Trusting the Trustworthy

Trusting the Trustworthy

The traumatic events that played out in Boston over the last several days have brought forth both the vulnerability and the fortitude of Americans.  I should think that World War II Londoners who survived the Blitz would readily identify.

It is a different kind of war, though, albeit accompanied by the same effects, from sheer psychological terror to the killed, maimed and wounded.  The root cause remains the same:  We live in a fallen world, replete with fallen people, even those who mean well.

A pastor from Indonesia recently came to our church with a message that is readily applicable to our contemporary scene.  His church has been shut down by his government and it even harassed him concerning his Visa process.  He doesn’t even know on a Sunday-to-Sunday basis where his fellowship will convene for worship.  He has been personally threatened, and his church has been surrounded by angry mobs.

My pastoral colleague is a Christian and the ranks of his government are increasingly filled by militant Muslims.  It is a frightening situation, but this godly man puts his trust completely in God.  

He came to the United States in order to raise awareness concerning the plight of Christians in his country.  He met with congressional and governmental leaders in Washington throughout the week.  His visit to First Baptist culminated his tour.

He came to us without any agenda other than that of sharing God’s Word and sharing his life, similar to the Apostle Paul amongst the believers at Thessalonica:  “We were happy to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).  It was joy for us that he so shared.

But share the Word of God he also did!  His text was Psalm 121, with the accompanying title or theme of “Trust the Trustworthy.”  It was a message that prepared those of us who received it for the trauma of the forthcoming week.    

We were reminded that it is not easy to be Christians.  The difficult context for the pastor is harassment and persecution for his faith; for us, it is (at least for now) more along the lines of fortifying ourselves against the seduction of worldly desires.  

Our difficulty is also to find the right application of wisdom in order for us to bear witness to the love of Christ amidst the horrors inflicted upon the Boston Marathon crowd.  God is good, and will grant us wisdom as we ask for it (James 1:5).

The Lord, shared the pastor, will take care of us as we trust in Him, a trust that is commended to us for at least three rock-solid reasons, according to the psalmist:  His character, His capability and His commitment to us.

His Character:  God never changes - “I look up toward the hills.  From where does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth!” (vv.1, 2)

The word for “Lord” conveys His unchangeable character.  He is, as Scripture attests of Jesus, the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  He is a God of miracles, but He will perform none when His people cast their dependence upon other people or things rather than upon Him.  

Our dear pastor and his fellowship are learning to depend completely and utterly upon God.  It shows, too, as a Christ-like spirit and deportment came forth from him.  

I am reminded of what a an atheistically-inclined political scientist at Harvard University said of the great Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain after the latter had lectured on campus:  He was struck, not so much by Maritain’s brilliance (for such he was, but brilliance is a dime-a-dozen reality at a place like Hah-vahd), but by his childlikeness!

Didn’t Jesus teach us that we would need to be like little children if we were to enter the Kingdom of God (Matthew 18:3)?  Maritain, steeped in the wisdom and depth of old age, writes of those who endeavor to guide us:

“There is no shortage of guides, judging from the noise they make, and surely all of them have the best intentions.  No doubt a few of them know the way.  Let us hope that those who do can give us some inkling of what it is ‘to accept as a child the kingdom of God,’ without which, Jesus said, no one can enter it – and it is certainly not a question of closing our eyes, for a child looks.  We must at all costs know a little what it means to look at divine things with the eyes of a child, an din what school this is taught – and that God alone can teach us this” (from The Peasant of the Garonne).

It takes a child, or a child-like individual to truly appreciate the depth and riches of God’s unchangeable character, for the kind of trust to which God calls us is grasped only by those with such trusting capacity – namely, children; children of God even.

Our pastor for the day also reminded us that blessings can sometimes prove to be curses but, thankfully, curses can sometimes prove to be blessings.  We are dealing with an existential irony.  Spiritual truth can often be counter-intuitive, let alone counter-cultural.    

We have become complacent, entitled and apathetic here in the prosperous West, and much (though blessedly not all) of our Christian expression has grown shallow.   One does not often encounter such a jewel of Christ-likeness here in the West.  But our dear brother, at the risk of sounding like a glib westerner who has never endured such travesties, is being refined by the purifying experience of having to trust utterly in God.  We are assured of the blessed effects of suffering for Christ in Scripture:

“Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold – gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away – and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7).
His Capability:  God is able - (Again) “My help comes from the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth”(v. 2).  The New Testament assures us that He is able to help us, as no less a spiritual luminary than the Apostle Paul attests:

“For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher.  Because of this, in fact, I suffer as I do.  But I am not ashamed, because I know the one in whom my faith is set and I am convinced that he is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day” (2 Timothy 1:11, 12).

Our pastor put forth the declarative question – “What is your problem?”  He pronounced in answer – “It is a small thing before and in the hands of our more-than capable God!”

The impossible becomes the possible with God, something affirmed by Jesus Himself (Mark 10:27); further, God, with whom all things are possible, is more than willing to help us.  Why worry, when we can trust?  Why wait in frustration and fear, when we can go to Him in faith and in trust right now?

His Commitment:  God is committed to us - “May he not allow your foot to slip!  May your protector not sleep!  Look!  Israel’s protector does not sleep or slumber! (vv. 3, 4).

God’s commitment to us is grounded in His character and is highlighted by His capability.  We need not falter or crumble before our enemies.  We bow before Him who is both able to help us and who is devoted to so doing.  

The full spectrum of terror, from the horrific explosions at the Boston Marathon to the cold chill of a doctor’s diagnosis of cancer to the loss of a loved one – None holds sway over those who put their trust in God.  Says the Apostle Paul:

“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose …Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, ‘For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’  No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depths, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:28, 35-39).

I love how our Indonesian pastor put it:  “A person who knows how to kneel in front of the Great I AM will be able to stand before the Great Challenge.”  He knows, having learned the hard but blessed way.  Do we?  Will we?  God is not in question.  The clarion has been issued – Trust the Trustworthy, and now more than ever!

Bradley E. Lacey
April 21, 2013