The Fourth of July was an interesting day for me. My family went kayaking at 11 Mile Creek, as we typically do for family outings. Though it was perhaps, a bit more adventuresome than usual.
My brother and I did the first run and quickly ran into a few mishaps due to the high water levels.
First my brother capsized during a rough spot and was held under the water for a little bit and had to pull himself up with a log. That was pretty frightening, but we managed to retrieve the kayak and paddle and continue on our merry way.
Then came my turn for a mishap. We came to tricky stretch in the river where there was a downed tree and a boulder. Well, I made the mistake of going too slow between them and was pulled by the force of the current against the boulder. My kayak was so stuck that I couldn’t even budge it with all of my strength. I wound up having to ditch the kayak and swim the rapids. That was fun.
Well, I arrived on shore spluttering, wet, and angry. I told God, half seriously, half mockingly: “God, if that kayak got unstuck, I would trust You more.” I figured it was worth praying for since He was already showing me how He does answer prayers. For one thing, He kept us safe, which was my main prayer, and was quite amazing. For another, my dad was not angry at me at all, but gave me a classic prodigal-son-embrace, which was another pseudo miracle in itself. So I figured He might answer a stupid prayer for a stupid kayak.
Well, sure enough, God answered my half-hearted prayer in an astounding way, serving as a rebuke to my lack of faith, and as a testament to His faithfulness. An hour or two after I had to leave the kayak stuck on a boulder in the middle of white water rapids, we were driving by to check if it was still there before heading home, and to my astonishment it was no longer stuck, but on the opposite bank.
Now, this was truly remarkable for a number of reasons. I can’t stress enough how stuck that kayak was. It was wrapped around the rock, with a strong current holding it in place. At one point I held onto one end with all my body weight tugging on it, and it still did not even move. That boat was stuck and then it was free. Needless to say, I had plenty of cause for praising God that day.
Well, upon relating this story to some of friends later that week, I received a few positive responses, but also a few judgemental looks and a few asked me: “So your trust in God is conditional?” My first reaction to this question was slight frustration because it felt rather accusatory, but once I got past the initial zing, it definitely got me thinking.
Was I acting like a heathen because my trust in God is conditional? On the surface it certainly seems like a bad thing, from a Christian perspective, to say that you’ll trust God more if He does something for you. It sounds superficial, rather like you’re using God to achieve your own ends. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the mindset which is so ready to decry conditional trust as heathenistic might just be completely wrong.
I’ve come to realize that conditional trust is not such a bad thing afterall. What I mean is this: we should not be ashamed of the fact that we trust God more because He answers our prayers. Essentially it depends on the heart behind it. If indeed your motivation is an attempt to bribe God to get what you want, then that is a problem. However, if it’s just that your trust grows because of what God does, then that is the way it is supposed to be.
It is my conviction that God is pleased when our faith in Him grows because of His actions. He establishes a track record, so to speak, so that we will trust Him. He gave us Scripture, and all the stories of how He was faithful to His people, so that we would learn to put our trust in Him. What kind of a God would demand trust without backing His claim? Not Jesus Christ, I will tell you that much.
Whether we realize it or not, all trust is conditional. Our trust in something grows based upon its history. We trust a mechanic because he did a good job on our car. We don’t trust a mechanic that did a bad job on it. The mechanic establishes himself by his actions. In the same way, God earns our trust by His actions. Please note, I am not saying that God doesn’t deserve our trust because of Who He is, He definitely does, but what I am saying is that He goes farther than that and earns it anyway with His actions.
Our trust in God should be two-fold. Yes, we should trust Him, as my friends insinuated, just because of Who He is. But beyond that, we should trust Him because of what He’s done. We should trust Him because He died for us on the Cross. We should trust Him because He rose from the dead. We should trust Him because He did miracles for His people again and again. We should trust Him because He still answers our prayers today.
I did have faith in Him before my experience in the river, but because of it, I now have more, and I am not ashamed of that. We shouldn’t be afraid to admit that we trust God more because He answers our prayers. God is jealous for our trust, and He rightfully demands it because of Who He is and what He’s done. It’s not a bad thing to give Him more of our trust because He does good things for us.