Where Is Your Trust? Part 3: The Heart In Our Trust

“…with all your heart.” Proverbs 3:5

Is it the heart of the matter, a matter of the heart, or does the heart even matter at all? The heart is a perplexing thing. I, for one, often wonder how the Bible can tell us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart” when it says elsewhere “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it (Jeremiah 17:9 HCSB)?” When considering the unbeliever, the total depravity of the human heart flows naturally from this verse. Hence, the word “incurable.” But what about the Christian? Have our “hearts of stone” not been replaced with “hearts of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26, and 2 Cor. 3:3)? As new creatures with new hearts, we are no longer slaves to our utter depravity, but are being sanctified and transformed into Christlikeness. So where does the heart of the believer fit when it comes to trusting God?

I see one word in our verse that clues me in to the answer, especially considering where it lies in context. It is that seemingly meaningless word “with”, coupled with the fact that the trusting is given as an imperative. This is what tells me that the heart is to follow our trust as opposed to our trust following our heart. First of all, if we are to follow our hearts to trust God, then it does not make sense that we would have to be commanded to trust Him. Would our hearts not naturally go in that direction? And if we are following our hearts, what good will an external commandment do? The imperative to trust is first an engaging of the mind. The mind understands that kind of language. It all starts with a cognitive decision to trust in the Lord based on what we know and believe to be true of Him.
Second, the flow of this verse presents the heart more as a powerful tool than as the determining factor. We are to trust (intentional, mental decision) with our heart. The heart becomes something we take hold of as a powerful tool in our trusting much like the builder takes hold of his tools when constructing a house. The tools didn’t build it. They had to be guided and directed. But they were instrumental and powerful.

As it concerns trusting in the Lord with all your heart, I would like to lay three challenges before you.

Let Your Heart Be Driven, But Not The Driver

The heart makes for a wonderful vehicle, but it is a lousy driver. Imagine cranking up a corvette, laying a brick on the gas pedal, taking your hands off the wheel, and letting the corvette take you for a ride. It will probably be your last ride. No doubt, you will travel with power. But you will also end up powerfully crashing. Now put that corvette in the hands of a skilled driver and you have a thing of beauty. The driver knows when to tap the breaks and when to put it to the floor. He knows when to keep the wheel straight and when to cut it hard. The heart in the hands of a good driver is able to point its powerful zeal in all the right directions.

Let the driver of your heart be truth. There will be times your heart tugs and pulls in various directions, but with God’s truth at the wheel you will always stay heading on the right path. The way you “trust in the Lord with all your heart” is by allowing God’s truth to grip the steering wheel and take control. Sometimes your heart will naturally overflow with feelings of trust in God. Other times your heart will drag with feelings of doubt. But we must operate on what we believe about God instead of what we feel about God in any given moment. In this way we allow truth to drive our hearts.

Let Your Heart Be Focused

Pull up a map and take a look at the borderline of Arkansas and Tennessee. It’s chaotic and crazy, lacking any coherent direction. It would make sense if it followed the Mississippi River. But it doesn’t. The way it has been explained to me, that is where the river used to be. The Mississippi is so violent and powerful in places that it actually changes the landscape, even to the point of uprooting trees. It is constantly changing shape.

I think this is a good illustration for the heart. You will notice that those who act primarily on their feelings often appear chaotic. They are constantly changing course. They lack clear direction. Feelings come instantaneously. But truth and conviction are developed over time. It is hard to separate feelings from moments in time. But truth plays the long game.

Imagine if you could take all the power of the Mississippi and intentionally focus it in one direction. Such is the beauty of the human heart. It is powerful and reckless. But when harnessed and directed by a firm understanding of God’s Word, there is no end to what it can accomplish.

Let Your Heart Be Instructed

In Psalm 42:5-6, the writer does an odd thing. He preaches to himself. More specifically, he preaches to his soul. He is addressing his heart and his emotional state. He describes his emotional condition as “cast down” and “in turmoil.” This would be one of those times when the heart would be a terrible driver. He is very specific in the way he allows truth to drive and focus his heart. He proclaims truth to his own heart, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” He is also intentional about remembering things that God has done.

