Back a few months while signing up for or trying to sign up for a bible study/reading plan several members are using, I came across one by Pete Briscoe. I had never heard of him before, but I knew of his parents Stuart and Jill Briscoe. Something about the devotional grabbed my interest and I subscribed. Here are the first two that came into my email, and they, and many since, resonate with where my faith journey is. Some stretch me a little more than I like (yes that is possible).
Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. — Martin Luther King Jr.
In the book TrueFaced, the authors present a dilemma. They ask us to imagine we’re walking on a narrow path—a thick, green, verdant wood with deep underbrush. But as we walk, the path divides into a very definite split.
One path is named “Pleasing God” and the other path “Trusting God.” They go off in opposite directions. We can’t walk them both at the same time, so we’re forced to choose. Which will it be: Pleasing God or Trusting God?
Let’s head down the Pleasing God path and see where it leads. It’s wide and filled with earnest, hardworking people. As we come around the first corner, there’s a sign that says: ALSO KNOWN AS THE “TRYING TRAIL.” That makes sense. On this trail we’ll do whatever we can to try and please God.
As we walk further, we see tables set up like water stations at a marathon. These tables are full of people giving advice on how to please God.
- The Bible Reading Table tells us which translation God prefers, which yearly Bible plan is most comprehensive, and at what time of day He is most tuned in to us.
- The Giving Table has several people offering several opinions. One tells us that a 10 percent tithe pleases God. Another insists that 10 percent is so Old Testament; to please God, we have to give more than 10 percent. Someone else teaches there’s nothing in the New Testament about percentages, but God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).
- The Parenting Table is handing out literature. And before we know it, we can’t see past the stack of parenting books piled high in our arms.
As we walk away, we still don’t know exactly how to please God. Where is our definitive answer? Friends, this is why it’s called the “Trying Trail.” All that human effort is frustrating and discouraging.
So let’s head back to the fork and take the Trusting God path instead. What’s the difference going to be?
Jesus, has my approach to our relationship been like a spiritual buffet as I try out various ways of making You happy with me? If so, I’m open to a new way. Amen.
All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
The problem with trying to please God is that we’re stuck wondering whether or not it worked. Defeated, our heart cries out: Is it even possible to please You? Show me a better way, Jesus. If we’re listening, His response will be something like, “Stop trying and start trusting.”
It seems counterintuitive to stop trying, but maybe if we finish our hypothetical walk, we’ll understand. This time, rather than walking the “Trying Trail,” we head down the “Trusting God” path.
As we round the first corner, there’s a man waiting: It’s Jesus.
“Yes!” he exclaims. “I’m so glad you’re here!”
“Why is this the right trail?” you ask. “I want to please You and trust You. Why didn’t ‘Pleasing God’—a.k.a. the ‘Trying Trail’ or ‘A Waste of My Time Trail’—work?”
“Great question,” Jesus says. “Walk with Me.”
As you walk, Jesus shares how the Trying Trail is a type of Russian roulette. We do whatever we can imagine and come up with all sorts of new ways in an effort to make God smile.
“But I’m never frowning at you,” Jesus explains. “I’m walking with you, asking you to do things with Me. And as you say yes, you learn to trust. The Trusting God path is the essence of life with Me. Do you remember what Paul wrote? He said, ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live … I live by faith in the Son of God …’” (Galatians 2:20).
Jesus places a hand upon your shoulder, “To trust is to live by faith, and that is what pleases Me.”
“So you don’t prefer the KJV over the NIV? Or grape juice over wine?”
“My preference is that you listen when I speak to you. Do you have your Bible with you?”
“Yes,” you answer.
“Good. I have something to say. Open it to Hebrews 10:38.”
It’s Jesus, so you do what He says. “My righteous one will live by faith.”
Lord, decrease the noise in my life so I can hear You. And may all You ask evoke a reflexive yes from me. Amen.