Trusting vs. Relying on the Lord

Sep 18
Trust vs Reliance

It’s one thing to say you have faith in God. It’s a completely different thing to be put into a position of full reliance on him.

A couple weeks ago I got an email from Jerilynn Carter and she shared a great thought on the difference between trusting God and relying on God. She gave permission to publish it here to help people understand that the test that is coming will be the difference between words and action. True faith is full reliance on the Lord.

Some years ago I listened to a book that taught me this principle more than the scriptures had done. It wasn’t about having faith, it was about applied faith. It’s called, “God’s Smuggler” by Brother Andrew (and I highly recommend it). In this autobiography of sorts, Brother Andrew recounts his entering the ministry with first an extended exercise in learning to truly exercise faith by living without purse or scrip (Luke 10:4). This exercise was a requirement for the type of ministry he was entering. What followed was an incredible ride into the world of delivering Bibles to Communist countries during the Cold War.

Prior to this book, I thought I had faith. Listening to it, I realized I mostly had belief. My faith at that point was not a reliance on God, but only partly trusting in his powers of deliverance. Not the complete full measure of engulfing trust that one needs when there is nothing else but to trust yourself to God without knowing the outcome. Brother Andrew in this respect, was a Shadrach.

Here is Jerilynn’s article.

As I have studied the Old Testament this year, I have recognized many examples of covenant blessings being given or revoked. This is evident in the choices of the various kings of both Israel and Judah. When they become guilty of breaking the covenant, they have often made alliances with other nations for protection from their enemies rather than turning to the Lord for that protection. This trusting in the arm of flesh results in the loss of covenant blessings, including a loss of the Lord’s protection.

This rejection of the Lord’s protection is clearly evident in 2 Chronicles 16 where King Asa makes a league with Ben-hadad, king of Syria, against Baasha, king of Israel. It seems to have helped against Baasha (vs. 4-6), but in verses 7-9 we learn that it was not pleasing to the Lord:

7. And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said unto him, Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the Lord thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand.

8. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? yet, because thou didst rely on the Lord, he delivered them into thine hand.

9. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.

Verse 8 clearly indicates that Asa had once relied on the Lord and been blessed because of it. But at Hanani’s rebuke, “Asa was wroth with the seer, and put him in a prison house; for he was in a rage with him because of this thing” (vs. 10). Had Asa’s apparent success against Baasha caused him to forget the link between his former success and the Lord’s protection? Seeing that the league “worked,” had he come to believe that it didn’t make any difference whether he relied on the Lord or not? What if the league had not been successful? Would Asa have then listened to Hanani and recognized his mistake?

This leads me to wonder what motivates us to rely on the Lord. Does the outcome alone dictate whether we will rely on Him or not? Will we rely on Him even when it looks as if we’re doing just fine without Him, as we imagine? What if turning to Him appears not to do any good because we’re not getting what we want?

Asa started out as a righteous king, but I wonder if it was a lack of equating his former success with reliance on the Lord that led to his loss of faith in that reliance, a loss that became evident in all aspects of his life, as verse 12 indicates:

12. And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians.

This suggests that turning to the Lord in ALL things, whether facing enemies in war or facing health issues, is an overarching requirement of the covenant. In the temple, we covenant to obey His law and keep His commandments, but because we can also become a law unto ourselves (D&C 88:35), I wonder if keeping His law basically comes down to trusting in Him, in His way of doing things, rather than in our own “law” or any other law of man. We speak of trusting in the Lord, but what that really looks like seems not to be clearly understood. As a consequence, are we too quick to do as King Asa did and turn to the protection of man rather than literally to the Lord? For example, do we hesitate to give to the poor because in our fear of not having enough for ourselves, or not enjoying all the luxuries we want, we trust our own judgment in hoarding our substance rather than giving it away with faith that the Lord will provide for us?

In pondering this, I’ve come to recognize a difference between trusting in the Lord and relying on the Lord. Trusting seems more on the level of saying and believing, but relying is on the level of proving our trust.

As an old Moody Institute video demonstrated about knowing and believing, I can know that a chair will support my weight because it’s a strong chair, but to actually sit in it is to believe in it or trust in it (Moody Science Classics, “Facts of Faith”). But I would put it another way: I could say that I trust in the chair without actually sitting in it, but to sit in it is to truly rely on it. So reliance proves our trust.

As I’ve considered this difference, I’ve come to believe that the Lord will require an interim period that tests whether we will truly rely on Him or just say we will. During this interim or “limbo” of sorts, it will appear as if relying on the Lord isn’t going to “work.” It will tempt us with the chance to back down from this faith in Him and instead turn to the alternatives of man, as King Asa did. It will be similar to what King Hezekiah endured when the Assyrians came against Jerusalem (2 Kings 20), and what the great woman of Shunem endured when her son died (2 Kings 4). It will be what Abraham endured to the very point of lifting the knife to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:10).

I believe that surviving this testing period can be described by C.S. Lewis in the Screwtape Letters when Screwtape tells his apprentice devil,

Be not deceived, Wormwood, our cause is never more in jeopardy than when a human, no longer desiring but still intending to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe in which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys (Letter 8).

The only correction I would make to this quote is that I believe the desire would still be there, the desire to stay true and committed to the Lord’s promise of deliverance and protection, otherwise the intention could no longer be played out.

The other example I would cite to illustrate this time of proving is found in the two similar stories of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in contrast to that of the three virgins who were sacrificed on the altar in the book of Abraham. The three men show their preliminary faith when they say, “…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace…. But if not…we will not serve thy gods…” (Daniel 3:17-18). Their faith was tested to the point of their actually being thrown into the fire, yet they were protected. But the three virgins, who must have demonstrated the same faith, “were offered up because of their virtue; they would not bow down to worship gods of wood or of stone, therefore they were killed upon this altar….” (Abraham 1:11). I do not believe they were any less faithful or that they did something to warrant actual death versus the men’s being saved from death. Neither were the three men given an easier test because the Lord saved them. They didn’t know he would, as their “but if not” statement shows.

I believe we are going to need this kind of faith and trust, the kind that relies completely on the Lord even unto death so that when it looks as if He is not coming through, we will not shrink. That doesn’t mean He won’t protect us, but we must be ready to say “but if not.” That might look as if we will starve if we share our food with those who have none. It might look as if we will be harmed if we don’t go along with the defensive strategies of men. And as Revelation 13:17 indicates, it might look as if we can’t buy or sell without the mark of the beast. That will certainly test us as to whether we will share our food with those in need. But this ability to rely on the Lord even unto death is what will allow us to overcome whatever evil we are faced with, as Revelation 12:11 says: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

If you want to dig deeper into what the scriptures say on this issue, copy/paste this search into Scripture Notes:

(trust* or rely*) and (Lord or God)

If you remove the “y” in rely*, you’ll pick up 31 more verses, some of which won’t apply but you can easily remove.


(Featured image by Lightwise at


About the Author

Oak Norton - Just trying to share a love of the scriptures with others.