We have heard the common phrase, “you get what you give.” What you give to your heart you get out of your heart. If you starve your heart of God’s Word your heart will act accordingly. The heart must be instructed. Preach to your heart. Constantly place God’s Word before it. In doing so, you will place truth firmly in the drivers seat of your heart. You will focus that raging river. You will be able to “trust in the Lord with all your heart.”

Where Is Your Trust? Part 2: The Object Of Our Trust

“Trust in the Lord…” Proverbs 3:5

As I said in the last post, when it comes to trust, God wants us to take Him at His Word. But He doesn’t only say, “Because I said so.” He has given us concrete reason to trust what He says, even over trusting our own perceptions and feelings. Focus on that one, tiny, critical word, “in.” Trust in the Lord.

As technical as this might sound, there is a difference between trusting God and trusting in God. Trusting God means trusting what He says. Trusting in God means trusting who He is. We are called in Proverbs to this deep and intimate level of trust. We are called to a kind of trust that believes who God is, giving us a natural trust in what He says. In other words, we trust what God says because we know who God is.

Entire books have been written about who God is (the attributes of God). As we turn our attention to the object of our trust, I only have a blog post. I’m going to pick out just a few of those characteristics and I find them in the Lord’s prayer. Prayer is an act of trust and Jesus begins His example of prayer with a recognition of who God is.

God Is Your Father

We heard the cry coming from down the hall. We were at the hospital for one of our boys to have a scope done. He had already been through alot, but we knew it had to be done in order to see if there were internal medical reasons for his issues. When we heard the cry, our hearts sank. The scope was done and the nurses were wheeling him back to us, but he woke up on the way. He was scared and there was no good way to explain to his little mind why he had to go through this. But as his parents we knew it was necessary and it was for his good. In those moments of fatherhood God gives me glimpses of His Father-son relationship with me.

The very first words in the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father,” lead is to approach God as a child would approach their dad. We can trust in God because He is our Father. Not only that, but He is our perfect, eternal, heavenly Father, and He perfectly loves His children. As earthly fathers, we allow our children to go through things they don’t understand because we know what is best for them in this temporary world. Yet, we are often bewildered when our perfect Father allows us to endure things we don’t understand because He knows what is best for eternity. Oh, that we would give Him the trust we wish our children would give us.

God Is In Heaven

Not only is God our Father, but He is our Father in heaven. My sons aren’t even three years old yet and they already know not to worry if something breaks. In their words, “Daddy fix it.” Of course, when they get older and their stuff gets more complicated I don’t know if “Daddy fix it” or not. But, for now, they think I’m awesome simply because I’m Dad.

Now take that childhood confidence that Dad can do anything and realize that it is true of your heavenly Father. He is enthroned above all that is. His perspective is eternal and His power is unstoppable. He knows all the little details – past, present, and future – that you don’t know. When you feel confused, He is sure. When you can’t handle it, He is already handling it. You can trust your Father, who has eternal perspective.

God Is Holy

Simply put, God’s holiness means there is none like Him. No person or being can compare to Him. This is why He can refer to Himself as “I AM.” Any other person would have to use a descriptive term or name to set themselves apart from others (i.e. I am Brad). God needs no descriptive term. He is the being from which all things receive their being. He is the source. He needs no other thing. He is self-sustaining. So He needs only to say, “I AM.”

Because of this we can trust Him. After all, if God can sustain God how much more do you think He can and will sustain His people. If every molecule in the universe finds its source in God, can He not supply all that His people need? There is none like Him and, therefore, no better anchor for our trust than Him.

