It seems fairly safe to say that trust is at an all-time low these days. I’d suggest to read the news, but with “fake news” among the headlines, it’s clear that the fourth estate, the press, is not trusted the way it once was. In fact, it seems that none of the traditional “estates” of society – government, clergy, and citizens – are in high esteem. Certainly, government is an object of disdain among many, but even the clergy – ministers, preachers, priests, pastors, whatever – have lost a lot of trust among people. According to a December 2017 Gallup Poll, only 42 percent of people have a high degree of trust of clergy, which is down from a high of 65 percent in 1985. And a 2015 survey from the Pew Research Center indicates that only 52 percent of Americans trust their neighbors.
So, who can you trust? Within the church, we’re quick to say, “Trust God!” (and that’s the right answer). But do we really? Think about the words of a favorite hymn, “Trust and Obey,” by John Sammis:
When we walk with the Lord/ in the light of his word,/ what a glory he sheds on our way!/ While we do his good will,/ he abides with us still,/ and with all who will trust and obey.
Not a burden we bear,/ not a sorrow we share,/ but our toil he doth richly repay;/ not a grief or a loss,/ not a frown or a cross,/ but is blest if we trust and obey.
But we never can prove/ the delights of his love/ until all on the altar we lay;/ for the favor he shows,/ for the joy he bestows,/ are for them who will trust and obey.
Then in fellowship sweet/ we will sit at his feet,/ or we’ll walk by his side in the way;/ what he says we will do,/ where he sends we will go;/ never fear, only trust and obey.
Refrain: Trust and obey, for there’s no other way / to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
The song describes “walking with the Lord,” a life of doing God’s will, facing the struggles of life and faith, anticipating God’s favor and the joy that comes from it. The song leads us to believe that if we “trust and obey” God, we will be happy.
Unfortunately, it seems that our habits of trusting and obeying are often restricted to “religious activities,” behaviors that are supposed to identify us as Christians. And so many Christians spend a lot of their time, effort, and money trying to convince God to make them happy. Certainly, Christians meet together to worship, study, pray, fellowship, service, and more, but do those actions truly reflect our trust in Jesus? Or do we simply hope that Jesus will notice and reward us, eventually, in heaven?
Far too often, we understand that last verse of “Trust and Obey” as a reference to life in heaven; however, it’s actually a description of a life of trust and obedience that verse three tells us doesn’t begin “until all on the altar we lay.” It seems that trusting God isn’t a matter of doing religious activities with the hope of reward; it’s a matter of sacrificing ourselves – heart, soul, mind, and strength – and trusting God to do the rest.
This is what we can see in Proverbs 3:5, 6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” So, instead of trying to straighten ourselves out and hoping that God will acknowledge it with rewards, the Bible tells us to trust God in everything we do, and he will straighten us out. Do you really want to be “happy in Jesus”? Trust him.