What does the Bible say about trusting God? Is there ever a time in which “trusting” could be too risky? What about false trust?
A Matter of Faith
Let’s begin by reading Hebrews 11:1-40. It is a passage about faith (our inner or spiritual trust in God and God’s Word). It is a passage that can say much about what it means to be a believer regardless of our present circumstances, even through the dangers of the moment. It helps us understand the meaning of endurance, what true glory is, who the real heroes are. It speaks loudly about believing in God’s promises, trusting Him enough to do what He says, even when it seems to be “risky” business. But more than anything else, perhaps, it teaches us about the role of waiting in our trust and faith toward God. After all, trust in the short term is not difficult. We do it all the time. But what about it when we need to wait patiently for the answer? Do we place terms and time limits on our trust?
To start, let me ask you to think about the time you were a child. What are some of the ways in which you trusted your parents or some of the adults who cared for you? Take some time to think about it. Remember how you “knew” that you could trust them?
You may also want to think of a person you would consider the greatest example of trust and faith in God. What made you think of him/her? What makes him/her a good example of trust in God?
The Biblical Teaching on Trust and Faith
Now, let’s look at the passage we just read a little more closely.
- Verse 1
- What is faith?
- What does that mean, and how does this relate to trusting God?
- Comment: Be careful to consider the entire context. If this meant that you have to convince yourself that what you want has already been granted to you, then the very examples of faith listed here would actually be proven wrong. The “evidence” this is talking about is not the same as “telling” ourselves that what we ask for has already been granted. These people we read about here die not lie to themselves, nor did the Scripture say they had received the promises in their lifetimes.
- Verse 3
- What does faith help us to understand about the creation of the world?
- How does that help you understand the meaning of faith?
- Comment: Of course, as God pointed out to Job, you were not there when God created all things, yet if you believe in Him and trust Him you also know and understand that the world was created by God, who is invisible. Of course, we cannot scientifically prove that God is there, and that He created the world. Yet, we can see the results of His creation, and from the things we observe we can deduce some of the ways in which He created it all. Yet, without faith we are unable to understand how the things we see (those things that can be observed and measured through the physical data we have available) does not come from a source that can also be observed and measured, but rather from God who cannot be seen. So, then, faith is whatever enables us to understand that the universe was created by the word of God — that same word by which He gave us His promises.
- Verse 4
- How did Abel demonstrate his faith?
- Comment: It was his faith and trust in God that made it possible for Abel to be righteous and for his righteousness to be demonstrated by him imitating what the Lord had done for his parents, when He covered them with the skin of an animal (which He had obviously sacrificed before). The quality of Abel’s gift did not rest in his actions, but rather in what God had done. This contrasted with Cain, who instead offered only the work of his hands and ignored what the Lord had taught his parents. His trust in God did not cause him to remain passive, but rather gave him the motivation to act in a way that was coherent with his trust. Consider a simple example from our physical experience. If your doctor prescribes a medication or a surgical procedure for you, it is your trust (in this case your natural faith) that will determine the way you respond to his prescription. If you trust him, you will most likely follow his prescription, but if you don’t chances are you will not. Although this is an example of “natural” faith and trust, the same applies to our spiritual faith and trust in God. It will determine the way we respond to Him and to His ways.
- Verse 5
- What was unusual about Enoch?
- Would you say that what happened to him was “natural” or “supernatural”?
- Comment: Ever since the early days of the Jewish tradition there has been controversy as to what happened to Enoch, and how we should interpret what is said about him in Genesis 5:21-24. Without getting into the controversy, one thing is clear about this. It was certainly an unusual event, and here the writer of the letter to the Hebrews points out that it was by faith that this very unusual event occurred. What does this mean? Enoch believed God and trusted Him. He had faith in God, and that faith translated in the way Enoch walked with God on a day-to-day basis. It is interesting to notice how Adam, after the sin, rather than welcoming the presence of God and walking with Him, hid himself together with Eve to avoid being seen by God (Gen. 3:8). So, when we read that Enoch walked with God, we immediately understand that he had nothing to hide from God, but rather trusted Him enough to be transparent with Him, vulnerable and open.
- Verse 6
- How important is our trust or faith in approaching and pleasing God?
- Why do you think this is the case?
- Would you look for someone you do not believe or trust? Why?
- Verse 7
- What did Noah’s faith move him to do?
- Would you listen to a seemingly absurd warning of someone you don’t trust?
- Comment: The famous story of the shepherd who would cry “wolf, wolf” makes a point about credibility, but also about trust. If we don’t trust someone, we are not prone to listen to their warning. On the other hand, if we trust them, then we are likely to act accordingly. Noah believed God, he trusted Him, and demonstrated his faith through the way he responded to God.
- Verses 8-12
- How did faith affect the life of Abraham and his family?
- Comment: In Abraham we find a man who had some struggle with faith. Although he believed God enough to leave his land and be an alien in a foreign territory, at certain points of his life Abraham did not trust God enough and took things into his own hands. The results were devastating and on several occasions they almost cost his and his wife’s life. He ventually learned the lesson, and it was counted as righteousness. He trusted God enough to believe that He would be faithful to His word and would not let him down.
