“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Having grown up in a southern baptist church, I have fond memories of the old hymns, the classics, that we would sing in a regular rotation each Sunday morning. One, in particular, had this familiar chorus, “trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” Now that might not seem like much, but the meaning of this brief refrain runs deep and true, holding a decisive truth upon which Christ taught throughout his ministry on earth.
Faith is the foundation of our hope, as stated in Hebrews chapter 11 verse 1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We pray in faithfulness, seeking God’s direction and guidance in all things. When we are troubled or facing uncertainty in life, we turn to our heavenly Father for his help.
Do we always know how to truly reach out in faith, to petition the Lord and trust in Him to work those things out for the best, according to His will? Over the years I have learned some valuable lessons in faith, having failed many times in my approach to God in seeking help with my problems. Specifically, praying to God with certain needs and requests, then meddling in the expected outcome because I was not willing to wait, to exercise my faith. By rushing ahead of God, I spoiled the opportunity to grow in my faith and receive God’s best for my life.
The greatest example we can observe in regards to prayer, faith, and accepting God’s perfect will comes from Jesus. The hour was fast approaching for His betrayal at the hands of Judas, the subsequent crucifixion, and in these verses found in Matthew chapter 26, verses 36 to 39, we see in excruciating detail the proper way to petition our heavenly Father.
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he told the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. He said to them, “I am deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me.” Going a little farther, he fell facedown and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Jesus was facing the darkest hours of his time on earth, yet knowing God’s plan and trusting in the Father’s unfailing wisdom, He sought not his own will, but the perfect will of God. Jesus was filled with sorrow and grieving to the point of death, His own words to the disciples, and he fell facedown and prayed. Picture that scene and try to imagine that point of grief. Obviously, this is the extreme of grieving to which we hope never to face ourselves, but we all have times when we are afraid, maybe we have lost a job or face great uncertainty in other areas of our lives. At that point, we turn to God, earnestly seeking help from the storms of life that rage all around us. That is when our faith is tested and through these trials, we grow in our faith as God provides for us. But it takes patience through faith, placing our needs at His feet, then trusting and waiting on God’s perfect timing to deliver us according to His will. It may seem simplistic, but we should always remember if God all at once solved every problem we would face from this day forward, not only would we not need our faith, we would never grow in that faith which is what sustains us. In addition, as we are delivered from our suffering through faith in God, our testimony is strengthened and useful in sustaining other believers that will face similar circumstances.
Philippians chapter 4, verses 6 and 7 says, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
A very important part of the faith process is to be patient, wait and allow God room to work things out according to his purposes for our lives. Our human tendency is to reason things out, but we are limited in our view of each situation, but God is all knowing and is always at work for the best results according to His plans. Often we come to God in faith, yet we bring our own solutions and we try to place our requests before God while including the expected outcomes that seem logical in our mind’s eye. Or we do the same when we step up, with good intentions, to help others in need by praying for a given solution that makes sense to us but may not be aligned with the plans God has for that other person.
Look at the example of Peter, the strong voice that believed in Christ with all his heart, as demonstrated when Jesus asked the disciples who did they believe him to be, Matthew Chapter 16 verse 13, Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Yet we also see the well-intended Peter as he failed to understand God’s perfect plan of redemption for all humanity when he pulled Christ aside after Jesus had shared with them the coming persecution, death, and resurrection. Peter believed that Jesus was the true Son of God, but he had given up everything to follow Christ, he was unable to reason it out in his own mind that he would have to watch Jesus die. Peter was bound by his own small view of the world around him, thus remaining blind to the greater works of God. We can see in hindsight why these things had to happen because we see the entirety of the perfect plan of salvation. Peter was in the moment, as we are when we are faced with difficulties and tragedies, but we must learn from this lesson and put aside our own reasoning by trusting in God, knowing that His plan is perfect and His timing is to our benefit. Peter suffered a terrible rebuke from Jesus for not trusting in God’s plans.
Matthew chapter 16 verses 21 through 23,
From then on Jesus began to point out to his disciples that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to you!” Jesus turned and told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns but human concerns.”
So what does this mean for believers and where do we go to grow in our faith? Remember this verse, Romans chapter 10 verse 17, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” We must strive to know God better each day and the way to grow in knowledge and faith is through the study of the Word of God. Through this, we will learn to understand and trust in God’s will for our lives and the lives of others. When someone needs prayer for illness, we always go first to the request for healing, but what about praying for the afflicted to remain faithful, humble and steadfast in their commitment to the Lord. We may pray for healing, but God may have other plans for that person’s life and their testimony. I’m not saying it is wrong to pray for healing, to the contrary, but in this and all situations, we should strive to put aside our own reasoning and know that God is working all things for the good to those that are called by his name.
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John Stephen Frey, Director and Senior Editor, Life Beyond Horizons Ministry