Trusting God

Scripture: Matthew 6:25-34

Our sermon today is a continuation of the series I began two weeks ago on stewardship, and I may make reference to the previous sermon. If you haven’t heard it, or want to refresh your memory, it is available online, in transcript form, or on DVD from the office.

Last week, we obviously had a detour with my hospitalization; and it’s probably just as well – I don’t think I was ready to hear what I had to say anyways. What Jill had to say, and what all of you showed in your pulling together on things to make them happen, was probably a far better representation of God’s love and provision than any I could have provided.

But now we are back into my series, and I am just going to pick up with the third week. Every message in the series was designed as a “stand alone” message; and I am sure I can give the second one some other time if you ask me.

As we speak of God, and stewardship, let me begin with these three stewardship statements that kind of summarize two weeks ago.

First of all, God is our Creator and provider. Secondly, God has entrusted (placed within our care) the possessions, opportunities, talents, and time that we now experience. Third, we are trustees of everything God has given us.

As we begin today, let’s ask ourselves some questions. Ask yourself: Do I trust God? Where do I place my faith? Where do I place my confidence?

I know the knee-jerk reaction is usually “Of course I trust God.” It’s easy to say, “Oh, yes. I obey God completely. I trust God completely.” But let me ask you this, just for personal introspection. Take a deep hard look.

Do I trust God? Is He truly my source? Do I trust Him in everything, or do I trust Him in some things? Do I trust Him in big things and not in small things? Or do I trust Him in small things but with big things, I kind of want to take control?

It is an incredible question. I’ve been wrestling with it now for weeks. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s only the key to success, working through these questions, and it’s not an easy thing to do in a self-reliant society like ours. There is a lot more depth I can go into over time, but today we are going to touch on these penetrating questions. Can I trust God? And do I trust God?

When we’re through taking a glimpse at that, we’re going to turn the tables around and ask another question. And if you think the first one would make you sweat bullets, how about this one: Can God trust me?

Does He trust me? Have I proven to be a trustworthy person? Can He give me what He wants to, knowing that I am trustworthy? Or am I one of these people who are trustworthy in some areas, but in other areas, God says, “I cannot touch this area in your life because you’re not yet trustworthy.”

Let’s start by talking about God, and whether He is trustworthy and we can trust Him. When it comes to trusting God, you can rest assured that He gives you and me constant care. I am fond of quoting Hebrews 13:5-6, where it says “God has said, ’Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence, the Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.”

God constantly cares for us, and in our passage today we see Jesus telling us that we are to cast all of our anxiety, all of our worries upon Him. His care is constant. It’s not occasional or sporadic. His care is total, not partial. His care is sovereign. Nothing can touch you or me without first touching God. All creation is under that care, and you know what? He can handle it all.

Most of us have read the beautiful poem called “Footprints.” I believe it has brought comfort to all of us who have read it. How many of you have read it and know what I’m talking about? Since it looks like there are a bunch of kids that haven’t, I’ll read it in a moment.

What’s interesting is that the lady who wrote “Footprints,” Margaret Fishbeck, went through amazing trials. The person that she loved left her, then she caught meningitis, and was literally bedridden for many months.

She came to the lowest place of her life. During that time, another man fell in love with her and wanted to marry her. But she wouldn’t marry him. She said basically, “I’m out of trust. I’m not sure I trust God. I know I don’t trust men. I’m out of trust.”

One night in her diary as she lay in bed, she began to write that beautiful piece, Footprints. And that night she saw the answer. I’ll just take a moment to read it to you, so listen.

“One night a man had a dream, and he dreamed that he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes of his life, and for each scene he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to him and the other belonging to the Lord.

After the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. And he also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and at the very saddest times of his life.

This really bothered him, and he questioned the Lord about it. He said, “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I’ve noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there’s only one set of footprints. I don’t understand, Lord. Why, when I needed you the very most, you would leave me?”

And the Lord replied, “My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

God’s love and care is constant, and always with us.

