The idea that we need to trust in God has become a modern Christian cliché. People tend to use the phrase as a catch all when the future is unknown. This makes it feel encouraging to hear when things go well, but obnoxious when things are not.
And yet, few things are more foundational to our faith and life as a believer. In Matthew 6:25-34 and then in 7:7-11, Jesus gives us the ground rules and reasons to actually trust God.
There is much more here than a cliché, and as you’ll see in this post trusting God is essential to effective servant leadership. This post is part of a series on the Sermon on the Mount called How to Be a Light in the World.
When it is hard to Trust in God
Several years ago, my wife and I took a calculated risk and moved from our home in the USA, all the way to New Zealand. The journey was over 8,000 miles, and we left nearly everything we knew and possessed.
I say it was a calculated risk because we had spent two years praying and exploring possibilities. We had no job, but we did have some savings and a free place to stay for a couple months. We arrived in New Zealand with two bags each, the clothes on our back, and nothing else.
I remember there were several moments in our first few weeks there where I said to myself, “so this is what it actually means to trust in God.”
It was easy to trust Him when we lived in Georgia, had our own place, owned our cars, had reliable jobs, parents who lived less than an hour away, and everything else we needed. But when we moved overseas, all the stuff we were actually putting our trust in got left behind.
We had no choice but to trust in God.
And you know what? He provided.
We have found ourselves in similar situations in the past few years. Despite having some success in the past, it still always seems hard to trust God. What if it’s different this time? What if it leads us down a harder road?
Time after time, however, we have found that trusting in Him has delivered growth in our hearts and our lives.
Let’s take a closer look at the teaching of Jesus to learn why we can trust God, how it impacts our ability to lead, and different ways to actually grow in our trust.
Reasons to Trust in God
He is working for your best, eternal interest
Sometimes when we think about God providing, we might be tempted to believe that God provides whatever we want on earth. “If I trust in God, he will provide that new sports car I need.”
This is not His promise. Instead, He promises to give us what we need. While we tend to operate with a immediate, short-term view of the world, God operates from an eternal perspective of what we need.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
Matthew 6:25 (ESV)
There is more to life than food and clothing – there is our greater spiritual need. You see this often when Jesus heals the sick. Most people show up expecting him to heal them of a disease. Not only does Jesus heal their physical disease, but he attacks their greater, less visible spiritual disease. He forgives their sins, a thing no one else can do.
Romans 8:28 is a famous verse that deals with this topic:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
It can be tempting to take this verse out of context and think that God will give us whatever we want, even if there is struggle along the way. But this verse is all part of a larger story in Romans 8 that demonstrates how God uses pain and struggle to sanctify us and prepare us for eternal glory.
In other words, the good that God is working in us is an eternal good. Life may bring joys and earthly goods today, but there is no guarantee. But for those who are in Christ, we know that the suffering of today will lead to a closer relationship with God in this life, and a greater glory in eternity.
He provides what you need
God created us, He knows us, and He knows what we need. Jesus compares humans to the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. God provides them with everything they need, so how much more will He provide us with what we need?
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:30-33 (ESV)
Food, drink, and clothing are basic needs for everyone. And yet, our greatest need in life is actually the righteousness of God. Without Him and His work of salvation in our lives, we are dead in our transgressions. This death is an eternal one, and far worse than physical death.
And so, Jesus calls us to focus first on the kingdom of God. Seek Him out, seek His forgiveness, and allow Him to get to work in your heart.
When you do that, not only will you find eternal life, but God promises to provide all the other things you need today.
Seeking His Kingdom first also puts you in a better position to provide for the needs of others. God consistently uses His people to be vessels by which He provides for the needs of others.
He loves you like a Father
In Matthew 7, Jesus explains the approach God takes with His people. He loves us like a Father, which means we can trust He has our best in mind.
Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:9-11 (ESV)
Sometimes we fear that God will give us a serpent. After all, people in the Bible had to endure some pretty tough things.
But the Father analogy makes perfect sense. Just because our toddler asks me for something, does not mean I will automatically give it to him. The kid asked me for ice cream yesterday morning. He wants to go to Disney World every other week. If I gave him everything he asked for, I would not be a very good Father. Our son can’t really see past the pleasure of this very moment, and so I need to take the long view of his growth and health for him.
In the same way, God does not give us everything we ask for. He has the long view and sees much further than we can. He does not give us everything we want, because some of the things we want will kill us. Instead, he gives us what we need, and helps us to understand those needs as we grow and seek Him out.
Sometimes, this means He disciplines us or throws challenges our way. He knows these events are vital to our growth. But God does not discipline us in a cruel way, nor does he abandon us when we are challenged. Like a loving Father, he stays with us and helps us through every trial.
How Trusting in God Impacts your Ability to Lead
Reduces the temptation of greed
I recently wrote about the idea that greed makes poor servant leaders. Trusting in God to provide for all your needs sets a really good foundation against greed.
Why would you cut corners or hurt others to get things when you know and believe that God will provide everything you need?
Jesus explains how Gentiles (non-believers) constantly seek out things to eat and drink and wear. But he calls believers to something different. Seek first the Kingdom of God.
While the world is a place where leaders cut others down to grow their own glory, The Kingdom of God the opposite. It is a place where people live to serve others and love and provide for them.
Equips you to provide for others
Speaking of loving others and providing for them, how much easier does it become when you know someone is providing for you?
I do a marketing full-time. When I first started this work, I had a really great mentor who taught me and inspired me. Ever since then, I’ve looked for opportunities to share what I’ve learned with other young marketing people.
