Trusting God or Obeying God

I read in a recent devotional a comment that made me stop and think. It was a quote from a book by Jerry Bridges called "Trusting God". He said, “It often seems more difficult to trust God than to obey Him”. I’m wondering how we can obey God without trusting Him. What is your take?
("Trusting God": Jerry Bridges; Colorado Springs, CO; NavPress 2008)

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@sgewehr Good question :slight_smile: Did he give any examples or stories to illustrate his point? It’s difficult to know what he was thinking. There are two types of people who come to mind.

  • a person who trust that in the end God will work things out and seeks to obey Him, but still lives with anxiety and emotional angst because they have experienced times in their life where God did not protect them from hurt or pain. They trust and obey and know the Christ, but struggle to find rest in Christ because of the struggles of their life.
  • a person who believes Christian doctrines but has no relational connection to Jesus. They obey because they believe Christianity is true, but their trust is ultimately in their own righteousness or in their beliefs or in their career or family rather than God. They are still living in some form of idolatry and have not yet trusted in Christ.

Not sure if either of those fit the context of the chapter you are reading?

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Hey, SeanO @SeanO. I haven’t read Mr. Bridge’s book. This was a quote in a devotional. I’ll have to go back and check the devotional from about a month or so ago to see. Otherwise, your scenario’s both seem plausible, although I’m not sure one has to be anxious to obey.

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Hi Sharon,

I totally agree with Sean. Here are a few additional thoughts. When the future is known, we try to walk in obedience to God’s law but can’t really gauge our trust in God’s goodness, though we may thank Him for His goodness. However, when the future is unknown and we have done all we know in terms of acts of obedience, we find out how much we really trust. So trusting through uncertainty when nothing more can be done becomes difficult.

Another situation I can think of is obedience towards God’s purposes in our strength instead of turning to God. An example is how Phillip responds in John 6 when Jesus feeds the 5 thousand. When turning to God was needed, Phillip was turned inward on what he could do in his strength in the situation.

John 6

5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.

7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.”

I think both of these situations are quite common and takes time to grow in these areas. Though obedience to God requires trust in God, there may be times of trusting when acts of obedience as per our understanding are exhausted or unnecessary.

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So, I just found the devotional. The context was trusting the “moral will of God” as seen in Scripture that is “rational and reasonable” vs circumstances that seem "irrational or “inexplicable”.

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The Pharisees obeyed God, but didn’t trust Him.

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Thanks, Lakshmismehta@Lakshmismehta . It seems that is what Mr. Bridges is aiming at. I think your example of Phillip is a great demonstration of obeying in spite of circumstances.

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Interesting, Jesse @Jesse_Means_God_Exists
Did they obey God or the Law? Is there a difference?

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I say they obeyed God because they obeyed His Law.

Another way to look at it is that you cannot repent without trusting God. “Repent and believe” is based on the two really being the same thing. You can’t repent without believing and you can’t believe without repenting.

@sgewehr Ah - yep, sounds like @Lakshmismehta gave a good example :slight_smile:

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@sgewehr The Pharisees taught God’s law, but they neither obeyed it nor trusted God. Jesus called them out on this several times. Matthew 23 is a denunciation of their hypocrisy.

Matthew 23:1-4 - Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

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Thanks @SeanO for clarifying the issue with the Pharisees! In their minds they obeyed but not in the eyes of God and they even added to the law exalting themselves!

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@Lakshmismehta Indeed! To me, Jesus’ words imply that while some of the Pharisees were self-deceived and did not realize how far they were from really obeying God, others were fully aware of their sin and yet continued in it for the sake of monetary gain and the praise of men.

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Jesse @Jesse_Means_God_Exists; SeanO @SeanO; Lakshmismehta @Lakshmismehta
This has been an interesting discussion all around. I was reading in John 3 today about Nicodemus coming to Jesus. He said, “…Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:2)
Later on in verse 11, Jesus declared, “…YOU (emphasis added) people (religious rulers) do not accept our (Jesus’ and the Spirit’s) testimony”.
Nicodemus was a member of the ruling Jewish council, and he said they knew Jesus was (at least) a teacher from God because of His miraculous works. But they wouldn’t accept what Jesus was proclaiming. That shows that it was an act of their will not to trust in Jesus; thus, not obey Him either.
The Law and the Prophets were (are) the Word of God. Jesus is called “The Word” in John 1. And it says that The Word was God. So, Jesus was God, the spoken and written word of God, and the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets. Sean is correct in saying that the Pharisees added heavy burdens and rules to the Law that God never intended, only to boost their own positions. So, therefore, the Pharisees neither obeyed nor trusted God. Yet, Christ said the people needed to take care to obey what they were told, not what the Pharisees were doing.
I find it interesting that later the apostles declared, after Jesus death and resurrection, that they had to obey God and not man. (Acts 5:29); acts of (dis)obedience because they trusted God.

