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Monday, June 20, 2016

In God We Trust

The Word of God urges us to trust God.  It is better to trust God than anything or anyone else.  Do you trust God above all else?  You might think so, but take a moment to reflect on this crucial question more deeply.  Listen to the Psalmist and then read this blog as you ask yourself, "Do I trust God more than anything else?"

Psalm 118:1-9 (Key verse: 8)
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever.
Let all Israel repeat:
    “His faithful love endures forever.”
Let Aaron’s descendants, the priests, repeat:
    “His faithful love endures forever.”
Let all who fear the Lord repeat:
    “His faithful love endures forever.”
In my distress I prayed to the Lord,
    and the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.
    What can mere people do to me?
Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me.
    I will look in triumph at those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in people.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes.

            We are so very blessed to live in America, a country where we are free and have so few worries.  We are relatively safe.  We have the opportunity to earn a living and take care of ourselves and our family.  This is in contrast to Christians who lived in NT times, who struggled just to get by in a world very hostile to Christianity and where it was already hard to live (no medicine, no insurance, no grocery stores or refrigerators, let alone electricity or cell phones or air conditioning or other modern conveniences).
            Some would say: with all we have and all we have accomplished, we have outgrown our need for God.  We in the church would never say such, but I think subconsciously many believe it. Certainly, many in the church live as if we do not need God. We can count on ourselves, our prosperity, and all the available resources at our disposal in our world.  We live as if we have less need of God than our ancestors. We have so many more things we can depend upon.
            And yet, Scripture urges us: It is better to trust in the Lord than anything else. It is better because:
  • It gives us peace of mind. We all need assurance that life is dependable. And there is nothing more dependable than God.
  • Depending on God helps us to avoid trouble, for His precepts are true and eternal, and His faithful love endure forever.
  • This morning, I especially want you to understand trusting God (above all else) is a matter of eternal significance. 

The Trustworthiness of God
            First let me say why you can trust God.  You can trust God because God is all powerful.  He created the vast expanse of the universe.  There are 100 billion stars in our galaxy.  It’s hard to understand the magnitude of that number.  So let me put it in perspective.  Suppose you counted all the stars—counting one star every second.  It would take you over 3,000 years to count them all if you counted 1 star every second.  And that's just in our galaxy!  There are 100 billion galaxies in our universe—each containing about 100 billion stars.  And that's just what we know about; there could be more!  God simply spoke and all this came to be.  And God not only created it, He keeps it all working. We cannot even fathom the power of God.
            And, God is all knowing.  One might think with so much to oversee, God would forget about us, but hallelujah!  God does not forget!  Psalm 118:5 – “In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me...”  Jesus said, "Not a single sparrow dies and God doesn't know about it." And he said, "God even knows how many hairs you have on your head." (Matthew 10:29-30).   God knows everything.  He knows everything about you, even your secret thoughts.  He knows you better than you know yourself.  But all of this—being all-powerful and all-knowing would not guarantee we can trust God if it weren't for one more crucial factor.
            God loves us completely.  John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life."  There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).  It is not that we loved God, but that he first loved us. While we were still sinners [ie. had totally ignored God, turned our backs on Him, rebelled against Him, and forgotten Him], Christ came and died for us (Romans 5:8).  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”  So we have this God of unlimited power, who knows everything and everything about us, and who loves us completely and unconditionally.  If we can trust anything, we can trust God. Psalm 118:1 – “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!  His faithful love endures forever.
            But some would ask, does God really exist?  That is more question than I have time to address fully in this blog, but I should at least touch upon the idea. Though most reading this probably accept the existence of God, there may be some who question or who might question in the future.
            First, I would say, that every culture that has ever lived, from all eras and all parts of the world, have all had some concept of God. Some have imagined an ultimate being very similar to the Christian idea of God. Others have conceived of multiple gods or spirits. Though there are variances in people's understanding of the Divine Power, the fact is:  all have perceived there is a God (or gods); and this is strong evidence that our collective human consciousness is aware that God does indeed exist. It would seem there is more out there than just what meets the eye.
            Second, I would add what has been most convincing for me. Look at the complexity of our world.  Look how different humanity is from all other animals. We are more than just animals who accidentally evolved to be more intelligent and self-aware than other animals.  Consider how all the world functions together as an intricate system. If the planet were not tilted on its axis at just the right angle, just the right distance from the sun, spinning at just the right speed, none of this life would be possible.  Consider how complex the workings of the electron, protons, and neutrons that make up the atoms and molecules of matter.  Consider the intricate functioning of just one single cell organism in our world; and then consider the infinite complexities of the human body—far more sophisticated than the functioning of the most complex machine.  Is this not powerful evidence of some supremely intelligent Creator who designed it all?
            If you found a watch lying in the sand on the beach, wouldn't you assume someone had dropped it?  Even though all the elements necessary to make the watch are present in the ocean, it would be ludicrous to believe all those elements accidentally came together to form the watch all by themselves.  To say this world and life is only an accident (not under the intelligent direction of a divine Higher Power) would be crazier than saying an auto parts store exploded and all the parts fell to the earth randomly, in just the right order so as to create a working car.  And not just one, but many—a Ford, a Toyota, a Chevy, a Chrysler, a Volkswagen, a BMW, a Honda...  So I think there is very strong evidence that a supremely powerful God exists.

