With a new year approaching, everyone starts talking about resolutions, plans and dreams. Even in the church, we talk about vision and goals that lead to growth and change. For me, it is seeing people get from A to B in their relationship with God; to becoming more like Christ. It is having a deeper faith in God where we can trust Him regardless of whatever challenges and circumstances we may face. That process, sometimes called transformation or sanctification, takes a lifetime and can be a little messy. In spite of that, it is something we should all be striving towards… becoming more like Jesus.
Have you ever met someone who has a huge faith? I have and to be honest, when I meet someone like that, I find I am a little envious. Part of me wants to test their faith to see if it is real. Maybe it is because envy but maybe it is because I doubt that anyone could have that kind of faith and trust in God? But in a sense, that is what God wants for each us; a faith that allows us to trust Him regardless of circumstances. We see it throughout the Old and New Testament. God wants followers to follow Him… period.
In the beginning the breakup between God and humanity wasn’t so much about disobedience, rather it really came down to trust. God said one thing and Adam and Eve didn’t trust Him.
God set up a few rules and man questioned God’s trustworthiness. Every time God set something up, man questioned it and eventually went the other way.
God wants us to have confidence, a faith, a trust in Him. If we had it, think about how much of an impact we could make in our communities, our campuses and our workplaces?
We know that one of the keys of any relationship is trust. When you look at the relationship between God and the nation of Israel, the biggest problem was trust. In fact, I would say one of Israel’s primary responsibilities was to show the world what a relationship with God looked like and they blew it because of their inability to trust Him.
Now when we think of the relationship between God and Israel, we tend to focus on the Law. We tend to think it was about rules but if we look back on how everything played out, it started with God doing things to gain their trust and build the relationship with them. In fact, the Law wasn’t given until after they began losing their faith in Him.
Think about how it all went down: God delivered them from Egypt and God said, “Trust Me” and they did for a while but then failed and began worshiping an idol. He gave them the Law and said, “Trust Me” and they failed. He sent prophets and other messengers and failed to trust Him. Do we see a pattern here?
Now when we fast forward to the New Testament when Jesus shows up, He doesn’t come bearing 10 more commandments for us to follow. There isn’t a “to do” list that we need to pass in order that God will love you. Instead, Jesus comes with a message of hope that says, “Trust Me”. “I’ll take care of the problem, just put your faith in Me.”
Trust is foundational for every relationship. Whether it is between a cab driver and the passenger, a patient and their doctor, a parent and child and within the marriage relationship, trust matters. Great relationships are characterized by trust. God’s primary desire is He wants us back into a relationship with Him and not to get us to do stuff. The New Testament is God wooing us to Himself. Like those of us when we were or are dating, He is trying to teach us to trust Him.
Over the next few weeks, I want us to look at four things that I think are key for building and developing a trust filled relationship with God. I want to give a couple disclaimers here. Firstly, this is not a “to do” list; it isn’t about getting credit with God. Another disclaimer is they aren’t all directly in the Bible; they aren’t commands and essentials. That being said, I’ve seen how these disciplines and practices are key to help build faith. They are all foundational in building a relationship and developing intimacy with God.
The first thing God gives us is His Word. This may sound like a basic thing, but it is often one thing we most often neglect. We spend time hearing the Word on Sunday but we should also be studying on your own. Too many Christians today complain about how much they are struggling in their faith and walk with God. When was the last time you were challenged by what you heard or read in the Bible? Unfortunately, for many the only time they spend time in the Word is on Sunday mornings. During the rest of the week, their Bibles collect dust or their apps remain closed.
But spending time in the Word is foundational to building our faith. In fact, it was through hearing the Word, the gospel, that God initiated this relationship with us. As Rom 10 tells us, someone is sent to preach and we hear and respond. So how does this work out in our lives?
In Matt 7, we find the parable of the wise builder.Jesus says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”
In this parable, Jesus was emphasizing that if we had a deep faith in God, this is how we would go through life. Living out our faith is one of the most challenging aspects of the Christian life. The truth is, the Bible does tell us how someone who has faith in God should live, but in living this way, we don’t earn credit with God… it is a response to His love and our trust in Him. As Jesus points out, “everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice…”
Christians have made the mistake of measuring a person’s faith by things like church attendance, participation in Sunday school or even giving. Don’t get me wrong… these are all important. But what God measures is a transformed life that is full of active obedience. And how does that happen? When we allow the Spirit of God to take the Word of God and change us. In other words, the words of the Bible become evident in our lives.
As we end this year and move forward into the next, my hope is we would learn the discipline of spending time in Word. Many of us will make goals and resolutions to change our lives for the better. The Bible is the revelation of God to us and in it we find Jesus, the One whom we are to model our lives after. So let me encourage each of us this week to take the time in His Word.