Sunday, January 10, 2010

Can I Trust God?

My church is spending the next six weeks “Rebooting” and asking some pretty basic questions about our faith. We’re also having a variety of people share a testimony that responds to our question for the week. I got to share today. Here is what I said, plus a little more.

The question of whether or not we can trust God is an important one. For if the answer is no, then we may find ways to serve God or even obey God’s laws, but we can’t truly love God. Having grown up in a church and in a Christian family, I was well aware of serving God and obeying God, but it took me longer to recognize what it would mean to love God. I think my childhood perception of God—that God was somewhat like a cosmic Santa Claus, blessing me when I was “good” and cursing me when I was “bad”—actually did carry over into my adult understanding of God, certainly in more mature ways, but they remained. But thankfully, there did come a point when I learned that not only could I serve and obey God, but that I could trust God, too.

The summer after my sophomore year, I served as a summer intern at FUMC, Winfield and from a series of some conversations—with the retiring pastor, Rick Frisbie and with the youth pastor, Bill Podschun, I began to think that God was maybe, possibly, might actually be calling me to something. I had no idea at the time that it would be to become a Campus Minister, but just knew that I was feeling a stirring about ministry.

If you know me very well, you know that I’m a planner. I like to know what’s going to happen, when, and be able to prepare for it. But as I walked further in faith in learning to trust God, I began to see that my plans simply couldn’t be made. I couldn’t have a “back-up” plan, just in case this whole ministry thing doesn’t work out! The stories of people in Scripture became my stories as I read about how Elisha burned the plow that had been at the core of his livelihood before he was called to serve God and about how Peter walked on water, faltered, but believed again. I wanted to be like these servants of God and believe, but I feared—what if it doesn’t work that way anymore?

As I grew in my understanding of the trustworthiness of God, I had a series of everyday experiences when I saw glimpses into God’s heart, but none was more powerful for me than an experience I had just before my last year of college. I had, by this time, responded to God’s call to ministry, but still was unsure what that would look like. I decided to do a semester-long internship in Colorado that cost a significant amount of money—more than I had access to. I was working with a group of High School girls that summer and asked them to pray with me for $2000. We prayed all summer long. As August was coming into sight, I still was short this money. However, would you believe that August 1 came, I got a letter in the mail that said I had been awarded a scholarship in this exact amount! The girls who had prayed with me and I celebrated God’s faithfulness. And then I did the math! I actually had a need of about 1 more thousand dollars! Why hadn’t I done the math first before we started praying?! Anyway, I knew that I had about that much in savings and could just pull it out and live on ramen noodles for the semester. The week before I was to leave, I got a phone call from the secretary in the office where I was working that summer up at Southwestern. She told me that she knew of my need and her church wanted to support me by giving a small scholarship which had already been sent to the financial aid office. As I went up there the day before I was to leave for Colorado, they told me that since it had been from a church, they were matching it and I would it would total $500! I was silently thrilled and recognized that I was only short $500—which I could easily cover with my savings. I stopped back by my mailbox one last time before leaving campus and discovered a card…once again from the same secretary whose church had given me a scholarship. It was a note wishing me blessings for the semester ahead and inside a check. Guess the amount? Yep. $500. If I ever wasn’t sure if I trusted God, in that moment I knew that I did! The day before I needed it, God provided the exact amount of money that I needed. I remember saying internally to God right then, “God, you are SO good!” And echoing back in my mind, I heard God say to me: “why are you surprised? Is it not my character to be good? Is it not what I do to provide?”

Can I trust God? Yes. Is it always easy? No. But we can learn to trust God when we recognize that God’s character is trustworthy! God is a provider, full of grace, and the definition of love. Recognizing that it is this very God who wants to be in relationship with me and will even give me the courage to step out in faith allows me to be able to trust that while I may not know the details, I’m responding to a God who does! God is good, and now I’m not surprised!