In the same way, when you recognize that God watches over you and provides for you, then you begin to look for opportunities to provide for others. You don’t have to just look out for yourself, because someone far more powerful is already looking out for you.
It doesn’t matter if you work in full-time ministry, marketing, food processing, farming, IT support, the arts, or any other field of work. When you work to glorify God, you find ways to serve the people around you and provide for them.
Tunes your heart with God
In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus says the following:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
It can be tempting to read this and think God gives us whatever we want. In practice, however, I would argue that by spending time with God and asking Him for the things we want and need, God tunes our hearts to align with His.
For instance, Abraham prays to God in Genesis 18 on behalf of the people of Sodom. God has just informed Abraham that he plans to destroy the city because of how wicked it has become. Initially, Abraham is distraught and says,
Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”
God lets him know that he will not destroy Sodom if he finds 50 people. Abraham keeps the conversation going. Will you destroy it if you find 45? 40? 30? 20? 10?
God promises Abraham he will not destroy the city if he finds 10 righteous people. This is where the conversation ends. This story clearly shows that we can be bold in our prayers and requests to God. It’s interesting how Abraham seems to change God’s mind through this process, but in reality, I think what really happens is that God changes Abraham’s mind.
By the end of the conversation, Abraham realizes there are not even 10 righteous people in Sodom. His heart has become tuned with God’s, and he understands why the city must face justice. It is a hard truth, but one that came from trusting God and seeking Him out.
Jesus was the ultimate servant leader, so if your heart becomes tuned to his, you will undoubtedly become a better servant leader as well.
Practical Ways to Improve your Trust in God
Remind yourself of Biblical truth daily
In order to trust in God, we need to know what exactly we’re trusting about Him. This knowledge comes from His word.
Scripture is filled with the promises of God. We see Him fulfill His promises, time and time again.
Everyday, we see thousands of advertisements online, on billboards, on television, and even above public bathroom stalls. These adverts are all trying to convince you that their product or service will bring you fulfillment.
And yet, none of these things can truly satisfy. God, and God alone, can provide the things we need and give us contentment.
This is why we need to remind ourselves of Biblical truth daily. If you only hear false promises, they will start to sound pretty good. Reminding ourselves of the truth on a regular basis, however, will better equip us to know what to trust and what to reject.
Look at what God has already done
When you look at God’s track record, it becomes much easier to trust in Him. There are three common places I think we can look: The Bible, our own lives, the lives of others.
First, the Bible is a story that covers thousands of years of history. Throughout it, God promises the coming of a Messiah, one who will come to defeat sin and restore mankind’s relationship with God. In fact, there are over 300 prophecies that point to Jesus, and he fulfills all of them. When you read the Bible as a story, it becomes hard not to trust in God.
Second, look back on your own life. When has God proven He is with you? When has He used hard circumstances to bring you closer to Him? When has He delivered when you thought hope was lost? If He has done it before, He can do it again. Our family actually made a “blessing jar” where we write down great things God has done for us. Then, when life gets tough and we can’t see God’s plan, we pull out the jar and remind ourselves of all the things He has done for us.
And third, look to the lives of others. This could be your friends and family, or it could be people in history. I have a friend who loves to read biographies of great christian leaders of the past when he struggles to trust God or sense His presence. Learning about the way that God worked in and through the lives of men and women who trusted in God always helps restore his faith.
Pray and Petition God without ceasing
As Jesus said in Matthew 6, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
The more we seek God’s Kingdom and get to know Him, the more we will trust in Him. Reading the Bible is an important aspect of this, but so is prayer!
When we pray, we have the chance to speak to God. We get to share our hopes and fears, and we allow Him to work in our hearts. Just like Abraham, God uses prayer to guide our hearts to what we really need, and give us peace that we can trust in Him.
Philippians 4:6-7 famously explains it this way:
“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.“
Prayer also allows us to set our minds on the things of eternity. Central to the Lord’s prayer are the words, “your Kingdom come, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” If you want to seek first the Kingdom of God, then start with prayer.
A healthy prayer life is vital to trusting in God. If you’re like me and prayer does not come naturally, then check out these 14 helpful tips for improving your prayer life.
It can always be tempting to read a post like this and think trusting God will result in an easy life. But this is not always the case.
One specific event comes to mind. A few years back I felt called to a particular job and everything seemed to be going well. At the last moment, however, the opportunity fell through and it took me a few months to recover. I was upset. I kept thinking, “am I completely clueless on understanding the will of God? Why would he want me to try something that would fail?”
But here’s the deal – just because I failed doesn’t mean I misheard God. It is entirely possible that God called me to that opportunity, knowing that I would fail.
Why? Because He used that event to shape me in significant ways and grow closer to Him. He eventually presented another opportunity that was a better fit. And through it all, our family’s needs were always met.
This is a fairly complex subject. Every person’s experiences are different, and entire books have been written about the challenges that come with trusting God.
In the end, however, we know that God is good. He loves us like a Father, and He is always working for the eternal good of His people. Trusting in Him allows us to grow and change into the people He calls us to be, and ultimately will lead to a more fulfilling life, both today and in eternity.
Not only that, but trusting in Him when bad things happen will really make you a light to the world. Both good and bad things can happen to believers and non-believers. The way that believers respond to those bad things is what makes us different. Continuing to trust in God and seek Him out will bring light to dark places, and demonstrate an unshakable hope to others who desperately need it.