by Peter Ditzel
An employee is charging personal items to her work expense account. A boy who is supposed to be asleep is reading with a flashlight under the covers. An adolescent girl who told her parents she would be sleeping over at her girlfriend’s house is checking into a motel with her boyfriend. A wife enjoying the attentions of a young man at work continues to lead him on by flirting. A husband on a business trip asks a woman he meets in the hotel bar up to his room. What do these people have in common? They have all broken trust with people who are expecting them to be trustworthy.
All relationships are founded on trust, and a relationship is impaired to whatever degree trust is lacking. This includes, not only earthly relationships, but also spiritual. If we could not trust God, what sort of relationship could we have with Him? Does it work the other way around?
Pistis=Faith, Trust, Belief
In most places in the Bible where we see the word “faith,” we can substitute either “belief” or “trust.” Actually, it’s often better to use these words because we have a better handle on them. “Faith” is one of those Latin-derived words that English speakers can find vague and airy. “Belief” and “trust” both come from Old English, and we know that they mean that we can take what someone says as true and that we can rest upon the person’s word and upon the person him- or herself. The Greek word most commonly translated “faith” in the Bible is pistis. It means “firm persuasion,” “confidence in,” “belief in,” “trust.” The common illustration is one of a chair. I can point to a chair and say that I have faith in it. But it’s all just talk until I sit in the chair. Then, I am showing that I trust it, and the chair is showing that it is trustworthy.
We know that we can trust God and Jesus Christ. Why? Because “God is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1:9; 10:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Hebrews 10:23; 1 Peter 4:19; 1 John 5:20). Revelation 19:11 pictures Jesus as the rider of a white horse, and calls him “Faithful and True,” which can also be translated, “Trustworthy and Truthful.” As the Bible says of Abraham, he was “fully assured that what [God] had promised, he was also able to perform” (Romans 4:21). Because of our human weakness, however, as trustworthy as God is, we would not place our trust in Him if He did not give us trust as a spiritual gift (Ephesians 2:8). Placing our trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior is like sitting in the chair. It is then that we receive the benefit—salvation; He holds us up.
Within the Trinity, Jesus is a faithful Son, even being obedient to the point of death (Hebrews 3:1-2; Philippians 2:8). He illustrates the trustworthiness of the three Persons of the Trinity to each other. Of course, He is also trustworthy toward us (Hebrews 3:5-6). Since the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are perfectly trustworthy, we can, therefore, put complete trust in them. This, of course, is essential in our relationship with God: “Without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to him, for he who comes to God must believe that he exists, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
But relationships work both ways. Can God trust us? Paul mentions that “it is required of stewards, that they be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). I know that we’re weak and frail and very imperfect, and I’m sure that God understands that. But shouldn’t we be trying to be trustworthy? Yes, we should. Why? Not for our salvation, as that depends not on our works but on His works who is perfectly trustworthy. We should try to be trustworthy because it is so foundational to all relationships.
Think of a believer who trusts God in all his doings, praying to God, talking with Him, walking with Him daily, studying His Word, trying to do everything according to God’s will, striving to avoid evil, loving his brethren and neighbors and even his enemies, and seeking the salvation of his fellow man. Now think of a believer (yes, he trusts in Jesus Christ as his Savior) who rarely prays, hardly thinks of God from one hour to the next, doesn’t seek Him when he makes decisions, easily falls into things he shouldn’t, and doesn’t put the good of others over his own convenience. Can these two people have the same relationship with God? Can they both know God and experience His love to the same depth and richness? I think we would have to answer, No. But there are more questions to ask. Which of these two can God use more powerfully? To which of these two can God give more responsibility? Which of these two will better understand God and His plan and, therefore, have a greater chance for satisfying happiness and true contentment in life?
I hope that we don’t want to just take salvation and forget the One who gave it to us. We should want a close relationship with God. To have that, God must find us trustworthy. Remember, our works don’t save us, but “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Jesus said, “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his lord has set over his household, to give them their food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his lord finds doing so when he comes. Most certainly I tell you that he will set him over all that he has” (Matthew 24:45-47); and He spoke in a parable of the master coming and telling the trustworthy servant, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21).
No employer wants an untrustworthy employee. Even more so, spouses want to have complete confidence in the fidelity of their mates. Parents want to trust that their children are honest. When the partners in a relationship see each other as trustworthy, they can rest in confidence and allow the relationship to grow in love, joy, happiness, and peace. Rather than suspicion and anxiety, they can concentrate on thinking good things of one another.
Notice the similar pattern in Philippians 4:6-8: “In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things.”
