Unlike other gods who can do the impossible, our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, can do the seemingly impossible. The things that he can do are so much greater than what we can think and ask for. The power that he possesses is beyond our ability to comprehend.
His character cannot be adequately described in a few words. There are no words to describe how amazing he is.
As Christians, many of us have a hard time believing that God can and will do good things for us, especially the things we don’t think we deserve, and that we are capable of such good things from Him. Let me just say for the sake of argument that our unbelief in God’s goodness, mercy, and power will never be limited by our unbelief. According to 2 Timothy 2:11-13, we are told:
Let’s take a look at some of these biblical characters who trusted God.
Jacob: Trusting God when you’ve messed up
Whenever you feel discouraged by your own flaws or mistakes, read the story of Jacob if you want to feel better about them. He is one of the best examples of someone in the Bible who kept messing up, causing conflict, and acting selfishly. Although he had many flaws, God still chose him for something special despite the fact that he had many flaws.
It is fair to say that Jacob’s relationship with his brother Esau was complicated at best when he was a young boy. He was the one who stole Esau’s birthright (Genesis 25:27-32 NLT) and deceived their father into giving him the blessing that was supposed to be given to Esau (Genesis 27:14-27,30-38,41 NLT). The story of Genesis 32 tells about Jacob, who after years of being away from home, finally returned home. As soon as he heard that his brother Esau was going to meet him, he became frightened. Despite the fact that Jacob had grown and matured in a lot of ways over the years, now he was forced to face the consequences of his sins for the first time in his life.
9 And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. 11 Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. 12 But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”Genesis 32:9-12 ESV
Through out his life, Jacob had always resorted to running away from his problems in order to deal with them. The time had come for him to make a choice, but he did not know which one. The question was whether he would keep running, or would he trust that God would be able to help him, despite his many mistakes? In the end, he chose to turn to God, but it wasn’t an easy decision to make. In order to submit to and trust God, it took fighting and literally wrestling with him in order to do so:
The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children,and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel,7 saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”Genesis 32:22-30 ESV
Our past should not hold us back because God doesn’t want us to be held back by it, and He wants to help us to move forward from our past. He is willing to work with us through our pain and defenses to transform us into someone new by overcoming our pain and defenses.
In Jacob’s story, once you read to the end, you will see that Jacob reconciles with his brother after wrestling with God. Despite our mistakes and sins, trusting God with mistakes and sins can drastically change the relationship we have with each other.
Esther: Trusting God to act even when you’re afraid
In your life, have you been in a position where you had the chance or the responsibility to act and you were too afraid to take action? It could have been expressing your feelings, speaking up for a friend, or even speaking up to a friend that moved you to express your feelings. It is at these moments that we are most vulnerable to failure, rejection, and humiliation, and it is as a result that we are torn between deciding whether we should face those fears or freeze up or run away to avoid them.
Esther is one of the people in the Bible who understands this dilemma very well. There is no doubt that Esther felt a little out of her element, as a new, young queen. There was every reason for Esther to keep her Jewish heritage secret during a time when her people were exiled, as she just had to make ends meet and keep the Jewish faith hidden from everyone. As a leader, she was not someone who wanted to change the world in a big way or make big changes to society. As a young girl trying to survive, she was just trying her best to get by.
There was one problem, however, which she had to deal with. The right-hand man of Xerxes, Haman, had it out for the Jews, and persuaded the king to pass a verdict ordering the Jews to be killed on a certain date (Esther 3:12-13).
Mordecai, Esther’s cousin and adopted father, asked her to speak up for her people on behalf of the Jews. Her response was as follows:
11 “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.Esther 4:11 ESV
When Esther was given the opportunity to step forward and take the lead, she said, “No way! ”
When you are given the opportunity to take the lead, what is your response? When faced with a difficult situation, do you freeze up, run away, or blame others? If you are the one to act, you might come up with a lot of reasons or excuses as to why you shouldn’t be the one to take action. There was a valid reason for Esther giving the excuse she did – she might die as a result! However, Mordecai wanted to show her that the impact she was able to make was greater than all the risks she was exposed to.
