Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Ludolf Backbuysen, 1695
What allows one person to sail smoothly through the vicissitudes of life while others seem to be battered to and fro by these same storms? I have often wondered how the apostle Paul kept an even keel through his numerous trials, including actual shipwrecks (2 Cor. 11:25). In each case, an anchor seems to hold the person’s life in place when circumstances would threaten to capsize them. The anchor symbolizes where the locus of our trust is placed. If chosen well, this center of trust stabilizes us regardless of what we might have to face.
Our Ultimate Place of Trust
Our locus of trust is where we put our confidence in life. It is what we ultimately rely upon for our sense of well-being and safety. This place where we pin our hopes will either be a source of strength to us or a liability when confronted with adversity. If it can be easily threatened, we will be thrown into confusion, panic and anxiety during the ups and downs of life. On the other hand, if it is a place of rock solid reliability, we can rest secure and enjoy peace even when all around us is chaotic. Therefore, choosing where to place our locus of trust is critical for a happy, holy and flourishing life.
Christ our Example
Whenever we want to understand the ideal for mankind it behooves us to look to Christ. As the second Adam, He is the one who is the true human, the exemplar of humanity. Where did He put the locus of His trust? What enabled Him to fulfill His vocation as the savior and teacher of a world that despised and persecuted Him? I would like to start this inquiry by looking at where He couldn’t (and didn’t) place the focus of His trust.
Christ’s family heritage certainly didn’t provide a place of confidence. Born a bastard in a lowly manger to poor parents of a despised race, what little pride He could take in His background was ripped away as His own nation rejected Him at the cross. He never lived down His illegitimacy (John 8:41), and His blunt honesty made Him an enemy of most of the people (John 7:7). He wasn’t an honored son of His hometown, as if that would be worth anything (John 1:46). They were skeptical of Him and even tried to push Him off a cliff (Luke 4:16-30; Mark 6:3-6).
Nothing about His personal life allowed Him to take confidence. He wasn’t one of the beautiful people (Isa. 53:2). He wasn’t educated (John 7:14-15). He was poor. His only possession at His death was the shirt on His back, and what little wealth He had during His ministry was plundered by Judas (John 12:6).
His hope wasn’t dependent on a comfortable life. He gave up His career and the financial security associated with it. He was itinerate and couldn’t call any place home (Luke 9:58). He had to work at getting privacy. He was mingling a lot with sick people and in Gethsemane the stress got so bad He sweated blood (Luke 22:44). On top of all this, He was causing all kind of animosity toward Himself with His preaching and was constantly in danger of being killed (John 7:1, 25, 44).
James Joseph Jacques Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
None of His good works offered Him any security. Healing people was full of controversy and led to plots on His life (Matt. 12:10-14; Luke 14:1-4; Luke 13:10-16). He often had to defend His good deeds through the telling of parables. Those He ministered to were rarely grateful (Luke 17:17). After helping someone with a particularly difficult problem the people told him to go away (Mark 5:14-17). His generosity toward the outcasts of society only gave Him a bad reputation (Mark 2:16). Far from being thought pious, they said He had a demon and was considered smitten of God (John 8:48; Isa. 53:4). On the cross, they said with contempt, “Let God save Him.”
The crowds were only following Him for the bread and fish, and when He told them like it is they couldn’t take it and left (John 6:66). One minute the crowds were crying, “Hosanna,” and the next, “Crucify Him!” His brothers were not believing in him (John 7:2-7). And when He became popular they tried to get in on the limelight, which He had to correct (Matt. 12:46-49). John the Baptist doubted if He was the One at a certain point (Luke 7:19-20).
José Joaquim da Rocha [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
His disciples were ambitious and didn’t get the message, even wanting to call fire down on those who didn’t believe (Luke 9:46; Matt. 20:20-28; Luke 9:54-56). His main leaders couldn’t stay up to pray with Him at His darkest hour. Judas betrayed Him. Peter denied Him. Thomas doubted Him. And finally, He had to intervene with divine power when He was arrested because of Peter’s fleshly impulsiveness (Luke 22:50-51). Then they all fled, leaving Him alone. Clearly, He wasn’t going to find personal authentication in His mentoring legacy.
His trust in the justice system would be futile since they didn’t hesitate to break their own rules in trying a capital case by night and suborning perjury. Through all this, Christ’s trust was completely in the Father and His goodness. Yet, on the cross all evidence of even that was taken away from Him which led to His anguished cry, “Father, Father why have You forsaken me?” Though not abandoned by the Father, the apparent triumph of pain, shame and evil stripped Him of all outward assurances.
With a Loud Voice
In the face of no evidence and apparent absolute defeat, He entrusted Himself to the Father. “And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,’” (Luke 23:46). I find it interesting that it says that He cried out in a loud voice. His faith was bold and sure even in the face of hideous opposition and a total absence of encouragement. Truly, the locus of His trust was in God.
By Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
1 Peter 2:21-23 says, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” He didn’t sin, resort to deceit, revile or threaten when He suffered. Suffering happens because we experience a loss. And if the locus of our trust is in that thing we lose, we are tempted to sin, deceive, revile and threaten. Jesus entrusted Himself to the Father. His authority was not in His strength, but in His weakness. It wasn’t in His resources, but in His commitment to a Person – God. He placed His entire life in the Father’s hands.
Hands Off Trust
Our ultimate trust can’t lie in our talents, wits, riches, health or piety. These areas are under our control (or we think they are) and our temptation to place in these things our locus of trust stems from a lust for certainty. But these are as reliable as sinking sand and can never bear that kind of pressure. Neither can our trust rest in people: our parents, children, friends, church, leaders or country. Indeed, there is no certainty with people. Both freewill and the tenuousness of life teach us that.
When your locus of trust is in things or people, you are led around like one with a ring in his nose. Every disturbance throws you off balance and causes insecurity. You are being led from fear to fear. We need a hands off trust, a place of trust that is reliable and which is outside of our control. Like Jesus, the locus of our of trust must be in God. The old hymn, The Solid Rock, captures this eternal truth most beautifully:
The Solid Rock
My hope is built on nothing less, Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace; In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.
His oath, His covenant, and blood, Support me in the whelming flood; When every earthly prop gives way, He then is all my Hope and Stay. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.
When He shall come with trumpet sound, Oh, may I then in Him be found, Clothed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne! On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.
—Edward Mote (1797-1874)