By: Andy Woodall
Trust can be a tricky thing!
You trust the traffic light to direct vehicles traveling 45 miles per hour through an intersection headed in different directions. How easy would it be for the traffic lights facing all directions to be green simultaneously? That would be a catastrophe! Yet most of us drive through multiple intersections every day. Every day you trust those traffic lights. Every day you trust people to obey those traffic lights. Trusting and obeying traffic lights on the part of all drivers provides protection, order, and a level of guidance when people have competing destinations, directions, desires, and driving habits.
Here are a few other trust tests for you:
Do you trust the ATM “machine” to make correct calculations and give you the right cash…from the right account?
Do you trust the self-checkout cashier “machine” to correctly total your order…receive payment and accurately make the transaction with your credit card and or debit card…or take cash and make the correct change?
Do you trust your mobile device to adjust your thermostat or turn your lights on or off when you are on vacation or arriving home?
Do you trust your car will start when you turn the key or push the button? (I know, it depends on your car, right? Admittedly, there were seasons of my life when I had “trust issues” with the reliability of my car. I can laugh now.)
Let me try some trust tests that may make you pause a bit more. Do you trust your: Mechanic? Doctor? Dentist? Professor? Realtor? Pastor? Parents? Spouse? Kids? Co-workers? Counselor? If not, why not? If so, why so? How does your trust in each person impact your actions or reactions to that person?
A harder question is: Do you trust machines, things, and processes more than you trust people and relationships? If so, why? If not, why not?
Let’s get to the most significant issue: Do you trust that which is created (man’s inventions, nature, man) more than the Creator (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and His word?
How you respond has radical implications for the navigation of your soul. Let’s face it, when we are in the midst of an ongoing or intense and overwhelming struggle we are looking for quick and effective relief and results, not relationship and guidance. We want the way out, not a way through.
This is the introduction to a four-part study on trusting God and receiving His guidance, especially when life is hard.
Although we will include other portions of Scripture, our key passage of study consists of two verses found in wisdom literature in Scripture. Like two trusted traffic lights in an intersection, they will provide us with practical, functioning instruction and admonition for life and godliness that applies to the individual who fears the LORD and heeds this tested and proved instruction.
Below are the four major questions we will address in our study, though many others can and will arise:
Why can and should you trust God?
What’s the relationship between my own understanding and trusting the LORD?
How do you determine where and how to step when you're stuck in life?
What’s the relationship between trust and guidance?
Before we dive into our first major question I want to introduce our key passage and give some general guidelines about wisdom literature and the context of these verses. These are not new for most, but I pray, like a favorite broken in baseball glove, savored recipe, tool for a project, or GPS App., with each application comes new joy, growth, and guidance to you and those you walk alongside and serve.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”
A few things to know about Proverbs:
The basic nature of wisdom as viewed by the author of Proverbs is summed up in his statement “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” - the fundamental nature of wisdom was theological. In Proverbs the underlying basis of life is one’s relationship to God.
In comparison, prophecy worked from the nation downward to the individual, wisdom worked from the individual upward to the nation. Underlying the book is wisdom theology that seeks to bring individuals into a right relationship with God and their neighbors.
Every proverb in Scripture tells a story. They are not mechanical, but narrative. Embedded in each proverb is the plotline of the whole redemptive story - Creation, Fall, Redemption…that addresses the past, present, and future of how life should be based on God’s wisdom.
Proverbs are not promises, yet they are full of promise. They have to do with the way the Creator and His creation work factoring in the complexities of fallenness, pain, suffering, sin, choices, desires, pursuits, our finiteness and God’s immutability. Proverbs are rich and beautiful and multifaceted, like diamonds.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart”
We are going to look at each word and phrase, then answer our first main question for study of Proverbs 3:5-6 and trust issues.
Remembering this is in chapter three and fits into the narrative context of a father, Solomon, talking to his son. There are many truths to be mined within this initial word of this proverb. First, it implies “you”. It’s a very personal admonition and instruction from this father directly to his son, building upon all the previous words of “My son…” (Proverbs 2:1; 3:1). Second, the father is basing his instruction on and within the words God has already established. To trust in the LORD was not a new instruction, direction, or relationship. Solomon’s father, David, wrote many Psalms testifying of His trust in the LORD, as well as leading God’s people to do the same. Solomon is entrusting and charging his son with the same instruction and admonition he was given by his father - “Son, trust in the LORD” . Third, this father was giving instruction and admonition out of personal experience. Out of his many years of life lived, he was offering to his son wisdom on how to do life in a meaningful and God-fearing way that will bring him and others joy and peace, and bring glory to God.
