It has been said . . .
Christianity is a crux . . . Faith is a crutch for the weak . . . Christians are intellectually lazy and need to learn to stand on their own two feet . . . Christianity is a security blanket . . .
Sigmund Freud had this to say about religious beliefs:
As we already know; the terrifying impression of helplessness in childhood aroused the need for protection – for protection through love – which was provided by the father . . . Thus the benevolent rule of divine providence allays our fear of the dangers of life.
In essence, we felt helpless and we want to feel secure and protected, so people made up the concept of a divine being who would supply that for us – in the same way that our earthly fathers do. Let’s set aside the fact that if anyone was going to create a divine being which was going to provide protection and security, they most likely would not have conceived of the idea of a God who is Just and full of wrath and righteous who condemns people for their rejection of Him . . . they probably would not have conceived of a God who has such high expectations of those who follow Him . . . Setting that aside, we are considered to be ignorant, weak, unintelligent, uninformed, gullible, and scared.
Does that offend you?
I think at times those statement offend us. We don’t want people to think we are intellectually stupid. We don’t want to be viewed as weak. We try to defend ourselves against such attacks . . .
Well, everyone has faith in something, does that make them weak.
It’s hard to follow Christ. There are a lot of expectations and it takes a strong person to give up all the things of the world and follow Christ. It’s easier to just give in to your flesh and do whatever you want.
People all around the world have been persecuted and killed for being Christians. Would you say they are weak?
And while these responses may make some sense and may make us feel a little better, they are missing the point . . . that being Christianity is, at its core, for weak people . . . Wait a second! . . . Christianity isn’t for weak people . . . When I say weak, I’m not referring to intellectually weak, or physically weak, or even emotionally weak . . . but spiritually weak.
We acknowledge that we cannot rest on our own laurels or ability or good works . . . we desperately need Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:27 (ESV) 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
2 Corinthians 12:9–10 (ESV) 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Let’s take a look at a very familiar passage this morning.
Proverbs 3:5–12 (ESV) 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. 7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. 9 Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; 10 then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. 11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.
Purpose Statement: Trust the work of Christ in every area of life and you will not be disappointed.
This passage helps understand what it means to trust in Christ . . .
It starts with the command itself in verse 5.
We are shown how to trust in Christ in verses 6-8.
And verses 9-12 offer some specific examples of areas in which we struggle trusting Christ.
Fallen Condition Focus: And it is within the passage itself that we find why this is so applicable to each of us. We tend to lean on our own understanding. We have a tendency to trust in our own wisdom instead of trusting in God. We have a tendency to want to depend on our own strength and logic instead of the logic and wisdom and council and commands that are found in scripture.
Let me ask you, in what areas do you struggle trusting God?
Happiness. We may at times think that if we do what God wants and obey the Bible, we may not really be happy. We think that happiness is going to be found outside of obedience to God. Even though we don’t say this, we at times display we think this by our actions.
Finances. We may not want to follow God’s direction in the area of giving because if we do we won’t have what we “need.” Maybe we’ll struggle with daily provisions or with retirement . . .
Change in other’s lives or our own. We can often try to change people ourselves instead of trusting God’s work in their lives. We think they need to change and so we tell them and do all we can to change them. In so doing, we can often fail to trust the ability of the Holy Spirit in working in their life. There may be areas in our lives in which we need to grow. At times we struggle trusting in God’s work in our own lives and we do everything humanly possible to change and we fail to rest in God’s work in us.
Character. Do you become defensive when people criticize you? Do you try to fix all the wrong perceptions people have of you? We must walk with Christ and strive to please Him alone and then trust Him when people abuse or misunderstand or criticize.
So this passage applies to each of us this morning. Each of us are told that we must trust in God in every area of life. . . . Even in the areas that are the hardest to trust. So let’s look first at the command to trust.
We are commanded in this passage to trust in the Lord. We are to have confidence, both mentally and emotionally, in God.
It includes mental assent but it’s more.
At times people can limit their idea of “trust” to a simple mental assent to truth. In essence, “I trust that what God has said, truly did happen.”
I believe that He created the world
I believe that He sent Jesus Christ to die for my sin
I believe that Jesus rose from the dead and defeated sin and death
I believe God is all powerful.
I believe God is aware of all things – even more specifically His people.
I believe God loves His people.
I believe God will provide all my needs.
Trust includes a decision to act on belief.
And while that belief is good, this word for trust in Proverbs carries more in the meaning than that. First, it carries the concept of making a decision based on the belief. I can think something is true all day long, but until I have made a decision to rely on that belief I have not yet trusted.
Trust includes one’s emotions being affected by the belief.
Often our mental assent to truth doesn’t carry over into an emotional confidence . . . this can be seen in our anxiety over issues.
God has clearly promised to provide for His people. God has clearly promised to protect His church. God has clearly promised to work all things out for the good of those who believe in Him . . . and yet, we struggle with anxiety. We acknowledge the truths just mentioned but when life comes and smacks us around a little, our emotions reveal our true level of trust in God.
We believe the verse in Philippians . . .
