Friday, September 19, 2008

The Failure of Trusting in Man

By Bruce Mills

I've been listening the past few days to the continual discussion regarding the collapse of some of Wall Street's biggest financial institutions. I've heard news anchors and reporters repeatedly say, "This is scary," as government officials madly scramble to find some means of stopping the failure from spreading throughout the entire financial structure of our nation. Even global markets have been affected by this situation.

Now, I'm no different than any other person. I don't want to see the collapse of our nation's financial structure. Millions upon millions of Americans depend on their pensions, investments, and savings as their means of surviving their retirement years. I myself am included among those who have saved for my future retirement years and have seen a signficant portion of what I have saved "disappear" over the past few months as the stock market has slumped, at one point to a three year low. The subprime mortgage crisis, skyrocketing fuel and food prices, and the overall economic recession have all taken their toll on every American's personal and family budgets.

So how are we believers to respond to these circumstances? If we wish to be light to a dark and confused world, what is to be our response? First of all, we must realize in whom we must place our confidence. Scripture is replete with exhortations to trust in God rather than in man's ability. Psalm 118:8 tells us, "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man." The prophet Jeremiah who was reviled and hated throughout his ministry because of his integrity tells us in 17:7 of his book, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord." And then there is the prophet Habakkuk, who cried out to God for Him to restore righteousness to the nation of Israel and judge them for their sins. But when God replied, "I'm going to send the Chaldeans to do just that very thing," Habakkuk was shocked and questioned God's actions, because he realized just how completely devastating and destructive God's judgment was going to be. But in the end, he recognized God's sovereign purposes and accepted whatever would come, and so he said, "Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation" (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

He was describing the complete devastation of his agrarian society, and he said that even if he lost everything he had, he would still praise God. In todays terms, it would be like saying: "Though all the shelves in the grocery store are bare and there is no more food to refill them, even if the stock market completely collapses and I lose my job and every penny I own, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation because He is the One who has always sustained me and He will always continue to sustain me."

The unbelievers with whom we work and live need to see us living with that kind of confidence in God. Instead of being worried about what we might lose, or what might happen to our nation that would disturb our "comfort zone," we need to rest in God's sovereign control over every circumstance, even those such as currently face our nation. Unbelievers should see in us a sense of faith, trust, and dependence on our Lord which they do not have, and which might cause them to ask us why we can be so calm in the midst of such worrisome circumstances. We can then provide answers for the hope that is within us.

Second, we need to realize that God is judging our nation. He has turned this nation over to the consequences of its own sin, and we are now reaping the results. He has brought devastating storms that have swept away the livelihoods and possessions of entire communities. He has allowed terrorist attacks on our homeland to shake our confidence in our own abilities to protect ourselves. And now He has allowed the consequences of man's greed to bring this nation to its financial knees. And unfortunately, instead of seeking God's face and repenting of our sins, as a nation we have merely wrung our hands in desperation, stood up and sang "God bless America," and tried to concoct another human answer to our problems. And we who are Christians in this nation have been afraid to stand up like Jeremiah did and speak the truth about God's judgment and the need for repentance because we know that the people will respond to us like they did to Jeremiah, and we don't want that. We want to continue to live comfortable lives without persecution, despite the fact that Jesus said, "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me" (Matthew 5:11). and despite the apostle Paul's instruction that "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12).

Until, we--myself included--decide that we will fear God more than we fear man, we will continue to be ineffective in presenting God's truth. We do not need to be offensive or nasty in calling people to repent, but we must be faithful to God's truth. The gospel itself is offensive to sinners and so when we present it, we will suffer persecution. But there will be those whom God has called to Himself who will respond.

In conclusion, we have to realize that we are to be light to a dark world. We only do that when we bring the light of God's word to bear on sin and then explain God's answer to man's sin problem, which is Jesus Christ's substitutionary death for sinners. People need to see the truth of the gospel demonstrated in our lives as we live in the hope of eternity rather than in hope of our earthly future. That is the message our nation needs to hear instead of the human wisdom of politicians and pundits.

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