14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”Esther 4:14 ESV
It was Mordecai who believed in Esther even when Esther didn’t believe in herself. She was helped to see the purpose and vision that God had for her, and he challenged her to take that leap of faith in order to reach that goal. Taking action as a result of this motivated her to take action.
16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”Esther 4:16 ESV
Despite Esther’s fear, she did not stop being afraid. As she spoke to the king, instead of being afraid, she chose to act regardless of her fears, and rallied her friends and family around her so that they would pray for her as she spoke to the king. The more you read about Esther’s story, the more you will realize that she speaks to the king and saves her people as you continue reading. In spite of the fear she kept feeling, she was able to push through anyway because her faith in God’s purpose for which she had been chosen was stronger than her fear of what lay ahead.
Deborah: Trusting God through the demands of life
There is no one size fits all when it comes to difficulty. There are times when a difficult situation isn’t an outright tragedy, but rather the busy chaos of trying to manage one’s life.
As we try to accomplish all that we want to accomplish on a weekly and daily basis, we can end up feeling worn out, disappointed, and never feel like we have accomplished anything.
As a very talented individual with an incredible range of abilities, Deborah was one of those people who seemed to be able to do it all. She is the first woman to be a leader, to be a judge, to be a prophetess, to be a wife, and to be a mother. In addition to that, she bravely led her people into battle while at the same time leading them with courage. Even though her life has been phenomenally inspirational, at times, it has left me feeling that I was unable to relate to it. I really don’t know how she did all of that.
Our job demands a lot of our time, and we do everything we can to ensure that our families are taken care of. Even though we might not have the title Deborah did, life still requires a lot from us every single day: resolving disputes, helping people with their marriage, finances, kids, and health, among other things.
It is no coincidence that Deborah’s family (the people of Israel) suffered from dysfunctions, just as so many of ours do as well. The only difference was the size of hers. There is no better example of how to handle the chaos of our daily lives than she can give us as an example.
14 And Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the Lord go out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with 10,000 men following him. 15 And the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army before Barak by the edge of the sword. And Sisera got down from his chariot and fled away on foot.Judges 4:14-15 ESV
I believe Deborah was able to believe and trust God in a way that can be hard for us to do. Throughout her life, she was able to experience the presence of God. It was her belief that victory was already hers as a result of God’s grace.
The more strongly I believe that God is in charge, the more satisfied I would be with my daily accomplishments if I believed that God was involved in every aspect of my day. In that case, I would not be so overwhelmed by the busy schedule of my life, but I would believe that I could cope with it as long as God was on my side to help me.
7 The villagers ceased in Israel;Judges 5:7 ESV
they ceased to be until I arose;
I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.
In her description of herself, Deborah described herself as the “mother” of Israel. Deborah’s care for the people she led was similar to a mother’s care for her own children, and as a result we can learn from her example. In spite of whatever demands were placed on her, she was motivated to serve the people despite whatever she had to do. In the end, what matters is caring for others more than the title, or the accomplishments you have achieved.
It is when I feel overwhelmed or worn out that I want to give up, but I keep going by thinking of other people I care about – my friends, my family, my neighbors. That helps me to keep going.
Deborah was a great example of this kind of person. Her relationship with them had become like a mother to her, and that was what kept her going through the tough times.
Zechariah & Elizabeth: Trusting God when a longing is unfulfilled
When a longing goes unfulfilled, it can be disheartening. If you are a married couple who have been together for a long time but are unable to have kids and live in a culture that measures God’s love for you according to the number of children you have, what would your experience be? As the title suggests, this is the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, a couple described as “very old” and “childless.”
Those people were examples of people who came to understand the agony of having their longings unfulfilled – the heartache of not being able to have what you long for for no apparent reason.