God’s Kingdom And Will Do Not Fail

God does not fail. Period. He commands the sea to part and it parts. He commands the demons and they must obey. With a simple statement from His mouth entire galaxies are formed. He breathes life and the dead live. He cries out, “It is finished,” and it is finished. Listen to what He said in Isaiah,

“As I have planned,
so shall it be,
and as I have purposed,
so shall it standFor the Lord of hosts has purposed,
and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out,
and who will turn it back? – Isaiah 14:24, 27 (ESV)

Basic translation: Your Father cannot be stopped. It’s the Olympics of eternity and it’s not even a fair competition. Team God is going home with the gold. At times it seems the other teams (Satan, the world, the flesh) are pulling ahead and gaining ground, but perception is not always reality. Team God always wins. And if you are a believer in Christ you are wearing His jersey. If that does not envoke a sense of trust and confidence then nothing will.

Conclusion

It is as I said. Books have been written about who God is. But even if these four things were all God revealed about Himself, that would be more than enough to elicit deep trust in Him. Thanks be to God that He has shown us who He is so we can be confident as we trust in Him.

Where Is Your Trust? Part 1: Trust

It’s Not A Feeling

For many of my years as a believer, I saw Christianity through a purely emotional lens. If I didn’t feel Christian, I wasn’t. If I didn’t feel close to God, I was far from Him. If I didn’t feel happy, I was a defective follower of Christ. After all, the choir director told us to make sure we smile real big when we are singing at church. So if you don’t feel a smile, paste one on there anyway. This was also true of trust. I thought trusting God was something that you primarily feel. I have often found myself discouraged in times when trust is not my default emotion toward God. And if the truth is to be told, I have found myself judging Christian brothers and sisters who are not overflowing with emotional trust for God.

Sometimes we know where we should end up, but have the wrong idea of where to start and how to get there. Good, lasting, and unshakeable trust starts in the mind, not the heart. It is a daily decision based on what you know to be true. The mind does not depend on the heart to tell it who or what to trust. The heart depends on the mind to direct that trust. It is not much different than the concept of love in a lasting marriage. The marriage lasts because the spouses constantly make the decision to love one another when they feel it and when they don’t.

We will get to the role of the heart later in the study, but I think this deserves mentioning. The heart is a powerful tool in trusting God. But as a tool, it has to be directed and controlled by something else in order to be effective. Like many other things in the Christian life, the heart is a powerful conduit in our trust for God, but it is not the driving factor.

It’s a Decision

The primary question determining our trust in God is, “Am I going to take God at His Word?” We have read all of God’s incredible promises in Scripture. Do we believe them to be true? To say that our hearts guide our trust for the Lord is the same as saying feelings can dictate truth. If we want to be the kind of people with unwavering trust in the Lord we must regularly decide to trust God because we believe His Word, not because we feel like it.

I see this in Proverbs 3:5. The very first word is “Trust.” It is abrupt and seems very much like a command. The trust seems to come before the heart. There is first the decision to trust, then the heart is brought into subjection to that trust and used to amplify it (“with all your heart”).

An Eye Opening Moment

It was a hot day at work. I was listening to the radio in the trailer and a worship song came on. I can’t explain it, but I suddenly became overwhelmed by the presence of God. I literally felt like He was standing right beside me. It was the sweetest moment of worship I have ever experienced (on the shipping dock of all places). Shortly after the song faded away, that sense of God’s presence went with it. I pleaded with God to not let me lose that feeling and that is when I heard the voice of God. It wasn’t an audible voice or a burning bush, but somehow I heard the words. “I want you to take My word for it. If you always feel My presence then you will be trusting in your feelings and not in Me. You need to trust Me.” I will never forget that moment. It was the moment I realized that true trust in God comes from believing His Word despite my feelings, not from believing God’s Word because of my feelings.

I will wrap it up by giving us all this challenge. May we trust God’s promises and in who He has revealed Himself to be when we feel it and, especially, when we don’t feel it. May we decide today to trust God’s Word simply because it is His Word and encourage our hearts to come along with us.

