In God We Trust?
This message was offered at Wesley United Methodist Church (Culver, IN) on Sunday, November 11, 2012.
Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear, that together we might learn and be inspired to live your Word in the world. Amen.
The motto “In God We Trust” has been inscribed on our United States coinage since 1864 when it first appeared on the two-cent coin. The motto has appeared continuously on the one-cent coin since 1909, and the ten-cent coin since 1916. It has appeared on all gold and silver dollar coins, half-dollar coins, and quarter-dollar coins made since July 1, 1908.
On July 30, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law a joint resolution of the 84th Congress of The United States of America that officially approved “In God We Trust” as the national motto. This motto was first published on paper currency in 1957. The one-dollar silver certificate bearing the adage was put into circulation on October 1, 1957.
The motto has been reaffirmed by The United States government several times. It was most recently affirmed by Congress in 2002, by the Senate in 2006, and by House again just last year (November 1, 2011). In 2006, the Indiana State Legislature created a new, optional, standard license plate that bears the motto (it has been updated several times since its release).
“In God We Trust” is on our money, it’s on some of our license plates, it is even displayed in/on several of our public buildings, but what does it mean?
What does it mean to place our trust in God? We do not have trouble doing that when times are rough, when tragedy strikes we are always ready to place our trust in God to see us through the hard times. We come together in prayer vigils, we come to church, and we sing songs to help us place our focus and trust in God. There is nothing wrong with this. God is our rock and our fortress in times of turmoil and suffering. As our hearts wax and wane, God remains steadfast and faithful. When we hurt, it is good to turn to the Father who loves us.
Where do we turn the rest of the time? What happens when things are good? Everyday (sic) we get up, make some coffee, read the newspaper, eat breakfast, and go about our day. In those moments, do we still place our whole trust in God, or do we have a tendency to place God on the backburner? “It’s ok Lord, I’ve got everything under control here, and I’ll let you know if I need you.” The truth is that trust does not cut on or off and the same God that we cling to when times are bad is the same God that is with us when times are good. We have to trust God all the time or none of the time. God is not our 911 service or clean up crew when things in our lives get messy. God is God for all times and in all situations. Maybe the bad times would not seem so bad or take us completely off guard if we place our trust fully in God all the time. So we come back to the original question, what does it mean to trust God?
First [and foremost], it means that we have to let go of control. 
We have to open ourselves to God’s leading like the Psalmist who recognized that it is who builds, protects, and provides rest. Unless God is at work within the builder, within the guard, within the laborer, all the beautiful buildings, all the defensive strategies, all of our hard work is in vain. Unless God is at work, leading us, then we’re not really doing anything worthwhile; we’re not really doing anything productive or lasting.
We must learn to be less self-reliant. We must relinquish control of our lives and understand, as the writer of Hebrews reminds us, that salvation—abundant and eternal life—are not earned through rote action (like coming to church on Sunday or serving every day at the local mission store). No, salvation is a gift offered by God through Jesus Christ.
We must let go of control; and, that ain’t always easy. The widow, in our Gospel lesson for today, demonstrates well what it means to trust—to let go of control. She didn’t have much. Her hair was matted and her clothes were tattered. She had paid earlier in the week her required tithe to the temple. It was a stretch for her to give that much. She didn’t have enough money left over to buy all the food she’d need to make it through the week. And, yet, she gave beyond her tithe so that the temple could provide for people like her. “Jesus [witnessing this] called his disciples to him and said, ‘I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than everyone who’s been putting money in the treasury. All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on.” The widow trusted that God would provide everything she needed in the face of abject poverty.
Trusting God begins by letting go of control and relying upon God’s abundant grace and goodness. And, it’s hard. We would much rather rely upon other things like money and our own ability. We’d much rather put our trust in things we can see and control. But, God is calling us to trust God in whom we cannot see, in whom we cannot control. And, let’s be honest, that’s difficult. But, it’s the way of Christ. Who gave himself completely to the will and work of God. As people who profess faith in Jesus Christ, we’ve got to learn to have the faith of Jesus: the trust Jesus had in God. And, that begins by letting go of control and letting God direct your life.
The country singer, Carrie Underwood, released the song, “Jesus Take the Wheel,” on her 2005 album entitled, “Some Hearts.” The chorus goes like this (I’m not going to dare try to sing):
Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can’t do this on my own
I’m letting go
So give me one more chance
Save me from this road I’m on
Jesus take the wheel
Do you let Jesus take the wheel? Or are you like the fearful parent who, when teaching their child to drive, constantly grabs the wheel from the passenger seat to “correct course” only to fling the car across the center line. In what ways do you relinquish control of your life and let God lead you? How do you garner trust in God?
Trusting God begins by spending time with God in prayer. It’s hard to begin to trust in something you have not experienced. If we’re going to learn to trust in God then we’ve got to spend some with God, getting to know God, and learning what his will for our lives might be. I know I preached on this just a few weeks ago, but prayer is the most important practice for sustaining a life of faith. Prayer—spending intentional time with God—is the primary means through which we learn to trust God. It is through prayer that we can take to God our deepest fears and greatest joys. Prayer is the primary way in which we turn everything over to God and ask for God’s leading that we might live in a way—through whatever circumstance—that honors God and ushers in God’s kingdom.
Our country’s motto is, “In God We Trust.” It is my prayer that we’ll learn to do just that. It is my prayer that we will learn to let go of control so we might be a country and a world full of faithful followers of Jesus Christ who are lead by the very hand of God. It is my prayer, that we’ll become a people of prayer so that our motto might be true of us: that we would stop relying upon our own ability and resources, give them all to God, and let God use them to restore and save the world.
In all you do, trust in God. Make it more than our national motto. Make it a way of life. Allow the hand of God to guide you. Lean not on your own understanding and your own abilities. Lean on God. Learn where God is leading you through prayer. And, go, trusting that in all ways God will take care of you. Amen.
 “History of ‘In God We Trust,” Treasury.gov <http://www.treasury.gov/about/education/Pages/in-god-we-trust.aspx> Accessed November 8, 2012.
 “In God We Trust’: House reaffirms national motto—yet again” WashingtonPost.com <http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-god-we-trust-house-re-affirms-national-motto–yet-again/2011/11/02/gIQAiZRWfM_story.html> Accessed November 9, 2012.
 “In God We Trust: Sermon Psalm 31:1-5;15-16”by Brad Smith, bradsmith80.blogspot.com <http://bradsmith80.blogspot.com/2008/04/in-god-we-trust-sermon-psalm-311-5-15.html> Accessed November 9, 2012.
 Mark 12:43-44, Common English Bible.