Last time I proposed that “saving faith” is in reality trust. And the perfection that is required of us before the second coming is perfect trust.
“Faith is absolute trust in God–
trust that could never imagine
that He would forsake us.”
“Faith is trusting God–
believing that He loves us
and knows best
what is for our good.”
We can test this another way. If we substitute the word religion for the word faith, the texts about saving faith make no sense. Similarly, if we substitute the word beliefs, they make no sense. On the other hand, if we substitute the word trust for the word faith in famous texts that speak of saving faith, they make perfect sense.
“whatever is not from TRUST is sin.” ~Rom. 14:23
“without TRUST it is impossible to please Him” ~Heb. 11:6
“THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY TRUST.” ~Rom. 1:1
That doesn’t mean 100% trust in God all the time; I see little evidence that we humans are capable of that. At the same time, we do want our trust in God to become habitual, a default behavior, something we do without thinking.
We also saw that this perfect commitment has been demonstrated numerous times in the past. The three Hebrew worthies and the Fiery Furnace; Job during his trials; Daniel, and the lion’s den; many Christian martyrs, and so on.
And finally, we saw that this issue of trust is binary, not a matter of percentages or degrees. When time and eternity are on the line, we either trust or we do not. We either bow down or acccept being thrown in the fiery furnace; we curse God and die, or we bless His name while lamenting our trials; we either stop praying in public, or accept being thrown into the lion’s den; we recant our faith, or we allow ourselves to be burned at the stake. Our mental and emotional level of trust may be small. But whatever its size, we will choose to act on that trust, or not. And this, by the way, is what James means in his epistle by the words “show me your faith by your works.” Saying, even believing, that we trust in God means nothing unless we act upon that trust.
So how do we cultivate such trust? In one way, of course, this could be the subject of whole books. In fact, many have been written. In this limited space, however, it must be reduced to a few simple concepts.
First, we find it difficult to trust someone we do not know. Scripture assures us that we know God, if we truly know him, we will be saved.
“This is eternal life,
that they may know You,
the only true God,
and Jesus Christ
whom You have sent.”
How do we get to know God? In pretty much the same way we get to know anyone else. First of all, it’s necessary to spend time with him. We can read about him in His word, especially in the Gospels, and spend time and with him in prayer. And spending time in prayer also means listening; after we talk to him, we take the time to listen. And third, we cultivate the habit of acting on what we believe he wants us to do. That, of course, is the indicator of real trust.
Some may ask how this differs from righteousness by works, by focusing on performance. The answer is, it differs from those as much as night differs from day. We can pay our tithe, or keep the Sabbath, or minister to others — anything, really — out of a sense of obligation, out of a striving to be “good enough,” or out of a fear of punishment for failure to do such things. But remember the texts cited above: If these things are not done out of trust, they are sin; without trusting in God, it is impossible to please him.
Legalism only cares about what is done: about what can be seen. A saving relationship cares about why things are done, about attitudes, which are often unseen. We see the contrast clearly in what I consider one of the most chilling passages in Scripture.
Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name
and in your name drive out demons
and in your name perform many miracles?’
Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.
Away from me, you evildoers!’
There is a lot to this text, and when we take up the idea of a saving relationship, we will look at it in more detail. For now, look at what those who are called “evil-doers” focus on: prophesying, driving out demons, and performing “many” miracles. As far as performance goes, that’s pretty impressive. My resume doesn’t look like that. Despite their catalog of “righteous” behaviors, Jesus says they are “evil-doers.” Apparently, their actions did not derive from trusting, for they did not “please him.”
In summary, the way to prepare for the Time of Trouble is to get into the habit of trusting God on an everyday basis. In time, this will become so ingrained that the alternative is unthinkable. That’s how Daniel, the Hebrew worthies, and the martyrs came to that perfect trust. It is reported that when Martin Luther was confronted with recanting his teachings, with a very real possibility of death he proclaimed, “Here I stand. I can do no other.”
I believe that is where all those who have exhibited perfect trust find themselves. They know fear. They are not insensible to pain. They don’t want to die. But after so many years of trusting God in things large and small, it’s become a habit, the default behavior, a cherished attitude that they can forsake only through great effort and deliberate choice. To deny their faith, their trust in God, at that point would be to deny everything they are, their very identity. And they find, like Martin Luther, they simply cannot.
Of course, there is the thief on the cross. Some will no doubt be saved at the last moment, when contrary to a life of self trust, they choose in their final extremity to trust God. So gracious is our Savior. But how much easier it would be, how much more reassuring, how much more blessed if we begin to trust God today. That’s all we have to do, for today is the only day we have. After a lifetime of trusting God today, it will make no difference if this today is to be our last. And that is the faith, the trust that will sustain the Saints through the Time of Trouble.
P.S. I apologize for the long pause in blogging. My last three weeks have included an eight-day trip to Philadelphia and Washington DC, a flat tire on three separate occasions, and three separate major programs for Easter weekend. Although my son tells me “normal” is just a setting on the dryer, I’m hoping to get back to a normal tempo of blogging — every three or four days or so.