“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”
If you’ve been in church for a while, you probably recognize Proverbs 3:5. It’s a favorite inspirational verse. It tells us God has everything in control even when we don’t see it. He has a plan even when we don’t know what it is. How many times have we heard in church sermons, Bible studies, and our private devotionals to not put trust in ourselves? When going it on our own, how many times have we disappointed ourselves? We cannot rely on our own strength or wisdom.
But an equally important lesson, in my opinion, is to not put our trust in other people. They can disappoint us just as much, yet I don’t think I’ve heard this message in church.
Think about it. When have you trusted in the ability of someone else to help you? You know you need help, so you look to someone else: a friend, a coworker, a counselor, your parents.
I do this. I expect a lot from people. If they say they will do something, then I expect them to do that thing. I’ve been disappointed a lot this way. Broken promises hurt, especially when you need help.
The problem is other people are just as weak and sinful as you are. Even if they appear on the outside to have life “figured out,” it’s an illusion. Trust me. No one is immune to mistakes or difficulties. And the truth is that, at times, people will fail you. We are broken and limited creatures. Sometimes it won’t even be their fault. It will be life circumstances: something urgent came up at work, their kid is home with fever, or they are looking for help just like you are.
The Bible tells us to not trust in people but to trust God. We need God every day, every hour, every moment. No one can replace Him. Yes, He can and does use other people to help us, but our help originates in Him.
Thus says the LORD:
‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.He is like a shrub in the desert,and shall not see any good come.He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,in an uninhabited salt land.Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,whose trust is the Lord.He is like a tree planted by water,that sends out its roots by the stream,and does not fear when heat comes,for its leaves remain green,and is not anxious in the year of drought,for it does not cease to bear fruit.’
What a contrast! Curse vs. blessing. A dry desert shrub vs. a well-watered green tree. Which would you rather have?
I recently read “Answers to Prayer,” a little book compiled from the writings of George Müller. He was a missionary in Bristol, England, during the 1800s. God called him to open several orphanages, and he accomplished this solely by prayer. Whenever there was need, he went to God. He would avoid talking about the need with others just so that God could get all the glory when He provided.
One time, a Christian man told Müller that he would give a donation once he received some money he was expecting. Six weeks passed by. No money. Müller then wrote:
I saw that such promises ought not to be of the value of one farthing, so far as it regards thinking about them for help. I therefore asked the Lord, when, as usual, I was praying with my beloved wife about the work in my hands that He would be pleased to take this whole matter, about that promise, completely out of my mind, and to help me, not to value it in the least, yea, to treat it as if not worth one farthing, but to keep my eye directed only to Himself.
After years in the Lord’s service, he had confidence that God would provide for the work to continue, whether that would be through this man’s promise or by another source. He determined to trust only in the promises of God. They had not finished praying before a letter came for him. It was someone writing to ask about where to send a large donation.
Müller continued, “Thus the Lord rewarded at once this determination to endeavor not to look in the least to that promise from a brother, but only to Himself.”
Then that afternoon, Müller received another donation. This time it was from the man who had spoken with him six weeks earlier. Even more surprising, his donation was much more than what he originally promised. The man had only received his expected money that same day and immediately forwarded a portion of it for Müller and his work.
Müller recorded his experiences such as this one as an encouragement to every believer. He continued relying on God alone until his last breath at 92 years old. In his lifetime, he established five orphanages that could together care for and educate up to 2,000 children at once. It’s estimated that he helped over 10,000 orphans in all. He did this without ever soliciting people for help. He only prayed to God and trusted in His promises. He wrote:
I desire that all the children of God who may read these details, may thereby be led to increased and more simple confidence in God for everything which they may need under any circumstances, and that these many answers to prayer may encourage them to pray, particularly as it regards the conversion of their friends and relatives, their own progress in grace and knowledge, the state of the saints whom they may know personally, the state of the church of God at large, and the success of the preaching of the Gospel.
To read more about God’s work in Müller’s life, you can download for free “Answers to Prayer” and five other narratives by George Müller from www.gutenberg.org.
I’m challenged and humbled by Müller’s example. I desire to pray as he did, fully trusting in God to fulfill His promises. There are two more notes to add here though. First, he regularly searched the Scriptures for God’s promises and will. His confidence in his petitions came from what he knew about God, and he trusted God to provide nothing more or less than what was promised in His Word. Second, there’s a difference between trusting in people over God and asking people for help. While Müller resolved to not share his needs so that God alone could receive the glory, I do believe God answers prayers in a variety of ways. We can and often should reveal our needs, invite the community of believers to help us, and still trust in God alone to provide through whatever means He knows is best.
If God provided for 10,000 orphans in Müller‘s life, what more is He able (and wanting) to do in your life? What could he be waiting for you to ask?