Is there something that you have longed for a long time that you have been denied? Maybe it’s a health issue that won’t go away, maybe it’s a child who refuses to listen to you, perhaps it’s a character weakness that cannot be overcome, or perhaps it’s a sin that plagues you and your relationships. There is no doubt in my mind that Zechariah and Elizabeth are aware of what is going on. It is also important to note that they are also able to remain faithful while waiting on God.
5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah,[a] of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,
16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”Luke 1:5-7,13-14,16-17 ESV
Among the many things that inspire me about Zechariah and Elizabeth is their ability to trust God despite the longing they are experiencing. It is obvious they trusted God due to the fact that they served Him and that He described them as righteous as a result of their actions.
While Zechariah was serving God in his role as a priest, the angel appeared to him with good news that he needed to hear. Despite the fact that he had unfulfilled longings for God, he decided to keep serving God despite the fact that it was hard for him.
When faced with adversity, what do you do? During times of adversity, if you are like me, and you endure adversity for any length of time, it can be easy for you to lose faith and quickly turn to self-pity and unbelief as a result. In turn, this leads to our stopping to pray and expecting God to move, thus causing us to give up praying. It is the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth that offers us a glimpse into the faithfulness of God, as well as how to live our lives with faith.
Despite Zechariah and Elizabeth’s long wait, God showed his faithfulness to them by working to bless their lives even after it took a long time for them to receive his blessing.
Additionally, Zechariah and Elizabeth lived their lives based on their faith and their conviction that God loved them and wanted to bless them. While they waited for their longings to be fulfilled, they had a desire to remain righteous and remain true to themselves to remain faithful.
By remembering God’s faithfulness in our times of waiting and choosing to live by faith ourselves, we can have hope during times of waiting.
Isaiah: trusting God through bad news
It was God’s choice to choose Isaiah over all other prophets in order to deliver an important message to the Israelites. Throughout history, God has set up His people for incredible futures of redemption and hope.
Isaiah was given a vision that horrified him both mentally and physically before all of that could happen. In this moment, it was vital that Isaiah trusted in the Lord’s faithfulness and the direction of His plan.
3 Therefore my loins are filled with anguish;Isaiah 21:3 ESV
pangs have seized me,
like the pangs of a woman in labor;
I am bowed down so that I cannot hear;
I am dismayed so that I cannot see.
My biggest fear is the fear of receiving bad news, which is one of my biggest fears. In my experience, the moment I hear bad news, I immediately go into worst-case scenario mode and I’m suddenly overtaken by torrents of anxiety and feelings of helplessness as a result.
It can be very difficult to pray during these times, especially if you are experiencing difficulties. It is natural for my flesh to seek relief in creating a plan or figuring out a solution, but what I have learned about going through difficulty is that it is an opportunity to transform what I pray for and how I pray for it.
Sometimes, as a result of minimizing and hiding my pain, I become hardened to it. My friends try to help me, but I get annoyed and even offended when they try to do so. I find myself unsympathetic and fake because I am resistant to vulnerability. I believe that Isaiah is one of the most inspirational books on the planet because he doesn’t hesitate to express his deep pain to God, and how hard it can be to hear and to see Him in the midst of all the turmoil and heartache. The more difficult things get for him, the closer he becomes to God.
3 And he said to me, “You are my servant,Isaiah 49:3-4 ESV
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”[a]
4 But I said, “I have labored in vain;
I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my right is with the Lord,
and my recompense with my God.”
Isaiah’s faith stayed strong despite bad news because he was honest about his doubt and frustration and he truly believed that God had a purpose for him, which I think played a part in the fact that his faith remained strong. Having faith that God chose me to help others learn more about Him challenges me in a positive way, and inspires me in a positive way. There is an intimacy between us and God that can only be achieved through our vulnerable prayers.
What is your approach to dealing with adversity? You might have been in my shoes, and if you have endured adversity for any length of time, it is easy to lose faith, and to turn to self-pity and unbelief in the midst of it. We often lose faith in God and stop praying and expecting God to act on our behalf as a result of this. Zechariah’s story is a story that illustrates God’s faithfulness, as well as what a life of faith means to a person who lives by faith.