Trust is earned through acts of faithfulness and a track record of dependability. If our trail guide gets our backpacking team safely up the mountain, then we can probably trust him or her to get us back down in one piece as well. The same is true with God.
Our trust in God for the future is anchored in the faithfulness of God in the past. In the story below, Samuel cries out to the Lord to rescue the Israelites from their enemy the Philistines. After the Lord answeres his cry for help and intervenes on their behalf, Samuel sets up a special stone of remembrance and makes a powerful statement. Here’s the story:
1 Samuel 7:7-8, 10, 12
When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. They said to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” …He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him… That day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and thew them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites… Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer (meaning ‘stone of help’), saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
A couple noteworthy observations. First, Samuel sets up a stone of remembrance. Perhaps this a private stone to bolster his own shakey faith, or a reminder for the entire community, or both.
Second, perhaps somewhat strange to us, he gives the stone a proper name. (So go easy on the little boy at school with a pet rock.) As is typical in the Bible, names have meaning. “Ebenezer” means “a stone of help.” This stone is a visual reminder that God stepped in to help, to rescue from danger, to save from their enemies.
Third, and most emphatic in this text, is the statement Samuel utters as he sets up his Ebenezer stone: “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” What I hear in this phrase is a declaration of God’s trustworthiness “up until this point.” “Thus far” God has proven faithful. “Thus far” God has not let us down. “Thus far” his promises have been kept. “Thus far” He has provided for us what we need.
The implication seems to be that if God has proven faithful thus far in the journey, then we can also trust Him going forward into the uncertain future ahead of us. Again, our trust in God for the future is anchored in the faithfulness of God in our past.
What’s your Ebenezer? What personal moment or memory do you replay in your head to remind yourself of God’s faithfulness? When has the Lord helped you out of a pickle, saved you from an enemy, provided miraculously in a moment of despair? What story of God’s past faithfulness do you tell your children to reassure them that God is in the “help business”?
What’s my Ebenezer? This is a no brainer for me. As we choose to trust the Lord with this Vision to church plant in Mound, I merely have to remember a few years back to the Revolution ministry we started to be reminded of the many ways the Lord helped us. I trust the Lord with the future of Mound because I have seen his powerful hand at work in raising up a movement in Mound in the past.
He did some big things with very little back then. Therefore, I have great faith that he will do far greater things this time around as we have a much better support network behind us. My memories of the Revolution in Mound are my Ebenezer — my “stone of help” — that makes me want to declare confidently to all who have ears to hear: “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”