We are studying the subject of trusting God. This is a very practical subject, and our study should be much more than just educational. Your faith in God is the bottom line in your ability to deal with difficulty, and we can't get much more practical than learning to deal with difficulty. If you have absolutely no problems, trials or struggles in your life, you can leave now. But if you do, at times, find life difficult, then understanding how to trust God will be very practical for you.
We have defined faith as "understanding and assent to a proposition which cannot be verified with the five senses." We know about God's character from the Scripture, we trust Him when we believe what the Bible says about Him and when we believe the promises that He has made us.
Living by faith is the only way that we can please God. Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV) "But without faith it is impossible to please Him...." The Greek word used here for "please" is euaresteo, it means to gratify entirely. The word is only found three times in the Bible, all of them are in Hebrews 11, which deals with faith. Faith pleases God! We should be able to understand this-- aren't you pleased when someone trusts you, when someone has faith in you? Sure you are, and all too often we are not worthy of someone's trust, because we are unfaithful. But God is absolutely trustworthy and the person who trusts Him will be blessed.
Faith is a very practical commodity:
Psalms 37:40 (NKJV) And the LORD shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, And save them, Because they trust in Him.
Here we see physical deliverance comes to people because of faith. You can't get much more practical than preserving you life.
Psalms 78:21-22 (NKJV) Therefore the LORD heard this and was furious; So a fire was kindled against Jacob, And anger also came up against Israel, 22 Because they did not believe in God, And did not trust in His salvation.
Here we see the exact opposite, they didn't trust God and therefore came under His wrath. Faith please God, unbelief angers Him.
Isaiah 26:3-4 (NKJV) You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, For in YAH, the LORD, is everlasting strength.
There is peace and strength to those who trust the Lord.
Isaiah 31:1-2 (NKJV) Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, And rely on horses, Who trust in chariots because they are many, And in horsemen because they are very strong, But who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, Nor seek the LORD! 2 Yet He also is wise and will bring disaster, And will not call back His words, But will arise against the house of evildoers, And against the help of those who work iniquity.
Those who don't trust the Lord, don't have peace but disaster.
Jeremiah 39:17-18 (NKJV) "But I will deliver you in that day," says the LORD, "and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. 18 "For I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me," says the LORD.'"
Again, we see peace and deliverance to those who trust in the Lord. We see this worked out in Noah's life. Noah saved himself and his entire family from drowning because of his faith-- that is pretty practical. As Christians, we must learn to walk by faith, learning to trust God with every detail of our lives.
In order to trust God, we must know Him in an intimate, personal way. You can't trust Him if you don't know Him. And you won't know Him if you don't spend time with Him through the Scriptures. How much can you know about God apart from the Scriptures? You can learn some things abut Him from creation, but any intimate knowledge comes from the Word of God.
Scripture alone teaches us the essential truths about God-- truths we must believe if we are to trust Him in the midst of the tragedies of life. They are:
God, in his goodness and love, always wills what is best for us. In His wisdom, He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty, He has the power to bring it about.
We have looked at what the Scriptures say about God's sovereignty. We have seen that God is sovereign over every event that happens in time. In our last study, we looked at the wisdom of God. God's wisdom is His perfect awareness of what is happening in all of His creation in any given moment. God's wisdom includes his ability to know what is best for each and every one of his creatures. So, God, in his wisdom, knows what is best for us and in his sovereignty, has the power to work it out.
As we learn of God's sovereignty, we may be tempted at times to doubt His goodness. In times of great difficulty we may think, "If God is in control of this situation and can do something about it, why doesn't He?"
Rabbi Kushner in his book, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" says, "God wants the righteous to live peaceful, happy lives, but sometimes even He can't bring that about. It is too difficult even for God to keep cruelty and chaos from claiming their innocent victims."