The Bible addresses our earthly relationships. “Servants,” you can substitute “employees,” “be obedient to those who according to the flesh are your masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as to Christ; not in the way of service only when eyes are on you, as men pleasers; but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men; knowing that whatever good thing each one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord, whether he is bound or free” (Ephesians 6:5-8). And, again, “Servants, obey in all things those who are your masters according to the flesh, not just when they are looking, as men pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God” (Colossians 3:22). In other words, be trustworthy.
Employers aren’t left out: “You masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with him” (Ephesians 6:9). “Masters, give to your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven” (Colossians 4:1). “Behold, the wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you have kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of those who reaped have entered into the ears of the Lord of Armies” (James 5:4). Be someone your employees can trust to treat them fairly.
The Bible gives simple instructions to children which, if they are trustworthy in them, will result in their happiness: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with a promise: ‘that it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth'” (Ephesians 6:1-3). The Old Testament command speaks of the reward as dwelling long in the Promised Land, but the inspired Paul alters the promise to long life. Not all who die young are those who dishonor their parents. But one need only think of all the young people who have died from alcohol and drug abuse, driving under the influence, and gang violence, to know that many who dishonor their parents die young. Earlier, I quoted a Scripture that says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Now read this: “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this pleases the Lord” (Colossians 3:20). Children, you may not see why your parents lay down the rules they do, but walking by faith is not walking by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Obey by faith. Live so that your parents can trust you, and the rewards in your life will be great.
Fathers, too, must encourage the trust of their children: “You fathers, don’t provoke your children to wrath, but nurture them [ektrephō—literally, “fatten them out”] in the discipline [paideia—”education,” “instruction,” “training”] and instruction [nouthesia—literally, “a putting in mind,” “to train by word”] of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This is speaking of education. “Fathers, don’t provoke your children, so that they won’t be discouraged” (Colossians 3:21). Fathers are not to stir their children into a rage, but to instruct.
Mothers are given a simple instruction: “love their children” (Titus 2:4). In the Greek, it is one adjective that says, “childrenlovers.” Children should be able to trust in their mother’s love.
What about husbands?
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the assembly to himself gloriously, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord also does the assembly; because we are members of his body, of his flesh and bones. “For this cause a man will leave his father and mother, and will be joined to his wife. The two will become one flesh.” This mystery is great, but I speak concerning Christ and of the assembly. Nevertheless each of you must also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
A wife should be able to trust in her husband’s love as we all trust in the love of Christ. Paul adds a little more in Colossians 3:19: “Husbands, love your wives, and don’t be bitter against them” (Colossians 3:19). It is apparently the natural, sinful reaction of a man to become bitter against, irritated with, his wife. This happens when he doesn’t cover her human frailties (something we all have) with love and, instead, perhaps even magnifies them out of proportion. Would we like it if Christ did that with us? No. In fact, it would cause us to not trust Him.
Peter gives more instructions to husbands: “You husbands, in the same way, live with your wives according to knowledge, giving honour to the woman, as to the weaker vessel, as being also joint heirs of the grace of life; that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). Win your wife’s trust by loving her and honoring her. Never give her cause to doubt your fidelity.
Wives are also “to love their husbands” (Titus 2:4). Paul also writes, “Wives, be subject to [hupotassō—”be subordinate to”] your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ also is the head of the assembly, being himself the savior of the body. But as the assembly is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their own husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-24). How could Christ trust the assembly if it were not subordinate to Him as its head? It is politically correct today for wives to be considered equal in the marriage partnership to their husbands. It is not biblical. There must be a head of the family, and the husband is the person God has put in that position. Peter agrees: “In the same way, wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; so that, even if any don’t obey the Word, they may be won by the behaviour of their wives without a word” (1 Peter 3:1). A wife is to be subject to her own husband (anēr—”man”). A wife is to be subject to her husband’s authority only, even if he is not a believer. If she works outside the home, she submits to a male boss only because her husband has given her permission. Paul repeats the instruction: “Wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18). In Titus 2:4-5, we see again that women are to be “in subjection to their own husbands.”
Preachers have sometimes been criticized for overemphasizing that wives are to be in subjection to their own husbands. But it is hard to overemphasize something for which four Bible references can be given. The implication is that wives can find submitting to their husbands difficult. After all, she can think, too—in some cases maybe better than her husband. And she daily sees her husband’s frailties. Why should she submit? Because God tells her to. It is an act of faith. It shows her trustworthiness.
All relationships, human and divine, either flounder or soar to great heights depending on the trust the partners have for each other. Let’s behave faithfully so that our bosses, our employees, our children, our spouses, and even our God can trust us.
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