Trust and Obey
There is a song in most church hymnals titled: ‘Trust and Obey.’ The refrain says: "Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, To be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey."
We cannot trust someone we don’t know, and that is the secret of learning to trust God. When someone says, "Trust me," we have one of two reactions. Either we can say, "Yes, I’ll trust you," or we can say, "Why should I?" In God’s case, trusting Him naturally follows when we understand why we should.
The main reason we should trust God is that He is worthy of our trust. Unlike men, He never lies and never fails to fulfill His promises. "God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" (Numbers 23:19; Psalm 89:34). Unlike men, He has the power to bring to pass what He plans and purposes to do. Isaiah 14:24 tells us, "The LORD Almighty has sworn, ‘Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.’" Furthermore, His plans are perfect, holy, and righteous, and He works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His holy purpose (Romans 8:28). If we endeavor to know God through His Word, we will see that He is worthy of our trust, and our trust in Him will grow daily. To know Him is to trust Him.
We can learn to trust God as we see how He has proven Himself to be trustworthy in our lives and the lives of others. In 1 Kings 8:56 we read, "Praise be to the LORD, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses." The record of God’s promises is there in His Word for all to see, as is the record of their fulfillment. Historical documents verify those events and speak of God’s faithfulness to His people. Every Christian can give personal testimony to God’s trustworthiness as we see His work in our lives, fulfilling His promises to save us and use us for His purposes (Ephesians 2:8-10) and comfort us with the peace that passes all understanding as we run the race He has planned out for us (Philippians 4:6-7; Hebrews 12:1). The more we experience His grace, faithfulness, and goodness, the more we trust Him (Psalm 100:5; Isaiah 25:1).
A third reason to trust God is that we really have no sensible alternative. Should we trust in ourselves or in others who are sinful, unpredictable, unreliable, have limited wisdom, and who frequently make bad choices and decisions swayed by emotion? Or do we trust in the all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, gracious, merciful, loving God who has good intentions for us? The choice should be obvious, but we fail to trust God because we don’t know Him. As already stated, we cannot hope to trust in someone who is essentially a stranger to us, but that is easily remedied. God has not made Himself difficult to find or know. All we need to know about God, He has graciously made available to us in the Bible, His holy Word to His people. To know God is to trust Him.
The Bible has much to say about obedience. In fact, obedience is an essential part of the Christian faith. Jesus Himself was "obedient unto death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8). For Christians, the act of taking up our cross and following Christ (Matthew 16:24) means obedience. The Bible says that we show our love for Jesus by obeying Him in all things: "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). A Christian who is not obeying Christ’s commands can rightly be asked, "Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46).
Obedience is defined as "dutiful or submissive compliance to the commands of one in authority." Using this definition, we see the elements of biblical obedience. "Dutiful" means it is our obligation to obey God, just as Jesus fulfilled His duty to the Father by dying on the cross for our sin. "Submissive" indicates that we yield our wills to God. "Commands" speaks of the Scriptures in which God has clearly delineated His instructions. The "one in authority" is God Himself, whose authority is total and unequivocal. For the Christian, obedience means complying with everything God has commanded. It is our duty to do so.
Having said that, it is important to remember that our obedience to God is not solely a matter of duty. We obey Him because we love Him (John 14:23). Also, we understand that the spirit of obedience is as important as the act of obedience. We serve the Lord in humility, singleness of heart, and love.
Also, we must beware of using a veneer of obedience to mask a sinful heart. Living the Christian life is not all about rules. The Pharisees in Jesus’ time relentlessly pursued acts of obedience to the Law, but they became self-righteous. They considered themselves worthy before God, who owed them a reward; however, the Bible tells us that, without Christ, even our best, most righteous works are as "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). The Pharisees’ external obedience still lacked something, and Jesus exposed their heart attitude. Their hypocrisy in obeying the "letter of the law" while violating its spirit characterized their lives, and Jesus rebuked them sharply: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outside, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so you also appear righteous to men outwardly, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity" (Matthew 23:27–28). The Pharisees were obedient in some respects, but they "neglected the weightier matters of the law" (Matthew 23:23, ESV).
We are to obey the "law of Christ," which is a law of love (Galatians 6:2; John 13:34). Jesus stated the greatest commands of all: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:36–40).
If we love God, we will obey Him. We won’t be perfect in our obedience, but our desire is to submit to the Lord and display good works. When we love God and obey Him, we naturally have love for one another. Obedience to God’s commands will make us light and salt in a dark and tasteless world (Matthew 5:13–16).
Verse 4 in the song ‘Trust and Obey’ says: "What He says we will do, where He sends we will go, Never fear, only Trust and Obey."