Three years ago, my wife Jamie and I planned a trip to Alabama to help with tornado relief. We both sensed the Lord was asking us to go even though in every way it seemed impractical. The unforeseen nature of disaster relief is that you can’t plan for it. I recall wondering how I could take time off work, worrying about the income I wouldn’t make while I was gone, and thinking, “How am I going to raise $2000 in less than a week?” Jamie had the same question racing through her mind.
Less than a week before we were supposed to leave, an individual I hardly knew invited Jamie and I over to his house. We met him and visited for awhile. We prayed together, and, before we left, he gave us an envelope and said, “God asked me to give this to you.” I opened the envelope at home and almost fell over. In the envelope was a check for $1,200—almost to the dollar what we still needed in order to go. Jesus had stirred Jamie’s heart and mine to go on this mission trip, and he confirmed that it was his desire by providing all the funds in his perfect timing and giving me favor with my boss, allowing me to take spontaneous time off.
Even though God provides for us both in the miraculous immediate need and in the no-less incredible daily provisions, it’s still difficult for us in the day-to-day to trust the words God spoke through Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV). The plans of the Lord don’t always play out as we would like them to, but the moment I start to doubt, I remember what the Lord said, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9, ESV). God’s plan, and the path he chooses to accomplish it, doesn’t always look the way we expect.
Why We Doubt God
In a world where we usually trust only what they can see, it is a challenge to place all your trust in what is invisible, namely, God. I, like the next person, like the idea of controlling what my life’s outcome will be and knowing what’s next. Adam and Eve were the same way. In Genesis 3, they were tempted by Satan in the Garden of Eden to be like God, knowing good and evil, controlling things. Sadly, they were lured away from noticing what God had graciously given them—the earth, the trees bearing good fruit, the perfect relationship they had with him and with one another. Instead of trusting God, they chose knowing good and evil. Therefore, the earth and all that was in it was cursed as a direct result of Adam and Eve trying to be like God. To this day our default is trusting human knowledge over an all- powerful, loving and relational God.
Our misguided trust causes us anxiety. Jesus says in Matthew 6:25-33 (ESV):
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
There must have been some doubt among the disciples that surrounded Jesus in order for him to transition into this teaching. If you recall, the disciples were just like us, they had their doubts. And like us, they questioned within their own hearts the plan that God had for them in following him. I can’t help but hear the words of Peter, after Jesus’ teaching on wealth, Peter says: “See, we have left everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28). I love Jesus’ response, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30). It’s obvious that the teaching on wealth and material possessions had struck a cord with the disciples. I speculate that all of them desired to speak what Peter did, but as it is Peter’s custom, he usually is the first to speak his mind.
People like to surmise that God is not concerned with material possessions, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. God is very concerned, and happy to provide everything we need. However, he doesn’t want this to be our primary concern. Jesus wants our primary concern to be following him, and making him known, and along the way trusting him to provide all we need to survive. Indeed, if you stop and think about it, Jesus is everything we need to survive. He is the one who places the clothes on our back. He is the one who fills our bank accounts with money. Jesus is the one who puts food on the table each month. He is the creator of all these things. We need only concern ourselves with the things of God, that is, all people reaching repentance and coming into a personal relationship with him. Therefore, if we know on a personal level the one who supplies all the needs why would we wager to think he wouldn’t provide them?
Jesus it talking about having a proper perspective. Our sinful nature is prone to focusing on ourselves and our own needs and desires—and because of this we worry. Jesus wants us not to focus on ourselves, but to focus on God. When we focus on God, we will have a perspective centered on God’s glory and goodness and the joy and peace that comes from meditating on such splendor.
Paul writes that letting our daily concerns and requests be known to God will also bring us peace. Not a peace that comes from knowing the outcome, but a peace that comes from knowing God will and does take care of us in the way that is best for us. In Philippians 4:6 he writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” The peace we get from knowing God and trusting him with our daily concerns will guide our hearts away from sin and our natural selfish tendencies.
