Learning to trust and obey God means giving up the illusion of control and connecting to His power source. Why is this so difficult?
The story of Noah’s ark and the flood is probably familiar. (Genesis chapters six through nine.) But imagine devoting yourself to what others call a ridiculous project and bringing it to completion in the midst of mockery and criticism. He builds a Titanic in the middle of the desert because God told him an epic flood was headed his way. Others know about this, because Noah has neighbors, but he was the only one who heeded the warning. What compels him to obey God when no one else around him is doing so? If only he could be time-machined to the 21st century. Barbara Walters would secure the exclusive interview.
Joseph, youngest son of Jacob, enjoys being the favorite until his older brothers sell him into slavery when he’s just 17 (Genesis chapters 37-40). Favored by God, he still has to deal with idiot Potiphar, seduction from Potiphar’s wife, and jail for nearly 10 years. Didn’t Joseph ever despair, demanding to know why God placed him in such difficult circumstances? If so, scripture does not record this. My Bible commentary says his positive response in every tough spot transformed each setback into a step forward. He doesn’t spend much time asking why (like I do). Instead, he asks “What shall I do now, God?”
My personal favorite, David, does ask why. He also asks God how long and complains. While Saul still has the throne, David is secretly anointed as Israel’s next king. The promotion, however, does not go into effect, until another 10 years. Meanwhile, Saul finds out, jealousy and paranoia consume him and he issues a hit on David. But David has no intentions of overthrowing Saul. He’s running for his life, hiding in caves and definitely despairing and expressing serious discontent to God (I Samuel 21). Doesn’t this sound like last Friday’s episode of “Days of Our Lives?” I haven’t even gotten to the murder and adultery part yet. David spills his emotional landscape within the Psalms. He almost always begins in panic and despair, then moves toward ideas and suggestions for God to ease his predicament. He generally concludes with thankfulness, praise and trust (Psalms 54, 55, 56).
What can I learn from the stories of Noah, Joseph and David? They trust God and keep a single-minded focus on Him. Despite mockery, ridicule, and well-intended suggestions that their energies are better suited elsewhere, they trust and obey God. When they have no idea what’s happening, are frustrated and nothing makes sense, they trust God. Even though they did not have access to the same scriptures we are blessed with, they know enough to listen to God’s calling. They attribute all their success and victories to God.
Both Joseph and David know at a young age that God had chosen them for special purposes, yet they are far from perfect. They do not blame setbacks, failures and mistakes on God. Desperate times find them not cursing God, but offering the appropriate sacrifices at the appropriate time with contrite hearts. Regular confession and repentance of their sins free them to experience true joy and peace and they never take action without God’s blessing.
I think God raises up anyone who professes belief in Him to do great things for His kingdom. But among the first lessons taught are trust and obedience.