In my last post I began discussing the process by which God teaches us to trust Him through waiting. I want to continue following that line of thought here below.
The prophet Jeremiah emphasized the necessity of God being the sole object of our trust — “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD” (Jeremiah 17:7). Misplaced trust or unrealistic expectations will always result in disappointment, but trust in God is never misplaced. Notice that Jeremiah makes a distinction between trusting in the Lord and trusting the Lord. Many will say they trust in God, yet still not have God as the sole object of their trust. Like Israel, they have trusted in “the works of their own hands” (Jeremiah 1:16). Like the Babylonians “they offer a sacrifice to their net. And burn incense to their fishing net; because through these things their catch is large, and their food is plentiful” (Habakkuk 1:16). The actual object of their trust is the means God uses, not the LORD. When people say they trust in God, often what they really imply is they trust in the means God employs to meet their particular need or desire. They trust in God for their provision, until they lose their job and the paycheck disappears. But God hasn’t disappeared. He is still the provider. The means may change, but not the God who gives and energizes the means.
Jeremiah goes on to say in this same chapter, “O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake Thee will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the LORD” (17:13). Jesus expresses this same principle in Mark 8:38, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Many people claim the name of Christ and profess to be Christians who also disown the teachings of Christ. They are ashamed to call sin “sin”; they are ashamed of Jesus’ demands of discipleship. They are ashamed of the exclusivity of the gospel; they are ashamed to proclaim the sovereignty of God in salvation. They are ashamed to bear the reproach of Christ and suffer for being a Christian (1 Peter 4:16). They are ashamed to teach the whole counsel of God and to expose false teaching and teachers. They avoid doctrines that have become politically incorrect; they are ashamed to teach on the necessity of holy living and the marks of a true Christian.
Some church leaders have turned away and forsaken the fountain of living water. They have put their trust in their own vain schemes, man-centered programs, flashy entertainment-driven worship services, ego-inflating messages, and subjective mystical experiences. They rely on virtually any gimmick that promises quick results and panders to people’s self-interests, but their trust is not God. If God was the sole object of their trust, they would trust God enough to rely on God’s means and not invent their own. They are ashamed of Jesus as He is, so they remove the shame by preaching a sentimentalized and effeminate Jesus who accepts anything and anyone.
For decades now, the church has been accommodating itself and its message to the cultural idols of self and the world — to the extent that the church has little concept of what it means to truly have God as the sole object of their trust. Some equate trusting God with presuming upon God to bless their own inventions; then, when people are seduced by a church’s carnal enticements, the leaders attribute the results to the blessing of God. Like the religious rulers who were afraid to publicly confess Jesus because they loved the approval (lit. “glory; honor”) of men rather than the approval of God (John 12:42, 43), they succumb to cultural pressures and personal ambition and opt for a culturally comfortable and popular Christianity. The pull of the world and their own self-interests is just too strong for them to resist.
Some trust the conjuring of self-appointed prophets or in the nonsensical notion that they can create their own destiny by speaking positive statements into their life, but their trust is not God. Some put their hope in politically restoring some semblance of biblical morality to society, but their hope is not God. People will say they believe in salvation by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone, but then trust in their own decision or religious activity for salvation. Means change, gimmicks and fads come and go, and people can be mistaken, misled, deceptive, and driven by selfish motives.
When our trust has been misplaced and things don’t go as we expect, we often think that God has failed us or that He has betrayed our trust. When, in reality, what we were trusting was not God. Idols always disappoint, but blessed is the person whose trust is God. A sincere trust in God demands that it be exclusive, not in any false god or human design or deliverer. While God normally works providentially through ordinary means, it is not the means we trust, but the God who created and energizes the means He has ordained and prescribed. The only means we can trust are those which God has promised to bless, and even then it is the faithfulness of God to His promise in which we trust. The tendrils of our heart must be unwound from other supports before they can cling to God alone.
An Exclusive Trust
If anyone had a right to feel ashamed, disillusioned, or confused, it was the Apostle Paul. Almost nothing seemed to go right in his ministry. He was constantly being opposed by Jewish zealots outside the church and false teachers inside the church. People whom he had poured his life into would accuse him of everything from being ugly and a poor speaker to a womanizer and embezzler. Some of his closest friends defected from him and the true gospel. It would have been easy for Paul to conclude that maybe he had made a mistake. But Paul had an exclusive trust, even when chained to a Roman guard under house arrest awaiting Cesar’s verdict,
“For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20, 21).
Paul’s “earnest expectation and hope” was in the Holy Spirit’s working through Paul for the glory of Jesus Christ. With this as his goal, Paul never questioned or doubted how God chose to use him; rather, he yielded himself in total dependence and trust to God, knowing that as long as He was faithful to Christ’s call to preach the gospel, he could never “be put to shame in anything.” God’s faithfulness to His own extends infinitely farther than their capability to trust Him. We can never trust God beyond His ability or willingness. In fact, He “is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). We can never trust God too much. If we find our hopes disappointed, the fault does not lie with God, but with us; our hope was not in God. Misplaced trust can only result in shame.
Remembering part one of our study, David’s prayer is not confined merely to his own needs, but for all who wait on God, “none who wait for Thee will be ashamed.” Affliction produces sympathy for the afflicted. Our own trials elicit empathy for those who are facing trials. Think of how many Christians are in need of this prayer; how many faithful missionaries, pastors, and teachers who give their all, who have given up the right to pursue a more lucrative profession, who pour their lives into faithfully and uncompromisingly preaching and teaching God’s truth only to be met with hostility, and even worse, apathy. It is easy to preach when you have a willing, eager, and receptive audience, when people are giving you pats on the back; however, when week after week and year after year no one seems to care, the only thing that motivates such people is the confidence that God will bless the faithful preaching and teaching of His word, and that this hope will not be disappointed.
Think of the Christian wife who strives to live out 1 Peter 3 in the face of her husband’s sinful obsession with pornography, or the Christian who refuses to compromise God’s word in the work place. Think of all the waiting ones who are losing hope, growing weary, who feel alone, and who fear that their hope will be put to shame. We are to “strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble” (Hebrews 12:12). Like the small house-church to whom the book of Hebrews was written, we “have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (Hebrews 10:36).
We must place ourselves simply and unreservedly in the hands of God if we are to truly know Him as He is. If we trust in our own wisdom, we will go astray. If we rely on the counsel of men, we are in danger of being led into by-paths, man-made schemes, and false teaching. But if we commit ourselves to God and His word, He will guide us into all truth and make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5, 6). Trust in God alone is always vindicated, “hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:5). Hope that produces no shame is the treasure of everyone whose hope is exclusively in the Lord; who, like the psalmist, waits on the Lord — Indeed, none of those who wait for Thee will be ashamed.