Trusting the Lord
There are some Christians who stand out from the crowd. For example, there are ‘heroes of the faith’ like George Müller and Hudson Taylor whom we admire. They had a faith which moved mountainous obstacles by prayer and their life stories are inspirational for us.
The rest of us, it seems, just think we are ‘regular Christians’. We may occasionally see dramatic answers to prayer but on the whole we live our lives of genuine faith quietly and without much heroism.
During the summer of 2007, God gave me the opportunity to travel to an East Asian country where the social and political climate makes it difficult to be a Christian. It was a fast moving and exciting adventure, travelling more than 4000km in a country where the food, language, culture, sights and sounds and everything else were new to me.
Meeting local Christians and Western professionals – who are going on in the faith despite various forms of opposition and restriction – was a challenge as well as an encouragement.
While planning this trip, various problems arose which were too big for me to solve on my own. Left with no option but to trust God to provide unlikely solutions, I saw remarkable answers to prayer. But that is another story.
Not long after returning home, my circumstances changed. A period of poor health forced me home from Bible College and put me out of action for a number of months. It was a difficult period. A knock-on effect of ill-health was that my plans to enter full-time missionary work overseas have had to be postponed for a while. I know the Lord is in charge even now.
I find myself once again looking for a place to live and a regular job to pay the bills. The old questions and uncertainties come back again: ‘Is this the right job? Is this the right place to live? Should I get a job and hope to find somewhere to live, or get a home and hope to find somewhere to work?’
Once again I am left with no option but to trust God and accept his provision. However, this time it is in relation to the everyday practicalities of life, rather than some big spiritual adventure.
Daily needs seem small in comparison to the ‘big’ prayers that God answered while I was travelling, yet these circumstances have proved to be a much greater trial of my faith. It seemed relatively easy to trust God for the big, remarkable things compared with the small, ordinary needs like finding the right job and a suitable place to live.
On the face of it, this response might seem odd. But a little reflection suggests several reasons that help to explain this experience.
Not so small
Everyday necessities are not as small as they first appear. We are wrong to think that because things are commonplace they are also insignificant. If my trip to Asia had not worked out I would have missed out on spiritual blessings and cultural experiences. But life would have continued comfortably.
Not so with the need for work, shelter and basic provisions! These things touch us where we are most vulnerable, yet we often take them for granted until they are removed from us.
The Israelites saw huge answers to prayer – the ten plagues, the escape from Egypt, the Red Sea crossing – but their faith stumbled when confronted with the basic needs for food and drink (Exodus 16:2-3).
Trusting God may be easier during an adventure than in daily events which are the main essence of life. Perhaps that is why Jesus had to spell it out in such minute detail – God cares when a sparrow dies and when a plant flowers. The smallest detail of our human lives – even the number of hairs on our heads – are far more important to him than all the fauna and flora (Matthew 6:25-33; 10:29-30).
How does God guide?
God guides in a variety of ways. Sometimes he gives a clear, intuitive, heart-felt inner conviction that he is calling you to take a particular action. When he gives such an experience and it accords with Scripture, it can be relatively easy to trust him for anything unusual involved in that call.
When you buy an all-inclusive holiday, you don’t worry about the little details like taking a sleeping bag, going to the supermarket to buy food, or organising day trips. Having signed up for a complete package, you rightly assume that the holiday representative will arrange all that you need.
If a person knows that God has called him or her to be a missionary, it goes without saying that he will somehow provide the plane ticket and other needs to get the person there. All the lights are on, and it is easy to see where to go and what to do because you feel God’s close presence and you are consciously aware that he is guiding.
However, this kind of experience is not the norm. More often than not we are presented with choices and have to make decisions. We have to engage our minds with Bible principles and work out whether particular actions are right or wrong.
We have to discern whether different options are ideal, reasonable or no good at all. We have to test our motivations in case our choices are influenced by secret pride or selfishness rather than a whole-hearted desire to glorify God.
Negotiating the maze
It feels a bit like a maze – there are all sorts of turnings you could take, but there is no way of working out where each option might lead. Trusting God in these decisions is much more difficult. But that’s exactly where faith comes into its own.
If God feels distant and you have no conscious awareness and assurance of his presence, you can do nothing but lean on his promises. In these circumstances, we have to trust that God is with us where ever we go (Joshua 1:9) and that he is powerful and wise enough to overrule the events of our lives – even when we make mistakes. After all, he is in charge of the entire universe.
God also answers prayers in different ways. When Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den, the need was urgent and required an immediate answer. So God chose in that situation to shut the lions’ mouths and that without delay!
But remember it was Daniel’s regular daily prayerfulness that placed him in this dangerous situation. Every day Daniel had to battle through the pressures of living in an idolatrous society and find time to get on his knees and pray.
Which situation was more difficult? Emergency situations can be extremely intense but pass quickly. Often, if we are looking for a new job or home for example, the need is real but less urgent. An immediate answer might make us feel more comfortable, but the need might not become pressing for several more days or weeks. Sometimes it goes ‘right down to the wire’ – but God’s wisdom and understanding are infinite and his timing is always perfect.
He overrules in these testing times in order to strengthen our faith, develop our Christian character and bring about his own eternal purposes – purposes which may be a complete mystery to us with our limited human understanding.
Trusting God in these circumstances requires a faith which is consistent, persevering and patient. It is more like a marathon race than a hundred-metre sprint. The pain and discomfort are real, the finishing line is far away and the only way to get there is to keep going day by day and hour by hour.
How strong is your faith? You may never have seen dramatic answers to prayer and never been on a missionary adventure where remarkable provisions become essential. Maybe you think of yourself as a ‘regular Christian’ – just quietly getting on with living for God in the home, the school or the workplace. Perhaps you feel that your faith is weak because it struggles to keep on trusting God under the sustained pressure of day-to-day difficulties.
And if you are thinking that the sort of prayer that moves mountains is beyond the reach of your faith, remember this fact. Jesus lived the perfect life of faith and obedience – yet in the first thirty years of his earthly life, there were few events worth writing home about. Don’t underestimate how much faith ordinary living requires; and do not lose heart. Your faith may be stronger than you think.