Video of this worship service can be found here: https://youtu.be/t5u9MdvdDYg
Whom Do You Trust?
February 13, 2022*
By Pastor John Partridge
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Do you remember the television game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
On that show, you earned money by answering multiple choice questions that increased in difficulty as you advanced. And, as the questions got harder, players had the opportunity to use three “lifelines.” They could ask the audience, they could reduce the number of possible answers from four to two, or they could phone a friend. Today, I want to think about that last one. Imagine that one question might stand between you and a million dollars. And that’s what every contestant had to think about when they had the opportunity play the game. Choose one person, and a million dollars hangs on their ability to answer one random question. And in that moment of decision, those contestants had to ask themselves, “Whom do I trust?”
In a variety of ways, we answer that question all the time. Whom do we trust to educate, or to babysit, or provide medical care, for our children? Whom do we trust with the money that we save for our retirement? Whom do we trust to run our government, church, or social club? Whom do we trust with our friendship, or our medical care, or a host of other things? The stakes of our decisions are high because our lives can, literally, hang in the balance. That’s exactly what we find in our scriptures for today. We begin with the words of God found in Jeremiah 17:5-10. Lives hang in the balance, but whom do you trust?
5 This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6 That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8 They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
9 The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
10 “I the Lord search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.”
This is incredibly relevant to us in the twenty-first century. God doesn’t say that we are cursed for trusting any one person, but we can be cursed by God for putting the fundamental trust of our lives in any human, in any person, other than God. We must not put our trust in politicians, or in human governments, or in television, radio, or internet personalities. Humans fail. Humans disappoint. Humans can be selfish and turn away from God. If we want our lives to be blessed by God, then we must trust our lives to God and put our confidence entirely in God.
At the end of the day, God says, our reward is based on merit. Our reward isn’t based on what we thought, but on our deeds. In other words, our reward is based upon what we do. And please note, that this statement about rewards is not written in the past tense. This is not a judgement by God after our lives are over, but rewards that God gives while we are alive.
In Luke 6:17-26, Jesus delivers a message that is known as the Sermon on the Plain, and in that message, Jesus also has something to say about trust.
17 He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.
20 Looking at his disciples, he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
Untold thousands of sermons have, undoubtedly been written about Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain but let’s think about its meaning in light of today’s focus on trust. Jesus says that the poor, the hungry, and the weeping are all blessed by God and most everyone will admit that this always sounds a bit odd. But as we think about trust, doesn’t it make sense that the poor are blessed, because they trust God for their daily living. The hungry trust God for their daily food. Those who weep lean on God for strength and we all cling to God when the people around us hate us, exclude us, insult us, and reject us. Likewise, the richer we are, the more comfortable we get, when our bellies are full, and when we are laughing and surrounded by friends, it is easy for us to put our trust somewhere other than God.
The emphasis of Jesus’ message is that we needn’t worry when things aren’t going well. None of us want to be poor, or hungry, filled with sorrow, or hated by the people around us, but our primary concern should never be for our comfort or our popularity. Our primary concern should always be about our relationship with, and our trust in God.
And in 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, Paul shares a message for his church that remains strikingly relevant in a twenty first century world that doubts the resurrection just as much as it did two thousand years ago. Paul says…
12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Then, like now, there were people, even preachers, that said Jesus had never been raised from the dead. They may have said that Jesus never really died, or that the resurrection never happened, and Paul could find folks with either of those opinions, just as you can now. But Paul makes it clear that if there is no resurrection, then all of Christianity falls apart. Anyone, and certainly any preacher or teacher, that says that the resurrection didn’t happen is a false witness. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then we have no hope of resurrection, no hope of eternal life, and everything that we have believed, and our life’s work, has been a waste. Were that true, Paul says, our trust would have been completely misplaced, and we would be the most pitiable people in the world.
But Jesus did rise from the dead.
And that, Paul says, is the foundation of our faith, our church, our mission, who we are, and everything that we do. It is in Jesus Christ that we have placed our faith, and in whom we have put our whole trust.
Twenty centuries ago, the temptation was for people to put their faith and confidence in the Caesar, or the emperor, national governments, powerful armies, wealthy patrons, money, or false gods. And, although the names of the politicians, nations, and false gods may have changed, the things that tempt people away from God haven’t really changed that much. We’re still tempted to trust politicians, parties, national governments, powerful armies, employers, wealth, popularity, and other gods instead of the one true God, the creator of everything. Poverty, hunger, sorrow, and persecution, are not now, nor have they ever been something that anyone wants for their life, but they all have a way of clarifying our trust. The lesson isn’t that it’s good to be poor, but that the most important thing is to put our whole trust in God and to keep God in the center of all that we do, and all that we are.
We still wonder whom we can trust, but ultimately the answer is a lot more important than a game show and is worth a lot more than a million dollars. Times changed and the people of the Old and New Testaments would feel lost in the world of the twenty-first century, but wisdom doesn’t change. The wisdom of scripture is just a true today as it was two thousand, or even three thousand years ago.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online). These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.