The phrase “God helps those who help themselves” is a popular motto that emphasizes the importance of self-initiative but it does not appear anywhere in the Bible. (Wikipedia) I think a better version should be “God helps those who trust in Him” as the best way to help oneself is to have complete trust in the Lord. Many examples can be found in the Bible, the healing of the paralysed man (Luke 5:17-26), the centurion servant (Luke 7:1-10), the woman who had a haemorrhage (Luke 8:43-48) just to name a few. Conversely, we are told Jesus did not perform many miracles in his hometown because of their lack of faith (Matthew 13:58). Is faith the same as trust (verb form)? Can we assume that trust comes naturally with faith? Can faith be effective and fruitful without trust? To answer these questions we need a better understanding of the difference between faith and trust.
The word “trust” in the Bible is translated as “a bold, confident, sure security or action based on that security.” Trust is not exactly the same as faith, which is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Rather, trusting is what we do because of the faith we have been given. Trusting is believing in the promises of God in all circumstances (e.g. sickness, suffering, injustice, persecution) even in those where the evidence seems to be to the contrary (see Job). Hebrews 11 talks about faith, which is accepting and believing the truth that God reveals about Himself, supremely in the person of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, the practical consequence of faith in God is trust, which we prove by living out our full acceptance of God’s promises day by day. Furthermore, it is by this trust that we are promised peace: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3).
It is far easier to have faith in God then to have complete trust in Him. There are non-believers (e.g. agnostics) out there who have faith in God, they believe God created the world and all its inhabitants, but they are not sure which God to trust because they do not know Him. Here is an analogy to demonstrate the case in point. I am sure most of us would have seen performances by expert knife throwers who throw knives around the body contours of their assistants, missing them by inches. To engage the spectators, the knife thrower might ask the crowd if a second attempt would be as successful as the first. He might even increase the level of difficulty by blindfolding himself. Most of the time the crowd would agree unanimously having seen his earlier performances. What happens if the knife thrower invites someone from the crowd to take the place of his assistant? How many (if any at all) would respond to his challenge? The crowd might have faith in the skills of the knife thrower but it is a totally different thing to trust him with their lives. What if he misses due to some unforeseen circumstances?
Many of us have read what God has done for us in Scriptures. Some might have even witnessed or experienced miracles in their lives. We believe (have faith) in God but when we are asked to trust Him with our lives, how many of us will surrender ourselves completely to Him?
The classic verse regarding trust is Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” This verse sums up the Bible’s teaching on trust. First, it is the Lord in whom we are to trust, not ourselves or our plans, and certainly not the world’s wisdom and devices. We trust in the Lord because He and He alone is truly trustworthy (1 John 2:27). His Word is trustworthy (Psalm 93:5; 111:7; Titus 1:9), His nature is faithful and true (Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 25:10; 145:13; 146:6), and His plans for us are perfect and purposeful (Isaiah 46:10; Jeremiah 29:11). Furthermore, because of God’s nature, we are to trust Him with all our hearts, committing every aspect of our lives to Him in complete confidence. Finally, we are not to trust in ourselves because our understanding is temporal, finite, and tainted by our sinful natures. Trusting in ourselves is like walking confidently across a rotten wooden bridge over a yawning chasm thousands of feet deep. Disaster inevitably follows.
Trust in God is featured in many of the psalms of David. There are 39 references to trust in the Psalms alone, whether referring to trusting in God and His Word, or not to trust in riches or the things of this world. It is on the basis of this trust that David finds deliverance from all the evil he encounters. Many of David’s psalms describe situations when he was pursued by Saul and his army, as well as his other enemies, and the Lord always came to his aid. One thing that can be noted about biblical trust is that it always engenders further trust in God. The man of God never stops trusting in God completely (see 2 Cor 1:8-10; 4:16-18). His faith may be knocked, He may stumble, or He may fall into the foulest of sins, but “though he stumbles, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand” (Psalm 37:24). The man of God knows that, though trials will come his way, his trust will not waiver because that trust is based on faith in the promises of God: the promise of eternal joy with the Lord and the promise of an inheritance that “can never perish, spoil and fade” (1 Peter 1:4).
Hence, faith and trust are quite different concepts. Faith is a gift from God, but trusting God is a choice (see Sirach 2). We cannot trust someone we don’t know and that applies to God as well. Trust doesn’t just happen. It grows and develops over time. It all starts with a decision to trust—to believe in or put our faith in God. When presented with a situation where trust is needed we have to make a conscious choice to trust in God, and continue to trust in Him no matter what the situation turns out to be. Most of the time, our decision is based on the details of the situation and our knowledge of God. If our understanding of God is limited or we believe God doesn’t care or that He doesn’t intercede in people’s lives very much then our decision will be that we should not trust God in any situation. The reverse might be true, I believe that God will intercede in a particular situation because my understanding is that God is able to take care of this type of situation then, I may choose to trust God. The problem with this thinking is that I am comparing God (or my understanding of God) with specific situations and trying to determine if God is able to help or if God cares enough to help me. My trust is determined by the situation rather than by God. If this is the way I approach decisions about trusting God I will never completely trust Him.
I need to make the conscious decision to trust God in all parts of my life—in every situation that comes up—no matter how difficult. I need to continue to choose to trust God over and over till it happens naturally and I no longer have to decide whether I should trust God or not. It is automatic. No matter what situation arises I will trust God.
I need to understand that God is not surprised by the circumstances in my life. I know that God loves me. I know God wants what is best for me. I know God is all powerful. I have to reach beyond my feelings in the moment and choose (continue choosing) to trust God. That is how trust develops and grows.
God has not made Himself difficult to find or know. All we need to know about God, He has graciously made available to us in the Bible, His holy Word to His people. To truly know God is to trust Him. He has proven himself worthy without fail (Psalm 9:10).
Let’s take a look at some Bible verses with regard to trusting God: Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”; Matthew 6:31-33 – “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” So will you trust in God who loves you?