Tag Archives: trust

Walk in the Light You’ve Been Given

flashIn Judges Thirteen, an angel appeared to a Danite woman named Zorah, wife of Monoah. The angel promised this barren woman that she would conceive and deliver a son. This is how the story of Samson begins. The information she was given by the angel was pretty sparse. It includes the promise to conceive and instructions for her to follow during the pregnancy, along with a command to raise the child from birth as a Nazirite. The angel finished by saying, “He shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5 ESV). As is to be expected, she quickly reported this to her husband.

The husband prayed for the angel to reappear and teach them more. When the angel reappeared, his responses to the questions of Monoah were interesting. In verse twelve, Monoah asks, “Now when your words come true, what is to be the child’s manner of life, and what is his mission?” These questions are only natural. We all want more information. However, the angel’s answers are telling.

The angel responded without giving any more information. He simply reiterated the commands she was to follow during the pregnancy. He gave no answer whatsoever about the mission of the child. It is natural for us to want more guidance. We want God to tell us not only our next steps, but to lay out future direction. All humans have a natural fear of what the future holds, and we want access to that information. This is why fortune telling and astrology are such big business even today in the twenty-first century. Zorah and Monoah, like us, wanted to know more about the child’s future—especially more about what he was to do. It is easier to get the future right if you know the direction God wants you to take. “Lord, do you want me to go to the right or the left? Am I to preach? Am I to teach? Are you calling me to start a business?” If God would tell us which way to go, thus assuring us of his blessing, life would be much less confusing, and the future less frightening.

Unfortunately, no matter how much we ask or plead for direction and more information, God often responds by reminding us to simply obey the commands we have already been given. He has given us a great deal of direction in the Word—instructions for morals, foundational beliefs, etc. We are to continue in these and walk day by day knowing he has a plan. We may not know his plan, but we can still put one foot in front of the other and walk in obedience.

We always want more information. We want to know more about God’s plan and about his purpose for us. We forget that the information we have been given is the information we need. If we needed more he would give more. If we needed to know all, then he would show us all. The fact that he has not shown us more, is evidence that we have the information we actually need. Walk in the Word already given. Obey God with the next step, letting him worry about future steps and the final destination.

So, does this mean we should simply be satisfied with the guidance we have and not ask for more? Of course not. We should continue to seek more information from God. We do this through prayer, through studying the Word and through the input of other believers. God will show the way, but it is usually just one step at a time. One example of this is my personal call into the ministry. Years ago, I was sure I had been called to preach. Beyond that, he gave no other information. Friends confirmed it, the Word seemed to confirm it, but nothing else came—where, when, to whom? It was years before I finally got to preach my first sermon (which helped to confirm the call). It was still more years before he showed me where. Over the years he has moved me from place to place. Sometimes, I have feared that I stepped out of his will by leaving one place and going to another. However, he has shown that in each place, at each step, he was in control and guiding me invisibly behind the scenes.

Pray for more guidance. But expect God to give you only what you need and accept what he has given as all the information needed. Walk in obedience of the light you have been given and wait upon him for more light as needed. Spend time in the Word, pray, speak to believing friends and observe opportunities. Trust him to guide you and don’t sit frozen waiting for more information. Obey what has been given; trust the rest to him.

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Forgiven or Trusted?

There’s an old saying, “It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.” While the phrase is usually meant cynically, it is something to look at. This is because our Christian faith includes so much about forgiveness—both our being forgiven by God and others being forgiven by us. However, we should never take this forgiveness for granted, nor use it as an excuse to be immoral or hurtful.

When we take the forgiveness of others for granted, we act expecting them to forgive us. We know our action is something the other would not like. We know the action is something for which we will need forgiveness—in other words it will be an immoral or inappropriate act. We may find ourselves thinking, “So-and-so will not like that I am doing this, but he will forgive me.” This is true, but will that person trust you again? We forget that trust and forgiveness are two very different things.

When I forgive you, I am choosing to not demand restitution or punishment for an act committed against me. For example, if you took money from my wallet and I forgive you, then I would not demand repayment and neither would I demand your punishment. I would also choose to not hold the act over you. So, I will not come back at you years later in anger and say, “Remember when you stole my money?” It is this last that is so hard. We often express forgiveness, but in a heated moment the memory comes back and we lash out. This is part of our own imperfection—we want to forgive as completely as God, but we are weak and sinful.

This problem doesn’t just stem from our imperfection though. It also comes from the problem of trust. Trust and forgiveness are too different things (as I said above), but they can be related. Back to our illustration: if you took money from my wallet and I forgive you, does that mean I will be comfortable leaving my wallet around you in the future? Some may, but I think most would not. You see, even though you have been forgiven, you may never be trusted again. You committed the first act; you were forgiven for the act; you may not be trusted in a similar situation again. Though forgiven by the other, your status with that person has been harmed.

Now, is this wrong? Is there anything that says forgiveness must include future trust? Since I trusted you before your action, does forgiving the action require me to still trust you? Actually, I don’t believe one always requires the other. One is a question of relationship and response to an action. The other is an assumption of actions. When I trust you with my wallet, I am assuming you will refrain from taking anything from it. When I trust you with my children, I am assuming you will protect them as your own. When a woman and man marry, they trust each other to act in keeping with that covenant. When any of these are violated, the offender needs forgiveness by the offended, but can the one offended return to the original assumption about the person.  Does the command to forgive require resetting the assumption?

This is a hard question. This is because our own forgiveness is such a justification (remember the old saying, “Just as if I’d Never sinned”) that not only has the old sin been covered, but it is removed as if it was never committed—we are declared to have never committed the sin. This justification is the basis of our being reconciled to God and the establishment of a relationship with the Father. From then on, he treats us as one who has never sinned.

So, when we forgive, we should seek this sort of reconciliation with those who hurt us. However, does this reconciliation mean trusting them? Should a woman who was beaten by a boyfriend continue to date him as part of forgiving him? Should a parent whose children were harmed by a neighbor forgive and then continue to allow that neighbor to watch the kids? It is in these situations where we find it easy to agree that forgiveness may not mean a restoration of trust—at least not to the original degree.

My reason for bringing this up today is not to tell you that forgiving someone doesn’t require you to trust them. That would be too much of a blanket statement because sometimes the trust should be restored. I am writing this to remind you that while it may be “easier to get forgiveness than permission,” the ruptured trust may be impossible to restore. When you approach a relationship this way you make an assumption about the other person. That assumption may irreparably harm the assumptions the other person makes about you. Do not treat others from the assumption that they will have to forgive you. Instead, treat them with the respect of demonstrating that you want their trust rather than their forgiveness—because you may not be able to have both.

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