Kushner is in effect saying, "If God is both powerful and good, why is there so much suffering, so much pain, so much heartache in the world? God is either good and not all powerful, or He is powerful and not all good. You can't have it both ways." Well, Kushner is wrong. The Bible affirms both His sovereignty and His goodness with equal emphasis.
We have seen that God is Sovereign and Wise. Today we want to look at the fact that God is good. The Bible clearly teaches us that God is good.
Psalms 34:8 (KJV) O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
Because God is good, we can trust in Him. You would have trouble trusting someone who wasn't good, wouldn't you?
Psalms 100:5 (KJV) For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
Now remember faith is understanding and assent to a proposition. The proposition we have here is, "The Lord is good." Do you believe that?
Psalms 135:3 (KJV) Praise the LORD; for the LORD is good: sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant.
Psalms 145:9 (KJV) The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.
Exodus 34:6-8 (NKJV) And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 "keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation." 8 So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.
What does the Bible mean when it says that God is good? The goodness of God is that essential perfection of the divine nature which inclines Him to deal bountifully with His creatures. The biblical concept of God's goodness focuses on concrete experiences of what God has done and is doing in the lives of God's people. Scripture affirms that God is and does good.
Mark it down, God is good, and His goodness should cause us to give Him praise and to be thankful.
Psalms 107:1 (NKJV) Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
Psalms 107:8 (NKJV) Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
If we had to narrow it down to one quality to which goodness points, it would be the quality of generosity. Generosity means a disposition to give to others in a way which has no mercenary motive and is not limited by what the recipients deserve, but consistently goes beyond it. Generosity expresses the simple wish that others should have what they need to make them happy. God's generosity in bestowing natural blessings is acclaimed in Psalm 145.
Psalms 145:9 (NKJV) The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.
Psalms 145:15-16 (NKJV) The eyes of all look expectantly to You, And You give them their food in due season. 16 You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The psalmist's point is that since God controls all that happens in His world, every meal, every pleasure, every possession, every bit of sun, every night's sleep, every moment of health and safety, and everything else that sustains and enriches life, is a divine gift from a good God.
Stop for a moment and think of how good God has been to you. What are some of the good things that God has given you? Have you counted them lately?
Does the fact that God is good mean that He is some kind of celestial Santa Claus who gives us everything that we want and overlooks all our sins? No! The Scriptures also teach that God judges sin, he disciplines his children.
Romans 2:4 (NKJV) Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
Romans 11:22 (NKJV) Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.
God's goodness is to lead us to repentance, to turn us from sin to Him. When we take for granted and ignore God's goodness, we will experience His judgement, and His chastening. His goodness should cause us to praise Him and live in gratitude toward Him.
What about when bad things happen to us, like a car accident, or sickness, or death, is God still good? Yes, God is good -- all the time!
Psalms 52:1 (NKJV) Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The goodness of God endures continually.
James 1:17 (NKJV) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
God only gives good and perfect gifts. With that in mind, is trouble or suffering a good gift? It doesn't seem to be, but it is good in what it produces in our lives.
Psalms 119:71 (NKJV) It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.
David said it was good for him to be afflicted, he learned more about God through his suffering. Things that are good for us don't always seem to us to be good.
Chemotherapy is a poison that is put into the body of a person who has cancer to fight the cancer. Poison is not good, but in this case it is to kill cancer, so it is good for the person.
Romans 8:28 (NKJV) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Notice that it doesn't say, "all things are good." What it does say is that "all things work together for good." We can't see the big picture, so too often we don't see things as good, but if we understand that our God is good all the time, we will learn to trust Him in every situation of life. We see in the life of Joseph a man who trusted in the goodness of God. A lot of things happened to Joseph that we would not consider good, but they were.
Genesis 37 tells us that when Joseph was 17, his brothers hated him and wanted to kill him, but instead of killing him they sold him as a slave to Ishmeelites. That sure doesn't seem like a good thing. How do you think you would feel if it happened to you? Talk about rejection!