For what can we trust God?
            So we can trust God.  But for what is it that we can trust Him?  We can trust God to supply all our needs.  We don’t have to worry (about life, what we will eat, what we will wear, where we will live, how we will survive).  God will take care of His people. 
            I don’t mean that He will give you anything you want.  When I was 5-years-old, I saw a movie about Godzilla--this giant monster as tall as buildings who could breath fire and was invincible.  Maybe it apealed to me because a 5-year-old feels pretty insignificant and powerless.  Anyway, we went to church and the preacher said you could pray for anything and if you believed it, God would give it to you (I'm sure I must have misunderstood the preacher, but that's what I heard). So on the way home from church, I got this idea to pray for a giant robot Godzilla in which I could drive around and rule the world.  I prayed and believed that giant robot would be in my front yard when I got home.  It wasn't, of course. Thank God.
            God will give you what you need.  We should work—with the help of the Holy Spirit—to get our desires under control.  It is a spiritual exercise (that leads to a great virtue) to turn our desires away from wanting more and more, and better and better stuff and learning to be satisfied with what God gives us.  What a blessing it is to be satisfied with what God provides and desiring nothing more!
             We can trust God’s forgiveness.  Through Christ, all our sins are forgiven.  Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:23); yet praise be to God, we don’t have to carry that guilt and shame. Because of Christ, we are forgiven.  We do not have to tremble at the mention of God’s name—at least, not because we fear retribution.  For God holds nothing against those whom Christ has forgiven.  Have you recognized your need of forgiveness?  Have you cried out to Jesus for forgiveness?  Then He has forgiven you and there is nothing within you to anger God.  Your sins have been taken to the edge of the universe—13.7 billion light-years away—and flung over the edge into nothingness.
            And for all who trust in the Lord, He grants eternal life.  This is a promise from the God of the Universe—the all-powerful, all-knowing, who is Perfect Love.   “This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life.” (John 6:40, The Message)  But there is more!
            We can trust God to love us.  Didn’t you hear the Psalmist’s refrain?  “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  His Faithful love endures forever!"
            God’s love for us does not depend on our goodness, our talent, our achievements, our possessions, our power or influence.
            God loves us when no one else does.
            God loves us when everyone else does—but God loves us for the right reasons.
            God loves us when we are completely unloveable.
            God’s love endures forever.  He will never stop.  He will never leave us or forsake.
            Romans 8:38-39 – “…nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
            There is but one more thing I must mention (there are many more things I could mention, but for the sake of time, just one I will mention).  We can trust God’s justice.  We can trust God to right all the wrongs of our world. We don’t have to hold hatred in our hearts.  We don’t have to hold a grudge against others.  We don’t have to seek vengeance.  We should seek to do good and help others and right the wrongs we see—when it is within our power and when God calls us to do so—but we don’t have to worry that evil will go unpunished or that the wicked will get away with sin.  God knows all and has the wisdom to deal with evil in the right way at the right time.  We can trust God to meet out justice perfectly at the perfect time and in the perfect way.