Where Is Your Trust? Introduction

A Six Part Series On Proverbs 3:5-6

Have you ever heard someone use the phrase, “Trust no one?” It sounds like a really cool spy movie tagline. It may also be the life motto of an independent (and very lonely) person. But it is really not possible. Everything we do is based on trust in someone or something. The defining question is not if you will trust, but who you will trust. This question is the basis of our study of Proverbs 3:5-6. I have broken these verses down in six parts:

  1. Trust
  2. in the Lord
  3. with all your heart
  4. and do not lean on your own understanding.
  5. In all your ways acknowledge Him
  6. and He will make your paths straight.

I will write a post for each one. Many times we spit out popular passages like this without taking the time to take a deep look into them. C.H. Spurgeon once said, “visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” I am going to “live in” these two verses for a little while. I hope you will join me and be encouraged and strengthened. Go ahead and read Proverbs 3:5-6 and keep an eye out for part 1: Trust.

God’s Power for God’s Purpose

“…in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded you…” Exodus 31:6 (NASB)

As a man, this is going to be hard to admit, but here it goes. When assembling children’s toys, I have not always perfectly followed the instruction manual. Christmas is an especially hard time for me. I can even remember one occasion when I did carefully try to follow the instructions, but still got something wrong. I had to disassemble it and start over. It can be annoying, but it’s not the end of the world. But what if the instructions were specifically given by God? That would come with a lot more pressure. 

No Pressure, Israel

Exodus 25-30 gives Israel an incredibly detailed instruction manual for assembling the tabernacle along with intricate details for the priestly garments and consecration. As I read through these instructions (via my daily time in the ESV Reader’s Bible. You should check it out.), I found myself getting discouraged. What if someone doesn’t measure something right? What if they miss something? If you read through these chapters you will find that it is way more challenging than any children’s toy. And if Israel gets something wrong, it is not just annoying. It is an offense against God. I felt the weight of this as I read. I wondered, “Who could handle this pressure? This is too much.” And I was right. It is too much for any man. So a question came to mind, “Did God give Israel a job they could not do?” He did, then He equipped them to be able to do it.

Empowered By the Spirit

After the overwhelming demands of chapters 25-30 there is a sigh of relief. God says, 

“See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship…And behold, I Myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded you…”

Exodus 31:2‭-‬3, 6 NASB (emphasis mine)

There is one ingredient here that makes it possible for Israel to meet all of God’s demands: the Spirit of God. God did not make demands too heavy for Israel and leave them to collapse under the weight. He called out and empowered men from among them to be able to do the work by His Spirit. 

This means God gave them a job they could only complete with God’s help which would result in the enjoyment of God’s presence for God’s glory. Notice that all of this is from God, through God, and to God.

 Take Courage

I can relate to this. Maybe you can too. In our New Covenant times, God’s people are no longer responsible for temple and tabernacle measurements, but we are accountable to God for our lives and actions. If you are anything like me this can seem overwhelming. God’s standards are way higher than I could ever hope to meet on my own. But thanks be to God that Christ lived the life I couldn’t live, died the death I should’ve died, and gave me the life I could never earn. Because of His sacrifice I am now empowered by the same Spirit that Bezalel was. But instead of constructing a building, the Spirit is at work shaping me into a tabernacle pleasing to God. And the same goes for all who belong to Jesus.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”

1 Corinthians 6:19‭-‬20 NASB 

So take courage, Christian. God has given you a job you can only complete with God’s help which will result in your enjoyment of God’s presence for God’s glory. And you have been empowered for the work from God, through God, and to God. 

The Cross and the Bird Feeder

crossWhat is the difference between the cross and a bird feeder? For many people, sadly, not much. It is not uncommon to walk into a home and see crosses hanging on the wall, propped up on a table, or even being used as a form of jewelry. And for many of these homes there is no difference between the cross and other decorative items and ornaments except that maybe some are outside and some inside. Decorations and ornaments are used in order to pretty up a room. Whether it is an accent piece or the centerpiece, decorations make the space more inviting and comfortable. But there is nothing comfortable about the cross.