- Verses 13-16
- How does faith change the perspective of a person?
- How could those people be examples of faith if they died without receiving what had been promised to them?
- Comment: Far from being the type of “faith” we often hear about, which seems to be more of an attempt to coerce God to meet our needs in our terms, this was real faith, real trust, that met and passed the ultimate test: death. Do you trust God enough to place your entire life in His hands? Do you trust Him enough to know that even though you die His promises to you will still stand true? Do you trust Him enough to accept from Him adversity as well as blessings (Job 2:10)? Our entire perspective in life changes when we have that kind of trust.
- Verse 27
- What “secret” made it possible for Moses to persevere even through very difficult times?
- Comment: Moses was able to see the hand of God in the events of his life, where others didn’t. It was as if God was just as real to him as any other person around him, and perhaps even more. Even though God Himself was not seen, Moses knew that He was there, and acted accordingly.
- Verses 32-34
- Would you say that the faith these people had in God prompted them to be inactive?
- If I were to pull back and tell you that because I have faith I will not move a finger, but wait until the Lord does something, would you say, in the light of the examples described here, that I really had faith?
- What were some of the things these people were able to accomplish because of their faith?
- Comment: True faith and trust in God is not passive. It is a dynamic force in us, a very strong motivation to action, as well as the patience to wait for God’s time to see the results.
- Verses 35-38
- How does this passage disprove the notion that faith always leads to earthly blessings?
- How does this passage disprove the notion of a “health and wealth” gospel?
- Comment: Some of the greatest examples of faith and trust I have seen in my life were not people who had received great blessings. In fact, those who had been greatly blessed often displayed less faith. No, I found the greatest examples of faith in the hospitals, in the nursing homes and in the chapel of a cemetery. They were people some would describe as cursed by God, but who would not stop trusting in their Maker and in His wisdom and grace. It is so easy to trust when we see some evidence of blessings. How much harder is it to trust in “longsuffering” and when all seems to go against us? Perhaps one of the greatest expression of that trust that I have seen was in a simple gesture of a dying mother, as she gathered all the strength she had left to signal “I’m OK” with her hand to her daughter. We had all prayed for her healing, as well as for her courage and comfort in her long trial. We had faith and really trusted God, but our trust and faith, included (and especially) that of that mother, went much beyond the temporary and limited benefit of a healing. Rather, it meant that she trusted that no matter what happened to her, God was with her and would see her through. Her last gesture to her daughter was a willful reminder of many conversations they had had before, and it meant that she was all right because she was in God’s hands. She really trusted God, and that’s all that mattered at that time. Because of that, her daughter was also strengthened, and all of us with her.
- Verse 39
- What happened to a great many saints who had faith in God?
- Does that reconcile with your definition of faith?
- Comment: Perfection is not of this world, but it will come, in God’s time. it is not of this life. It could not be, because we are too limited. Rather, what God has promised reaches far beyond our temporary limitations and even our time. It spans throughout eternity and infinity. The question is, do we trust Him even when we don’t see His answer? Please, notice that this passage does not say that they had received what was promised but they just could not see it. That’s what many people who attempt to explain their faith tend to say. They misquote the first verse to mean that they already have an answer, but they just can’t see it. This passage — the Word of God itself — states that those saints did not received what was promised. Not yet, at least, because it requires perfection (v. 40).
- Now, let’s look back at the whole passage and seek to understand it in its overall context.
- What is the only way we can please God with our lives? Why?
- What prompts committed followers of Christ, His saints, to continue to trust Him and have faith in Him even when He never seems to “come through” for them?
- Why do you think that the author of this letter stated that “the world was not worthy” of these heroes of the faith?
- Why do you think God sometimes leaves us in the dark about His will?
- What are some examples from your life about trusting God and doubting Him?
Scripture tells us that we are like aliens on this earth and in this life. That means that our real home is not here and is not now. We aim for something infinitely better and lasting. The time we spend in out life and in our community has a great purpose, of course, but it is not “home.” It could not be, because our true “home” is built on eternity and infinity.
Now, let’s be personal. Did these thoughts challenge your definition of faith? If so, don’t assume. Check it out. It may just be that God is trying to tell you something. What do you need to trust God with even though you cannot see what the future holds? How can you show this trust?
FOR FURTHER STUDY:
- Genesis 30:1-24 = Trust almost always requires patience.
- Exodus 14:1-31 = Trust often requires active courage.
- Proverbs 3:1-8 = Trust means heartfelt confidence in God and requires giving our plans for the future to God. It does not mean, however, that we make no plans, or that we become passive. Rather, we acknowledge Him in all we plan, and are willing to accept a change in direction whenever He calls for it. We seek His purpose, not ours. It’s all about Him, not us.
- Romans 3:21-28 = Trust requires belief in God’s promises and in the truthfulness of His Word. God does not lie. He does not let us down. If He stated it, He will do it: in the best way and at the best time. Remember: trust empowers us, it does not limit or debilitate us.