How Can I Trust God?

How can I trust God_final (1)

(Image by James Best, (C) 2019, https://www.behance.net/gallery/82544295/Sermon-Illustrations-2019.)

The front of a woman’s red station wagon was crushed when an elephant at a circus sat on it.  The owners of the animal apologized, explaining that the animal, for some reason, simply liked to sit on red cars.

In spite of the damage, the woman’s car could still be driven.  On the way to the garage she was stopped short by an accident involving two other cars just ahead of her. When the ambulance arrived a few minutes later the attendants took one look at her car, then ran over to assist her. “Oh, I wasn’t involved in this accident,” she explained. “An elephant sat on my car.”

The ambulance attendants quickly bundled her off to the hospital for possible shock and head injuries, despite the lady’s vehement protests.

(Bits and Pieces, October, 1991, retrieved from https://www.sermonsearch.com/sermon-illustrations/6805/elephant-sat-on-my-car/)

Sometimes you don’t know who to believe!  Or whom to trust.  Good news – our God is trustworthy!

Trust in God is founded in faith and deepened with experience.

  1. We need faith to trust God (Proverbs 3:5-6).

CONTEXT: Proverbs three is a chapter that extols the benefits and value of wisdom.  There is a pattern in 3:1-12: the odd-numbered verses express the obligations of the person seeking wisdom and the even-numbered verses promise a reward for keeping those obligations.  We will focus on verses five and six explain the role of TRUST in our search for wisdom.

COMMENTS:

The word TRUST meant to rely on someone for security.  It is a confidence based on who God is, not on who you are.  TRUST IN THE LORD requires three things of the faithful wisdom-seeker.

First, TRUST…WITH ALL YOUR HEART (5).  The key word here is ALL.  Trust is not indicated in partial commitments, withholding some for self.

Second, LEAN NOT ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING (5).  There is certainly a practical side to wisdom, but that is not an aspect of the spiritual.  Truly wise people are not limited to the things they know because of training and experience, they know other things because God has revealed them.  God reveals wisdom in His word and by the Holy Spirit, working outside “common sense.”  If there is ever a conflict between worldly wisdom and divine wisdom, we must choose God’s wisdom.

Third, IN ALL YOUR WAYS ACKNOWLEDGE HIM (6).  Biblically, the word “way” can be equivalent to our word “lifestyle.”  It is the direction our choices take us.  The words WAYS and PATHS in this verse both refer to the character our decisions have created within us.  We encounter the word ALL again in v. 6.  We need to acknowledge God’s ownership of our bank accounts, home, family – everything.  If Jesus is not Lord over all, He’s not Lord at all.

The benefit of trusting God promised here in Proverbs 3:5+6 is HE WILL MAKE YOUR PATHS STRAIGHT.  As anyone who’s driven down a long straight prairie highway can tell you, it’s easier to stay on the road.  The promise of a “straight path” is a promise of a life that’s easier to live.  By way of contrast, Proverbs 2:15 + 9:18 uses the image of a crooked path as a sinful way through life.  These verses warn that crooked paths lead to death.

  1. We deepen our trust as we experience reliance on Him (Malachi 3:9-12).

CONTEXT: Malachi 3 warns that the Day of Judgment is coming and it will not go well for the Israelites because they have stolen from God by being unfaithful in their tithes and offerings.

COMMENTS:

Verse nine states the WHOLE NATION is UNDER A CURSE because they dared to rob God.  The Hebrew word used here for NATION typically referred to the pagan nations, not Israel.  This is a clue how upset God is with His people at this point.  Their failure to be obedient in the command to tithe is cast in the worst possible light: it is robbery, stealing from God! The penalty for robbing God is being CURSED by God.

Verses ten to twelve move away from the threat of curses to the promise of blessings if they would only obey God.  These verses emphasize the value of personal experience as a means of deepening our trust in God.  “TEST ME IN THIS” the LORD declared.

God called upon His people to do the right thing; to bring in THE WHOLE TITHE.  Upon the condition of their obedience  He promised to THROW OPEN THE GATES OF HEAVEN AND POUR OUT SO MUCH  BLESSING THAT YOU WILL NOT HAVE ROOM ENOUGH FOR IT.  He promised to prevent negative things like loss of crops.  He promised positive things like respect and success. The promise is that many blessings – material and personal – will be poured out from heaven to the degree that even the pagan NATIONS have to acknowledge Israel was BLESSED.

