A vivid memory from my childhood comes from an experience where I learned one of my first lessons in faith. My buddies and I were playing baseball in the front yard of my house when someone hit the ball up on the roof of our garage. Because the roof was flat the ball didn’t roll back to the ground, so someone had to go up after it. Since it was my house it became my duty to go up on the roof. We had no ladder so one of my taller friends boosted me up on his shoulders and I scrambled up the nine or ten feet on to the garage roof, retrieved the ball, went back to the edge expecting to be helped down by my “friends.” There was no one in sight. They thought it would be funny to leave me on the roof with no way to get down. I began to yell for help, but to no avail. Soon my dad heard all the noise and came outside to see what was up. When he saw my predicament he chuckled, then just held up his arms and said, “Jump.” Immediately I was confronted with a dilemma. Do I trust my dad and jump into his arms, or do I stay on the roof for the rest of my life? It really was not a big decision. I obeyed … and jumped! Why? Because I had absolute confidence in my dad. I knew that he loved me and wanted to catch me when I jumped into his arms. Furthermore I knew that he was strong and that he could catch me when I jumped into his arms.
That was a traumatic experience for a little guy, and I guess that’s why I’ve never forgotten it. But it has served as a repeated reminder to me of what it means to trust and obey.
Has it occurred to you that every command in the Bible is also an invitation to trust God? When we obey a command of God we are demonstrating trust in at least three ways.
First, when we obey we trust that God’s ways are always right. Of the many examples I could use from Scripture, I will just focus on two with which many believers struggle in trusting God: sexual purity and financial generosity. God commands that we should avoid sexual immorality (I Thessalonians 4:3). When we obey that command we are trusting that God is right in demanding that of us. The world says otherwise. The world says that it is perfectly acceptable to do the opposite … to engage in sexual immorality. Which view do I believe is right? When I obey the command of the Lord I am trusting that His Word is true and His ways are right.
Or consider the matter of financial stewardship. God, in His Word, repeatedly commands us to be sacrificial and generous in giving financially to His Kingdom’s work. In the Old Testament this was typically spoken of in terms of giving a tenth (tithe) of one’s income to God’s work. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty…” (Malachi 3:10). In the New Testament the Lord moves beyond a rigid percentage to an unlimited surrender of all our resources into the hands of God in faith. Still our giving is to be in proportion the blessings of God in our lives. The Apostle Paul gave instructions to the Corinthian church about this matter of proportional giving: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made” (1 Corinthians 16:2).
When we obey these commands of Scripture related to the use of our finances we do so trusting that God is right in demanding this of us. To disobey in this matter reveals our doubts about the rightness of God.
Second, when we obey we trust that God loves us. Again, using the example of sexual immorality, it would be easy for us to think that God simply wants to make life miserable for us when he tells us not to go out and enjoy sex outside of marriage. But when we obey His command we are saying to Him that we trust that He has our best interest in mind when He prohibited that behavior. Obedience in this regard reveals our confidence that every restriction God puts upon our lives is part of His loving protection.
Again, think about the matter of financial stewardship in this regard. When we give generously, sacrificially and proportionally to the Lord and His work we do so out of obedience. But that obedience is rooted in the faith that God, by putting these limits on our lives, reveals His love for us. Faithful giving breaks the grip of greed and covetousness in our lives. “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6). As we give we trust that God, in His fatherly love, will care for His own.
Third, when we obey we trust that God will reward us for obedience. Sometimes the reward is immediate. In Deuteronomy Moses restates the Lord’s commands for His people as they prepare to enter the Promised Land. These commands included how they were to behave in sexual purity. At the conclusion of this the Lord through Moses promises this: “All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 28:2). When we obey the Lord we are trusting in the goodness of God to reward and bless those have faith to obey.
In the matter of financial stewardship the Lord promises to provide for our needs as we give to His work. After commanding the Israelites to give the tithe, the Lord promised: “‘Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it’” (Malachi 3:10b). In terms of New Testament giving the Lord promises: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6).
Granted, God’s rewards for obedience may not come immediately. But sooner or later we will reap the benefits of doing things God’s way. At the very least we know that one day all right will be rewarded: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
I love the words of that great hymn of the faith, “Trust and Obey”:
“But we never can prove
The delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay.
For the favor He shows
And the joy He bestows
Are for all who will trust and obey”