Foolishness to the World

The cross was meant to be an instrument for shameful, excruciating, and dehumanizing execution. So viewing the cross as purely decorative is similar to thinking the guillotine makes a wonderful centerpiece for your family gatherings. When Paul said, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing…” (1 Corinthians 1:18), he wasn’t kidding. To the world, the cross would make more sense in the climax of a horror movie than in the home of a loving family. But if we can forget what actually happened there, wrap bows around it, and maybe paint it a pretty color to match our kitchen set then it will work perfectly.

Don’t be mistaken, I am all for having crosses in your house. In fact, from where I am sitting in my own house I can see four different crosses. But my challenge to you is to no longer view the cross in your house as simply a decoration. View it as a reminder.

God’s Power to the Believer

Paul finishes his statement about the foolishness of the cross by saying, “…but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” It is the power of God because what happened there is what allowed the dead to be brought back to life. What happened there allowed those clothed with wickedness to be clothed with Christ’s righteousness. The cross as a symbol ought to be a reminder to us that sin is serious and God is gracious.

It is not uncommon, when someone sacrifices their life to save another, that the rescued person finds some way to remember. There have been many who were rescued in this way who carried around some kind of symbol to remind them of their debt to the one who rescued them. The cross serves us in this way. It is the place where Jesus became our sin, suffered complete rejection from the Father, and cried out, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). He received the condemnation of Almighty God for the believer’s sins and in turn gives to all those who will believe His righteousness. The cross displayed the horrible and utterly devastating wrath of God. But, at the same time, it displayed His mercy and grace for those who rightfully deserved that wrath.

Remember

I pray you see the cross as more than just a decoration or an accent piece. I pray you see it as more than just a religious symbol. I pray the sight of the cross calls you to remember. And I pray the same for myself. Every day, when we look upon the crosses hanging on our walls or sitting on our mantles, I pray we remember the horror and destruction Jesus suffered. I pray we feel the weight of His groaning. I pray we remember the day the perfect Son of God drank our cup of wrath and handed to us His cup of righteousness. And I pray the thought of it all shocks us back to life, humility, and faithful service every day.

Brothers and sisters, let us not place the cross in our living room in the same category as the bird feeder out back.

 

The Day I Died

images“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…”
Ephesians 5:25 NASB

“I wouldn’t miss your funeral for the world.” My father chuckled while he spoke those words about my wedding day. Though he was just joking around (I think), I must admit it got under my skin a little bit. How could he view something so beautiful through such a dark lens? I realize now that he was partially right. He was right in what he said, but wrong in what he meant.

The wedding, and every day of a husband’s life, IS a funeral. In fact, I would argue that unless a husband views it that way he will never be what God intends and he will find himself frustrated in his marriage. The husband’s call is to daily die to himself. I am confident in that, not only because of the plain testimony of Scripture, but also because I am a husband who has had days of self-sacrifice and days of self-service. I can say from my own experience that the days of self-service also ended up being days of discontentment. I never ended up gaining what I wanted as a result of selfishness. I only gained more frustration as my ever-growing list of needs was left unmet. The reason my contentment was so elusive on those self-centered days is quite simple. I was not living within God’s framework.

Husbands, here is God’s direction to us. We need to die. We need to die to ourselves, to our own selfish desires, to our pride, and even to our own life. This is the great and heavy purpose God gives to us, that we would be to our wives and to the watching world a representation (however imperfect) of the sacrificial love Christ has for His church. Let that notion sink in for a second. Jesus went to the cross for His bride, the Church, even as He was being rejected by her. Many husbands couldn’t be bothered to do the simplest of tasks for their wives. Consider this question. Does your wife know more of Christ’s love because of the way you love her?

By the grace of God, we can do better. And only when we operate in the sacrificial way we were intended to will we be able to have contentment and peace in our marriages. So maybe instead of saying, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you,” we should be saying, “I want to spend the rest of my life dying for you.” And maybe more marriages would endure if we did view the wedding, in this one way, as a funeral.