As I thought more about trusting vs obeying God, I don’t think it’s possible, as a believer, to separate the two. As Jesse alluded, the two go together, especially regarding our salvation. Phillip obeyed because he trusted Jesus, not the circumstance. However, I think we can look at a circumstance and not obey even though we have trusted God in the past. I don’t think we can look at a circumstance and obey without trusting.
Peter did both when he walked on the water. He trusted Jesus, therefore was bold to obey when Jesus said, “Come.” He succeeded to walk on water. Yet, when he looked at the circumstance, he failed to trust and in so doing, failed to obey. (Matt. 14:22-31). Doubt overrode his trust and he began to sink. Isn’t it the grace of God that Peter didn’t totally sink. Jesus reached out and rescued him. That’s what God does for those of us who run into our own circumstances. (I have a quotation posted in my kitchen that says, “God honors those who try but fail, not those who fail to try.” )
I guess my bottom line is that if believers are going to obey, then it means we trust. If we fail to obey, then it means we fail to trust.

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@sgewehr, yes, how can one believe without repenting or repent without believing?

As Job says after talking with God,
Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job 42:1‭-‬6 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/job.42.1-6.ESV

And I believe @SeanO is somewhat right about the Pharisees not obeying God, but here are two verses that indicate to me that their behavior was not on trial, but their hearts.

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:20 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/mat.5.20.ESV

And with Paul.
though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
Philippians 3:4‭-‬6 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/php.3.4-6.ESV

I believe it is possible to follow the Law in terms of behavior without being saved, but that it is meaningless to follow the Law if your heart is not set right. Paul said he was “blameless” in the Law but that it meant nothing if your heart isn’t in it, for as he says,
For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—
Philippians 3:3 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/php.3.3.ESV

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Well said, Jesse @Jesse_Means_God_Exists. Thanks.

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To obey is not necessarily to trust. There are laws (secular) which I do not particularly agree with, nor do I think they are for the best, but I obey because it is the law. It’s a choice to obey the authority of the law. Example: Congress makes a law. By choice I obey that law even though I have doubts about the wisdom of the law. Although not wise, I can see where a person could acknowledge the sovereignty of God, but not fully trust that what He does is best. He has the authority, but does He have the wisdom? (I believe He does, but sometimes I identify with the man who said, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”)

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Good morning, Carroll. Thank you for your input. I can see where you are coming from. From my viewpoint, I see this issue as a “separation of church and state” so to speak. I definitely agree with you that the state can pass laws that we must obey even though we don’t agree or trust the motivation behind it. What I’m addressing is a type of spiritual symbiotic relationship with Christ wherein He is glorified by our trust and obedience.

As to the man who came to Jesus, I see him as trusting Christ, which is why he came to him in the first place—although there was an expression of doubt that Jesus questioned. However, the man immediately expressed his trust in Christ, but his problem was with himself that was hampered by the circumstance. In this case, though, the man didn’t have to take any action of obedience except to believe (or trust). His expression of belief was enough for Christ to heal. I agree, that it appears to be a fine line and debate could go back and forth.

I appreciate your thinking about this and your response. I wonder what others think about the man and his unbelief in regards to trusting and obeying?

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An example that has been meaningful to me is an image of two characters, faith and obedience, walking hand in hand. Sometimes faith leads the way and obedience follows. Sometimes obedience leads the way and faith follows.

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. . . . Though He was a Son, yet he learned obedience by the things which he suffered.
There is no afterwards to obedience. Obedience is the end not the means. In other words, we must trust before we can obey, but they are never separate from one another. Just as faith and works are connected. The one thing that is hardest to repent of, nay, the only thing to repent of is our unbelief. The worst sin is not righteousness violated, but mercy despised. The unpardonable sin is not believing what happened on that cross. Jesus Christ has made a perfect atonement for us. Are we in the habit of constantly realizing it. The great need is not to do things, but to believe things.
Then they said to Jesus, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” The just shall live by faith. Abraham believed God and it was reckoned unto him as righteousness. We start by believing so we can obey. We are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God that works in us both to will and to do according to his good pleasure. God has supplied us with the necessary faith it’s up to us to work out in this life, through obedience, what God has worked in. The old adage still holds true; “Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.” Trust and obedience are two sides of the same coin. You cannot have one without the other. It is the “if” of argument and the “if” of condition. It’s like this: Do you marry the one you love or love the one you marry? Answer: both! If you marry the one you love you must love them after you are married. If you trust someone you will obey them, if you obey them it shows that you trust them. A person’s real belief is that which they lives by. What a person believes is the thing one does, not the thing one thinks. Beliefs and actions, trust and obedience. They are eternally married.