Genesis 39 tells us that Joseph is sold as a slave to Potiphar, who was an Egyptian. As he was working for Potiphar, Potiphar's wife tried to get Joseph to sin by committing adultery with her. Joseph did what was right, he would not sin against his God, so he literally ran away from her. So Potiphar's scorned wife had him put in prison because he wouldn't go along with her plan. Joseph did what was right, he would not sin and because of this he was put in prison. How would that make you feel? Would you remember that God is good all the time? After 13 years of living as a slave, Joseph interprets a dream for Pharaoh, and because of this, Pharaoh promotes Joseph to the number two man in the most powerful nation on earth at that time. I think that all of us would consider this as a good gift from God. But we need to remember that Joseph spent 13 years as a slave before he was promoted. The things that happened to him weren't good but they were working together for good. Because of his position in Egypt he is able to take care of his family, the brothers who hated him and his father, during a severe famine. Many years later, Joseph's father died and his brothers were afraid that Joseph would try to get revenge on them for selling him as a slave. Look with me at Genesis, chapter 50 to see Joseph's response to them.
Genesis 50:15-20 (NKJV) When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him." 16 So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, "Before your father died he commanded, saying, 17 'Thus you shall say to Joseph: "I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you." ' Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father." And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, "Behold, we are your servants." 19 Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
Joseph tells his brothers that he is not in the place of God, meaning that he would not take vengeance against them. Joseph knew that vengeance belongs to the Lord. Notice very carefully what he tells his brothers in verse 20. They meant evil against him, he knew that and yet he had no anger or bitterness against them because he knew that God meant it for his good. Because of all that happened, he was in a place to save the lives of all of his family. For 13 years things didn't seem good, but they were. God was working all things together for good.
God is good all the time. To question God's goodness is an act of unbelief and is therefore sin, because Scripture clearly declares that He is good.
I think that we abuse and question God's goodness when: 1. We forget all the benefits that He has given us when things aren't going our way. 2. When we murmur and complain about our circumstances. (Most of us are guilty of this.) 3. When we distrust His providence.
If there were ever a people who should never question God's goodness, it would be Americans. It is absolutely incredible what we have. We live in freedom and peace, we have every conceivable tool and appliance to make our lives easy and comfortable. We are the most prosperous and blessed people on the face of the planet. And yet, we are probably the most prone to question God's goodness. Why is that? With all we have as Americans, how could we ever question God's goodness? We question His goodness because we have become proud and self-sufficient because of our abundant blessings. It seems like the more you have the more difficult it is for you to trust God. At least this is what we see in the children of Israel.
Deuteronomy 8 (NKJV) "Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers. 2 "And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 "So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.
God was showing Israel that they were dependant upon Him. Humility is dependant and pride is self-sufficient. God was teaching them to trust in Him, to live by faith.
4 "Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. 5 "You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you. 6 "Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. 7 "For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; 8 "a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 9 "a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper.
This kind of sounds like America, doesn't it? We too live in a good and prosperous land, and we lack nothing.
10 "When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. 11 "Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, 12 "lest; when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; 13 "and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; 14 "when your heart is lifted up, (that's pride) and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;
God warns them in their prosperity not to forget him. I think that America is reaching this point; our hearts have been lifted up with pride and we have forgotten the Lord. We think that we are self-sufficient and can live without God.
15 "who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; 16 "who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end;
God chastened them in the wilderness "to do them good in the end." In the midst of their trial, God was working it for good. He was teaching them to trust Him.
17 "then you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.' 18 "And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
We need to remember this today! It is God who gives us the power to get wealth. It is God who has prospered America. We are a blessed nation because of God's goodness.
19 "Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. 20 "As the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God.
Israel didn't heed God's warning and in AD 70 God destroyed the nation Israel. This needs to stand as a warning to us also. If America continues to turn away from God, we also will be judged.
