By Robert G Herring, Pastor, Bethel Lutheran Church, Fort Smith, Arkansas. (This sermon was originally preached in two parts.)
Summary: Noah trusted in God, not the familiar. Abraham trusted in God, not in personal feelings. Joshua trusted in God, not methods. David trusted in God, not man’s armor. They all had to take the Trust Test. You and I have to take the Trust Test too.
Today I want to share with you what I call the Trust Test. Let me share one man’s experience as the introduction to my sermon:
At first I saw God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things that I did wrong so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there sort of like a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I really didn’t know Him.
But later on, when I met Christ, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike ride, but it was a tandem bike. And Christ was in the back helping me pedal. I don’t know just when it was that He suggested that we change places, but life has never been the same since.
When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but it was predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points. But when He took the lead, He knew delightfully long cuts. Up mountains and through rocky places at break-neck speeds. It was all that I could do to hang on. And even though it looked like madness, He said Pedal. I worried and was anxious, and I asked, Where are You taking me? He laughed and didn’t answer. And that’s when I learned that I was going to have to trust Him.
I forgot my boring life and entered into every adventure. And when I’d say I’m scared, He’d lean back and just touch my hand. He took me to people with gifts that I needed. Gifts of healing, acceptance, and joy. He gave me gifts to take on my journey and off we went again. And He would say Give the gifts away. They’re extra baggage, too much weight. So I did, to people we met, and I found that in giving, I received. The journey continued and our burden was light. I did not trust Him at first to take control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it, but He knows bike secrets. He knows how to make those sharp corners and how to jump clear off high rocks and do things I could have never done if I were in control.
And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places. I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful Companion, Jesus Christ. And when I’m not sure I can do it anymore, He smiles and says Just pedal.
At one point or another in life, we ask the question: Can I really trust God? Can we trust God with our lives? With our families? With our jobs? With our health? With our possessions? How we answer this question, how we fare in this test determines the direction of our spiritual growth. How do we learn to trust God more completely?
R--Recognize God as the source.
U--Understand God’s principles.
S--Surrender everything to God.
T--Test God’s promises.
Only God knows everything about us. The Psalmist said, God, look deep into my heart and find out everything that I am thinking (Ps 139: 23, CEV). He is saying to God, I don’t know what’s down there. I don’t even know what I’m thinking. Look deep in my heart. He’s asking God to help him take inventory. Only God can lead me correctly. The Psalmist recognized his tendency to follow evil ways. Taking inventory and trusting God begins with me. I have to take a personal inventory. Proverbs 13:1-10 tells us how to do this. With all your heart you must trust the Lord, and not your own judgment. Always let him lead you, and he will clear the road for you to follow. Don’t ever think that you are wise enough, but respect the Lord and stay away from evil. This will make you healthy, and you will feel strong. Honor the Lord by giving him your money and the first part of all your crops. Then you will have more grain and grapes than you will ever need. Trust begins with personal inventory. I need to take responsibility and do my part. I do my part, and God does His part.
Recognize God as the source.
After taking inventory, recognize God as the source of life. Recognize that He knows everything. There’s nothing hidden from Him. A mother was telling her daughter a little bit about the facts of life. Dumbfounded and shocked at these new revelations, the little girl asked, Mom, does God know these things? God knows them all. He’s the source.
The Bible refers to the power and super knowledge of God as the source. We cannot grow our hair without God being the source (Matt 5:36). We cannot extend our life without God being the source (Matt 6:27). We cannot be certain of tomorrow without God as the source (James 4:14). We cannot save ourselves from disaster without God being our source (Acts 27:20-22). We are humbled when we recognize where we are.
William Beavy, the naturalist and close friend of Teddy Roosevelt, spent many evenings with the President. After dinner, they would go outside and look at the stars in the heavens and Beavy would say, That is a galaxy as large as the Milky Way. It consists of 100 billion suns. It is one of 100 billion galaxies. Roosevelt would grin and respond, Now I think we’re small enough. Let’s go to bed. God’s the source.
Understand God’s principles
Let me first give you three reasons why Christians don’t give more to God:
- They don’t think they have enough to give
- They don’t know how to give.
- They don’t budget to give.
Now, stewardship principles make a difference. If people really understood the principles of stewardship, they would see that all these reasons for not giving aren’t reasons at all, but mere excuses.
