There is a fine line between trusting God for the future and getting out there and working to make it happen. I am reminded of a couple I knew whose constant prayer was,
“Oh, God — solve this problem!” and their only activity in participating in the solution was to anxiously wait, wring their hands, and hint to others around them that the problem (it generally involved money) existed.
After enough hints and enough time, someone was sure to produce a check, at which point the couple said, “Praise Jesus! He sent us the money!” And then they were fine until the next large bill arrived.
This attitude of victimized helplessness, which looks like it is dependent upon the strength and mercy of God, is self-deceptively damaging, not only to the couple — who are fooling themselves into thinking that they are relying upon God — but also to their testimony of God’s goodness to those around them. Depending upon God to meet our needs, it seems, is a crapshoot, and if He’s in the mood to help, He will, and if He is not, He won’t, and there’s not a thing we can do about it but fret.
(Which contradicts Christ’s encouragement to us in Matthew 6:31-32, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” )
On the opposite end of the spiritual spectrum are those who figure God has relatively nothing to do with life — theirs or anybody’s else’s — and if anything is going to get done, then they’re going to have to do it. In others words, God helps those who helps themselves, an unfeelingly harsh dictum that quite fortunately, is not in the Bible at all.
But you wouldn’t know this by listening to the advice you are given, ranging from watered-down platitudes,
“You need to work on your faith (did you notice the word, “work”?) or God won’t answer your prayers,”
to the siren call of prosperity preachers, whose message is indistinguishable from Get Rich Quick business seminar speakers,
“BELIEVE! Your thoughts are powerful, and when you focus them on your goal, you will RECEIVE whatever you are asking for.”
To be fair, the prospero-preachers incorporate God into their sermons and writings, but only so much as He falls into their plans and does what His children demand that He do. Apparently, it is our belief in what we want, as opposed to our belief in the Person who gives us life, that has the power. And God is good with that.
But anyone who reads the Bible as a whole, with the idea of learning more about God, rather than carefully selecting (and twisting) verses to encourage people to aggressively pursue one of the major elements — mammon — that Jesus identified as a potential problem when we worship it, will get a different idea of how our Father works.
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails,” Proverbs 19:21 tells us, an echo of 16:9 that says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”
So while we can think and believe and declare and aver and dictate all we want, God does have some say in the final result. And His thoughts, when they’re different from our thoughts, do not bow down in deference to ours.
But let’s say that we’re not fooled by the prosperity preachers and, quite sensibly, keep the TV turned off most of our life and don’t listen to those particular voices. It is still easy to absorb the import of their message, which, specifically is,
“You’ve got to do this yourself. God doesn’t expect you to just sit back and eat snack chips while He fixes all your problems.”
And that’s sort of kind of true — like most lies, it has that element of truth in it — because as we saw with our couple at the beginning, throwing our hands up in consternation and then sitting on them while we do precisely nothing, is no more trusting God than is wrenching everything from His hands.
But the fruit of this lie — that we’d better get thinking, and scheming, and conniving, and designing — is bitter, setting a heavy weight upon our heart that nothing, absolutely NOTHING, will happen until we make it do so. It is at this point that we frequently describe ourselves as overwhelmed, and this is a good indication that we need to REST.
No, not to sit on our hands. But yes, to close our eyes and pray,
“This is too big for me, God. I’m standing in front of a brick wall that is so high I can’t climb it, so broad I can’t get around it, and so thick that I can’t get through it. I need a door, but I can’t see one.”
And herein we find the answer, again, in Proverbs:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (3:5-6)
We need to get off of our hands, but out of God’s way. Perhaps it’s not so much the fine line I mentioned at the beginning of this article as it is a perfect blend.
Our loving Father, and His trusting children.
For more on this topic, please follow the link to my Commonsense Christianity article, If I Were Taller, I’d Look Thinner — and Other Bible Truths.