Forth, Solomon used a word full of theological significance. “Trust” means “confident” or “secure”. Solomon told his son to put his confidence in the LORD. You can depend on and find security in the LORD. The object of this trust had a singular clear focus - the LORD.
“In the LORD”
Who is this LORD that the father was speaking of? What about Him justifies a young man’s loyal confidence… How is He worthy of trust?
Those familiar with Scripture know the rich and bottomless well of response that is available for these questions. Let’s consider a few large categories initially:
His Nature. God consists of three persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Unlike anyone or anything we know. He is one God consisting of three persons, perfect unity.
His attributes. God is love (I John 4:8). God is immutable, does not change (Malachi 3:6). He is all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful (Psalm 139).
His acts. He created man. He initiates relationship with man. He made a plan and provision for man’s forgiveness of sins through the blood of his Son, Jesus, and His resurrection satisfied God’s righteous wrath so that all who believe would receive new life, eternal life. They have gone from death to life (Colossians 1). He provided His word.
Pastor and author Jerry Bridges points out the Scripture teaches us three essential truths about God that we must believe if we are to trust God in adversity.
God is completely sovereign (Isaiah 46:10; Lamentations 3:37-38; John 19:10-11
God is infinite in wisdom (Isaiah 38:17; Psalm 119: 67-71; Romans 11:33)
God is perfect in love (Isaiah 54:10; Matthew 10:29-31; Romans 5:6-8)
Think about it. Just because someone is all powerful or sovereign does not mean they should be trusted. Dictators have total rule in their kingdoms, humanly speaking, but that does not make them trustworthy. Someone can be all powerful and infinite in wisdom, that still does not make them trustworthy. They could use their power and wisdom for selfish gain to the neglect or harm of others. On the other hand, if a being was all loving and not all powerful and all wise, they would not be totally trustworthy either. They would show love but it could be misguided and or not sufficient or appropriate, lacking power and wisdom.
YOU ARE ABLE TO TRUST IN THE LORD because He is the LORD. There is no one like Him! His sovereignty, wisdom, and love provides for all of a person’s deepest needs, especially when a person lacks control, wisdom, and love…or falsely assumes they sufficiently have all three within themselves.
“With all your heart”
The control center of your life, all of who you are - your strength, your passions, your mind, your emotions, every aspect of your being…trust Him. It’s not a thirty day money back guarantee. It's not a “sure, whatever”. Nor is it a surface behavioral token that gets shoved in the slot machine of near impossible odds in hopes for a “trouble-free, happy life”. It’s all of your being actively relying on God for life and living.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart”
Where do you go to get answers, find help, comfort, security, hope, direction? Do you go to God? Do you trust Him?
What are some ways and areas of your life you have grown at trusting in the LORD? Take time to thank God for that.
Pray and ask God to reveal trust issues you have…specifically with Him.
What does it look like to trust God? Here are a few practical things:
Go to God before you go to google or siri, or anyone or anything else. Really talk to Him.
Listen to Him. We listen to people we trust. Spend time reading and studying your Bible to get to know God and hear what He has to say to you.
Make decisions based on Who God is and what He says…His instruction, commands, principles, warnings.
Sing praise to God.
Share with others what you are learning from Him.
Be still and focus on God. Celebrate who He is. His beauty.
Be faithful to fulfill your regular roles and responsibilities with joy.
Evaluate, take inventory and take responsibility for your part, your wrongdoing.
Act based on obedience to God’s word rather than impulse to your passions, suffering, and or frustrations.
The next post will address our second main question in this series on “Trust Issues” - What’s the relationship between my own understanding and trusting the LORD? No matter how long you have followed Christ, you might be surprised at this one. We’ll provide a helpful application exercise for you and others in the next post.
The content within the first two bullets is from Bullock, C. Hassell. An Introduction to the Old Testament Poetic Books, Moody Press. Pages 146-177
Content from Paul Tripp videos, www.paultripp.com (under Content/Proverbs Bible Study)
Psalms pertaining specifically to trusting the LORD: 9:8,11; 13:5-6; 27; 20:6-7; 25; 34:9,11; 37:3; 56:3-4, 10-11; 119:41-42; 143:8.
Bridges, Jerry. You Can Trust God. NavPress booklet. Source of content for this quote and the bulleted points underneath.