knows everything.  So, He knew there was cow’s milk in it, and He knew what it would do to me.  It was no surprise to Him!  (3)  God is all-powerful.  So, He could have prevented this whole thing in any number of ways.  (4) God is love.  He really cares about every detail of my life, even this.  So, He must know it is for my highest good, or He would and  could have prevented it.  He only gives in love—no other choice.  (5)  God doesn’t change.  If it was true once, it is always true. He is always faithful, the same as He was to Israel.  (6)  God is merciful.  I can never know what other options were available for God to choose from, but that His mercy was more than sufficient for me.  He cares tenderly and intimately for me in His great mercy, protecting me from what I could not take.  This far—no farther.  With a God like that on my side, the why doesn’t seem very necessary to know because I know Him.

To trust God, we must have the correct view of Him.  It cannot be stressed enough:  if we have a faulty view of God, then our faith in Him will be weak and easily shattered. We must acknowledge and believe the truth about God’s character in order to steadfastly trust Him in our suffering.  As King David wrote in Psalm 9:9-10, “The Lord will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble; and those who know Your name will put their trust in You.  For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.”

In her reflections, Linda mentioned several attributes of God that are essential to one’s understanding of the trustworthiness of God.  I would like to share with you definitions of these attributes from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine.  Meditate on these attributes and related Scriptures.  Think on God in all His glorious wonder and perfection, and your trust in Him will be strengthened as you see Him as He really is–even in your suffering.

God is . . .

Sovereign (Providence):  “God’s sovereignty is his exercise of rule (as “sovereign” or “king”) over his creation” (217).  “God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and directs them to fulfill his purposes” (315).

“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps”  (Proverbs 16:9)

All-Knowing (Omniscience):  “God fully knows himself and all things actual and possible in one simple and eternal act” (190).

“God is greater than our hearts and knows all things.” (I John 3:20)

All-powerful (Omnipotence):  “God’s omnipotence means that God is able to do all his holy will” (216).

” You have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm!  Nothing is too difficult for you.” (Jeremiah 32:17)

Love:  “God’s love means that God eternally gives of himself to others” (198).

“The life which I now live I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) 

Unchanging:  “God is unchanging in his being, perfections, purposes, and promises” (163).

“The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart from generation to generation.” (Psalm 33:11)

Merciful:  “God’s mercy means God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress” (200).

“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Exodus 34:6)

Next post in God is Trustworthy series:

“So, What Does Real Trust Look Like?”

God is Trustworthy, Part 2: Is God Trustworthy in Your Suffering?

Life can be hard.  It can be overwhelming and downright ugly.

Among the women I know well, I have seen the tragedies of divorce, the death of loved ones, broken family relationships, unemployment, cancer, chronic pain, suicide attempts, loneliness, and depression—just to name a few.  Difficulties and heartache abound everywhere I turn.  But, life also gets hard right here.  Personally, I have faced financial hardships, infertility, separation from family by thousands of miles, multiple moves, physical ailments, broken friendships, the never-ending exhaustion of motherhood, and my own internal struggles with anger, discontentment, and guilt.  Like I said, it can get rather ugly.

I’ll never forget one of those “ugly” times in particular.  It was during our seminary years.  The strain of graduate school, financial struggles, secondary infertility, and complete exhaustion had taken their toll.  I found myself in our small seminary-housing apartment bathroom desperately asking, deep in my soul, “Is God good?”

The question scared me to my core—not because I asked it, but because honestly, for the first time, I did not know the answer.  And, if I had been forced to choose an answer that very moment, I probably would have shaken a defiant, angry fist at the sky and screamed, “NO!”

The question I raise today is really the same question I asked that frightening morning several years ago. “Is God trustworthy in my suffering?”  “Is God trustworthy in your suffering?”

In the Scriptures, suffering in this life is assumed.  Trials are inevitable, and if your life is like mine, it can attest to that reality.  But, there is also another reality that shines gloriously above the dark clouds of experience, and it is this:  God is completely trustworthy in our suffering. 

Romans 8:28-39

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1.  God is Committed to You (Romans 8:28-31).  God is committed to working all things together for your good.  In God’s providential care, He is orchestrating all the details of your life in order to bring about what He knows is good for you now and for all eternity.  He is accomplishing His purposes for you from pre-history to post-history—from predestining you to be His child to glorifying you in his eternal Kingdom.  You are His.  You are part of His grand plan, and His plan will not fail.  He is completely devoted to seeing you through from the beginning to the end.  Verses 29-30 are not merely abstract theology about how God saves people, but rather they are the practical answer to your present sufferings:  Since God works out everything pertaining to your salvation from beginning to end, then you can also trust Him without reservation to be committed to care for you in the details of your suffering.

2.  God is Generous to You (Romans 8:32)  God did not withhold His Son, Jesus Christ, from you.  He did not bar Him from humbling Himself as a human being to walk this earth and to endure the punishment for your sin.  Rather, the Father purposely and lavishly gave His Son as your substitute to receive the wrath that you deserve for your sin.  Your greatest need is reconciliation to a holy God, and that same holy God met that need.  Regardless of the seriousness of your situation, all other needs truly pale in comparison to your need for salvation.  Since He generously gave His Son for your redemption, then you can also trust Him to generously provide for all your needs in your present suffering.

