The most important question of your life has to do with your relationship with God. It is God who created you, God who daily provides for you and sustains your life, and it is only in God that you have any hope at all in the face of death. So yes, the most important question of life has to do with God. And one way to put that question is, “What does God want from us?” What is it that God wants from us, expects of us, demands of us? God has given us everything, and it is only by his grace that we are even here; so we want to be very clear about the way we answer this question: “What does God want from us?”
One of the most common answers to that question is that God wants us to be good. And yes, there is no doubt about that. God gave the Ten Commandments for a reason. He expects that we will hear his word and obey it, or, as Luther says in the Catechism, “We should fear and love God so that we do not lie… do not kill… do not steal…,” and whatever else each commandment says. God does want us to obey Him and be good. But that is not what God wants most of all.
Another common answer would be that God wants us to believe in Him. And yes, there is no doubt about this being a correct answer. From beginning to end the Bible talks about the importance of belief. That most famous of all Bible verses John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, and whosoever BELIEVES in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” But God doesn’t just want us to simply believe He exists and leave it at that. He expects that our belief will consist of more than an opinion about whether or not there is a powerful force behind the universe. There is even a Bible verse that talks about such inadequate belief. James 2:19 says, “So you believe in one God. That’s good. But even the demons believe, and tremble.” The devil certainly believes there is a God, but that doesn’t make him a Christian.
What then is it that God wants from us? To be sure, God wants us to believe in Him, but God wants that belief to also include TRUST. God wants us to trust in him. Of course, you have to believe in God before you can trust in Him; and when the Bible talks about belief, it always means belief that leads to and includes trusting in God.
There is indeed a difference between simply believing in something, and, believing and trusting. I am reminded of a jeep ride I had one time in the mountains of southwest Colorado. We were staying in Ouray, Colorado, and a big attraction there was the all-day jeep ride you could take from Ouray across and over the steep mountains to the town of Telluride. The ride was mostly on old mining trails that were already narrow and sometimes half washed out. Sometimes, we weren’t on any road or trail at all, just going cross country or down a dried up creek bed. Much of the time we were inches away from a cliff with a two thousand foot drop. On frequent hairpin turns the driver would have to go out over the cliff, and then back and forth as he worked his way around the narrow turn. One wrong move and there would have been no chance of survival. My eyes were telling me, get out of this jeep and get down on your hands and knees, and crawl back to safety. But my head was telling me, “This driver does this every day. I’m sure he doesn’t want to die. It must be okay.” We did get across the mountain to Telluride safely. We had lunch there, and then we would be going back across the mountains to Ouray by another mountain trail. “How is that road?,” we all asked nervously. “Ah, it’s worse,” said the driver calmly, “more washouts and the road isn‘t nearly as wide; but we’ll be all right.” Did I believe he could make it back safely? Yes. He was a good driver and he did this every day. But could I trust him to get me back safely? That raises the question to another level. And I did also trust him, so I continued the trip. By that time, I was quite used to trusting him for the ride and was able to relax and enjoy the view. But believing he could do it, and trusting him enough to get back into that jeep were two different things.
Telluride, straight ahead
“Cast all your cares on the Lord, for he cares about you,” says the Bible. Believing that there is a supreme being of some sort up there somewhere is one thing. But to believe that God speaks to you in the Bible, knows you by name, loves you, is concerned about you, and will take care of you; adds trust to mere belief. Just like I learned to trust that jeep driver and became more relaxed as the day went on, we can learn to trust God as we continue to experience his grace and blessings throughout our lives. This does not mean everything will always go well. That did not happen for anyone in the Bible and it doesn’t happen for anyone today. Troubles come to us for a variety of reasons, and it is God’s promise in Romans 8 that he will work out all things for our good. We might not see that right away, and we might not ever see it in this life; but that is a promise we can learn to trust in.
The cloud that hangs over all of this is the threat of death. What about those who die too young? What about the threat of our own death? There are no guarantees, as we all well know. And that inevitable end of everything seems to cancel out anything we might learn by the experience. How can God work out any good from that? Someone once said, “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” I have always liked that line. But what if it does kill me? Then what?
Then, says the Lord, I raise you from the dead and give you new life again. “Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord,” says the Bible. Trusting God means looking at all of life, not just the next 24 hours, and not even just the next 24 years. Trusting God means looking at life from the perspective of eternity. God will work out all things for our good, but the Bible doesn’t say how fast he will work it out. Trusting God means also trusting in His timing. And God has lots of time and, God says, so do we.
Romans 8:28 — We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Proverbs 3:5-6 — Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Psalm 112:7 — They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Psalm 116:10 — I trusted in the Lord when I said, “I am greatly afflicted”
Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.
On the ‘road’ from Ouray to Telluride