- The Who’s in Charge Principle. God’s the Owner; I’m the Manager. Ask yourself today, Who’s going to run my life? The earth and everything that is in it belongs to the Lord. The world and its people belong to him (Ps 24:1).
- The Give and Grow Principle. Practicing stewardship produces spiritual growth and increases our faith. We become spiritually sensitive. We become fruitful for God’s kingdom. We receive a blessing from God. We are a blessing to others. We make a lasting contribution. You see, stewardship training isn’t about raising money or gifts. It’s about raising Christians and developing you the way that you need to be developed.
- The Do it Now Principle. Stewardship deals with our present resources.
Procrastination is my greatest sin.
It brings me endless sorrow.
I’m going to stop doing it.
How long are you going to wait before you find out what your spiritual gift is? How long are you going to wait before you use it? How long are you going to bury the resources God has given you? There’s a tendency for us to say, Well, one of these days I’m going to find out what my spiritual gift is. What are we doing right now? God is concerned about our present resources. Imagine appearing before God, who gave you those gifts. He looks at you, and wants to know what you did with your gifts? And you don’t even know what they are! And what are you doing with your present resources now? I know you’re saying If I had just won that lottery last week, I’d given all that money to the church. No you wouldn’t. You don’t tithe now. If you can’t give Him 10% now, you’re not going to give Him a 100% later.
A very wealthy man was on a prosperity gospel kick. And he went from town to town talking about how he once only had $20 in his pocket and when the offering plate came by he put all $20 in, and of how this made him a multimillionaire. People loved this story, and they would clap and cheer him on. Using his personal testimony, he encouraged people to give just as he had given.
When he was telling the same story in a meeting, he got the same response of clapping and cheering. And then a woman raised her hand. He looked at her and said, Ma’am, do you have a question?
She said, Yes. Now let me make sure I understand. You only had $20. You gave all $20
to God and He made you rich and famous?
Yeah, that’s exactly the way it happened.
Just one question, she said, Would you do it all over again--now that you have millions and not just $20?
It is tiresome hearing spiritual clichés about how God will provide. Let me tell you something. God has already provided. The issue is not God’s provision. The issue is for you and I to learn to manage the resources He has already given. We need to be good stewards of what we already have.
- The I’m in Debt Principle. From the moment we are born into this world, we are in debt. Our indebtedness is two-fold: We are indebted to God for our health, life, everything. We are indebted to the previous generation. We must never forget those who have gone on before us, who are part of the blessings we have today. Everything we have is a gift from God or a gift from somebody else. And it’s our job to take those gifts and reproduce and multiply and develop them to glorify God and to help our fellowmen.
- The Fountain of Youth Principle. We live forever through our giving. Jesus said that what we keep we lose and what we lose we keep. You’ve all heard the expression You can’t take it with you. There’s another I like even better-- You never see a hearse with a luggage rack. Our gifts are worthwhile only if they are used here on earth. We give of ourselves not to make us look good, not only to help us grow in our life, but to reach our community. The vision is not for us. The vision is for God’s kingdom. And it looks better every day!
- The Who’s Number One? Principle. Instead of giving Jesus our best, we sometimes tend to give Him our leftovers. Honor the Lord with your possessions and the first fruit of all your increase (Prov 3:9). On the first day of the week, let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he or she may prosper (1 Cor 16:2). God tells us that we are to give Him the first, not the last of everything. Our human nature would rather give God what’s left over. We often put our possessions and ourselves first. If there’s anything left over, we say Well, sure, God. I can give you what I have. Where is God in your life right now? Is He first, second, or 25th? The Lord said, Where your treasure is, that’s where your heart is. He is saying, I can tell you what you love the most by looking at your checkbook and calendar. I know what your priorities are in life.
- The Cheerful Attitude Principle. Stewardship begins with loving, not giving. We can give without loving, but we cannot love without giving. The basis of my stewardship and management of all the resources that God has given me has to be based on the fact that I love Him with all my heart, my soul, and my strength. Carl Meninger, the famous psychiatrist, said that generous people rarely suffer from mental illness. When we begin to live beyond ourselves and give of our time and talent and everything--when we begin to live beyond our world of self--it changes our mind-set. We become healthy people emotionally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually.
