Trusting God

Scripture: Mark 10:13-27

 

Title: Trusting God

 

Structure:

  • Introduction
  • Trust – ACCCT
  • Jesus and the children
  • Jesus and the rich man
  • Conclusion

 

Introduction:

On the wall here we have a diagram of some foundations

–         You can see there the footings going down deep to hold the concrete pad in place – all of which is reinforced with steel rods and mesh

–         The base underneath the slab is gravel and stone

 

The foundation is the most important part of the building because it supports everything else

–         If the foundation is straight & true then so is the rest of the building

 

This morning we conclude our series on Christian spirituality: ‘Being with God’

–         Spirituality is our capacity to connect with God

–         And for Christians that connection comes through Christ

 

Rebecca Nye has an acronym which we have used to give structure to this series

–         Her acronym spells the word S.P.I.R.I.T. [1]

–         Space, Process, Imagination, Relationship, Intimacy & Trust

–         These are all essential elements of Christian spirituality

–         We need these six things to connect and interact with Jesus

–         To be fair to Rebecca, I haven’t used her content – I’ve really just borrowed her six words

–         Today’s message focuses on trusting God

 

Although trust comes last in the acronym – in practice it actually comes first

–         Trust is the foundation of Christian spirituality

–         We need trust for relationship and intimacy

–         Without trust the imagination is tortured by insecurity & the process fails

 

A relationship without trust is like having a [cell] phone with no service. What do you do with a phone with no service? You play games.

–         When there’s no trust in a relationship people aren’t honest with each other – they tend to play games

 

Trust – ACCCT

There are a number of things which help to create & strengthen trust including:

–         Acceptance, Commitment, Consistency, Continuity & Truth

 

When we feel accepted by someone then it helps us to trust them

–         If we are worried about being rejected then trust won’t have a chance

 

Likewise, when someone makes a commitment to us we feel more able to trust them – whether that commitment is in the form of a promise, a handshake, a contract, or a deposit

–         Marriage is essentially a relationship of trust

–         The promises or commitment made through the exchange of marriage vows give the couple a clear basis (or a foundation) for trust

 

Consistency & Continuity follow Commitment – they are the outworking of commitment if you like

–         Babies learn basic trust when they have at least one key person in their life who is consistently there to provide for their needs

–         As children grow up they become increasingly aware of whether things are fair or not and they often measure fairness by consistency

–         If the adults in charge behave in ways that seem inconsistent to them then they complain, ‘That’s not fair. Why did she get 2 scoops of ice-cream and I only got one?’

–         Children need consistency & continuity in order to feel safe & secure

–         Consistency & continuity strengthen trust

 

Truth is also crucial to trust

–         Nothing undermines the foundation of trust like lies or falseness

–         If we feel like the other person is not being straight with us then we can’t trust them

–         The truth may not always feel pleasant but at least we know we can rely on it – without truth we don’t know where we stand

 

Trust is like an eraser. It gets smaller and smaller after every mistake.

 

While this is generally true in our relationships with other people, it doesn’t necessarily hold true in our relationship with God

–         God doesn’t make mistakes – even if we do

–         But the interesting thing with God is that he does not erase our mistakes

–         He forgives our mistakes, if we forgive other people

–         But that’s not the same as erasing them

–         What we notice in the Bible is that God often uses people’s mistakes for good – he redeems them somehow

–         And so when we make mistakes with God the trust doesn’t have to get smaller – in fact it could get bigger

 

When we look at the nature or character of God we notice that everything about him makes trust possible

–         God demonstrates his acceptance of us through Jesus

–         God is faithful to his promises and commitments – he always makes good on his word

–         God is consistent in the sense that he has perfect integrity – he is always fair & just

–         God is also the very definition of continuity – he is eternal

–         And his word is true – the Spirit of God is a Spirit of grace & truth

–         The Lord is a firm foundation – the ground of our being and the only lasting source of security – in him we can trust

 

Please turn with me to Mark chapter 10, verse 13 – page 60 toward the back of your pew Bibles

–         Trust is important to Jesus

–         Jesus indicated that trust, or faith in him, was the only way we could receive God’s kingdom. From Mark chapter 10, verse 13 we read…

 

13 Some people brought children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples scolded the people. 14 When Jesus noticed this, he was angry and said to his disciples, “Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I assure you that whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on each of them, and blessed them.

 

17 As Jesus was starting on his way again, a man ran up, knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not accuse anyone falsely; do not cheat; respect your father and your mother.’”

20 “Teacher,” the man said, “ever since I was young, I have obeyed all these commandments.”

21 Jesus looked straight at him with love and said, “You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” 22 When the man heard this, gloom spread over his face, and he went away sad, because he was very rich.

23 Jesus looked around at his disciples and said to them, “How hard it will be for rich people to enter the Kingdom of God!”

24 The disciples were shocked at these words, but Jesus went on to say, “My children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God! 25 It is much harder for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.”

26 At this the disciples were completely amazed and asked one another, “Who, then, can be saved?”

27 Jesus looked straight at them and answered, “This is impossible for human beings but not for God; everything is possible for God.”

