Beckett: Has Our Technological Age Crippled Our Trust in God?

Yes, I believe it has.

In explaining the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods,” Luther writes, “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” Trust is the key word in this explanation. For the remainder of the Commandments, Luther begins each of them with, “We should fear and love God so that…” For Luther, trust in God is tied directly to this First Commandment. Our sole trust above all things ought to be in the right thing, which is Yahweh. Not your favourite politician, sports team, or even your favourite person in the whole world, but God—in Jesus.

Waiting = Trust

Trust is hard to define, I think. It’s an abstract term. More concretely, I believe trust has everything to do with waiting and patience. Take Psalm 27:14, for example, “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” And Isaiah 40:31, “but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

If you wait on someone, you trust they will arrive. When you order your food from the drive-through window, you patiently wait because you trust they’ll bring you the food you ordered. You wait at the doctor’s office because you trust your doctor will see you. You wait at the stoplight because you trust the light will turn green. And so on.

So, when Scripture calls us to wait on the Lord, it is also calling us to trust in Him. Often when we wait for things, we have to wait for a long time. That “fast food” drive-through might take 15 minutes for some reason, or the red light might be 5 minutes, or you might have to wait 45-90 minutes to see your doctor. Eventually, the end you desire comes—you get your food, the light turns green, and you finally see your doctor.

It is the same with God. The end we desire in Christ will come. Salvation will come. As the Lord said to Habakkuk, “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3). And as St. Peter wrote, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfil His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:8-9).

Fast Technology has Caused Impatience with God’s “Slowness”

I believe one of the greatest hindrances to Christian faith these days regarding trust in God has to do with the technological age we’re currently in. Think about it. You can hop on the nearest computer and even a smartphone and acquire access to virtually limitless information. Any information you desire is at the command of your fingertips.

What’s the best recipe for mac ‘n cheese? Google it. When was Alfred Dreyfus born? Google it. Who was Alfred Dreyfus? Google it. What does “pedantic” mean? Whip out your smartphone and open your dictionary app. What’s the weather like today and this week? Again, take out your smartphone or even look at your smartwatch!

Hungry? Microwave some food for 5 minutes. Bored? Turn on Netflix and instant stream a TV show or movie. Want to see a new movie? Rent it online and watch it instantly. Need more food? You don’t need to grow it or make it yourself. Simply drive to your nearest grocery store and buy food that’s already there waiting for you.

We can acquire many things instantaneously thanks to the Internet and other technological advances, still arguably new inventions. We are entirely accustomed to getting the things we want, if not immediately, then pretty darn close to it. It is no wonder, then, why trusting and waiting on the Lord seems to be a fruitless endeavour for many of us.

When we wait and trust in the Lord, we wonder, “How long do I have to wait?” Perhaps like the psalmist, we lament, “How long, O Lord?” (Psalm 13). A day? A few days? I think I can wait that long. A week? Sure, but I’m not gonna’ happy about it! A month? A few months? A few years? Decades? Centuries? No thanks!

Consider again Isaiah 40:31, “but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength.” At this point in Isaiah’s prophecy, he has spoken judgement against Judah and Jerusalem (chapters 1-12), judgement against the other nations (13; 15-16; 21), and even cosmic judgement (24-27). After all this judgement against Judah and their apostasy, Isaiah prophesies this Word of comfort: Wait on the Lord. Little did they know they would have to wait 70 years for the Lord’s deliverance from Babylon (Jeremiah 25:11; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21). Even worse than this, the Hebrew slaves waited on the Lord for 400 years before He came and delivered them from their suffering, which God forewarned Abraham about (Genesis 15:13).

Yet we can hardly wait 5 minutes at a stoplight before yelling at nothing, even though we can wait several hours in line for a movie premiere or the latest smartphone. Movies and TV shows depict people praying to God and expecting an immediate answer when the story of God’s people shows they often have to wait a long time for God’s answer. Sometimes it’s decades or centuries for God’s deliverance. It was several thousand years until the Messiah first came. So far, it’s been almost 2,000 years as we’ve been waiting for His second return and it may be another couple thousand before He returns again!

While we lose our temper whenever the Wi-Fi slows down a bit, Scripture tells us to wait on the Lord. For how long? God only knows. So, we abandon all faith. We abandon all hope. God is taking too long. Why trust and wait decades, centuries, or even millennia for God’s salvation when I can lose myself on a Netflix or pornography binge instantaneously? Why wait for God and His supposed promise of salvation when I can get everything I want right now?

Waiting on the Lord is Always Worth It

I’ve stated the problem: we are far too impatient to trust and wait on the Lord because we have grown accustomed to instant gratification in our technological age. So, what is the solution? I’m not radical enough to say we should stop using technology. In spite of its detrimental effect on our faith, it has its joys and usefulness. The proper solution, I believe, is repentance.

In repentance, three things happen. First, the Law convicts you of your sin, you recognise the wrong you’ve done, and you confess it to the Lord. Second, you have faith that God forgives you your sin because of what Christ has done. Third, the Holy Spirit changes your mind and behaviour—the fruits of repentance. The forgiven sinner does not return to his sin like the dog returns to its vomit (Proverbs 26:11). Therefore, after repenting of our impatience and unbelief, the Holy Spirit moves us to trust in the Lord and wait on His good and gracious will. (Remember it is Christ’s gracious forgiveness that marks you as a forgiven Christian, not the works of the fruit of repentance, as Calvinists would have you believe.)

If anything, we have assurance in His Word that waiting on the Lord is worth it. Although the Hebrew slaves had to wait 400 years for deliverance, it still came, and all in God’s perfect timing. It is the same thing with Israel’s Babylonian exile and the first Advent of Christ. These are only a few examples of when we see waiting on God come to fruition. So, too, as we wait on the Lord to send His Son to return for our salvation, not only will His salvation come at His perfect timing, but the waiting will also be well worth it. As St. Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

From the Scriptures, we have historical evidence that God always fulfills His promises. So, there is no harm in waiting on the Lord. We merely need to stop acting like spoiled brats who get virtually whatever they want almost instantaneously and trust the eternal Lord knows what He’s doing, for God never disappoints His people who wait on Him and His salvation.

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