- The Big Shovel Principle. You cannot out-give God because He’s got a bigger shovel than you or I do. Jesus said Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. But by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return (Lk 6:38). A very generous giver was asked, How is it that you have given so much and yet God has blessed you financially in every area? He replied, It’s very simple. I shovel in and God shovels back. And God has a bigger shovel than me.
- The River Principle. Our life is to be like a river, not a reservoir. We should not hold back what God has given me; instead we should pass it on to others. We are to let God’s power flow through us in these five areas: a. Through our life--what we are; b. Through our lips--what we say; c. Through our ministry--what we do; d. Through our money--what we give; e. Through our prayer--what we claim in Jesus’ name.
- The Who Has Whom Principle. Until God is in control of my life, I am out of control.
Back to our acrostic of the word trust. S stands for Surrender everything to God.
Surrender everything to God
If only I had more, I would give more. How often have we all said that? Luke has something to say about such statements. He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much (Lk 16:10, KJV). What did Luke mean? If you are not giving sacrificially with what you have now, you won’t give sacrificially when you have more. Why? It’s not how much we have of the world that dictates our generosity towards God but how much God has of us. Who am I going to trust? Am I going to live like the world does and trust in myself, become independent and do my own thing? Or am I going to truly trust, obey, and depend wholly on God? The issue is not your talent, your time, your abilities or your money. The issue is very simple. Who do I trust in?
Test God’s Promises
Mother Teresa said I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much. Do you know why God trusted her so much? Because Mother Teresa proved to be trustworthy! If you are doing without something in the area of your need, the Bible says that God will supply all our needs (Isa 58:10). If you’re doing without, reevaluate your trust test and see what is the problem.
Every great character in the Bible had to go through the trust test. Here are four examples from the Old Testament.
- Noah. When God told him to build an ark because it was going to rain, Noah had to trust implicitly for it had never rained before. Major trust, don’t you think? Would you like to explain that to your neighbor? No wonder they ridiculed Noah. But Noah obeyed and trusted Him. Noah did all that the Lord commanded him (Gen 7:6). Noah passed the trust test.
- Abraham. God gave Abraham the greatest test. As Abraham and Isaac were going up Mount Moriah, Isaac asked, Where’s the sacrifice? Abraham said, God will provide. Then we find Isaac on the altar and Abraham about to slay his son, and there is still trust--Isaac lies there trusting, Abraham raises his hand, trusting. Finally at the height of climatic tension, God says Do not lay a hand on the boy. . . Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son (Gen 22:12). Abraham passed the trust test.
- Joshua. You know the story of Moses crossing the Red Sea. But can you imagine the people hollering at Joshua as he’s going down to the Jordan River prior to leading the people of Israel into the Promised Land? Hey, Josh, you don’t have your rod. Go get your rod. You know, you go to the river; you put out your rod and the water parts. Get the rod. But God didn’t want Joshua to use a rod. God didn’t want them to trust in methods. He wanted them to trust in God. And as soon as the water parted it came about that all the kings of the Amorites that were beyond the Jordan and all the kings of the Canaanites heard how the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed and their hearts melted. There was no spirit in them any longer (Josh 5:1, KJV) Joshua passed the trust test.
- David. As soon as Saul found out that David was going to fight Goliath, he clothed David with his garments and put a bronze helmet on his head, and he clothed him with his armor. Think about this for a moment. Saul was about 6’4", weighing 225 pounds; David is about 5’6" and weighs 130. You get the picture? David is putting on Saul’s armor. Wouldn’t that be funny? David girded his sword over his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. So David said to Saul, ?I cannot go with these for I have not tested them,’ and David took them of f (1 Sam 17:39, NKJV). David passed the trust test.
Noah trusted in God, not the familiar. Abraham trusted in God, not in personal feelings. Joshua trusted in God, not methods. David trusted in God, not man’s armor. They all had to take the Trust Test. You and I have to take the Trust Test too. Listen to the promises that God gives His children when we tithe: He will provide for us. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse so that there will be food in my house ... ?Test me now on this,’ says the Lord of Hosts. ?If I will not open for you the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing until it overflows’ (Mal 3:10). He will protect us. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you so that it may not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,’ says the Lord of Hosts (Mal 3:11).