God not only constantly cares for us; but He is generous in His provisions to us. He has blessed us with gifts, and talents – all kinds of blessings, because He loves us. Jesus said in our passage today, “Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?”

He loves you so much that He was willing to come, and become one of us, to die for our sins, and be raised again to give victory over our death, so that we might have new life in Him, and be new creatures, beholden entirely to Him for everything we have.

And He blesses us with more than we can imagine or comprehend. So often in the psalms it speaks of our cup overflowing, and it certainly does.

This passage that we had today was spoken because some of his disciples asked questions. Obviously, trusting in God has long been a problem even for believers and disciples of Christ! So how do we overcome this natural inclination? Let me start with part of an article that I found online.

“At first I saw God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things that I did wrong so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there sort of like a cosmic police chief, or a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I really didn’t know Him.

“But later on, when I met Christ, it seemed as though life were rather like a bike ride, but it was a tandem bike. And Christ was in the back helping me pedal. I don’t know just when it was that He suggested that we change places, but life has never been the same since.

“When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but it was predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points. But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts. Up mountains and through rocky places at break-neck speeds. It was all that I could do to hang on. And even though it looked like madness, He said, ‘Pedal.’ I worried and was anxious, and I asked, ‘Where are you taking me?’ He laughed and didn’t answer. And that’s when I learned that I was going to have to trust Him.

“I forgot my boring life and entered into every adventure. And when I’d say, ‘I’m scared,’ He’d lean back and just touch my hand. He took me to people with gifts that I needed. Gifts of healing, acceptance, and joy. He gave me gifts to take on my journey and off we went again. And he would say, ‘Give the gifts away. They’re extra baggage, too much weight.’ So I did, to people we met, and I found that in giving, I received. The journey continued and our burden was light. I did not trust Him at first to take control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it, but He knows bike secrets. He knows how to make those sharp corners and how to jump clear off high rocks and do things I could’ve never done if I were in control.

“And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places. I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful Companion, Jesus Christ. And when I’m not sure I can do it anyway more, He smiles and, says, ‘Just pedal.'”

What an interesting perspective on your walk with Jesus.

I think every one of us comes to a place where we ask that very simple question: Can I really trust God? Can I trust God with my life? Can I trust God with my future? With my family? With my job? With my health? Can I trust God with my possessions?

I think every one of us comes to the place where we have to cross a line of either saying, “Yes, I do trust Him,” or staying back and saying, “No, I don’t, right now.”

The answer that you come to determines whether we either grow spiritually by saying,”Yes, I’m going to trust God,” or we back away from that line and begin to shrivel in our soul and never reach our potential as a child of God. All because we were unwilling to let God take control of our life, and thus don’t succeed as His stewards.

I have a slide for you. The acronym on it isn’t mine, it’s from the esteemed John Maxwell, one of my favorite authors and preachers. And I love it, and with it I am going to try to give you some handles – ways that you and I could learn to trust God more completely, and begin the process of being better stewards. Again, we will just touch on each of them this morning, because of time constraints; but I will alway be happy to go over them in more depth either personally, or in a special class if there is enough interest.

T   Take an inventory.
R   Recognize God as your source.
U   Understand God’s principles.
S   Surrender everything to God.
T   Test God’s promises.

T: Take an inventory.
This inventory is not of what we own, despite our passage today. It is an inventory of ourselves, and our lives. Twelve-step programs, if you’ve ever been in one or associated with one, you understand a bit more of what I’m talking about. In each area of our life, we need to be asking ourselves the bottom line question: Do I really trust God?

R: Recognize God as your source.
We need to realize as we take inventory of our life, that everything that you and I have right now is a gift from God. Every breath you take. Every move you make. God isn’t just watching you. He’s providing for you. There is a human tendency to trust in God’s instruments of provision rather than in God himself.

