Thursday, October 29, 2009

“Faith vs. Trust”

I recently heard a teaching on the difference between faith and trust. At first I wasn’t sure if there really was a difference, but I have come to believe that there is.

Hebrews 11:1 says that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” So faith is having confidence that something will or has happened based on God's Word, even when there is no visible physical evidence of such. “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” Heb.11:3

True faith must be based upon the Word of God not just believing something that we think or hope will happen. But even then, our faith can fail when things don’t turn out the way we believed the Word promised they would. Case in point takes Peter. He knew that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, and that the scriptures said the Messiah would become King and rule from Jerusalem forever. Bringing with Him an everlasting kingdom of peace. But Jesus was about to be arrested and crucified, so what Peter knew the Word promised seemingly was about to fail and not come to pass. Peter’s faith was about to be tested at a whole new level. Jesus knowing this, says to Peter at the last supper, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” Jesus understood that our faith could fail when things don’t turn out the way we believe the scriptures promise. Because of this seeming failure of God's promises, many people become disillusioned and discard their faith, thus Hebrews 10:35 warns us “cast not away your confidence.” We are tempted to lose or cast away our faith when that loved one dies that we believed God promised to heal, or we lose that career or business that we believe was God's purpose for our life. Faith is the bedrock of our Christian walk, but our faith can fail when difficult circumstances assault us and we feel as though God‘s Word has failed.

So what then is the difference between faith vs. trust, you might ask? I believe that trust us the next step up from faith. Jeremiah 17:7 says that the man that trusts in the Lord is “as a tree planted by the water” even when the drought comes and the wind blows this tree may sway but it will not be moved and will continue to yield fruit. Likewise Psalms 125:1 says, ”They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth forever.” Trust makes us as unmovable as a mountain in our faith. If we truly trust in our God, even when things don’t turn out the way we believed they would, we will continue to trust in our Father's heart, trust in His love, and trust in His Word. “For I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” 2 Tim. 1:12

The book of Daniel tells of three Hebrew men who had this kind of trust in their God. The king had made a decree that when the music played everyone was to bow down and worship a golden image of the king or be thrown into a fiery furnace to be burned alive. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego had faith that God would deliver them, but they had a trust in Him that went beyond that faith. Hear what they said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Dan. 3:16-17 They did not try to defend themselves or figure a way out of this predicament on their own. They had full faith that their God would take care of them and deliver them. Yet because of their consuming trust in God, and His loving heart for them, even if He didn’t deliver them physically, they still were not going to shrink back from their confidence in Him. Even at the cost of their very lives.

Isn’t it about time we move past faith into this place of uncompromising trust? A place where we are unshaken and unmoved by what we see, but are instead fully persuaded by the “Word's” good report over and for us. Being fully persuaded that He will “guard what we have entrusted to Him.”

“Preserve me O God: for in thee do I put my trust.” Psm. 16:1

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

“Standing in the Gap”

“And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.” Ez. 22:30

I believe that Ezekiel 22:30 is one of the saddest, most disturbing verses in the entire Bible. The whole nation of Israel had fallen into sin and rebellion against God. It had gotten so bad that even the prophets were, “like a roaring lion tearing the prey.” and the priest “have done violence to the law and have profaned My holy things.” But God being rich in mercy and grace still desires to spare the nation. He didn’t want to pour his righteous wrath out upon them, but His justice would demand it unless He could find someone to intercede on their behalf. Someone who would weep for them, plead for them, repent for them, and warn them to turn from their rebellion and turn back to their merciful God.

What Gods was looking for was not unreasonable in any way. It was not too harsh, nor was it expecting too much. He was not looking for a whole army of people. He wasn’t even looking for a whole congregation of people. He was just looking for “a man.” One man. One single individual who cared enough, who loved enough, who feared God enough to put himself aside so he could to see what God sees, feel what God feels, and fall on his face before a Holy God on behalf of the nation. God wasn’t looking for someone special, just someone whose heart was yielded to His, someone whose heart was after His heart.

The pain in our Father's loving heart can be heard in the quivering desperation of God's voice. His pleading tone is evident as through tear filled eyes He proclaims, “I sought for a man…but I found none.” A whole nation of people and God can’t find one man with a heart after His. Not even one single man had a heart to intercede. How sad! How desperately sad! Yet I fear our present generation is not that far removed from theirs. How selfish and calloused we have become to God's ways. How comfortable we have become in our luxuries as we turn a deaf ear to the Spirit's promptings.

God has not changed; He is still looking for a man. He is still looking for a woman, who will build up the wall, and stand in the gap. He is still looking for someone who will intercede on behalf of their neighbor, their co-worker, their kids, or their friends. Maybe even their nation.

I pray that as God is seeking a man to build up the walls of His Kingdom, or stand guard in the gaps of peoples' broken lives, he won’t be forced to say, “I sought for a man…but I found none,” but instead will find us on our knees pleading, praying and proclaiming as the prophet Isaiah did, “Here I am, send me.”

“When I heard these things I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said; O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ears be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my fathers house, have committed against you.” Neh. 1:4-6