We live in a world of cynics. Part of you wants to trust people, but part of you is pretty leery of getting burned. We’ve all had our disappointments, some more than others, and so we build these walls of “protection” around ourselves saying “huh uh, you’re not going to fool me.”
I’ve been reading through the book of John the last few days. I’ve been trying to go through it slowly and pay extra attention to the things Jesus actually said. There is so much attributed to Jesus that He didn’t say, so much left out that He DID say. I want to examine His words, to know them, savor them, and be changed by them. But that begs the question, are His words trustworthy?
I was struck by one man who sure seemed to think so.
I got to chapter four where Jesus was making His way through Galilee. He got to Cana where He had done His first miracle of turning water into wine, and when He got there, something special happened. A government official (of all people) remembered what Jesus had done last time He was in town and decided to make a bold move. The official’s son was dying. As any parent would do, He tracked down the person He thought could help. The official found Jesus and begged Him to go to his house and heal his son.
Jesus didn’t go with the guy. Instead he told him “Go back home. Your son will live!”
The next part is striking.
The official didn’t say “huh?”
Or “are you serious?”
Or “are you sure?”
Or “please, please, just come with me.”
Instead, “the man believed Jesus’ word and started home.”
This made me pause. The man believed Jesus word and acted on it.
It made me stop and think- what words of Jesus am I really truly believing? What are you believing?
Did you believe Him when He said “there is no judgment awaiting those who trust [the Son of God]”? (John 3:18)
Or are you still trying to get on His good side with sacraments and good deeds?
Did you believe Him when He said “Apart from me you can do nothing”? (John 15:) Or do you keep trying to live this life on your own strength?
Did you believe Him when He said “All who reject me and my message will be judged at the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken”? (John 12:48)
Or do you believe the world that says “no judgment is coming–as long as you don’t murder anyone or do any of the ‘really bad stuff’ you’re good to go”?
Did you believe Him when He said, “I assure you, unless you are born again, you can never see the Kingdom of God”? (John 3:3)
Or do you keep thinking that being a pretty nice guy has you covered? Have you stopped to think about what “born again” even means?
Did you believe Him when He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again”? (John 11:25)
Or do you keep fearing death?
Did you believe Him when He said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me”? Or are you still worried that you might end up alone, that no one really knows you, that you can’t trust His ways?
Did you believe Him when He said, “in this world you will have many trials and sorrows, but take heart, I have overcome the world”? (John 16:33)
Or are you still stuck in the mindset that if God is good, or if you’re doing what you’re supposed to, then your life won’t have any problems? When sorrows come, do you suddenly question His existence? Do you suddenly question your standing with Him?
Did you believe Him when He said “I am going to prepare a place for you, and I will come back for you to take you with me, that where I am you may be also”? (John 14:2-3)
Or do you keep thinking that this life is it? Do you live more according to “eat and drink for tomorrow we die”?
I had to stop and think about the areas where maybe I don’t just take Jesus at His word,where I have a few more questions, or where I give Him lip-service that I believe Him, but in my heart I’m actually believing something else and so I’m acting on something else.
What if instead of “the man believed Jesus’ word and started home” it said “the man told Jesus ‘sounds good’ and then went searching for a doctor”?
Or, “the man said ‘if you were really God, then you would come with me right now. I reject you”?
There have been times in my life where I had a lot of questions about God and about this world. I still do actually, but in those dark times my questions were disturbing me greatly. I had come to a point where I was seriously debating walking away from my faith in Jesus as my Savior, in the existence of God, and in the truth of the Bible. The details of all I thought through and timing of things can be shared another time, but when it came down to it, I was letting the times I had not seen God deliver override the times that I had. I was letting my questions be bigger than my assurances. I realized that there are just some things where I have to take Jesus at His word, where an explanation isn’t going to be given. It’s not blind faith because He HAS proven Himself trustworthy in many ways. Isn’t that how so many of our relationships are? We extend trust to someone when we can’t understand exactly what they are doing because of all the times they’ve proven trustworthy before.
Jesus didn’t give the guy any details about how the son was going to survive. He didn’t give any explanation at all really. He didn’t give any proof.
There are times when we just choose trust people based on the amount of information that we have. We never fully know every single thing about a person, every one of their thoughts and motives. When I was living and working in California, I met a lady at the gym who said she worked for an organization that puts on conferences to teach college students about economics and liberty. She said that if I was interested, she would send me and a friend to New York City for free, to attend one of these conferences (even though we had already graduated). The more she talked, the more unbelievable it seemed. She said they’d pay for our flights, our hotel room, AND they would give us spending money. She also said that we could pick the dates for our going and returning, so we could spend extra time there if we wanted (but we’d have to pay for our own extra nights).
It sounded too good to be true, but it also sounded too good to not look into. I got her contact information. I went home that night and looked up the conferences she was telling me about. The website looked legitimate. I looked up her organization and I found them listed on a reputable business page out of Colorado. It seemed to check out. I thought through how this could possibly be a scam. She said if we were in, my friend and I would need to buy our own flights, but upon arrival at our hotel we would receive a check reimbursing us for our flight, and giving us spending money. I wasn’t going to be giving her or her organization or the conference organization any money.
I told my friend all about it. We decided to go for it. We took the lady at her word. We booked flights to New York City. We got on the plane. We went to the hotel she told us about. Sure enough, we were greeted warmly in the lobby, told our rooms were all ready for us, and given checks covering our flights and spending money. We made a small sacrifice up front (having some money missing in our accounts for a few weeks), but what we got back was over and above what we gave– the reimbursement, the spending money, the incredible conference, the chance to see New York City.
I was so glad I took that woman at her word. Yes there was wisdom in checking out her business and getting some more information, but I couldn’t know everything in advance. I had to put some faith in her. It was one of the most memorable trips of my entire life. New York City is incredible. I saw Phantom of the Opera, I ate great food, I got to see where George Washington was sworn into office, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. I got to stop at Ground Zero and pray for all the people affected there. And I got to attend an awesome conference that taught me a lot about history and politics and gave me a new interest in those things and made me realize that I want to know and understand my own country better. It was so great in fact, that when I got home I told more people about it and other students from the college I attended got to have similar experiences in the following years.
That is an extreme example, but we all have those times. Someone tells us that they will pick us up at a certain time in a certain place and we take them at their word. We get ready, we show up.
Someone tells us to come along to hang out with the group, “don’t worry, I’ll buy your ticket/dinner/drinks.” We go.
We take people at their word all of the time- based on past history, based on the recommendation of others, sometimes based on very little.
So why don’t we take Jesus at His word? Why do we hear or read His words but don’t act on them?
Do we think He is a liar?
Do we think He is well-intentioned but powerless?
Do we think He is confused?
Most of us don’t really think any of those things. That should lead us to:
A) KNOW what Jesus said (and therefore says). We must read His words and about His life and be informed.
B) TRUST what He says- which means we let our thoughts and actions be shaped by His truth, and not our own perceptions and feelings.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Who are you trusting for Truth? Yourself? The Media? School books?
Who are you trusting to give you real life? Are you trying to “create a destiny for yourself?” Are you hoping your spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend will give you a life?
What are you trusting is ‘the way?’ The “wisdom” of mere people? Your own intuition?
I’m letting these questions swirl around in my head. I’m digesting them slowly so that I can answer honestly. I’m confessing where I’m not taking Jesus at His word and rejoicing because He is telling me that I rely on HIS perfect life, and not mine.
A crowd asked Jesus, “What does God want us to do?”
Jesus told them, “This is what God wants you to do: Believe in the one He has sent.”