We trust the job instead of realizing that God is the provider of the job. We trust our health instead of realizing that God is the provider of our health My recent illness gave me a real insight into that, with its onset being so quick. It wasn’t completely life-threatening, I guess, since I responded as early as I did; but it was definitely the first ambulance ride I ever had.

My body was failing me. My mind was all over the place. I couldn’t think straight, and I admit: I was afraid. Only God knew the outcome. Only God could provide the direction, the resources, and the peoples I needed. And I want to note for you, He doesn’t do that just in that kind of moment. I had to recognize that He was doing it all the time. And you need to recognize that He is doing it with you, too.

U: Understand God’s principles.
Until we understand them, we’re always going to hold back in our trust toward God. We must understand: Why God is going to provide, What He is going to provide, and When He is going to provide it. He has told us everything in His Word.

We need to know that God loves us, as I noted before, so much that He was willing to come and die for us. He has chosen us, has died for us, has won the victory for us, and will care for what He has so dearly bought. That is why. He will provide what we need – sometimes even what we want; but always what we need.

If you really think you need something, and God doesn’t seem to be providing any venue for gaining it, then maybe you need to think again, and reassess. And He will provide it when He determines it will do the most good.

I said before, when I did that series on prayer, that there is never any unanswered prayer from God. We just might not recognize or like the answer we’re getting. Because sometimes it’s Yes, sometimes it’s No, and sometimes it’s Not now. And we have to be patient. (Which, by the way, I can’t tell you how many times this week I heard that particular word – be patient.)

S: Surrender everything to God.
The moment that we understand the principles that God has for us in our very hearts and souls, then it’s just an act of surrender. But we are dependent upon the Holy Spirit to enable us to do so. Only He can empower us to totally trust in God. Our pride and our nature is too great otherwise. There’s always some area where we want control.

We have a way of understanding this. In some ways, it is so simple. I think this is why our Lord said, “We have to be like children to get into heaven.” Despite our being Presbyterian, he’s not speaking of infant baptism. He’s speaking of the simplicity, the willingness to be vulnerable, and to just say yes to God and trust Him for the results.

For those of you that have had children and grandchildren, when they’re toddlers and little kids, you understand that kind of trust, that’s just given to you as a precious gift. (I don’t know where it disappears when they become teens…)

Even in adversity, when we don’t have answers, we need to surrender to God, and trust in His love. One indicator of this surrender is the extent to which we genuinely thank God for the blessings He provides. I suppose truthfully, this area becomes one of the most difficult for us.

Because when we are blessed, there’s a tendency for us to either trust in ourselves or trust in our blessings, much as we trust in the tools for provision rather than God. I think we run to God fast when we have problems, but I think we kind of ignore God when we’re being blessed.

There is tendency for us just to kind of think “You know, I’m doing pretty good here. ” And we become self-reliant. It’s so human for all of us, and it takes an actual effort to deliberately surrender to God.

T: Test God’s promises.
God says, right in His Word, test me! Try me, and you will see. I will give you more than you could ever imagine.

We need to look at God’s Word and test his promises, because it’s in that testing that God proves Himself to us. Then all of the sudden our faith begins to build. We begin to love and share in an extravagant manner that mimics Christ’s love for us

It’s important, as we begin to test Him, that we also face the challenge of the day, which is turning the tables around, and asking, “Can God trust me?” Does He trust me? Have I proven to be a trustworthy person?

You can use that same acronym, in a reciprocal manner. Take an inventory. What areas of your life are you trustworthy in? What areas of your life do you consistently following God? What areas of your life do you need a little work?

Recognizing God as your resource – what areas of your life do you tend to try to grab the reins, to take things over? Do you trust in your own strength instead of in God’s strength? And so on, and so forth, through the rest of the acronym.

My prayer for you is that, as you work through this, you come to understand in its fullness what it means to be a steward and a disciple of Jesus Christ. All things come from Him. All things go to Him. And we are simply to reflect His love, that others might come to know the same blessings we have, and trust in the same God we know, because of the victory we have in Him.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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