In God We Trust
Dr. Keith Wagner
The actress, Helen Hayes, tells the following story in her autobiography. It was Thanksgiving Day and she was cooking a turkey for the feast. It was the first time she ever attempted to cook a turkey. Before serving she made an announcement to her husband, Charles, and her son, James. She said, “Now I know this is the first turkey I have ever cooked. If it isn’t any good I don’t want you to say a word. We’ll just get up from the table and go to a restaurant.” Then she returned to the kitchen. When she entered the dining room with the turkey her husband and son were seated at the table with their coats and hats on.
Obviously, her family didn’t trust her cooking skills. When it comes to putting our trust in someone or something, we often do the same. The Hayes family had already made up their mind. Unfortunately, they didn’t even try.
Why is it so difficult to trust? Sometimes we are afraid. The road seems dark and treacherous and often impossible. Isaiah’s task was to give hope to a people who were desperate. God had been angry and displeased with them because they did not listen, they did not trust. Here we find Isaiah being a role model for them saying, “I will trust, I will not be afraid.” He was giving them hope and assurance, wanting his people to trust God as he did.
When I was about twelve years old I had an opportunity to make a speech in front of my church. At that time there was a movement that encouraged youth to give a mini-sermon. I wanted to, and some of my friends did it, but I was afraid. I was afraid that people would laugh at me or that I would make a mistake. Fear held me back. Now, some forty years later, I have hundreds of colleagues scanning my messages for ideas for their Sunday sermons.
It wasn’t a simple journey that enabled me to overcome my fears. It was long and arduous. One that took me through two other careers, years of education and training. Perhaps it is hard for us to put our trust in God unless we experience instant results. Fear causes folks to give up prematurely or never try in the first place. Putting our trust in God means we are committed for the long haul and we don’t quit just because the waters get a little rough.
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A second reason we don’t trust is because we have had a negative experience. We may have tried but it didn’t work out so we let that one event hold us back. When Thomas Edison invented the light bulb he tried over 2,000 experiments before he got it to work. When a young reporter ask him how it felt to fail so many times, he said, “I never failed once. I invented the light bulb. It just happened to be a 2,000 step process.” Colonel Sanders went to over 1,000 places, trying to sell his chicken recipe before he could find a buyer. Seven years after he convinced a buyer to invest in his 11 herbs and spices he sold his fried chicken company for $15 million.
Experiences that are negative are due to the blindness and fear of others. We trust when we believe in ourselves and continue to move forward not knowing when someone will finally say “yes.” Isaiah the prophet was most always rejected. People thought he was crazy and few were willing to listen to his message of hope. But, Isaiah believed that in spite of overwhelming odds, a faithful remnant would keep his message alive and that God would keep the faith alive by working through the hearts of a small minority of people.
When we trust we also believe in the element of surprise. The nation was shocked this past election day when Jesse “the body” Ventura, became the new governor of Minnesota. He defeated both the Republican and the Democratic candidates. He pulled off a major political upset and surprised the entire nation.
I don’t think that people today expect surprises. Everything is so calculated, so pre-determined that we live our lives with the same old routines, resisting change and just sort of going through the motions. We don’t think we can make a difference, we don’t believe God will intervene. It is though we are conditioned to ignore the possibility that God just might surprise us.
Isaiah says that “with joy we will draw water from the wells of salvation.” In other words, God has abundant resources and God’s grace is infinite. We trust God when we believe that anything is possible. I teach my college students in my counseling class, to always assume that every client has the potential and resources to overcome their problems. Our task is not to fix them but to help them discover what they already have.
Finally, we trust in God when we dream. Dreamers always scare us since they seem so far off base, even weird. When I came to this church I was asked if I had a dream. I stated that I wanted St. Paul’s to be “A voice in the community.” I wanted us to be the E.F. Hutton of the Church in our community. We now have a weekly radio program and my weekly sermons are available on the World Wide Web. But there is more. We have grown as a congregation, expanded our missions, yes – increased our budget and we are still dreaming.
Every coin and every dollar bill in our pocket has the words, “In God We Trust.” For every purchase that we make, for every transaction that we make we pass these words on to another person. But, do we really live by them? Every exchange that we make, every step that we take, every commitment that we make requires trust. God wants us to trust, even when we are afraid. God wants us to try again in spite of those negative experiences or “negative” voices of others.
God offers us an abundance of resources, a well, that will never run dry. God gives us a renewed spirit with a word of hope, abounding grace and unconditional forgiveness. We can put our trust in God because God is always in our midst. “For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel,” proclaimed Isaiah.
And God wants us to dream, giving our creative wheels the freedom to turn, taking steps forward with confidence and patience. The more we commit ourselves the greater the possibilities. The more we try the greater the reward. The more hope we instill in the lives of others the more we realize the Kingdom of God. When you make your commitment today, don’t think to yourself, “Here is my fair share.” Rather, make your commitment with these words in your heart, “In God I Trust.”
Copyright 1998, Keith Wagner. Used by permission.