What Are Our Substitutes? What Are Our False Remedies? What’s the Almost Right Answer?
Christians know that trusting God is both important and hard. It’s a daily struggle in the little and big ways that our plans go awry. So we do some things that are the almost right answer, but we convince ourselves that they are the right answer. What are some of those? Here’s my observations.
I’m Not Worried, I’m Just Concerned–A Healthy Concern (Ps 20:7)
Psalm 20:7 (ESV) Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Some will claim that they aren’t worrying, they just have a “healthy concern.” What does that mean? I want control. When I don’t have control over something, I worry about it. If I can get myself to a place where I have control, then I don’t have to trust God for it anymore. When I can pay my bills, I am tempted to quit trusting God for them. I see this in the Christian that does all they can do and then trusts God for what they cannot do. They don’t have control over what they cannot do, so they trust God for that limited part.
Here’s the problem: I need to trust God for even the part that I can do. I may do it wrong. I might not be as wise as I think I am. It might turn out differently than I planned. My circumstances might change, so I’m not able to do what I did before. I trust God for all of it. This is the “God helps those that help themselves” philosophy. No God doesn’t. He helps those that cannot help themselves.
So even that which I think is within my power and control, I must trust God with. I cannot depend upon my own efforts for any of it.
Any time I take the situation into my own hands and determine that I must solve this, I am in danger of not trusting God. I do need to make plans, but I cannot trust my plans (Jam 4:13-17). When I start thinking that my effort and plans are foolproof and I just need God to do the part I cannot do, I’m no longer trusting God. It might look like I am, but I’m really not.
God Will Take Care of It; I Can Sit Back–Pious Fatalism (Ps 127:1)Jerry Bridges discusses this in his excellent book, Trusting God Even When Life Hurts (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1988), 107, 112-113.
This is another thing that looks like trust, but really isn’t. If God’s going to get done what He wants done anyway, then I don’t need to do anything goes the thinking. I don’t need to witness to my co-workers. If God wants them to get saved, they will get saved anyway. So I do nothing, but I claim that I’m doing nothing because I’m trusting God. I make no plans. I’m negligent with my responsibilities, but I claim it’s because I’m trusting God.
“But the knowledge of His sovereignty is meant to be an encouragement to pray, not an excuse to lapse into a sort of pious fatalism” says Jerry Bridges. Because God is sovereign, He is able to answer our prayers. He is able to use our weak efforts to accomplish great things for His glory.
God’s sovereignty is not an excuse for us to do nothing. We don’t know what God’s sovereign plan is in a specific situation; therefore, we should use all biblical means at our disposal to work towards what we believe to be a good result. While we do that, we recognize that His sovereign plan will be accomplished with or without our efforts. God’s control over all things is not an excuse to shirk our responsibilities.
Trusting God is a razor’s edge balancing act. I do need to plan for retirement for example, but I cannot trust my plans. I also can’t do nothing (unless God hasn’t provided me the opportunity to do anything) and call that trust either.
Psalm 127:1 (ESV) Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
Psalm 127: 1 reminds us that it’s not if God blesses their efforts that the house will be built and the city will be secure. The psalmist speaks as if God must do it all. Yet the builders and the watchers would be negligent if they did nothing. They must do something. Bridges says, “We must depend upon God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We must, to the same degree, depend on Him to enable us to do what we must do for ourselves.” “There are times when we can do nothing, and there are times when we must work. In both instances we are equally dependent upon God.”
I’m Trusting God for My Preferred Result–A False Savior (Is 45:9; Rom 9:21)
Isaiah 45:9 (ESV) “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?
Romans 9:21 (ESV) Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
This looks like I’m trusting God. I will pray really hard that what I think needs to happen will happen. I will say that I’m trusting God to see my preferred result. But I’m not really trusting God because I will be discouraged if I don’t get my result.
Anytime I am trusting God only for a specific outcome, I’m not trusting God. I am trusting what I think will save me in this circumstance. That’s why I call it a false savior.
What does this look like?:
- We’re trusting God that He will heal our relative’s cancer. What if it’s not his will? Some Christians die of cancer? Can you trust God with that outcome?
- I’m trusting God to provide me a husband. What if He doesn’t?
- I’m trusting God that I will get that job. What if God wants you to have a different job?
- I’m trusting God that this conflict with my parents will be worked out. What if it isn’t (Rom 12:18)?
- I’m trusting God that we’ll be able to get a house closer to the church? What if you can’t?
- I’m trusting God that we’ll be able to have children some day. What if you can’t?
- I’m trusting God that my brother will trust Christ some day. What if he doesn’t? Is God still good?
This really looks like trusting God to us. In fact, we even say that we’re trusting God. But what we’re really saying is that we know what the right outcome is in this circumstance and God is the One that can provide that outcome; therefore, we’ll trust Him to provide that outcome and that outcome alone. But really trusting God means I accept any outcome as coming from His all wise, loving, and sovereign hands, not just the outcome I prefer.
So I can certainly pray for my preferred outcome. But am I trusting God if I’ll only accept that outcome from Him? He knows best, and I must submit to his will; not He to mine.
In my ministry these are some of the false substitutes for trusting God that I’ve seen in my heart and in others that I have counseled. They’re deceitful because they are the almost right answer. They sound like trusting God, but they are really trusting our own efforts, or trusting our plans, or just pious laziness.
Are there any you would add to this list?
|↑1||Jerry Bridges discusses this in his excellent book, Trusting God Even When Life Hurts (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1988), 107, 112-113.|