(A Lenten devotion based on Genesis 12:1-4 & Romans 4:1-5, 13-17)
[Note: We are in the Season of Lent. Lent has been observed by the Church for centuries during the 40 days, not counting Sundays, leading up to Easter. Traditionally, Lent has been a time to focus on repentance, among other things. On Thursdays during Lent, I am offering a Lenten devotion. The title for the series of devotions is “Living the Forgiven Life.”]
What does it mean to live the forgiven life? Last week I said that living the forgiven life meant that we tell the truth. The truth we tell is that we are great sinners. The greater truth we tell is that we are saved by God’s grace that is much greater than our great sin. Today I want to talk with you about the fact that living the forgiven life means that we trust in the Lord.
What we’re talking about is the biblical word “faith”; the best synonym for that word is “trust.” Trust is in short supply in our day and time. We’ve come to expect that people will let us down. We’ve come to expect that people in authority will disappoint us. We’ve come to expect that people close to us will let us down. We’re raised not to trust people we don’t know. So it is a bit of a leap for us to give our whole-hearted trust to someone, even if that someone is God himself.
Yet that is what is necessary. Salvation comes only through faith. We are forgiven because of faith. It is human nature to want to do something about what is wrong. Some people are more prone to problem-solving than others, but I think that people instinctively ask the “What do I need to do?” question. We want to take action. In the background of that drive can lie some problematic motivations. We don’t want to depend on someone else. We want to be known as someone who takes care of himself. We want the credit for fixing our own mess. But recall with me the story of Paul and Silas and the Philippian jailer. After Paul and Silas had been sprung from jail by the Lord, the jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Do you recall their answer? “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31). It doesn’t sound like much, does it? Only believe. Only trust. But it is actually quite a lot and it is very hard to do.
It is hard to do because trusting means letting go. I remember hearing a story years ago about a man who fell off a cliff and was clinging to a tree that was growing out from the cliff, kind of like the predicament that the Sarge in Beetle Bailey gets into sometimes. He cried out to the Lord for help and sure enough, the voice of the Lord came from above and said, “I’m here to help you.” “Thank you,” the man said. “What must I do?” And the voice said, “Let go.” It’s hard to do but trusting means letting go. It means giving up the notion that you can fix yourself. It means giving up the illusion that you can take care of yourself. It means being poor in spirit. It means casting your life and your fate at the feet of God and saying, “I’m done for without you.” And it means living in absolute dependence on God.
That is how God means for us to live. We were created to live in fellowship with God. We were created to depend utterly on him in simple child-like faith. And we will never be who we were made to be until we come to live in total dependence on him and in simple trust in him. We live outside our natural environment until we live in a relationship of trust in God. Thus Paul makes the point that Abraham was made righteous by faith before he ever began to do the works of the law. We are made righteous like Abraham was when we are made righteous by what God has done. On this side of the life of Jesus we can say that we are made righteous by what God has done in Christ and that grace is made real in our lives when we trust in him.
Having entered into a relationship with God based on our absolute trust in his absolute grace, we then live our lives in trust. It’s a funny thing, isn’t it, when we say that we have trusted God to take care of all the ultimate issues—sin, death, judgment, heaven and hell—but we refuse to trust him for all the other things of life which are after all much less significant. It takes trust in God to be forgiven; it takes continuing trust in God to live the forgiven life.
Having experienced his forgiveness, we continue to live as forgiven people by walking in trust. But we do need to walk. Trusting is not about just sitting around waiting to see what God will do. Trusting is about doing what God leads you to do. Trusting leads to action. Trusting leads to risk-taking. To trust in God is not to kid yourself into thinking that just because God loves you and you love God that everything is going to be easy. To trust in God is not to kid yourself into thinking that God will ask nothing difficult or challenging or even dangerous of you. No, to trust in God is to believe that God is your God and you are his child; it is to believe that God is working his purposes out in his creation and in your life; it is to believe that as long as you are trying to follow God will faithfully lead; and it is to believe that the act of following is its own greatest reward.
Sometimes the most amazing phrases in the Bible are the simplest ones and so we tend to read right past them. One of those amazing phrases is “So Abram went.” God came to him, called him, and told him to leave everything he had ever known and to set out on a journey to a land that God would show him. God promised him many descendants. But Abraham had to go if he was going to experience the blessings of God. Had he stayed where he was his story would have been much different and we may never have heard of him. But he went. That’s faith, that’s trust. Go. Do. Follow. Risk. Try. And in everything, trust.
As you trust you will be blessed because the reward is in the following. The reward is in the adventure. The reward is in the risk-taking. The reward is in our focusing on the God who has promised to be with us and to bless us. Too often we miss the blessing because we want to avoid the risk. Too often we miss the blessing because we really don’t trust that God will show us the way and that he will keep his promises. Too often we miss the blessing because we choose to limit ourselves to living life in the world’s way rather than in God’s way.
I want to challenge you to take a good hard look at your life. In what areas of your life are you living in ways that betray a lack of trust in God? It may be in the ethics of your personal life. Perhaps you have been compromising and taking short cuts in ways that you know run counter to the ways of God. That’s a lack of trust because it shows that you don’t believe that God’s way is for the best. It may be in your family life. You may not be living in the kind of wholehearted commitment to your family to which God has called you because you let yourself be distracted by other, lesser priorities. It may be in your contribution to the life of the church. You may be hiding your light under a basket; you may be refusing to recognize or to develop your spiritual gifts because you don’t want to take the risk of failing. In all these or in other areas you may not be trusting God like you should and it shows in your following or rather in your lack of following.
I know how it can be. We are so aware of our failings. We are so aware of the difficulties. We are so aware of the reasons that it can’t be done. We are so aware of the roadblocks and the impediments. But when push comes to shove there is only one thing of which we need to be aware. We need to be aware that our God is the God of life. He brings life where there is death. He brought life to the infertile and geriatric Abraham and Sarah but the greatest truth is that through the resurrection of Jesus Christ he brought life where there is death in the ultimate sense. That is the God we serve. That is the God in whom we can trust. That is the God who calls us to live the fully dependent life that is the fully blessed life.
So let us walk in faith. Let us trust in the Lord.