The online journal of Luke Dockery

Tag: Trust

Biblical Faith: Trust

In our series on faith, last week’s post discussed how biblical faith is not a blind leap based on no evidence; neither is it a certainty which can be proven. Instead, it is a reasonable faith, somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.

Today I want to discuss another characteristic of biblical faith: trust.

Teens and Youth Events

I am a youth minister, which means that I spend a good amount of time putting together a calendar of activities for my teens—youth rallies, service projects, retreats, summer trips, etc.—and then encouraging them to go on those events. With some students, it’s always a struggle to get them to go, while other students will eagerly sign up for any event as soon as they hear about it.

I have one student in particular who signs up for everything, but if it’s a new activity that we haven’t done before, he always wants to know beforehand as much information about it as possible: Where will we be staying? How many people are going to be there? Where will we eat? Who will be speaking? What will we be doing all day? What kinds of activities are planned? Why are we supposed to bring _____ with us?

This is one of my favorite kids I’m talking about, and it’s a part of who he naturally is: he wants to be informed and he wants to know what is going to happen. And usually I try to answer his questions. But once not too long ago, after a barrage of his questions, I took a different approach:

Luke: Over the years, in your experience with me and on all the trips you’ve taken with me, have I ever given you a reason not to trust me?

Student: Well…no.

Luke: Then you should be able to trust that I’ll tell you the information that you need to know and the rest of it you’ll just have to wait and see, and it will be okay, right?

Student: Well…yeah…I just wanted to know.

Luke: I understand that you want to know everything; I want you to realize that you don’t have to know everything, and that you can trust that I know what’s going on and that it will be alright.

Student: Well…okay.

At this point, I don’t even remember what the event was or what we did, but it turned out fine.

And then it occurred to me that this example illustrates what biblical faith is all about.

Learning to Trust

The word used for believe or faith in the New Testament is the Greek verb πιστευω (pisteuo). In many places, that word is indeed translated as “believe” or “faith” (if it is a noun) in our English Bibles, but in many, many places it is also translated as “trust”, because the Greek word conveys both meanings.

So, without getting too technical, the point that I’m trying to make is that in the New Testament, the ideas of “believe” and “trust” are linked very closely, in a way that is not immediately apparent in English: faith is inherently tied to trusting in God. 

One author puts it this way: when it comes to understanding faith, “…every decision, every thought, and every action comes down to this: in whom do I place my trust? Do I trust my instincts, my desires, my convictions, or do I trust in Christ?”[1]

In the winding road of life, there are a lot of things that happen pretty much as we expect, and then there are the curveballs that life throws at us when we expect them the least. We find ourselves in situations we didn’t choose, we are uncertain as to how we should proceed, and we worry and obsess about what is going to happen and what we should do.

And a lot of times, we think that if we could just know exactly what was going to happen and how everything would turn out, then we’d be okay. Or, to put it in other words, if we could just have all of the details of the upcoming youth trip, then we could look forward to it and put our minds at ease.

But God is not in the business of giving us detailed itineraries of our futures; instead, he asks us to trust that he will take care of our futures.

The old church hymn by Ira Stanpill sums it up perfectly:

“Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand;

But I know who holds tomorrow, And I know who holds my hand.”

There are a lot of things in my life that I don’t understand and about which I am inclined to worry. But God doesn’t ask me to understand it all, and he certainly doesn’t ask me to worry.

But he does ask that I trust him to take care of it. Because trusting God is what biblical faith is all about.

[1]Kara E. Powell and Chap Clark, Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 34.

Naaman and the Commands We Don’t Understand

As a kid, one of my favorite Bible stories was the story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5. I think I had some sort of children’s storybook version which probably influenced my preference, but it has remained a story that I enjoy as I’ve gotten older.

Do you remember the story? Naaman is an important man, the commander of the army of Syria, but he has leprosy. An Israelite slave girl who works in the service of Naaman’s wife suggests that Elisha, a prophet from Israel, could heal him. Naaman relates this to Ben-Hadad, king of Syria, and then the king sends him to Israel, laden with gifts, to seek a cure. Eventually, Elisha gets word of what is happening and sends for Naaman, who arrives at Elisha’s house with his horses and chariots.

But Elisha doesn’t even come out to see Naaman; instead he just sends a messenger to tell him that his health will be restored if he goes and washes in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman is enraged by this response. He had expected Elisha to come out and do something dramatic, and he doesn’t even begin to understand how washing in a dirty little river could cleanse his leprosy. Furious, Naaman prepares to depart for home, but his servants basically point out that he has nothing to lose by obeying Elisha’s commandment, and so Naaman goes to wash and sure enough, his leprosy is cured.

Grateful for his healing, Naaman renounces Rimmon, his former god, and accepts the God of Israel, pledging to worship no other god in the future.

By personality, and by heritage as well, I like to understand things. If someone makes a decision that affects me, I want to understand why the decision was made. If I am told or required to do something, I want to understand why it is a good thing to do. The same thing is true in my approach to Scripture as well. I come to Scripture wanting to understand it, wanting to figure out what it means, and wanting to discern the correct interpretation of a certain passage.

And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, except this: even when I don’t understand Scripture, I still have to obey it.

And honestly, there are a lot of things in the Bible that I don’t really understand. Why does God choose to save people the way He does? Why is He so particular about some things and not about others? Why are some practices so abhorrent to Him? How exactly does the Trinity work? I have some ideas, but ultimately, I don’t know.

But I don’t have to understand everything, I just have to obey. Just like Naaman.

God is more interested in my trust than my knowledge.

He is more interested in my obedience than my understanding.

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