Philippians 4:6 (ESV) do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And yet secretly, in the recesses of our hearts, we dislike that verse. We redefine anxious. “I’m not anxious, I’m concerned . . . I’m nervous . . . I’m apprehensive . . . I’m uneasy . . . But NOT ANXIOUS!”
Heart . . . “heart” became the richest biblical term for the totality of man’s inner or immaterial nature. In biblical literature it is the most frequently used term for man’s immaterial personality functions as well as the most inclusive term for them since, in the Bible, virtually every immaterial function of man is attributed to the “heart.” (Friberg)
Grow in your knowledge of the Lord. (Positive)
“In all your ways acknowledge Him . . .”
The word translated “acknowledge” simply means to know. You could understand this by reading it this way:
In all your ways you should know Him.
Your knowledge of Him should affect you in all your ways.
Your knowledge of God should affect everything that you do.
Acknowledge . . . expresses a multitude of shades of knowledge gained by the senses . . . Knowledge of God is derived from those outstanding historical events in which God has evidenced and has revealed himself to chosen individuals such as Abraham and Moses. These revelations are to be taught to others, “Knowledge of God” appears in parallel with “fear of the Lord” . . . as a description of true religion. The man who has a right relation with God confesses Him and obeys Him. To do justice and righteousness and to judge the cause of the poor and the needy is to know God (Jer 22:15-16). On the other hand where there is no knowledge of God there is swearing, lying, killing, stealing, committing adultery and destruction upon a people (Hos 4:6; cf. Isa 5:13). Knowledge of God is more pleasing to him than sacrifice (Hos 6:6).
Don’t depend on your own wisdom. (Negative)
The opposite side of the of the same coin of “knowing God” is not letting every area of life be directed by “your” knowledge. Instead of your wisdom directing all you do, you should allow the wisdom of God that you attained through knowing Him and His word direct everything you do.
Revere the Lord due to your knowledge of Him. (Positive)
Fear . . . fear, be afraid, revere . . . In this discussion, biblical usages are divided into five general categories: 1) the emotion of fear, 2) the intellectual anticipation of evil without emphasis upon the emotional reaction, 3) reverence or awe, 4) righteous behaviour or piety, and 5) formal religious worship . . . There are many examples of the third usage listed above. Such reverence is due to one’s parents (Lev 19:3), holy places (Lev 26:2), God (Psa 112:1), and God’s name (Psa 86:11). Habakkuk’s “fearing” of God’s work (Hab 3:2) and the fearing of Job’s friends at seeing his misery are best considered as this kind of fear (Job 6:21).
Stop Doing Wrong (Negative)
Truly fearing God results in submission to His desires and revealed will. The logical step following fearing God is to stop doing what He doesn’t want you to do.
And if we do these things . . . He will make our paths straight – or smooth . . . example of road construction?
Once we come to know God, we revere Him. With such knowledge and reverence, it comes easy for us to entrust our lives to His control.
Trust Him with Your Money
Proverbs 3:9–10 (ESV) 9 Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; 10 then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.
“The tragedy with many people is not that they don’t claim to have God in their lives, but that, while they claim to have Him, they still don’t trust Him. The most significant telltale symptom of this lack of trust is that they never get around to honoring the Lord with their substance. We’ve got to make sure that the family has security; and we don’t add to the security by whopping off a hunk of it and putting it in the offering plate, unless we really believe that God is our security.” (Kidner, Proverbs, p. 31)
It is vital that we trust God with our wealth. We are told to “Honor” God with our wealth . . .
Honor . . . heavy, grievous, hard, rich, honorable, glorious . . . In this case the idea is of that which is weighty in the sense of being noteworthy or impressive. Common translations are “honorable, honored, glorious, glorified.” . . . Likewise persons in positions of responsibility and authority were deserving of honor (Exo 20:12; Mal 1:6). It is significant to remind oneself that giving honor or glory is to say that someone is deserving of respect, attention and obedience. A life which does not back up one’s honorable words is hypocrisy of a high form. Israel was again and again guilty of honoring God with her lips, while by her actions making him appear worthless (Isa 29:13). (Friberg)
When we “honor” someone, we acknowledge their rightful position and grant them the respect and obedience they deserve. Do you believe that if you trust God with your wealth that He will in turn take care of your needs?
Trust Him in the Midst of Discipline
We all grow through difficult times. It is often through these difficult times that we struggle trusting that the hand of the Lord is in that time. Our faith can become weak and we can attempt to take things into our own hands. It is very important that at these times we continue to trust in the Lord. He knows what He is doing and His work is good – and far better than anything we might accomplish in our own will and strength.
This same concept is beautifully seen in Hebrews 12 . . .
Hebrews 12:5–14 (ESV) 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Hebrews 11:1-40 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval. . .
4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice . . . 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death . . . 7 By faith Noah . . . in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. 8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. . . 11 By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. . . 13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth . . .
17 By faith Abraham . . . 20 By faith Isaac . . . 21 By faith Jacob . . . 22 By faith Joseph . . . 23 By faith Moses . . . 31 By faith Rahab . . . 32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.
39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.
Psalm 22:5 (ESV) To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
1 Peter 2:6 (ESV) For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”