The word DELIGHTFUL makes a great promise sweeter still.  In Isaiah 62:4 God called Israel “Hepzibah,” which meant “my delight is in her.”

These verses affirm the reality that only those who take faith-based risks will ever know how trustworthy God truly is.  To put it another way, “If all you ever do is what you can do by yourself, you will never know how trustworthy God is.”

Trust in God is founded in faith and deepened with experience.

          A little boy was walking down the beach, and as he did, he spied an elderly woman sitting on the sand. He asked, “Are you a Christian?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“Do you read your Bible every day?”

“Yes.”

“Do you pray often?”

Again she answered, “Yes.”

With that the little boy asked his final question, “Will you hold my quarter while I go swimming?”

What do you need to give to God as you head back out into the waters of life? I invite you to establish your trust in Jesus.

(Author unknown, retrieved from https://www.family-times.net/illustration/Trust/202753/)

Let’s stop for a moment.  If you ask a room full of church people “Do you trust God?” 99.9% of them are going to answer in the affirmative.  If you ask them, “With what do you trust God?” be wary of the one who too quickly answers “Everything.”

The truth is likely to be something less than everything.  Trust in God is a matter of sacrifice.  To trust God means we sacrifice things most dear to us, putting them entirely under His control.  To trust God requires us to love God more than self, people, possessions, and church COMBINED!  People who trust in God may buy insurance, but they don’t rely on it to “take care of them.”  People who trust in God may set money aside as a sound financial strategy but they don’t believe that savings will prevent calamity nor will it console them when trials come.  People who trust in God will not manipulate others or wield legalisms because no one can stand in for you on Judgment Day.  People who trust in God have their eyes set on heaven: not just as a place they’ll end up “someday,” but also as a reality we are trying to recreate in our daily experience.

 

RESOURCES:

Proverbs, Tremper Longman III

Message #772

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary

#5 – Proverbs – Allen P. Ross

#7 – Malachi – Robert L. Alden

 

 

A Heavenly View (Part Three)

(Please read Revelation 21 & 22 in your favorite version of the Bible.  I prepared this message using the NIV.)

Perhaps you’ve read about the tizzy people are in about the “Nones,” the growing statistic of Americans who self-identify as having no religious affiliation.  Depending on who is commenting on the trend, it is either the death-knell of denominational Christianity or a call to reformation of the Church.  I recently read a Bible study by Rick Ezell that addressed this subject.

“William Hendrix’s book Exit Interviews is about why today’s generation is leaving the church. He summarizes the views of many worship dropouts: ‘Perhaps the most common complaint was that worship services were boring. It was not just that these gatherings were not interesting; they were not worshipful. They did little to help people meet God.’ (p. 260)

“Sally Morgenthaler writing in Worship Evangelism says ‘[When] Worship services that are not worshipful, people not meeting God, people not being allowed to participate in a worship relationship with God – it is as if the very essence of worship has been quietly removed. . . . The most significant benefit of a worship service is connecting with God. It does not matter how chatty and interesting the celebrity interviews, how captivating the drama, how stunning the soloist, or how relevant the message. When personal interaction with God is absent, church loses much of its appeal.’ (p. 23)

“George Barna surveyed thousands of churchgoing Christians. The question was asked: ‘Have you ever experienced God in a worship service?’ Only one-third said that they regularly experience God in church.”

(Retrieved from http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-presence-of-worship-exodus-33 on 10/30/15.)

Of all the things that we’ve learned about our eternal home these last three weeks the most wonderful thing is that we will enjoy the presence of God.  Simply put, God’s presence is what makes heaven “heavenly.”

MESSAGE: If we live today with a view toward heaven, today will be a better day as we will be better people.

