Tag Archives: trust and mistrust

Chapter 4: “God’s Way of Restoring Trust”

This blog begins chapter four of the book in process Conversations About God. It originated as a series of lectures by Graham Maxwell in 1984. After each lecture Maxwell took written questions from the audience mediated through the pastor of the Loma Linda University Church at the time, Lou Venden. This marvelous series has never been put into book form, so I am attempting to do so and sharing the results in progress here with permission from the Maxwell family. The words that follow are Maxwell’s oral presentation, edited by me.

In the previous chapter we concluded that in order to have peace once again in His universe, all God asks of us is trust. And there will be peace again, just as there was before the war that began in heaven (Rev 12). There will be peace once again because all the members of God’s vast family will trust in their heavenly Father and He in turn will be able to safely trust in them. Along with that, the members of God’s family will learn to trust each other. Wherever there is mutual trust and trustworthiness, there is perfect peace, perfect freedom, and perfect security.

Our heavenly Father, however, has been accused of being unworthy of the faith and trust of His children. He has even been accused of being a liar; of being arbitrary, exacting, vengeful, unforgiving, and severe. It might seem incredible that the Infinite One would permit such accusations. But in His far-sighted plan, God has allowed these accusations and charges to spread throughout the universe, including our planet. These accusations have led to the point of war, open rebellion, and revolt. In light of this rebellion the question arises, How could God ever restore trust in His universe—in His family?

How Much Trust Do I Need?

Conversations About God 3:5

Now how much “faith” do we have to have? Must we trust completely, or even perfectly, to be right with God? Couldn’t we get away with a little unfaithfulness now and then? Have you husbands ever said to your wives, “Wife, how much could I cheat on you and this marriage still survive?” Would that make any sense? What if a friend should say to you, “How much could I lie to you or hide the truth—and this friendship still last?” Frankly, that would make no sense at all.

Does God need to leave a little room for unfaithfulness in our relationship? Is a “perfect relationship” asking too much of us? Does it make sense to even ask the question? When we “cheat” on God, and cheat we have, God remains our constant friend. But we may be destroying our side of the friendship. You see, if what God wants is friendship, a loving, trusting relationship; then what He wants is obviously not a requirement demanded, but an absolutely voluntary experience.

This long debate regarding faith, works and obedience has troubled saints through the years, but it could be so readily resolved if we looked at the Biblical word for obedience, which is hupakoē (four syllables, one for each vowel). The first part, “hupa,” means “under.” And the second part, “akoē” (three syllables), means “hearing.” The Greek word literally means “listening under.” It describes a humble willingness to listen. If we truly love and trust God, we’ll be willing to listen. It wouldn’t make sense for us not to listen to one we love, trust and admire.

Now could God’s expectation of our willingness to listen be one hundred percent? Our performance may be weak. We may stumble as we leave our doctor’s office. But a willingness to listen? Is that demanding too much of us? Is it too much to say, “Don’t cheat there. Let that be one hundred percent!” Is it expecting too much of us to ask that we be completely committed to listening humbly to our Friend?

Let’s go back to Hebrews 11, the chapter that opens with a definition of what faith is. It surely is encouraging to read about the heroes and heroines of faith celebrated in that same chapter. Hebrews 11 uses the stories of the Old Testament as illustrations of what faith is and what it is not. Look at Hebrews 11:31-32:

By faith the prostitute Rahab escaped the doom of the unbelievers, because she had given the spies a kindly welcome. Need I say more? Time is too short for me to tell the stories of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets (NEB).

Was Rahab’s life at the time she welcomed the spies in perfect harmony with God’s will? Was Gideon’s trust in God perfect when the angel came to him (remember how he needed at least two miracles before he was willing to listen)? Was Samson’s life an ideal you would teach to your children? Was David’s life a model of Christian perfection? Yet Hebrews 11:39 goes on to say, “These also, one and all are commemorated for their faith” (NEB). Is God too demanding? With all their faults and sins, God holds these people out to us as models of being willing to listen. They were far from perfect, but evidently, at least at some point in their lives, they loved and trusted God and were waiting for Him to heal the damage done. And God puts them in Hebrews eleven for our encouragement.

Surely no Bible story is more encouraging than the story of the thief on the cross. What did he do for Jesus to respond with those wonderful words in Luke 23:42-43? “And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And Jesus said to him, . . . ‘You will be with me in Paradise'” (RSV). Jesus was hanging on the cross between two thieves (the Greek word tells us they were not just burglers, but violent criminals) who were cursing and swearing, and also mocking Jesus along with the crowds.