Wrongly placed Trust
           So you see, we can trust God.  We should trust God.  We should trust God above all else.  And yet the Word of God warns us: It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. (Psalm 118:8)
            If the Word of God needs to urge us to trust God, it must mean people tend to trust other things more.  And that is what we find in our lives.  We are worldly people.  We put our trust in the things of this world more than we trust God. 
            We depend upon our money to buy our way out of trouble or to insure against it.  We depend upon our job to provide the money we need.
            We trust our country's military might to protect us.  We live in the most powerful country in the world.  Our military is second to none.  We are thankful for soldiers who serve to protect us.  We are proud of the incredibly advance weapons of war we possess. Surely, nothing could come against us.  Yet all this is nothing and could fail in a moment.  Our true help comes from the Lord, not our military.
            We trust our politicians to fix the problems of our nation.  “Ha!” You laugh.  “Who could possibly trust our politicians in Washington?”  Then why are we putting so much stock in them?  Why are we so worried about who will be the next president?  Why are we so concerned everything is going to fall apart if Trump gets elected?  Or if Hillary gets elected?  Are we trusting in the president when we should be trusting in God?
            Others trust in drugs or alcohol.  We need something to soothe the pain of this world—to take the edge off our worries.  Yet these substances dull us to life until we are little more than zombies walking through the world missing out on real life.  Eventually, the drugs and alcohol will kill our bodies.  There is a better way.  Trust in the Lord.  He will never let you down.  He never runs out.  His high never wears off.  His peace is more than a sedative—it is real peace, a peace that passes all understanding, a peace that can carry you through any storm because He is the maker of the storm and perfectly capable of carrying you through it or banishing the storm into thin air.
            Some trust in their religion.  This is a very tricky thing, for it almost seems like you are trusting in God.  But when you trust in religion, you are trusting in your actions to guarantee your well-being.  It is thinking, “I will be fine, because I am a good person.”  It is thinking, “God will take care of me, because I have done what He said (or done the right things in life).”  The subtle difference is you are really trusting in yourself, not God.  And that is religion, not faith in Christ.
            We cannot and should not trust anything above God.  And this is crucial.  It has eternal significance—which I will explain in just a moment.

            But first, I would say, it should not be assumed that you cannot trust anything in this world.  It would be a sorry life to go around mistrusting every person and every thing.  That is no life to live and not God’s intention.  What is needed is for our trust to be prioritized correctly.
            This is a matter of eternal significance.  It is faith in God that saves us.  The Truth is: if you trust anything above God, you are on dangerous ground.  God will not be your backup.  He is Lord and will accept nothing less than first place in your life.  You must put your whole trust in Him through Christ.  If you are trusting in your job more than you are trusting in God, watch out!  God may take away that job to teach you to trust in Him instead.  But even more significantly. if you have been trusting something else ahead of God, you are not really trusting God—He is merely a backup plan.  God must be first.  He deserves to be first.  He will be first or He will not be in your life.
            So what are you to do today?  I say, listen to what the Word of God says.  Examine your heart.  Is God really first?  Are you depending on Him above all else?  Have you been depending on the wrong things for your happiness? Your security? Your comfort? Your peace of mind?  Your salvation?  For love?  For Hope? For wisdom?  For eternity?
            Then repent and heed the words of the Psalmist:  "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.”

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