“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
This week garbage trucks are hauling away immense loads of torn wrapping paper, tangled ribbons, and crushed cardboard boxes that a few days ago served as beautiful decorations for our gifts. Underneath our Christmas trees we stacked an assortment of packages with the aim of trying to please the ones we love. We hit the target with some and might have miscalculated with others, even though we had the best of intentions.
With all the buying, spending, wrapping, and presenting still fresh in our minds, perhaps now might be a good time to ask ourselves this important question: Am I pleasing God? If I handed my life to him in a plain cardboard box or in finely wrapped elegance, would he be pleased with what he sees inside?
In Hebrews 11:6 the Lord is crystal clear: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Imagine that! I am able to please the Lord of the universe and he willingly spells out the way for me to accomplish this worthy goal. Believe me, trust me, have faith in me, he tells us. This is a perfect way to please me.
The pages of Scripture are packed with giants of the faith who believed God for the impossible, who knew his character, who relied on his directions, who made certain their lives reflected an unwavering trust in his promises. But others didn’t fare so well. Sometimes we can learn much from the ones who didn’t get it right. Maybe that’s why God made sure to record their stories for us.
Sometime after the beginning, Eve did not trust God. Her thinking might have gone like this: “God is keeping me away from the best fruit in the garden. It doesn’t matter that I have access to every other perfectly delicious specimen ever created. I want this one and he says that I can’t have it. Well, I will just have to take things into my own hands. I know better than God what is best for me.”
Sarah followed close behind. Her mind might have formulated this plan: “God is not giving me a son like he promised and I must have a son of my own. I know God repeated this promise multiple times, but I will just have to take things into my own hands and figure out a better solution. That will solve all my problems, I daresay.”
Others messed up royally. King Saul might have sounded like this: “God is unfair to keep the best spoils of war from me and my men. I know he commanded us to destroy every single living thing because of this evil nation. But I think I know the best course of action for this scenario. I will just have to take things into my own hands and make my own decision here.
New Testament characters were not excused from failure, either. Beloved Peter shows us what decisions without trusting God looks like. “I know Jesus told us that we would be victorious in the end. He explained on many occasions that he had to be crucified and then he would rise again. But things are not going the way I imagined. It appears Jesus is no longer in control, and he definitely can’t save me now. I will have to deny I ever knew him and do what I think is best for me.”
Best of intentions, but they clearly didn’t believe God could be trusted. They forgot that their situation hadn’t taken God by surprise and that his plan is always the perfect one. As we anticipate the New Year ahead of us, as we process situations and scenarios in our own lives, let us strive to put our trust in the God who is completely in charge, remembering what the angel Gabriel declared, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
Elizabeth A. Mitchell