Then something happened to one of these thieves. He listened to Jesus say “John, please look after Mother when I’m gone” (John 19:25-27). Perhaps the thief thought of his own mother, and that really touched him. He had heard Jesus saying “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). Then he learned from the placard above Jesus’ head that the one saying “Father forgive them” was “The King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38). So the thief thought to himself, “If Jesus really has a kingdom, and rules over it with forgiveness, that’s just the kind of kingdom someone like me needs.” I’m a thief. I need to be forgiven. I wouldn’t be safe in any other kingdom than a kingdom where the king says, “I forgive you. I forgive you.”

So he turned to Jesus and said, “Jesus, if that’s the kind of kingdom you’re going to reign over, I’d like to live in it. Please, could you remember me?” I suspect he was a little tentative in saying that. He didn’t know how Jesus was going to respond. But then he heard the words that confirmed his trust. “Yes, I’d be pleased to remember you.” And then the thief died, with his tithe unpaid, and probably all kinds of unclean things in his stomach. He never made restitution to anyone for his crimes. He was never baptized. He never kept a Sabbath. But he’ll be in the kingdom! The next moment of consciousness after his death will be in the resurrection, and he will come face to face with that same person in the middle. Jesus will say to him, “You have a lot to learn.” And the thief will say, “If you say so, that’s all right with me.”

If anything should happen to any of us tonight, I would hope that we would die God’s trusting friend. Because if we do, we will arise in the next moment of consciousness face to face with God. And we will not be afraid, because we will know the truth about God. We will trust Him, know Him, love Him, and all those other things. We will have been set right. And if He should say to us, “You know, there’s a great deal for you to learn,” we would say in response, “I’d be pleased to listen, because I trust and admire You. I want to be Your friend.”

You see, faith is just a word we use to describe a relationship with God as with a person well known. The better He is known the better this relationship may be. Faith implies an attitude toward God of love, trust, and deepest admiration. It means having enough confidence in God – based on the more than adequate evidence revealed – to be willing to believe what He says, to accept what He offers, and to do what He wishes – without reservation – for the rest of eternity. Anyone who has such faith would be perfectly safe to save. This is why faith is the only requirement for heaven, and for salvation.

Is Trust Really Enough?

Conversations About God 3:4

Doesn’t it seem too little, however, that God would only ask for trust? Isn’t it also necessary to know Him? To love Him? To obey Him? Don’t we need to repent? To be reborn? To be converted? To be justified? To be sanctified? Don’t we even need to be perfect? The list of expectations gets so long it’s no wonder that it discourages many people from really wanting to have a right relationship with God. But don’t be scared by that list. Understood in the larger view of what went wrong and what needs to be set right, every one of those items I have mentioned is an integral part of a single, transforming experience that is made available to us all. It was never supposed to be so complicated, or divided into so many different parts.

Let’s take, for example, the expectation “to know God.” What’s the difference between knowing God and trusting Him? A classic text for this is John 17:3: “And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (RSV). As we noted in the previous chapter, to really know someone is to love, trust, and admire them. To know God is to trust Him, to love Him and to admire Him. That word is even used for the intimacy between a husband and his wife. I can hear God saying, “If only My children really trusted Me. If only they really knew Me. If only they really loved Me. If they were only willing to listen, and let Me help them, I could perfectly heal all the damage done. Everything would be right again. And we could keep it right forever.” Now that’s the whole list, if you want to put it in simple terms. Is there anything He couldn’t do for us if we honestly regarded Him that way?

I often hear God saying in the Bible, “How I wish My children could be My friends once again. And they could see Me as being their friend. And then all would be well.” Now the Bible describes at least one such friend of God, Moses. Notice what it says in Exodus 33:11, 17: “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. . . . And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name’” (NIV). What an honor to be listed in the Bible as God’s friend! And can you see how being a friend is the same as being known? To know someone is to trust them, and one trusts people who are known and who have behaved in a trustworthy manner. So trust includes being loved and all those other things.

Now surely trust in God, and friendship with God, is no “leap in the dark,” as some people describe faith. It is not safe to trust someone we do not know. So God doesn’t ask us to trust Him as a stranger. “So faith (trust) comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Rom 10:17, RSV). “Faith comes from what is heard,” because they didn’t have copies of the Bible the way we do. They had to listen as the scriptures were read. And as they listened they heard the truth. They heard the evidence. And some were won to repentance and to trust, particularly when they heard the truth revealed by the Son of God Himself.

David surely knew what God wanted of His children, so that peace could be restored everything be set right. Look at Psalm 51 (selected from verses 6, 10, 16 and 17):

Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward being: therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. . . . Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. . . . For thou hast no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (RSV)

This is what God wants, in order to have peace once again in the family. Because that means we are willing to stand humbly in the presence of our God and ask “What must I do to be well, to be saved?” And He says, “You need a new heart and a right spirit.” And then we say, “I’d be very happy to have one. Please give me one soon.”

