Trust God—Not Men!
Micah 7:5-7, Jeremiah 17:5-10
Trust God. Don’t rely on men. That's the way to flourish, the way you can bear fruit and grow. We shouldn’t put our trust in people. The hearts of men are corrupt (Jeremiah 17:9). Even true Christians are only as good as God has made them. God alone is good (Matthew 19:17). People in God's church are no exception—we are only “good” to the extent that God has put His character into us, to the extent that God’s Spirit leads us.
Matthew 10:21-22, 34-39
The two great commandments have an order—Jesus said so (Matthew 22:36-40). We must put God FIRST (v. 38). He is above family, friends, work—above everyone and everything else in our lives. He’s above church members, above the ministry. The church follows God—not the other way around.
God lets us endure trials that show Him whether or not we possess this vital part of character—obeying the first Great Commandment. We all expect persecution as part of entering God's kingdom (Acts 14:22). Often we must endure persecution from the least-expected quarters. For instance, Mr. HWA was persecuted from within the “Sardis-era” church. In his Autobiography, Mr. HWA wrote that it gave him no pleasure to write the section about the persecution he endured—he had long dreaded that task—but that he was opposed "at every turn continually" by ministers who didn't want to believe what the Bible said if and when it opposed their own ideas. It is no fun to be in such a trial! “It is never pleasant to be forced to reject men—or to be rejected by them,” Dad observed. Fearing God and not men is often extremely unpleasant.
But, Dad pointed out, going through persecution is the very thing that teaches us how to put God first. Mr. Armstrong learned by his trials not to fear the future. None of us need to be afraid of what lies ahead because God will always see us safely through—when we trust Him. This ability to relax during trials is something that comes with time. Mr. HWA did not have that relaxed faith right away. Neither do we. But through letting God help us, by being delivered through trials and being able to look back and see His constant support, we grow in faith.
Luke 12:51-53; 14:26-27; 21:16-19
When we decide to live God’s way, there is a cost we must count—a price that comes with putting God ahead of everyone and everything else in life. For example, when the WCG changed its doctrines so as to conform to mainstream Christianity, it was because church administrators authorized such changes. They should not have done this because it had been Christ who put the doctrines into the church through His apostle, Mr. Armstrong. Human beings were now overturning what God had done. The question for our family, and for all members in the church, was: will you obey God or men? It gets hard when obeying God means losing friends, family or church!
1 Corinthians 7:12-16 shows that religious tension can be so great that it affects marriages. The Bible teaching is that those who are called by God must put God first. They should do all they can to please their mate, to hold the marriage together, but to allow the unbelieving mate to leave if they cannot bear the true religion. Keep yourself pure. Remember how Solomon's wives turned his heart away from God, and how Adam followed his wife into disobedience. We must put God first.
When you put God ahead of your family, it sets the family members a good example. It’s important. Look at Deuteronomy 13:1-11. The principle of “putting God ahead of family” has always been in place.
Remember that no human can give you eternal life. No minister can, either. All of us—lay members and ministers—must go to God for His Spirit. That is the only way to eternal life. Mr. Armstrong shone in the area of faith in God and putting Him first. It was outstanding, relaxed faith.
Isaiah 51:7-8 shows us that trusting in man and following the way of man’s devising leads to death, whereas following God’s way leads us to life. People are merely human beings—temporary. God is forever. These verses indicate the importance of following God instead of men. The entire human race is "less than nothing" to God (Isaiah 40:12-17). Continuing in Isaiah 51:12-13, we notice the principle that Satan can use humans to stir up trouble, but that when this happens, we should keep on putting God first. God alone is able to give us eternal life. Matt. 10:28 ties into this: God alone is able to put any of us into the lake of fire—to cause a permanent end.
A BIG lesson to learn for all eternity is to resist peer pressure! Psalm 51 describes the bitter repentance that follows when we yield to temptation. Ezekiel was told to be strong and refuse to cave in (Ezekiel 2:6-8; 3:7-9). Jeremiah, during one very difficult period of his life, began to waver in faith, but God shook him out of depression through a stern rebuke (Jeremiah 15).
Jeremiah 15:20 and Lamentations 3 (whole chapter) reveal just how deeply persecution can affect God's people. But trials do something good for us—they help develop holy righteous character within us. That character is what we need—what God wants to see in our hearts—so that we can inherit eternal life and become useful, productive members of His divine kingdom.
At the time, the purpose for trials is usually not apparent. You have to take it on faith that God intends it to work out for good in the end (Hebrews 12:11; 1 Corinthians 10:13; James 1:2-4). It is in retrospect where you can see that the trial had a good purpose. There is never joy in having the bad part of your character cut out. But when the part that remains is pure and good, it is a beautiful thing.
Trials often reveal our character flaws. Job’s trial showed that there was a problem in his heart, which wouldn't have been apparent if he'd continued to have an easy life. Some trials do that, specifically: they bring you to your breaking point and reveal that you have a way of thinking that needs to be removed before God will give you eternal life. In any trial, you need to endure it with patience. Trust God while you don’t have the answer. Waiting for that answer is what builds the good inside. What good is a trial that doesn’t "get to" you?
When we react to trials by complaining, we are exhibiting poor character. While Jesus was suffering on the cross, He never complained. By contrast, the ancient Israelites seemed to complain every time a trial came along. As a result, they were not allowed to enter the promised land (Numbers 14). God won’t have any "rotten apples" who will "spoil the barrel" in His family. Complaining is an open door for Satan’s spirit. No complainers will make it into God’s kingdom.
In any true Christian's life, there will be trials that will test us, tempt us to become discouraged, and force us to exert willpower in order to resist and overcome evil. But in all of this there is good news. God will remove a trial once it has accomplished its purpose. See Lamentations 3:21-39, Job 41-42. And the even better news is that "the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18)! Everyone who overcomes stands to inherit an eternal life of peace and happiness. Even in this present life, God is happy to bless us for developing good character. Consider the life of Joseph in this regard.
A final note: trials do not necessarily mean that you “did something wrong,” as if God were punishing you for making a mistake. God forgives our sins of weakness every time we confess and repent of them (1 John 1:9, Matthew 18:21-22). But we must learn to overcome sin, and never sin out of an attitude of rebellion (1 John 3:4-9, 5:16-18, Hebrews 10:26-27). A one-time error for which you’re immediately sorry is not something that would cause God to send a trial to correct you—it is the habitual flaw in your character, the sin which is not overcome, given sufficient time, which is in need of the correction found in a trial.
Thus, trials don’t necessarily mean that you have a horrible character flaw. God may be adding more good character onto what you already have. You might simply lack something God deems necessary. Sometimes God allows trials to prove our faith. He will always see us through our difficult times. Look at Daniel when he was sent to the lions’ den. Was Daniel scared when he was cast into that pit? Most certainly! But God saved him. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego didn’t even know for certain if God would save them. They knew that He could. He did!
So have faith, trust God, and don’t fear men.
This Bible study was given by Matthew Kalliman on 8/14/09