 

May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate God’s word for us

 

Jesus and the children:

On the wall here we have a picture of trust – a small bird eating out of a person’s hand

–         If we imagine that Jesus is the one holding out his hand and we are the bird, then receiving the kingdom of God requires us to trust Jesus

–         To leave the safety of our nest, rely on him, make ourselves vulnerable and receive from him

 

In our reading from Mark we heard two little vignettes from Jesus’ ministry

–         Both have to do with the kingdom of God

–         And both have to do with trust

 

In the first account some small children were brought to Jesus

–         The disciples tried to shoo them away but that made Jesus angry

–         We don’t often hear about Jesus getting angry, but he did on this occasion

–         Jesus’ anger was righteous indignation

–         His disciples’ actions are inconsistent with the will of God – they were making it harder for the children to trust Jesus

 

But Jesus doesn’t erase the disciples’ mistake, nor diminish his trust in them

–         Jesus uses their mistake for good by pointing out that small children are role models for us. He says…

–         “…whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it”   

 

The key word here is receive

–         The Kingdom of God is received – like a gift

–         It is not earned – like wages

–         Nor can it be taken by force

–         God’s kingdom can only be received

 

Receiving is actually quite difficult because when we receive we are not in control

–         The giver has the power and the receiver is vulnerable

–         All the receiver can do is trust

–         Without trust it is not possible to receive, no matter how much the other person wants to give

 

Children are good at trusting because that’s how they survive

–         They get by in life by relying on other people

–         Small children are role models to us in that they have the simple trust to receive what God wants to give

 

Having redeemed the situation by turning the disciples’ mistake into a teachable moment, Jesus then builds trust with the children by showing them acceptance

–         He takes the children in his arms, placing his hands on each of them and blessing them

–         Blessing children is one of the things we do during infant dedication ceremonies – we welcome the child and accept them into our community of faith with the prayer that their trust in Jesus would grow as they grow

 

Jesus and the rich man

On the wall here we have another picture of trust – two trapeze artists

–         One is letting go in trust that her partner will catch her

–         If we imagine that Jesus is the one holding out his hands to catch us, then receiving the kingdom of God requires us to let go and trust Jesus

 

The second account in our reading from Mark involves someone at the opposite end of the spectrum from the little children – a rich man

–         I say this rich man is unlike the children because he doesn’t need to rely on anyone but himself – as a rich man he is not used to trusting others

 

Interestingly this man ran up to Jesus and knelt before him

–         Respectable people don’t normally run in the Middle East

–         It’s not very dignified

–         And yet this man of means is willing to put his dignity aside in order to talk with Jesus – whatever is on his heart is very important to him

 

He asks the Lord, “What must I do to receive eternal life?”

–         (Which is another way of saying, what must I do to enter God’s kingdom)

–         And Jesus responds, you already know the answer – obey the commandments

–         Then, by way of example, Jesus lists some of the commandments:

–         Do not commit murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not accuse anyone falsely; do not cheat; respect your father and mother

 

‘Do not cheat’ (as in, ‘don’t commit fraud) stands out like a sore thumb because it is not one of the 10 commandments – although it is in the Law of Moses

–         Is Jesus indicating that fraud is a greater temptation for the rich?

–         Maybe, I don’t know?

 

What all of these examples have in common is they are ‘love your neighbour’ type commandments

–         They have to do with the man’s relationships with other people

–         If you keep those commandments then you are taking care of trust within the community

–         But if you murder, commit adultery, steal, lie, cheat or disrespect your parents then you make it harder for people to trust God and each other

 

Perhaps the point is we shouldn’t think of eternal life as solely a personal or individual thing – our actions affect those around us

–         We need to live in a way that helps others to trust

 

The rich man is not satisfied by Jesus’ answer

–         He says, I’ve always obeyed these commandments

–         In other words, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

–         If I thought obeying the Law was enough I wouldn’t be here asking you what else I need to do

 

Jesus looks him in the eye and loves him

–         Hmm. Love

–         Imagine for a moment the face of Jesus looking at you with love

 

What does it mean that Jesus loved him?

–         Love means committing yourself to the other person’s well being

–         Love means being vulnerable and allowing yourself to be affected by the other person

–         Love means accepting the other person

 

Love comes first with God

–         We love him because he first loved us

–         Jesus put love first because love creates trust and Jesus wants this man to trust him

 

Jesus has offered the man his acceptance – all the man has to do is trust Jesus

–         Jesus spells out what trusting him looks like

–         “Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me”

 

On the wall here we have a picture of trust – a boy and a man abseiling down a rock face

–         Abseiling works when you lean back and trust the rope and harness to hold you

–         The first time I went abseiling my natural instinct was to lean forward and get close to the rock face – but that’s actually more dangerous

–         The safest thing is the counter-intuitive thing – leaning back

 

This is basically what Jesus is saying to the rich man…

–         ‘I accept you. Will you trust me?’

–         Will you let go of your wealth – will you eat out of my hand?

–         Will you lean back and let me hold you?