  1. God is at the center of the Holy City.

First and foremost, it is the presence of God that makes heaven heavenly.  Ezekiel’s vision of the Holy City bears a lot of similarity to the account of John’s vision which we’ve studied.  He wrote that the SANCTUARY stood at the center of the city he envisioned (48:8, 10 21).  This is another way of saying what John said; God is present at the center of the city. Ezekiel’s vision ends with the name of the city: “AND THE NAME OF THE CITY FROM THAT TIME ON WILL BE: THE LORD IS THERE.” (Ezekiel 48:35)

This is the most obvious and most important fact about our eternal home and it is mentioned often in these chapters.  The presence of God is developed in four different ways:

DWELLING: In 21:3 the angel announces, “NOW THE DWELLING OF GOD IS WITH MEN, AND HE WILL LIVE WITH THEM.  THEY WILL BE HIS PEOPLE AND GOD HIMSELF WILL BE WITH THEM AND BE THEIR GOD.”  DWELLING is used only by John in the New Testament.  It literally means “tabernacle” and refers to the “Tent of Meeting” that was the place for worship of God before the temple was built.  This is one of many places in Revelation that employs Old Testament images to communicate John’s vision.  The tabernacle, as the original meeting-place with God, was dear to the heart of John’s Jewish readers.  However, unlike the tabernacle – which was a temporary structure – God will permanently dwell with His people.  This is the future fulfillment of the promise made in Ezekiel 37:27: “MY DWELLING PLACE WILL BE WITH THEM; I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY WILL BE MY PEOPLE.  The word PEOPLE is actually plural in the Greek; a fact which demonstrates the multinationality of the Church on earth and in our eternal home.

THE ABSENCE OF A TEMPLE: In 21:22 we read I DID NOT SEE A TEMPLE IN THE CITY, BECAUSE THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY AND THE LAMB ARE ITS TEMPLE.  The city itself is the temple!  The entire structure is the place of God’s dwelling so no separate structure is needed.

– As we’ve observed, every detail in the construction of the New Jerusalem points to God, just as a temple would. In his vision, Ezekiel saw a perfected temple.  Here, John sees a better vision: God and His people dwell together in the same building.

THE GLORY OF THE LORD is manifest visually as a bright light.  God is present in brilliant light (21:23-24; 22:5).  1 John 1:5 describes God’s nature as being light: THIS IS THE MESSAGE WE HAVE HEARD FROM HIM AND DECLARE TO YOU: GOD IS LIGHT; IN HIM THERE IS NO DARKNESS AT ALL.  In the Bible, LIGHT is the symbol of knowledge and holiness. Light is also comforting; it dispels the threatening darkness.  Imagine the LIGHT of God’s presence being so strong that it makes the sun redundant!  The SUN and the MOON, the two most luminescent bodies in our sky, will not be missed.  22:5 essentially reiterates 21:23, but adds that even artificial light – a LAMP – will be unnecessary in the unfading illumination provided by God Himself.

This promise was first made to the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 60:19; THE SUN WILL NO MORE BE YOUR LIGHT BY DAY, NOR WILL THE RIGHTNESS OF THE MOON SHINE ON YOU, FOR THE LORD WILL BE YOUR EVERLASTING LIGHT, AND YOUR GOD WILL BE YOUR GLORY.  The reference to KINGS in 21:24 is a symbol of trivial glory of the worldly kingdoms coming to an end in the new age.  It too was anticipated by Isaiah; NATIONS WILL COME TO YOUR LIGHT, AND KINGS TO THE BRIGHTNESS OF YOUR DAWN. (ISH 60:3)

THE THRONE OF GOD (22:1+3 and 7:17) is  in the HOLY CITY. The presence of God will be immediate; there will be no intermediates like priests or a temple.  God will be – for all eternity – right before His people.

It is called THE THRONE OF GOD AND THE LAMB because God the Father has placed everything under the authority of Jesus.  It is as Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:22-23 = AND GOD HAS PLACED ALL THINGS UNDER [Christ’s] FEET & APPOINTED HIM TO BE HEAD OVER EVERYTHING FOR THE CHURCH, WHICH IS HIS BODY, THE FULLNESS OF HIM WHO FILLS EVERYTHING IN EVERY WAY.  After His Ascension, the Bible tells us that Jesus was at the right hand of God the Father.  That was a place of honor, but now in Revelation we see the greater honor of God the Son sharing the throne with God the Father.