3.  God is Gracious to You (Romans 8:33-36)  As a Christian, you are no longer condemned for your sin, but you have received God’s gift of grace.  You have been set free from the law of sin and death because of Jesus’ atonement for you, and there is no one left to condemn you.  His grace to you is seen in his death, resurrection, exaltation, and intercession on your behalf.  As a believer undergoing trials, even your sins of doubting and complaining have already been covered by the atoning work of Christ.  The desperate questions of your frail heart do not cut you off from the infinite grace that forgives and sustains you.  Since God is gracious to you in your salvation, you can also trust Him to be gracious, forgiving, and merciful to you in your weakness as you encounter suffering.

4.  God is Bound to You (Romans 8: 35-39)  Can anyone separate you from the love of Christ?  No.  Can anything separate you from the love of God?  No.  Trials?  Hardship? Persecution?  Need?  Danger?  Evil?  Enemies?  Space?  Death?  Any created thing?  Anything at all?  NO.  Although you face suffering “like a sheep to be slaughtered,” He has made you a victorious conqueror to prevail and persevere through trials until the end.  The victory is not yours.  It is His, and you share it with Him because you are bound to Him by His love.  It is He who guards, protects, and keeps you.  His love for you cannot be diminished or severed.

The argument of Romans 8 is from the greater to the lesser:  Since God is absolutely trustworthy in all aspects of your salvation, you can wholeheartedly trust Him in your present suffering.  If He is trustworthy in the big thing, then He is trustworthy in the small things.  The promises of God for your salvation in the past, present, and future, are guaranteed, and so you can trust in His promises that He cares for you even now.  “Is God trustworthy in your suffering?”  The answer is a resounding and eternal “YES.”

To learn about the good news of salvation in Christ, please click HERE.

God is Trustworthy, Part 1: A Woman Who Walked Wisely

I don’t remember her name.  I don’t even remember her face.  But, I will never forget what she said.

I was twenty and full of energy and eager anticipation of what my life would be.  She was probably in her late eighties.  Weak.  Alone.  By all appearances–finished.

I met her many years ago when I visited Exeter, England with a small group of students from my college.  We had traveled to England to assist a few churches with evangelism, church services, vacation bible schools, and whatever else may have been needed.  On one Sunday after the evening service, a very small church hosted a time of fellowship in the church basement for us to visit with their members.  After going through the sparsely populated line to fill my plate and teacup, I turned and noticed a frail, elderly woman, with her cane in hand, sitting alone against a wall.  I pulled up a chair to visit and sip our tea together.

As I asked a few polite questions, with a feeble voice and dim eyes she began to tell about her life.  She was a long-time Christ follower and member of her church.  Exeter, England was the only home she had ever known.  It contained the history of her life, her parents’ life, and generations before them.  Her years had been blessed with many siblings and friends, a husband, and children.  But, what drew me to her story was her explanation of her now.  Now she was alone.  Now, she was the only one left living.  Now, even her children had passed on.  Now, her cup of contribution and influence on the world had dwindled to the last few drops.  Her now was sad, and the pain etched on her spirit was evident in her eyes.  Although I do not remember the details of her story, what happened next in our conversation will forever be indelibly etched on my spirit.

Suddenly, she looked up from her teacup, and an “aliveness” flashed in her eyes that I had not yet seen.  A smile that captured her once-known youthfulness quickly crossed her face.  She raised her arthritic hand and with a gnarled finger emphasizing each word said, “But, HE hasn’t failed me yet.  HE HASN’T FAILED ME YET!”

Hmm.  Whenever I tell this story, this is when I always just have to stop.  Swallow the lump in my throat.  Think.  Learn.

“I have been young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken.”  (Psalm 37:25)

God is trustworthy.  He always has been, and He always will be.  He is worthy of our trust.  What an understatement.

When is He trustworthy?  Is He trustworthy in my situation?  How is God trustworthy? How can I know He really is?  How am I to respond to a trustworthy God?  What does trusting God look like in my every day life?  These are important questions, not impossible ones.  Over the next few weeks I will be exploring and sharing the answers from God’s Word–sharing with you and reminding myself of the Truth.  Join me as we become Women Walking Wisely.

The Weaver

My life is but a weaving between the Lord and me;

I cannot choose the colors He’s working steadily.

Oft times He’s weaving sorrow, and I in foolish pride  

Forget He sees the upper, and I the underside.

Not til the loom is silent and the shuttles cease to fly

Will God unfold the canvas and explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful in the Weaver’s skillful hand

 As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.

In church this morning, a few lines from the poem, “The Weaver” (by Grant Colfax Tullar, b. 1869), were mentioned.  My husband turned to me and gave me a smile, knowing that this has been my favorite poem since I first came across it in a student’s newsletter many years ago.  Whenever I read or hear it, I am encouraged to trust the great Weaver all the more in this life and for the life to come.  I love the poem for its vivid word pictures and simplicity, but I especially love it for always reminding me of the truth:

1.  God’s wisdom far exceeds mine. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became his counselor?  Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again?” (Romans 11:33-35)

2.  My trials are temporary, but God’s purposes and promises are eternal. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  (II Corinthians 4: 16-18)

3.  God is causing all things to work together for good, and His love for me is always steadfast and sure.   “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. . . For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 8:28, 38)

(For historical information on Tullar, visit http://www.boltoncthistory.org/granttullar.html.)