–         Jesus said only one thing is needed: trusting him

 

The rich man went away sad but Jesus doesn’t go after him

–         He doesn’t force the issue or try to negotiate with the man

–         You can’t sell trust – you can’t force trust

–         Either someone trusts you or they don’t

 

After the man has gone Jesus says to his disciples…

–         How hard it is for rich people to enter the kingdom of God

–         Or more literally, how hard it is for those that trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God

–         The rich man trusted his wealth more than he trusted Jesus

 

So what are we supposed to do then? Give away all our possessions and live in poverty ourselves?

–         Well, I don’t think that, in itself, will get you into heaven

 

Jesus goes on to say, it is much harder for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle

 

There was a myth circulating at one stage that the eye of the needle was a small opening or gate in the wall of Jerusalem which you could possibly squeeze a camel through if you unloaded its cargo

–         But there is no historical grounds for this interpretation

 

Jesus is using hyperbole (or exaggeration) to make his point

–         A camel was the largest animal that Jesus’ audience would be familiar with and the eye of a needle was the smallest opening they could think of

–         “The point is that salvation is not obtainable through strenuous human effort” [2] You can’t somehow squeeze your way into heaven by giving away all your stuff or doing anything else – It doesn’t work like that

–         Jesus was basically saying, you can never do your duty to God

 

The point is, we need to learn to trust God – not ourselves or our wealth or anything else

–         If you give away everything you own in order to get into God’s kingdom then you are not trusting God – you trusting your own generosity

 

Salvation is impossible by human effort

–         But it is possible for God to give eternal life to humans as a gift

–         Who does he give it to?

–         Those who trust Jesus

 

Okay then, if all we need to do is trust Jesus then why did Jesus tell the man to give away all his stuff – why make it so hard for him?

–         Well, Jesus isn’t trying to make it harder – he is trying to make it easier for the man to trust him by removing the impediment to trust

–         Jesus is trying to create trust with this man both by accepting him as a disciple and by being truthful with him

–         Some people come to trust Jesus gradually, slowly, over a number of years, while others need a decisive and total conversion experience

–         Jesus was being straight up with the man and saying, you are one of those people who needs a decisive conversion experience

–         Better in your case to rip the band aid off quickly

 

If you are an alcoholic or a drug addict or you have a problem with gambling then it doesn’t really work to try and wean yourself off your addiction

–         If you say I’m going to cut back my whisky intake from 2 bottles a day to one and then after a while I’ll switch to drinking beer because that’s not so strong, until eventually I’m drinking lemonade, then you are just kidding yourself – you’re playing games

–         If you have a problem with alcohol then there is nothing for it but to stop altogether and never have another drink again

–         Same with gambling or drug abuse

–         Same for the rich man in Mark 10 – he needed a decisive and total conversion experience – ‘slowly does it’ wasn’t going to work for him

–         He wouldn’t be able to serve two masters

–         This truth was difficult but at least the man knew where he stood

 

The truth Jesus had for this man wasn’t all bad news though – it was laced with good news as well

–         Elsewhere in the gospels Jesus tells a parable of a man who found treasure in a field

–         After he found this treasure he went and sold everything he owned in order to buy that field and gain the treasure

–         He was willing to sacrifice all his possessions because the treasure was far more valuable

–         While it was difficult for the rich man to part with his wealth Jesus wasn’t asking the man to give it up for nothing

–         If anything Jesus was pointing out how he could make an eternal profit

–         The riches of the kingdom of God are greater than the riches of this world

–         He is no fool who gives up something he is going to lose anyway in order to gain something he can never lose

 

Trusting Jesus is a little bit like learning to ride a bike – at some point you have to take the training wheels off

–         For the rich man in Mark 10, financial wealth was his training wheels

 

But money may not be your training wheels

–         Maybe you’ve grown up in the church and have always relied on your parents’ faith – so your parents are your training wheels

–         Maybe it’s time to have your own faith in Jesus

 

Or maybe your reputation is what you trust or your career or something else

–         Whatever our training wheels are

–         Whatever it is we rely on in place of God, at some point Jesus will ask us to let that go and trust him instead

 

Conclusion:

We’ve talked this morning about the importance of trust

–         Trust is the foundation to Christian spirituality

–         Acceptance, commitment, consistency, continuity and truth – all these things help to create and strengthen trust

 

Being a Christian is not easy

–         Sometimes bad things happen to us and it’s not our fault

–         To make matters worse God is not inclined to explain himself – He doesn’t normally tell us why

–         In those times, when we have reached the end of our own understanding and God is silent, the best we can do is wait and trust in the Lord

–         Though he slay me, yet I will trust him

 

Let me finish by saying that while it is right to trust Jesus, it is not appropriate to trust everyone

–         Jesus also talked about being as wise as serpents & as innocent as doves

–         And on another occasion he said, don’t throw you pearls before swine

–         We need to exercise discernment in trusting others

–         If trust is so important then we need to look after it for everyone’s sake

 

Let us pray…

 

[1] Rebecca Nye, ‘Children’s Spirituality’, page 41.

[2] Ben Witherington III, ‘The Gospel of Mark. A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary’, page 284.

Advertisements