A second indicator of God’s presence is the promise that God will remove the grief-causing things of this age.  21:4 develops this thought…HE WILL WIPE EVERY TEAR FROM THEIR EYES and remove the things that cause us to shed tears: THE OLD ORDER OF THINGS HAS PASSED AWAY.  Here are found four causes of grief.

– DEATH. According to 1 Corinthians 15:26, THE LAST ENEMY TO BE DEFEATED IS DEATH.  In Revelation 20:14 we read, DEATH AND HADES WERE THROWN INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE for their destruction.  GOOD NEWS!  We will never again be separated from our loved ones, but joined with them for eternity.

– MOURNING can be translated as “wailing.” It is a degree of grief that is so extreme it cannot be contained or controlled, it must be released.

– CRYING covers everything in this life that causes us to despair.

– PAIN covers suffering & weariness in body and/or spirit. There will be nothing to regret.

Using words echoed in both John and Paul’s writings, this promise occurred first in Isaiah 25:8; HE WILL SWALLOW UP DEATH FOREVER.  THE SOVEREIGN LORD WILL WIPE AWAY THE TEARS FROM ALL FACES; HE WILL REMOVE THE DISGRACE OF HIS PEOPLE FROM ALL THE EARTH.  THE LORD HAS SPOKEN.

Revelation 22:12 reads, “BEHOLD, I AM COMING SOON!  MY REWARD IS WITH ME AND I WILL GIVE TO EVERYONE ACCORDING TO WHAT HE HAS DONE.” For the inhabitants of the Holy City, Jesus not only takes away everything that hurts, but He bestows honors on those who chose to obey His commands in this life.  This is good news compounded!  We can learn the meaning of this verse from Elliot’s commentary on this passage: “The warning has been given that men by continuing in sin (Revelation 22:11) are inviting against themselves the law by which act ripens to habit, and habit makes character, and character forms destiny.” (Retrieved from http://biblehub.com/commentaries/revelation/22-13.htm on 10/29/15.)

Thirdly, our hope is founded on who Jesus is.  Jesus is the very definition of creation; the brackets of human history: THE ALPHA AND OMEGA, THE FIRST AND LAST, THE BEGINNING AND END (21:6; 22:13).  The importance of this fact underscored by the fact that it is repeated in each chapter, the only difference being the words FIRST AND LAST added in 22:13.  (Jesus referred to Himself as the ALPHA AND OMEGA in 1:11.)  Salvation is entirely the work of Jesus Christ.

By now it will not surprise you to learn that the prophet Isaiah testified to this truth centuries before John: “THIS IS WHAT THE LORD SAYS – ISRAEL’S KING AND REDEEMER, THE LORD ALMIGHTY: I AM THE FIRST AND I AM THE LAST; APART FROM ME THERE IS NO GOD.” (Isaiah 44:6).  Because He has all authority (see Matthew 28:18), we can rely upon and utterly trust the promises of Jesus.

Jesus is depicted as the LAMB in 21:9, 22-23, 27; 22:1, 3 and in Revelation 5:6; 19:7. This symbol is appropriate because His sacrifice for our sins has made heaven available to us. The first mention of the LAMB in revelation is a strange and pathetic but pivotal figure in 7:6, THEN I SAW A LAMB, LOOKING AS IF IT HAD BEEN SLAIN, STANDING IN THE CENTER OF THE THRONE, ENCIRCLED BY THE FOUR LIVING CREATURES AND THE ELDERS.  HE HAD SEVEN HORNS AND SEVEN EYES, WHICH ARE THE SEVEN SPIRITS OF GOD SENT OUT INTO ALL THE EARTH.

– I say “pathetic” because the lamb looked as if it had been SLAIN. This is a reference to Jesus’ death on the cross.

– I say “strange” because of its seven horns and eyes. The number seven symbolizes perfection.  Horns symbolize power and eyes are a symbol of knowledge.  This refers to the perfect power and knowledge of God the Son.

– I say “pivotal” because the LAMB is the only being who could open the seven seals on the scroll and thereby begin the series of events leading up to the end of this creation and the New Heaven, New Earth, and New Jerusalem.

In the Greek, there are three words translated as “lamb” and they offer three slightly different views.

Amnos looks to the sacrificial use of the animal.

