After Tuesday's post, it occurred to me that perhaps I should try to do for the notion of trusting God the same sort of thing I did for (or, some would say, to) Christianoid notions of prayer. So here we go.
My wife and I both work, and even so California severely taxes our resources (pun noted in passing, not intended). But suppose I were suddenly to make this announcement:
For years I have been burdened by the paucity of emphatically Biblical teaching in the Eastern Sierra. The Word burns in my bosom, and I can't hold it in any longer. I'm weary of telling people to reboot their computers all day, when I could be teaching and preaching the Word. So as of this week, my wife and I are going to quit our jobs, put our house on the market, pack up the kids and everything, and drive to Bishop, California, to begin a new faith-based ministry. How we'll manage, what we'll do, where we'll live — we have no idea. We are stepping out on faith. We'll just be trusting God.
If I made that announcement, at least two things would happen:
- Scores of folks would burst out, "Who are you, and what have you done with Dan Phillips?" (My dear wife would lead that chorus.)
- Scads and scads and scads of Christians, if they heard of it, would glow, nod piously, and say "Ahh, 'tis so sweet to trust in Jesus!"
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:1-6)What are the essential elements? There are only two:
- An explicit word from God
- Believing embrace of that word
Schuller, as with Chan, as with random anonymous Charismatic-types, as with the Blackabys — I think we should ask questions. I think we must.
In this case, it really isn't rocket-science. I just don't (and never have) seen Biblical Christianity as a "Get-out-of-thinking" ticket. Quite the reverse; I think Christians who practice their professed faith are hard, rigorous thinkers. Have to be.
So in this particular, two questions. Just two simple, straightforward, perfectly-Biblely questions. To wit:
- For what?
- On what specific Biblical basis?
"We're just trusting God," Arni grins.
And so you cock an eyebrow and ask: "For what?"
Is Arni "trusting God" to drop food into their mouths, clothes onto their backs, and medicine into their glove compartments? Or is he "trusting God" to move people with real jobs to foot his bills? Well then, let's have him say so. Let's press him to be specific, shall we? Why not?
And then, if that's what Arni answers, we follow up: "On what specific Biblical basis?" Because "God" is not another name for "My Good Luck," or "Omnipotent Rubber Stamp of Me." I mean, it simply does not make sense to "trust" a person to do what that person has never promised to do, does it?
Suppose you seminarians "trust" me to write your theses for you. Or you husbands "trust" me to teach your sons for you. Or you pastors "trust" me to compose your sermons for you. I suppose that I could do those things, you know. I have the ability.
So what's missing?
Well, what's missing of course is that I have neither offered nor promised to do any of those things for you. You have no grounds, no basis for that "trust." So the concept of "trusting" me to do something I never said I'd do — well, it's just absurd and silly. You would end up looking ridiculous.
Or not? Suppose a nightmare Bizarro world, where everyone imagined that I was obliged to come through for everyone who concocted some scheme, and then committed me to it in absentia. Why, in that case, I would just look more and more pathetic as people across the globe announced things they were "trusting" me for, and I kept failing to deliver, over and over again.
It could ruin my good name, my reputation, if people were lazy and sloshy-minded enough not to think through what "trust" implies and assumes.
Hold that thought.
Examples could be multiplied until this column would be measured by the foot rather than the inch, but I trust (hope?) that you take my point. Think about it, take it, keep it.
For yourself, don't shame the name of God by broadcasting that you are "trusting" him for things He has not specifically promised (the in-this-life healing of an ill loved one, the numeric growth of a church, the salvation of a friend or child). Do glorify Him for trusting Him in those areas where he has left us precious promises — such as trusting the utter sufficiency of His word for all of Christian life (2 Timothy 3:15-17).
For others, when you hear someone say that (s)he is "trusting God" for X, just nicely ask two questions.
You know which two.