By Femi Aribisala
This is the season when the merchants of God tell tall tales about him. They tell us to trust God for all kinds of things this New Year. They tell us God will buy us cars; he will build us houses; he will even buy our pastors jets so they can evangelise and save the world. But these motivational preachers, who often require down-payments for God’s promises in their bank accounts, are snake-oil salesmen and women. What they conveniently fail to tell us is the truth that God cannot be trusted to fulfil our vanities.
Be careful what you trust God for. Otherwise, you will conclude that God is not trustworthy. God is often not inclined to do what we want. His thoughts are not amenable to our vainglories. His ways are not conducive to our pride of life.
Don’t buy the lie. God was not in Christ reconciling the world to himself. (2 Corinthians 5:19). It is the world that must be reconciled to God. God says to man: “Not your will but mine be done.” He says: “Not your method but mine. Not your timing but mine.” Can we trust God enough to accept this? God will only act when he chooses to act. He will only do things his way. That makes him untrustworthy to the Frank Sinatras who want things their way.
“As for me,” says the psalmist, “I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God. My times are in your hand.” (Psalm 31:14-15).
As a new believer, I was misled by a King James Bible translation that reads: “Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his maker, ‘Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me.’” (Isaiah 45:11). I went round barking commands at God in the altar of prayer. It took me a while to realise that the correct translation means the exact oppose of that KJV version: “The LORD, the holy God of Israel, the one who shapes the future, says: ‘You have no right to question me about my children or to tell me what I ought to do!’”
God cannot be trusted to fulfil our dreams. He cannot be trusted to fulfil our purposes. The fact that you want a car does not mean you can trust God to get one for you. God can only be trusted to fulfil his promises. He cannot be trusted to fulfil our agendas. That is why it is important to have a relationship with God. That way, we can hold God to the promises he makes to us and not even assume the promises he made to others in biblical days automatically apply to us. When we read the bible without understanding, we conclude foolishly that letters addressed to others are actually meant for us.
Trust without understanding
Think this through with me. Can you really trust someone who kills off Ezekiel’s wife just in order to make a point to Israel? Can you trust someone who did nothing to prevent Herod from chopping off John the Baptist’s head? Can you trust a doctor who stays back when told his friend is sick and finally arrives four days’ late after the man had died? Can you trust a physician who could heal you immediately but decides instead to nurse you back to health? Can you trust someone who would shut his face from his son when he is dying on the cross? Can you trust the bosom friend who invited the devil into Job’s situation and allowed him to kill his children, destroy his business and affect his health?
Job himself provides the implausible answer. He persists in trusting God in spite of his ordeal. He did not succumb to the entreaties of his wife to curse God. Instead, he declares: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15).
Trusting God does not always mean we will understand what he is doing or why he is doing it. The wise man counsels: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes.” (Proverbs 3:5-7).
Work of faith
What we are called to do is to stand on the word of God, irrespective of whatever situation we find ourselves. We are not to trust God for things. We are to trust God in all things. God is not only good when the going is good. He is the same yesterday and today and forever when the going is bad. We mouth vain platitudes that “God is good all the time.” But then we nevertheless feel betrayed when times are bad. Peter trusted Jesus to walk on water. But when the waves turned, he doubted and began to sink. The disciples trusted Jesus to cross over to the other side. But when the storm arose, they doubted and complained that he did not care if they perished.
Trust in God is not inherited: it is learnt. It does not come as a result of a fictitious “completed work of Christ on the cross.” We learn to trust God by trusting him. For us to learn to trust God, he has to put us through some hair-raising situations. If God did everything when we want the way and when we want them; we would never develop real trust in him.
How much work do we have to do when we are trusting God? James says: “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26). What then is the nature of the work of faith? Sometimes it is not doing what we would normally do. When we put our trust in the Lord, we don’t have to scheme to get a husband. We don’t have to backstab to get promoted. We don’t need to be evil to get ahead. We don’t need to hoard in order to keep. God gives his beloved sleep.
God is trustworthy
Don’t believe the lie: Jesus did not become poor that we, through his poverty, might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9). We don’t need Jesus to become rich: we need him to become poor. God cannot be trusted to make us rich. He can be trusted to meet our needs. He will, indeed, give us the desires of our hearts. (Psalm 37:4). But that means he will determine what those desires should be. God cannot be trusted to give us another man’s husband. He can be trusted to give us ours. He cannot be trusted to give us the world. He can be trusted to give us his kingdom. God can be trusted to meet and exceed only our righteous expectations.
As long as our prayer this year is “Father, thy will be done,” we will not be disappointed. As we carry our crosses in 2014, we should be mindful of Jesus’ example at Gethsemane where he prayed: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).
Be careful what you trust God for. Otherwise, you will conclude that God is not trustworthy.