Satan likes to trick us into thinking we can provide for ourselves. But God is truly our provider, so we need to rely on him and not ourselves. God wants us to take these words to heart: “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 straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5-7). God is in the business of providing healing, refreshment, and peace, among other things, to those who love him. The very opposite of what worry and anxiety can and will create in our lives if we don’t acknowledge him and his authority in our lives.
Why We Can Trust God
Trust is gained through truth. When a person consistently tells the truth, trust follows. We trust God because he tells the truth—always. Scripture is clear: God cannot lie; his character doesn’t permit it. “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19 NIV) God won’t lie, and he never goes back on his word. When God speaks, he speaks truth.
A great example of a fulfilled promise of God would be the promise he made to Israelites through Moses. “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him” (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-19). The promised one that God was speaking of is the man who we know as Jesus. That promise was delivered hundreds of years later.
God also promised that he would have Jesus delivered to be crucified. Jesus tells his disciples in Mark 8:31, “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Thousands of witnesses attested to the validity of this event.
Another promise that effects us to this day (not to say the others don’t, they do) is the promise of the Holy Spirit given to all people who put their faith and hope in Christ. Jesus tells us in John 16:7-11, 13-15, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” This promise is again reaffirmed in Luke 24:49, “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” And realized in Acts 2:1-4, “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
The God whom we serve promised to provide a Savior, and his name is Jesus. God promised that he would deal with sin, and he did by making him who knew no sin to become sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus promised that once sin was dealt with that he would give the gift of the Holy Spirit to all believers so that his work of bringing people into right relationship with him would continue through those who had placed their faith and trust in him. God can be trusted. When he promises something will happen, we can be sure it will, but in his timing, not ours.
We often forget that God is trustworthy and faithful to his word. God knows we are forgetful. God knew the Israelites would forget how he delivered them from the Egyptians, so he instituted the Passover. God knew the people would forget crossing the Jordan into the land of milk and honey, therefore he set up twelve memorial stones to remember by (Joshua 4:9). Jesus knew we would be tempted to forget his sacrifice for all mankind on the cross, and all he did for us in giving his life for our own, so he instituted what we know now as Communion. Each time we gather together, we are to eat the bread and drink the cup to remember the Lord’s death until he comes again (Luke 22:19, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Defeating the Enemy’s Mind Games
Satan is unlike God. “…there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). This is intimidating, but God is on our side. He shares his wisdom with us, and it begins with the fear of God (or respect for God) and continues with daily obedience in this foundational truth: that Jesus Christ was the one and only Son of God, who was crucified, buried and raised on the third day. By faith, we understand that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). It is by this knowledge of God (belief and conviction) and his great gift of Jesus, that we have hope. Jesus both defeated the enemy and redeemed us through his sacrifice on the cross and we now have freedom and eternal life through knowing Jesus.
Putting Anxiety In It’s Place
The apostle Paul says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Jesus wants us to know the Bible so, when an alternative perspective appears, we way it against the truth of the cross. We can take that thought or idea, compare it to God’s words spoken in the Bible, and know whether it is trustworthy or not. On the other hand, if we don’t know what the Bible says, we can’t know what is true or not.
As we are people prone to wander, tempted not to trust, and quick to forget all God has done for us, God wants us to remember the times we leaned on his understanding and not our own. God reminds Moses and the Israelites in Deuteronomy: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7).
Like the Israelites, I find myself needing constant reminders to always speak of God’s faithfulness. As a people set apart for God, we should always be talking about what God has done in our own lives. Just as I have shared my story of God supplying what was needed for my wife and I to help with tornado relief efforts, let us always share about God’s provision, talk about God’s goodness, walk with others through their own lives as Jesus would, and contemplate the gospel of God always. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)
We learn to trust God because we experience the truth of his Word and have encounters with him in our own lives where we can say “God showed up.”