Can I Really Trust God?

Tonight as we consider our fourth question of faith let me remind you of the first three questions we've addressed: " Who is Jesus Christ? " Why am I not where I want to be? " What happens when I die? The answer to each of these questions has a common thread that weaves through and around them, and that thread is our willingness to trust God. Can I trust what God says about Jesus, Can I trust that God will help me go down the right path, can I trust that God will resurrect me after I die if I have faith in Jesus Christ?

So tonight we will explore the issue of trust by addressing the question, can I really trust God?

Trust was the big issue facing Moses on Mt. Sinai (Horeb), was it not? First he had to trust that what he was seeing, a burning bush not being consumed by fire, was real, then he had to trust that the voice he heard was God, and as our reading concludes Moses then had to trust that God would be with him as he confronted Pharaoh.

And we too are confronted with issues of trusting God individually and as a church family. I'm sure we all have our individual stories of how we have had to trust God to pull us through difficult times, or to provide for us in times of need.

And as a church family we too have placed our trust in God over the past couple of years as we have moved from a part-time two-point charge, to a full-time two-point charge, and now to a full-time charge.

We've also started new ministries, a new worship service, and we've reorganized the church around a mission of worship, spiritual growth, and making and equipping disciples. We couldn't have done any of this if we didn't trust that God would provide what we needed when we needed it.

And yet with all the examples we each could cite of trusting God in our personal lives, and the examples we can cite from our experiences as part of this congregation, we still often times struggle with trusting God. Why is this? Well, when we talk about trust we also have to talk about control. So when we struggle with trust issues what we're most often struggling with is control. We don't mind trusting others and trusting God as long as we feel we still have some control of what's going on. Isn't this true? If trust requires giving up complete control we have difficulty with that. Yet giving up control and placing our whole trust in God is what God tells us we must do.

Well let me push this issue of trust and control a little harder. Back in 1992 there was an atheist in Austin, Texas who was marching around a convention center with a sign that said, "In God we trust, Not!

This gentlemen was following the fad of those days of negating a statement by tagging "not" on the end of it. This atheist was also demonstrating what we do as Christians as well. We pledge our allegiance to God but reserve the right to tag on, "Not!"

"God, I trust you with my business affairs, Not!" "Lord, I give you control of by life, Not!" "Father, please be the God of our home, Not!"

The truth is, thanks to an atheist, we may better understand trust, and our lack of it.

Back in 1980 I was stationed on the USS Eisenhower, an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. One day we received a request from the USS South Carolina a cruiser in our battle group that they were having some mechanical problems and asked if we could send some help.

I was selected to be part of a team to go over to the South Carolina. We were later told that we'd be taken over by helicopter. Little did I know that the helicopter was to large to land on the smaller cruiser and that we would be lowered by cable onto its deck.

So we hovered over the cruiser and each member of the team began to be lowered onto the deck of the ship. And before too long it was my turn to be lowered down. Now I'm not a big fan of heights so before I got into the harness I said a brief prayer to myself and hoped for the best.

As I was being lowered a strong wind came up all of a sudden and moved the helicopter dangerously close to the ships antenna array, so the helicopter quickly turned away and now I was dangling over the ocean, hanging from a cable swaying back and forth.

I've never felt so helpless and out of control of a situation in my life. There was nothing I could do, short of yelling, which I'm sure I did, and I probably promised God all kinds of things if he would just get me on the deck of that cruiser safely. I had no control of the situation, as soon as I stepped into the harness I gave up control, I had to trust the helicopter pilot and the guy lowering me down to the deck. All I could do was hang on until they finally hovered back over the cruiser and lowered me onto the deck.

Well, I think surrendering to God can sometimes feel like this. We hang there, sometimes swinging in the wind, not knowing what to do, not knowing if we can trust God to lead us, or to tell us what direction to move in. And being in this kind of situation can be uncomfortable and seem unnatural to us.

