ďCan God Be Trusted?Ē
March 16, 2003
Last week, we took our first step on our Lenton journey, a journey, which began with the story of Godís promise to Noah to never again flood the earth.† In this promise of never again, God is the one who is changed.† It is God who initiates and establishes a new commitment and relationship to humanity.† It is God who promises to remember Godís covenant from now on, a covenant, which God makes a divine responsibility, a covenant, which will never again need to be renewed, a covenant that will always stand.
††††††††† It truly is good news knowing that in spite of the human condition, in spite of our errant and rebellious ways, God stands for us and not against us, takes us as we are, and gives us what we need to be a better people.† Surely the divine words of Godís promise are sufficient enough to evoke in us a faith that never questions, a faith that never doubts about God.† Surely Godís divine words are all we need to know and hear for us to trust in God completely and assuredly.† Yet we know that this is not always the case for us, because our human experiences and human struggles, tell us otherwise.
††††††††† In times of self-reflection, when we contemplate our relationship with God, there is a lingering question that all of us ask, a question, not so much about whether there is a God, but about what kind of God is our God.†
Is the God we know as the creator and sustainer of the universe a reliable God in whom we can fully trust?† Our story of Noah certainly tells us yes, but again human experience leaves us to wonder.† Things happen that are beyond understanding or reason, beyond purpose and meaning, leaving us to wonder why, how, and even who.†
God promised to never again send the flood, but maybe God is still upset and has only changed the manifestation of divine judgment.† Or maybe God is just an impersonal force who started everything off, but then left human history and human existence to run its course, leaving us with our hands tied and at the mercy of chance.† Maybe God is an unreceptive and impervious deity whose ears are deaf to the cries of humanity.† Maybe God canít be trusted to do what God promised so many years ago in ancient history.†
In our second step in our Lenton journey, Paul addresses our human struggle about what kind of God is our God.† Knowing all that he knows about Christian faith, he too struggles with the same struggle we have, which is can God be trusted.† Throughout his letter to the church in Rome, Paul wonders out loud about how a righteous, just and loving God can at the same time justify and save an unloving, sinful, and rebellious people.†
He too knows, in a very personal way from personal experience, that he, of all people, is undeserving of Godís grace.† He knows that people still are ashamed of the gospel, that people are still without excuse, that people still do not honor God, that people still exchange the glory of God for idols, that all people still fall short.†
But in spite of all of this, Paul knows through a trusting faith that Godís divine integrity and character is still intact, not as much by what God promised so many years ago, but by what God has done throughout the course of human history.† For Paul, divine actions speak louder than divine words.† For Paul, the answer to can God be trusted is an emphatic, yes!
In our text for this morning, Paul sets out to demonstrate Godís reliability by first returning us to another story from ancient history, the story of Abraham and Sarah.† No matter how you read the story of Abraham and Sarah, Godís promise that they will have a long line of descendants is laughable to say the least.†
Not only are Abraham and Sarah old, but Sarah is barren to boot, and to think that a great people will descend from them is not only crazy, but absolutely, one hundred percent impossible Ė that is except by the hands of the one who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.†
Having a faith that fully trusts in God means letting go of our own human limitations and boundaries, letting go of what we know to be possible and reasonable, and giving room for the surprising power of God to work in our lives.† Everyday is full of miracles.† From the rising of the sun, to a daughter who is returned safely home, from a comfort in knowing that a loved one is at peace, to the hope in knowing that the dead will live again.† Everyday God is doing something new in the world, creating something from nothing.† Maybe the question isnít can God be trusted, but rather can we have a faith that trusts in the one who makes the impossible possible.
††††††††† But if God can do anything, why are there wars and talk of wars, why do shuttle astronauts not return home, why are some children never found?† There is no easy answer for this.† From life experience, we all know that NOT all of our problems and trials have had or will have happy endings.† So, maybe God isnít as reliable as we think.† For Paul though, having a faith that fully trusts in a God, who makes the impossible possible, means that we still have to live in the uncertainty of our present circumstances and future events, but it doesnít mean that there is no hope for us or for the world.†
For Paul, faith is not a trust that God will make everything work out just like we want it to, but rather faith is a trusting hope, a conviction that regardless of what happens, God is able to do what God promises to do.† Having a faith that fully trusts in God, is hoping against hope, that God will right the wrongs that we humans do to ourselves, that God will liberate the oppressed, that God will free those who are enslaved, that God will make the unrighteous righteous, that God will redeem and reconcile and broken and hostile world, and that in the end God will make the deaf hear, the blind see, the lame walk, and the dead rise again.
But, how can we be sure that God is able to do what God promised?† How can we be sure God is true to Godís word?† How can we be sure that our trusting faith is not misplaced?† Because, the one in whom we trust is not only the one who creates out of nothing and makes the impossible possible, is not only the one who is able to do what is promised, but is also the one who raised our Lord Jesus from the dead.†
For Paul, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ reveals once and for all that God is more than just the promise-maker, God is the promise-keeper.† In Jesus Christ, God is not some by-standing, rubber-necker, who sits upon the heavenly throne watching the events of Jesusí life unfold before Godís eyes, God is the primary actor.† God is the one who became incarnate in Jesus Christ, the one who brought forgiveness for sins, the one who became for us and for the world our redeemer, our savior, and our Lord.
††††††††† During our Lenton journey, as we reflect upon our human condition, our relationship with God, and our relationship with others, know with all conviction, and trust with a hope-filled faith, that our God is reliable and trustworthy, that our God is able and will do what God promises to do, not only for us, but for all of Godís good creation, for in Jesus Christ, Godís promise has become our good news.†