Summary: There are two times when it’s difficult to trust God: when things are going badly, and when things are going well. Here’s how to develop a strong trust in God.
(Note: The title of this message comes from Rick Warren; however, the content is original)
There are two times when it’s difficult to trust God. One is when things are going badly. And the other is when things are going well. The author of Proverbs understood this fact of human nature, and he expressed it in the form of a prayer:
[G]ive me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ’Who is the Lord ?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." – Proverbs 30:8-9
Wealth can be a blessing. But it can also be a snare. Because when we have an abundance of this world’s goods – ample food and clothing, a fine home, money in the bank, a secure retirement – then the temptation is to trust in those things, to rely on our possessions to protect us and satisfy us, instead of looking to God to supply our needs. Paul warned against this in his first letter to Timothy:
"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." – 1 Timothy 6:17
Jesus made the same point, when he said that it was harder for a rich man to enter into heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Why? Because wealth tends to make us self-sufficient, and self-sufficiency is the opposite of trusting in God.
In Scripture we have many examples of this phenomenon, this tendency of men and women to forget God when their needs have been well taken care of. One of my favorite cases is that of King Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled over the great Babylonian empire. He had honor, power and wealth, everything a man’s heart could desire. But instead of making him thankful, it made him arrogant. Instead of causing him to worship God, it puffed him up with pride and self-admiration.
"All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. . . [A]s the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, ’Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?’
The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, ’This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.’
Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.
At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever."
Thankfully, Nebuchadnezzar eventually came to his senses. His experience was, to say the least, unusual. But my point has to do with the king’s attitude, which was not unusual at all. The more we have, the less we think we need God. We become self-confident. We become satiated with pleasure, and comfort, and security, and we mistake material well-being for spiritual fulfillment. We think that since we have what we need materially, we must also have all that we need spiritually. But, as Christ warned the church at Laodicea, that is a delusion. In Revelation chapter three, we read this:
"You say, ’I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." – Revelation 3:17
They thought they had everything, when in fact they had nothing of any real value. How could they be so mistaken? Because wealth tends to blind us to our need for God. Many churches with large buildings and large endowments suffer from the same problem.
The other time when it’s difficult to trust God is when things are going badly. Satan understands this. In the Old Testament, we read that he used this argument to goad the Lord into afflicting Job:
"[T]he Lord said to Satan, ’Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’