Of Trust And Distrust

October 3rd 2023

I’ve often argued that the greatest attribute of spiritual maturity is this—a growing trust in God. Certainly, the work of sanctification, or being set apart by God toward holiness, is the backdrop of this. But trust itself is the mark of continued belief. Trusting him is a gauge of belief, and belief, along with repentance, a true gauge of our very salvation (Mark 1:15).

In my next several articles, I hope to shed light on the activity of both trust and distrust in our lives. Today we’ll look at how to initially define and understand trust, along with a quick look at broken trust and the hope of trust restored. In the future, we’ll explore the workings of trust in other facets of life as well.

The Nature of Biblical Trust

As an action, trust is so profound that I believe we would experience sin-free living if we had fully perfected trust. Consider—with perfect trust there would be no sliver of rebellion against God’s good commands. No path to “my way” instead of his way. And yet my friend, you and I are still called repeatedly in Scripture to trust God. As we’ll see, it isn’t merely an option.

Simply put, trust is the continued outworking of belief in our life. In fact, trust itself could be seen as synonymous with faith. No small importance! As Pastor Jon once said, “Faith is not commanding God to do your will. Faith is trusting God when he does his will.” In fact, I think we could rightly understand trust as the activity of faith. The two are inseparable. The great Puritan, Stephen Charnock, said that, “We must first believe that he is, and that he is what he declares himself to be, before we can seek him, adore him, and devote our affections to him.” Charnock seems to tie our entire ability to love God to our belief, or trust, in him. This is no small thing when we consider the greatest command (Matt 22:37–38)!

The Sin of Active Distrust

But with sin comes distrust. The two go hand in hand from the very beginning. You may recall Eve being tempted to distrust God and to put her trust in the serpent’s words (Gen 3:1). Don’t we all exhibit this nature still, in our flesh, being born of Adam? The fact that sinlessness is not ours until our glorification, is a testament to our constant state of distrust in this life, bringing with it the temptation to question God’s sovereign hand and plan. I call this an “active” distrust. A sin that is active in our lives and even actively pursued. This distrust is an ever-present stumbling block to our peace with God and with others. As Christians, we should ask ourselves: Are we continuing to believe, to trust, after our salvation?

The Reality of Broken Trust

We don’t have to look far, usually as close as the nearest mirror, to see how distrustful mankind can be. We have all experienced the pain and suffering of being lied to, manipulated, and falsely accused. And as the mirror suggests, we too have seen flavors of these sins in our own lives. This is our life outside the church, and sadly, it can be found within the church as well. Conflict exists, testing occurs, and expectations are broken. And did I mention pride and self-centered dispositions? The truth of Romans 3:23 is true for the believer as well as the unbeliever, that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” a truth that applies to the most faithful, longstanding leader and the first-time visitor.

The Apostle Paul confronted this more than once. To the church at Galatia, he gives the warning that, “…if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Gal 5:15). Paul gives us clarity that sinful actions and attitudes have destructive outcomes. In fact, the Greek for devour (κατεσθίω) and consume (ἀναλίσκω) speak of consuming in a destroying manner. Paul is warning here not to take a relationship, break it down to waste, and then eliminate it.

Sinful offenses have likely impacted us all somewhere within the body of Christ. Direct attacks, manipulation, not believing the best in one another, and many more examples. And it’s good to remember that even if you truly were the victim of someone else’s sinful actions, you will be tempted to filter that suffering back through your own sin nature. Sometimes magnifying it in the process!

The reality is this: broken trust exists everywhere in this life, including the church. God’s church is made up of his yet-to-be-sinless kids. When we encounter situations where trust in people is testing us within the church, we are wise to remember that this is simply a product of a greater problem—trusting God, with people, is hard! And this impacts all of life, right? Marriage, family, work, school, even entire nations. And lest you run the popular route of seeing sin in others but not yourself, remember the wicked servant of Matthew 18:23–35, to remember the grace we have received. To humbly cry with Paul, “Wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death” (Rom 7:24)?

The Hope of Restored Trust

So, with this backdrop of broken trust all around, how then do we find hope? We find it in our first love, our Savior, Jesus Christ. The glories of Christ are without end. He’s a restoring Shepherd (Ps 23:3), a humble Servant (Mark 10:45), and a sovereign Lord (Matt 28:18). God is perfectly and forever trustworthy, so it’s not a necessary function to restore his trustworthiness. Rather, our trust is restored when we fix our gaze on him and turn from areas of distrust. Our active distrust requires a turn toward an active trust in a sovereign Lord.

Consider the church specifically. Jesus told Peter in Matthew 16:18 that he, Jesus, would be the builder of the church, that even the powers of hell would not prevail against it. We see this great Husband of Ephesians 5, who loved his church sacrificially, and promises to “sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:26–27).

As I like to share often, God is infinitely sovereign, and his affections are for us. Toward us, his adopted children, he is lovingly sovereign. God is the Creator who spoke existence into existence (Gen 1:1; Job 38:1–4). God is the only God and will accomplish all his purposes (Is 46:9–11). He is the one who causes all things to work together for true good, the work of conforming us into the image of Christ (Rom 8:28–29). And specifically calling us by name, this is the work of him who loved us and laid down his life for us (1 John 3:16).

Brother, sister… are these the things you hold true still today? Was trust, was faith, once placed and then forgotten? Jesus rightly says that in this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33). That tribulation is real and can cause us to focus more on the impact of sin and suffering in our relationships than to focus on our Savior. Be encouraged to repent of any areas of distrust in your life. To run back to the loving sovereignty of Christ in all things. Yes, we are all called to be trustworthy, and yet we can only really place our full trust in Christ, not man. And remember that beautiful picture of being washed, to be made clean because of his cleanliness? That cleansing is ours as we confess, in agreement, that we have actively distrusted, and we turn, instead, to actively trust our trustworthy God.

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Author: David Mataya

David serves as the Pastor of Discipleship at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, Arizona. He is a trained biblical counselor (CCEF @ Westminster Theological Seminary) and oversees counseling and small group ministries at Redeemer. David has served in a variety of ministries in previous churches, as well as having an earlier career in technology. He and his wife, Colleen are now empty nesters with two adult children, Morgan, Riley, daughter-in-law Bailey and grandson Owen.