By Pete Charpentier, Louisiana College
I’m sure you’ve seen it. The image is simple, but the truth behind it is profound.
It’s the sight of a child at the point of “falling” into a father’s arms. Perhaps you’ve not only seen a picture like this; maybe you’ve acted it out with your child.
I know I did.
When my sons were young, I would stand below them while they stood on our kitchen counter. As I reached out my hands, I would ask them to leap into my arms.
While the distance between us was only a few inches, it must have seemed like miles to them. I could see their little minds wrestle with trusting me. They wanted to leap, but stepping into thin air was hard.
Yet, their safety was never in doubt. There was no way I was going to let them fall. My love, strength, and commitment to do whatever I had to do to catch them guaranteed their well-being.
You probably already know where I’m going with this, don’t you? The title of this article seems simple and foundational: We can trust our heavenly Father.
Every true believer reading this is probably already mumbling silently, “Sure, I know I can trust my heavenly Father. I learned this as a child in Sunday School. Please tell me something I haven’t already heard a thousand times.”
However, knowing we can trust God and living daily like we do trust Him are two totally different things! The reality is that we have opportunities every day to trust our heavenly Father, because the life of a disciple of Christ is a life of continual dependence upon Him.
This truth is clearly presented in Jesus’ Model Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13.
As Jesus teaches His disciples the famous “Sermon on the Mount,” He explains in Matthew 6:1-34 how they are different from others.
One of their main distinguishing marks is that they trust their heavenly Father. Since God is all-powerful and good, we can always trust Him. This truth is woven through every aspect of the Model Prayer.
For example, the first thing Christ teaches us to pray is for God’s will to be done (Matthew 6:9-10).
I don’t know about you, but many times I don’t begin my prayers this way! I usually begin with a flurry of personal requests, gushing from my anxious heart.
While there’s nothing wrong with bringing our requests before the Lord (Philippians 4:6), to always begin prayer with a barrage of needs without first focusing on God’s will may betray a lack of trust.
Why do we do this?
Is it because we feel as though we need to give God His daily “To Do List” for our lives? We must realize that our heavenly Father already knows our needs (Matthew 6:32). So we can rest in the fact that His will is perfect. We can entrust our anxieties to Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
Next, Jesus instructs us to trust our heavenly Father with our daily needs (Matthew 6:11).
Christ’s teachings go from soaring through the heavens to plunging to the depths of humanity. God is not uninterested in our needs, but He is more interested in the level of our trust in Him.
However, if we are honest, we find it very difficult to walk in a consistent posture of dependence.
We like having clear sights far into the future. It’s hard to trust God one step at a time. Yet this is precisely what the Lord desires.
Knowing the human heart, we would probably put our confidence in our plans if we knew too many details too early. By having to trust Christ daily, we experience the constant provision of our heavenly Father.
Also, Jesus challenges us to trust God with our spiritual neediness and hurts (Matthew 6:12).
Forgiveness is something we all need on more than one level.
First, we need God’s forgiveness because we’ve all sinned (Romans 3:23).
Second, we need to forgive others because we’ve all been hurt.
Christ, of course, is central for both aspects of forgiveness.
Because of His sacrifice, we can experience God’s forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7), and because of our salvation in Him, we can extend forgiveness to others (Ephesians 4:32).
But a crucial question still remains: Will we trust our heavenly Father in the matter of forgiving others?
Frankly, we often nurse our bitterness. We grow comfortable with our sinful resentment so much that we don’t want to release others to God or forgive them.
Yet, we must ask ourselves: Do we trust God to accomplish His work? Or, do we feel the need to clutch people in the merciless grasp of our unforgiving hearts until we’re sure they’ve paid the price for hurting us?
It’s been well-said that living with an unforgiving heart is like living in a prison cell.
We need to take the leap to liberty. We need to release those who’ve hurt us to the Lord and trust Him to work according to His perfect purposes in both our lives and their lives (Romans 12:17-21).
Lastly, Christ teaches us to trust our heavenly Father with our spiritual protection (Matthew 6:13).
We don’t know all the ways the enemy is prowling like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8), but we do know that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ (Romans 8:31-39).
We do not have to live in fear. We can live in faith, trusting our heavenly Father who is able to keep us secure to the end (Jude 24-25).
So, is the image of the child leaping into his father’s strong arms just a sentimental notion removed from the harsh realities of life?
Or, is it an accurate picture of our daily lives?
It’s no wonder that Scripture calls us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) because Jesus taught us how prayer can be a constant reminder of how we can trust our heavenly Father in every aspect of life.
Pete Charpentier is an assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry at Louisiana College’s Caskey School of Divinity.
Caskey School of Divinity was created with an anonymous $1 million initial donation after a Southern Baptist minister who tirelessly worked and evangelized in Louisiana, with the focus on training bivocational and smaller church pastors.