Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; Proverbs 3:5
What is the reading on your trust barometer right now?One of the more intriguing perspectives on the state of trust in our culture right now can be seen through the lens provided by Edelman Intelligence, an analytics and consulting firm that has conducted extensive surveys for the last twenty years on how much we trust our institutions. Trust, according to this instrument, is a function of ethics and competency. Will an organization do what is right? Will what an organization does work?
These are great questions to ask at any time, but they seem especially important during our current multi-dimensional crisis. Some organizations, according to the data, score high on their reputation for doing the right thing, but they struggle with building confidence that they will deliver what is needed. Others may be competent, but they lack the character to consistently do the right thing. In the chaos of 2020, the media and the government score low on both accounts.
How is the Church doing? I don’t necessarily mean our church in particular, but how is the Church, capital “C”doing?
Rather than running to the church in times of crisis, the most recent data suggests that people are running away from the church—especially millennials, who according to one recent Barna survey, have seen half take a time out from church during the pandemic.
Now surveys never tell the whole story and they are not the gospel, but they do give us a slice of data to help us understand our current times, and they challenge us to ask some good questions.
What is the root cause? Why aren’t more people turning to the church to help them process the pain of this crisis?
How are we doing at representing the hope that can only be found in Christ? Do our lives communicate that we ourselves are trusting God?
In our Proverbs series, we’ve been building the case that trusting God is built on a foundation of knowing the truth about God. We need to see Him clearly. We need to understand and stand under the Truth of God’s Word and his character. Absolutely. Amen.
But I have a confession and a suspicion. I know that I spend too much of my time and energy thinking about God and not enough time thinking with God. More than that, I tend to place my confidence in my own understanding of the world, the Bible, and God himself. And not enough actually thinking with God. Here’s what that looks like for me.
My natural tendency is to put my theology and my practice of spiritual disciplines in one category. And the practical decisions I make on a daily basis in another category. Sure, I set time aside to pray and read and do spiritual things, but I sometimes I have a hard time actually involving God in all of my decisions. It’s easy to say to God, “I’ve got this now. I don’t really need your input.” Now I’d never say that to God. But I wonder if that’s how God experiences me. As a dad, I know what that distance feels like.
That sounds a lot like “leaning on your own understanding” to me. My suspicion is that I’m not alone.
I used to think this was simply a pride issue. I think too highly of myself. I need to work on humility. I need others to help me see the blind spots of my pride and self-reliance. I need to see God more clearly so that I can trust Him more.
Still true. Yes, yes, and yes. But what if there’s more to it than that?
Nehemiah, the cupbearer to the king, and Ezra the priest, were in the rebuilding and restoration business. After they rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem four centuries before the birth of Christ, Ezra restored the importance of the Law to them by reading and explaining God’s Word to the people. As the people wept in repentance, Nehemiah encouraged them, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
They had received the truth of God’s Word. Yes. They were convicted. Yes. Both great things. Yes. But the joy of the Lordwas to be their strength.
How can joy be the source of their strength and, I would add, the source of their trust?
When all I do is know information about God, I am still distant from Him. Even if what I know is true, sound, from the Bible. Even if I have memorized a ton of scripture, even if I know the Greek and the Hebrew, even if I have all my theology in order. . . I can still be distant from Him.
I can still be operating out of my own strength and understanding. How do I know the true source? What is the indicator?
Joy. When I’m squeezed by nasty circumstances or nasty people, what happens? When all is right with the world and everyone—including my own kids—are lining up to sing my praises, what happens to my joy?
If I can’t find joy in both situations—or if there’s a huge gap between the two—then I might have a problem underneath the problem.
You can pretend that you know more than you know. You can pretend that you’re happier than you are. You can pretend that you don’t need lots of stuff and approval to be happy.
But joy comes from the deep well of a with God relationship that you can’t fake.
What will make your trust barometer go up?
Take a break from looking at your circumstances for a minute and ask yourself this question: Do you really enjoy being with God? He is waiting for you.
Father, thank you for creating me and loving me. Help me to remember that Your love is my most valuable treasure and my greatest joy.
Read Nehemiah 8:9-13