Friday, August 03, 2007

Every command an opportunity, an invitation, and a test

This morning I read the almost-too-familiar Proverbs 3:5 in the light of a personal situation.

You probably don't need to hear it, but here it is: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding."

Recently I preached a sermon on that text; this morning I preached another to myself. It occurred to me that every commandment is an invitation, an opportunity and a test.

Note the wording. Solomon does not say, "You will trust in Yahweh, and this will happen." The verb is imperative, and it is in the second person singular. It is addressed to me, to my will. I may not do it, or I may. God will not do it for me. Others cannot do it for me.

And so it is an opportunity and an invitation. I am to bring all my thinking and willing and cherishing (heart) to the activity of trust.

Now, it is the nature of trust that it is always, to some degree, counter-intuitive. Sometimes it is easier, sometimes it is harder; but by definition "trust" comes into play when the desired state of affairs is not evident. That is, I don't trust God for a safe drive to work. He already gave me one. I don't trust that my pc will function. It is, right now. I don't trust my wife to give me a sweet "good night" kiss. She already did.

No, trust comes into play in the not-yet, and even more in the not. By that I mean specifically when something is not in fact going as I believe it should, and there is no sign whatever of the hand of God moving for good in it. That is when I must trust. It is when I have prayed and prayed over something that I have every reason to believe is for His glory, and there isn't even a cloud the size of a man's fist. That is when trust is essential.

So all the time I read in the Bible of the importance of faith and trust, and Christian writers stress the centrality of these virtues, and I nod and assent. But when do I do it? What is the opportunity to exercise this grace?

Is it not necessarily in the dark? Certainly so:
Who is among you that fears the LORD,

That obeys the voice of His servant,

That walks in darkness and has no light?

Let him trust in the name of the LORD

and rely on his God (Isaiah 50:10)

Is not trust called for in the chaos of others' sin, or my own failures or cluelessness, or fear? Isn't that the opportunity to do what I read about, talk about, even preach about? It must be so.

But at the same time, is not every command a test? God does not move Solomon to write, "Trust is one option, give it a go if you want; it's up to you." He simply says trust. In fact, He says, Trust with all your heart.

So now, I'm to do it. I will, or I won't. It's an opportunity, but it's a test. It is no less a moral responsibility than whether or not I will love my wife and be true to her, or be honest and tell no lies. To fail (or refuse) to trust is to disobey. I am obliged to trust, morally and spiritually obliged.

But I'll be darned if that makes it any easier, sometimes.


Kim said...

To use the vernacular of my kids:


Violet said...

Thank you so much for putting this into writing. Although I've been a believer for 40+ years, it has just been in the past year or so that I am starting to get a handle on what "trust" really means. You have certainly verbalized it well in this post.

DJP said...

Thanks for sharing that, Violet. Perhaps it's because I've been exceptionally slow (read "dense") myself on that topic.