Trusting God also becomes hard when we are going through a difficult time. Sometimes we feel as if we're at the mercy of random events - from car accidents to losing our jobs due to down sizing, from unexpected pregnancies to acts of terrorism. And from time to time we encounter, or see others experience, more misery and pain then anyone person deserves. Why would we want to place our trust in God when he allows these things to happen?

Yet as Christians we refuse to believe that history is merely random. Beneath the apparent disorder of our lives and the chaos throughout the world, God has a plan that endows human history with meaning and purpose. As Christians we believe this to be true. When I consider my own life, and when I have felt most challenged and tested to trust God it most often was in those times of tragedy, unexplained suffering, and undo hardship.

But as we've discussed before being Christian doesn't immune us from such events. The Bible describes such times as the groans of creation (Romans 8:22). These groans emerge from illness, natural disasters, and other sources beyond human control. And frequently our suffering is a result of tragic human choices, not divine intervention.

Often times the greatest hurt in our lives comes not from what others do to us, but from what we do to ourselves. Human sin typically leads to suffering, not because God is punishing us, but because we've lost our way, and have decided to place our trust in things not of God.

God created us to share in a unique relationship with our creator, but often times we chose to cut ourselves off from our life source. We're disconnected from the persons were meant to become, and this weakens our relationships to other people and to the world.

There's a story of the only survivor of a shipwreck who was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions.

But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke billowing up to the sky. The worst had happened; everything was lost. He was stunned with grief and anger. "God I trusted you to protect me, how could you do this to me!" he cried.

Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. "How did you know I was here?" asked the weary man of his rescuers. "We saw your smoke signal," they replied.

You see it's easy to get discouraged when things are going bad, it's easy to lose our faith and trust in God. But we shouldn't lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of pain and suffering. Remember, the next time your little hut is burning to the ground it just may be a smoke signal that summons the grace of God.

When things go wrong, God responds with passion. Like any good parent, God shares in our pain and suffering. Any mother or father knows that as parents we're not only aware of the suffering of our children, we actually participate when our children our hurt. Isn't this true?

When Jeff, my oldest son, broke both of his wrists I think I was in as much pain as he was. I found myself lying awake a night worry about his well-being.

The point is our children's welfare becomes more important than anything else. Well it's this way for God also, as our parent. When we are in pain and are suffering, like a parent, God feels our pain as well. So as Christian's we believe God remains present with us in the midst of suffering, this is why the difficult times in our lives also become an opportunity for growth.

In a way, life is ordered like this. Consider this, many of the advances we make in our lives comes through pain. Infants learn to sleep through the night only through the anxiety of being separated from their parents.

Toddlers learn to walk by falling down a lot. Teenagers learn about love through times of insecurity and disappointment. Older adults gain wisdom as they live with the loss of friends and family. And Christians grow in grace and trust as they experience difficult times.

Suffering is a part of life, and God speaks to us through this suffering. God speaks through illness, injustice, and misunderstandings to bring us to an authentic life, a life filled with purpose, and a life focused on the priorities of God. Yes, suffering may be painful, but it's also an opportunity to grow in love and trust. As Moses placed his trust in God, we too are to place our trust in God, understanding that all of life's circumstances are under God's control. Knowing that God loves and cares for us enables us to keep steady in our faith regardless of our circumstances.

God demonstrated his love for us by sending Jesus to live with us. Now Jesus didn't work independently of God, but in union with him. This should give us even more assurance of being welcomed into God's presence and being protected by him. Jesus' purpose was to do the will of God, not to satisfy human desires. And when we follow Jesus, we should have the same purpose placing our whole faith in God.

Can we trust God with our lives? Yes we can. Can we trust God to be with us during times of difficulty? Yes we can. Can we trust God to forgive our sins? Yes we can. Can we trust God to raise us to eternal life? Yes we can. Can we really trust God? Yes we can.


Read other messages by Pastor Wade