Aren refers to the harmless nature of a lamb.

Arnion is the word used in Revelation, where it is entirely symbolic of the paradoxical nature of Christ, who is both Sacrifice and Savior, God and Human, Judge and Mediator.

Revelation 22:16 confers two more titles on Jesus.  Taken together, these titles focus on Jesus as the fulfillment of OT prophecy.

– THE ROOT AND OFFSPRING OF DAVID. God promised King David that his descendants would rule forever.  As a descendant of David, Jesus fulfills this promise.  In their Gospels both Matthew and Luke give genealogies for Jesus that establish this as fact.  In Isaiah 4, the BRANCH OF THE LORD is promised, and in Isaiah 11, a SHOOT OF JESSE (David’s father) is foretold.  Jeremiah 23 also uses this title, as does Zechariah 3 and 6. These promises were part of what the Jews of Jesus’ day expected as they looked forward to the Messiah.  In Revelation 5:5 He is referred to as THE ROOT OF DAVID.

– THE BRIGHT MORNING STAR. This is the most noticeable light in the sky near the horizon just prior to dawn. As such, it is a symbol of hope.  As the dark night of this present age will soon end, the light of Jesus shines as a preview of the glorious light that will soon follow and shine brightly, as we’ve already noted.  Way back in Numbers 24:17, Moses predicted the rising of a STAR OUT OF JACOB.  In Revelaion 2:28, THE MORNING STAR is promised to the overcomer.

Lastly, we will see God in all His glory; face to face (22:4).  In Exodus 33:20, God told Moses, “YOU CANNOT SEE MY FACE AND LIVE.”  With only a few exceptions, this has been the rule ever since.  The reason behind this rule was to reinforce the holiness of God as indicated by His separation from this sinful world.  However, in the next world – where is sin no more and grace has eliminated guilt, this reason will cease to exist.

In the New Creation, as 22:4 promises, all God’s people WILL SEE HIS FACE.  These words offer a word picture of the new closeness between God and His people.  It’s heart-warming to think of being face to face with our Creator, the One who loves us so much.  Jesus made a similarly heart-warming statement in Matthew 18:10: He said, “SEE THAT YOU DO NOT LOOK DOWN ON ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES.  FOR I TELL YOU THAT THEIR ANGELS IN HEAVEN ALWAYS SEE THE FACE OF MY FATHER IN HEAVEN.”  In the “Love Chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul expressed this hope in the wonderfully poetic language of that chapter; NOW WE SEE BUT A POOR REFLECTION AS IN A MIRROR; THEN WE SHALL SEE FACE TO FACE.  NOW I KNOW IN PART; THEN I SHALL KNOW FULLY, EVEN AS I AM FULLY KNOWN. (1CT 13:12)  In the OT, Job (JOB 19:26) and Isaiah (ISH 52:8) expressed this hope; that they should see God.

Theologian A.W. Tozer wrote a short but influential book called The Pursuit of God. In it, he wrote a couple of things that should sharpen our appetite for an experience of God’s presence.

– “The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God, and the church is famishing for want of HIS PRESENCE.” (P. 38) – “Let us say it again: The universal Presence is a fact. God is here. The whole universe is alive with His life. And He is no strange or foreign God, but the familiar Father of our Lord Jesus Christ whose love has for these thousands of years enfolded the sinful race of men. And always He is trying to get our attention, to reveal Himself to us, to communicate with us. We have within us the ability to know Him if we will but respond to His overtures. (And this we call pursuing God!) We will know Him in increasing degree as our receptivity becomes more perfect by faith and love and practice.” (P. 71)

So it comes down to this.  All we’ve noted about our life to come, all we can hope for in this life, it all hangs on wanting to experience God’s presence.  The things of this world that try to captivate our attention or cause us to worry, all of that needs to fade and vanish.

How do we do that?  Let me give you some simple advice.  Experiencing God happens only in the context of a real relationship with Jesus Christ.  That must come first.

Second, it won’t happen while your attention is trained on this world or yourself.  We must make time to be quiet.  Prayer is the key that opens the door to let God in.  No amount of Bible knowledge, no number of attendance pins, no variety of church service will do for us what prayer will accomplish.