While my brain is capable of sorting out complex concepts, thoughts, and arguments, I prefer to keep things simple in life. I appreciate what Jesus said about having a child-like faith. While Christianity has deep theological and philosophical concepts to ponder, in the end, it all comes down to one simple thing. God is asking us one question: “Do you trust me?”
In my other blog, I wrote about once again having to deal with the prospects of prostate cancer returning, maybe more seriously than the first time. I decided to write this one as an attempt to help others understand what I’ve learned and am learning from all of this. Because in the end, it comes back to the essential question: am I willing to trust God with all of this, given what he’s tol me in his word and his promises?
The more I read the epistles of the apostle Paul the greater my appreciation because he had a thorough grasp of God, Christ, and the relationship that each of us as Christians has with them. His writings have been a comfort and inspiration to me as I sort out how to deal with the circumstances of life. In Acts 15 the Lord sends Ananias to a blinded and probably confused Paul (known then as Saul); Ananias is a little dubious, having heard about Saul’s murderous rampage against the church. In verse 15 the Lord tells him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.“
Paul knew from the outset what was going to happen to him as he carried the message of Christ to the world, and yet he whole-heartedly obeyed. As a result, most of us have heard his message and accepted God’s gracious gift of salvation through His Son. But even more than that, another lesson I’ve learned from Paul is what it really means to live as a Christian.
The relatively short letter to the Philippians contains the essence of how Paul viewed himself in the greater scheme of things. Paul, who had been beaten, thrown in jail and persecuted almost everywhere he went, wrote this: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (1:12). He continues on in verse 18: “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, and it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Paul answered the question, “do you trust Me?’ with an unequivocal “YES!”. He understood that it didn’t matter what happened to him. What mattered was that Christ was honored in all of it. Even the circumstances that seemed unfair or inexplicable. His goal in life was to preach Christ, and he used every occurrence to do it, even the difficult ones.
If we’re consumed with finding an answer to the question, “why is this happening to me?”, we’re asking the wrong question. Instead, we need to ask, “how is God going to use this to bring himself glory and hold up his son Jesus Christ through this?’ Either God is in control of all of our circumstances or he is not God and controls none of it. Personally, I’m glad he chooses not to offer me an explanation for everything- it would make my head explode. I’m perfectly content that God doesn’t owe me an explanation for anything because he chooses to tell me exactly what I need to know in order to answer the question, “do you trust Me?’ with an unreserved yes.
Paul reinforces this in Romans 8: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to the will of God…What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? “(v. 28, 31- 32) God takes all of our circumstances and works them to our benefit if we are seeking to live in relationship with him as He defines it. When we empty ourselves, surrender any claim to ourselves, and bring God all the broken pieces of our messy (and messed up) lives, He puts them back together and fills us up with Himself.
It’s easy to trust God with the good times, the blessings, and the smooth sailing of this life. But how often, when we hit a rough patch and don’t understand why, and God once again asks us, “do you trust me?”, we answer ‘yes’ with our lips but ‘no’ with our heart and mind. The amazing thing is when we unreservedly answer “yes” no matter our present condition or circumstances, we find our faith has grown and when we next experience tough times there is really no question about it at all.
A couple of last thoughts from Paul. Understand- this is where I hang my hat: I hope you will, too. How can I not trust a God who has proved unalterably faithful in sustaining me through every and all circumstance of life’s roller coaster ride? My concern is not so much how this will end (I do hope for healing). I’m more concerned with giving God the glory no matter how things turn out because he’s already shown me I win either way.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. (2 Corinthians 4:16,17)
Do you trust Him?