Sunday, May 24, 2009

Faith vs. Trust

They received divine help in fighting them, and the Hagrites and all their allies were handed over to them. They cried out to God during the battle; he responded to their prayers because they trusted in him. (1 Chr. 5:20)

My efforts at an application-centered read-through of the Bible have sometimes been, well, challenging. Such as the past few days in 1 Chronicles. One thing I love about this approach, though, is that it teaches me to look for God's personal hand in the lives of those we encounter in Scripture. When I see His hand there, I can recognize His touch in my own life as well.

Today I was captivated by this verse tucked into the chronology of Israel. The Reubenites, Gadites, and half-tribe of Manessah - the group that had stayed east of the Jordan River rather than settling in the Promised Land - faced some pretty stout enemies. yet when they cried out to God, He responded - giving them divine help. "Respond" here literally means "allowed Himself to be entreated." What motivated his response? Their trust in Him.

My mind immediately went to an encounter Jesus had with a man who also asked for divine intervention. The centurion's slave was sick, and he sent for Jesus. Luke records the contrast of those who were trying to convince Jesus of the man's worthiness for a piece of His time, and the man's own humility and trust that Jesus' mere words would be sufficient:

After Jesus had finished teaching all this to the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave who was highly regarded, but who was sick and at the point of death. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they urged him earnestly, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, because he loves our nation, and even built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not presume to come to you. Instead, say the word, and my servant must be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him. He turned and said to the crowd that followed him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith!” So when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave well.
I realized through these two stories that often I relegate faith to an intellectual level. Do I believe that God can heal, can intervene? Sure. But do I trust Him? Too often, the answer is "not so much."

But a word study of "faith" reveals something striking: Faith is really "a belief that brings with it the ability to relax" - in other words, to trust. When I have abstract "faith" I know God's character, promises, and potential. When I trust Him, I know that He is my only hope and that He will do what is right.

That can be hard when other people are involved. We want to believe that God can and will work, but there is someone's free will or some seemingly insurmountable circumstance standing in the way. We feel we must "do" something. But as my pastor wisely pointed out this morning, that was Sarah's attitude as well - and the result was the child of the flesh.

That's where trust comes in. If I trust God then I will trust Him with that person, that circumstance. I might not know what is going to happen - or even what is best. But I trust Him in it. I trust Him with me. I put myself in an environment where His Spirit can flourish and He can speak to me as I walk in the Spirit, and I let go of the fear and anxiety that is evidence of lack of trust. Faith has now moved from my head to my heart. It affects how I sleep at night and what I do the next morning.

Am I there? Not by a long shot! On my best days, I get a glimpse of the potential. I live in the words of Jarius: "I do believe; help my unbelief."

Funny - I have a hunch that if I really trust Him, He will do just that.