Hosea understood what God wanted, to have peace in the universe again. Look at Hosea 6:6: “It is true love that I have wanted, not sacrifice; the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Phillips). In Hebrew parallelism, the second line of the sentence simply reaffirms or enlarges the point in the first line. The parallelism in verse 6 shows that true knowledge of God and love for God mean the same thing. That’s what God wants. Hosea goes on in verse 7: “But they, like Adam have broken their agreement; again and again they have played me false” (Hos 6:7, Phillips). They cheated. How much security can you have in the family when some of the children are playing false?

Do you remember what Jesus told Nicodemus had to happen before he would be safe to save? John 3:3: “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God'” (RSV). “Born again” means a new heart and a right spirit, exactly what David was saying in the fifty-first Psalm. Jesus didn’t say “Unless you are forgiven.” Or “Unless you are justified (have your legal standing adjusted), you cannot enter the kingdom.” He said “Unless you be changed and become a trustworthy person, a teachable member of My family, you will not be safe to admit into the hereafter.”

How can anyone tell they have really been reborn, and have genuine trust and faith? How can anyone know they have been put right with God and all is well? This is a question which was much debated in the early days, and is still debated to this day. In fact, a leader in the early Christian church wrote an entire book to clear it up, a book that has troubled many saints: It’s in the Bible, the book of James. Note James 2:14, 19, and 21-23:

My brothers, what use is it for a man to say he has faith when he does nothing to show it? Can that faith save him?. . . . You have faith enough to believe that there is one God. Excellent! The devils have faith like that, and it makes them tremble (James 2:14, 19, NEB).

The devils believe God is powerful but there is no friendship between them and God.

Was it not by his action in offering his son Isaac upon the altar, that our father Abraham was justified? Surely you can see that faith was at work in his actions, and that by these actions the integrity of his faith was fully proved. Here was fulfillment of the words of Scripture: “Abraham put his faith in God, and that faith was counted to him as righteousness” (James 2:21-23, NEB).

According to James, false faith is useless, but a genuine faith is demonstrated by one’s actions. But then in the following verse is the puzzling word “counted.” If you take the legal view of what’s gone wrong in the universe, you can hear the cash registers ringing as you read this verse. But the word “counted” has another meaning besides its use in accounting or math: It can mean “considered,” or “reckoned as.” Reading it this way God was saying, “Abraham trusts Me, and that’s good. That’s what I want. That’s what it means to be right.” Evidence that this is the correct reading is found at the end of the verse, “Elsewhere he is called ‘God’s friend'” (James 2:23, NEB). When you are God’s friend all is right, all is well.

Chapter 3: “All God Asks Is Trust”

This blog begins chapter three of the book in process Conversations About God. It originated as a series of lectures of Graham Maxwell in 1984. After each lecture Maxwell took written questions from the audience mediated through the pastor of the Loma Linda University Church at the time, Lou Venden. This marvelous series has never been put into book form, so I am attempting to do so and sharing the results in progress here with permission from the Maxwell family. The words that follow are Maxwell’s oral presentation, edited by me.

In the previous chapter we considered what went wrong in God’s universe. If we can understand what went wrong, we are in a better position to understand what needs to be set right, and what it would take to set them right and keep them right for eternity. We will also be better able to understand what we need to do (if anything) in order to be set right, and enjoy the “rightness” of the universe once again.

It was surely apparent from the biblical description of this controversy in God’s family, that there was a breakdown of trust and trustworthiness—even to the point of war in heaven, as Revelation describes it (Rev 12:7-9). That war spilled down to this planet, where we experience a continuing misunderstanding and distrust of God. Not that we’ve all become irreligious, but that we’ve allowed ourselves to be deceived by the adversary. And even many who worship , worship a false picture of God—with all the hazards that follow; because we tend to become like the one we worship and admire.

There can be no real and lasting peace in the universe until trust and trustworthiness have been restored. That’s the reason for the title of this chapter, “All God Asks is Trust.” All that God asks of the loyal angels is trust. All that God asks of even damaged sinners is trust. Because where there is mutual trust and trustworthiness, there is perfect peace, perfect freedom, perfect security. All is right; all is well.

What matters most is for us to trust God enough to be willing to listen, to stand humbly in His presence and ask “What must I do to be saved? What must I do to be well? What must I do to be safe?” In the beginning God created the entire universe. He is able and willing to heal all of the damage done. There is no substitute for trust. All the generous and gracious provisions of the plan of salvation are of no avail if we don’t trust God enough to let Him do for us what He’s so eager to do.