It seems from this text that the more you have, the more God has blessed, the greater the danger of turning away from Him. The writer of Proverbs speaks of this:
Proverbs 30:8-9 (NKJV) Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food allotted to me; 9 Lest I be full and deny You, And say, "Who is the LORD?" Or lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God.
He prays not to have riches. Try praying this as you are buying a lottery ticket. He sees a danger in prosperity. The danger is we think we are self-sufficient and don't need God.
Deuteronomy 32:12-15 (NKJV) So the LORD alone led him, And there was no foreign god with him. 13 "He made him ride in the heights of the earth, That he might eat the produce of the fields; He made him draw honey from the rock, And oil from the flinty rock; 14 Curds from the cattle, and milk of the flock, With fat of lambs; And rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, With the choicest wheat; And you drank wine, the blood of the grapes. 15 "But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; You grew fat, you grew thick, You are obese! Then he forsook God who made him, And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation.
Jeshurun is a poetical name for Israel, literally meaning "upright one." The metaphor used here is derived from a pampered animal which, instead of being tame and gentle, becomes mischievous and vicious, in consequence of good living and kind treatment. So did the Israelites conduct themselves by their various acts of rebellion, murmuring, and idolatrous apostasy.
Prosperity is a more dangerous trial than adversity. In adverse circumstances, a believer is reminded of how desperately he needs God's help, but in time of prosperity, he may easily forget God.
Nehemiah 9:25-26 (NKJV) And they took strong cities and a rich land, And possessed houses full of all goods, Cisterns already dug, vineyards, olive groves, And fruit trees in abundance. So they ate and were filled and grew fat, And delighted themselves in Your great goodness. 26 "Nevertheless they were disobedient And rebelled against You, Cast Your law behind their backs And killed Your prophets, who testified against them To turn them to Yourself; And they worked great provocations.
Hosea 13:4-9 (NKJV) "Yet I am the LORD your God Ever since the land of Egypt, And you shall know no God but Me; For there is no Savior besides Me. 5 I knew you in the wilderness, In the land of great drought. 6 When they had pasture, they were filled; They were filled and their heart was exalted; Therefore they forgot Me. 7 "So I will be to them like a lion; Like a leopard by the road I will lurk; 8 I will meet them like a bear deprived of her cubs; I will tear open their rib cage, And there I will devour them like a lion. The wild beast shall tear them. 9 "O Israel, you are destroyed, But your help is from Me.
So, we see there is a danger in prosperity. I think our prosperity has caused us to think too highly of ourselves, and therefore, to think less of God. God has been so good to us, and yet we often find ourselves questioning His goodness. How could any American Christian question God's goodness? We have all sinned, and because of our sin, we deserve to go to hell. But because of God's goodness, we are saved and will spend eternity in His presence. Beyond salvation, God has blessed us abundantly in this country.
No matter how bad our situation seems, we can trust that our good God is working all things together for our good and His glory. If we truly believe that God is good and we are undeserving of any of his goodness, it should cause us to trust Him in any and every situation that we find ourselves.
One of God's faithful missionaries, Allen Gardiner, experienced many physical difficulties and hardships throughout his service to the Savior. Despite his troubles, he said, "While God gives me strength, failure will not daunt me." In 1851, at the age of 57, he died of disease and starvation while serving on Picton Island, at the southern tip of South America. When his body was found, his diary lay nearby. It bore the record of hunger, thirst, wounds, and loneliness. The last entry in his little book showed the struggle of his shaking hand as he tried to write legibly. It read, "I am overwhelmed with a sense of the goodness of God." Think of that! No word of complaint, no childish whining, no grumbling at the circumstances -- just praise for God's goodness.
If all you have in view is your own immediate happiness, comfort, and prosperity, you may question the goodness of God. But if you know the teaching of the Scriptures, you will know that God is good all the time. Even in our worst circumstances, God is good, and he works all things together for our good. Trust Him, believer, He is good!
If you don't see God as good, you are not walking in faith, and are therefore, not pleasing to God.
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