“Trust issues” is a phrase commonly used to describe a lack of trust or difficulty trusting, but what is trust and does the Bible have anything to say about “trust issues”?

Often times Scripture references trust as faith. In fact one definition of faith is “complete trust or confidence in someone or something”. Now that we have defined it, let’s see what the Word of God says about the trust issue we will call, “Superficial Faith”.

For something to be superficial it exists or occurs on the surface. The surface is the outside part or uppermost layer of something. In reference to faith, superficial, is an outward showing of trust in God that only exist on the surface and does not genuinely dwell in the heart.

Throughout His time on earth Jesus encountered and addressed superficial faith often. He taught about it and called it out when people practiced it in front of Him.

Quoting Isaiah 29:13 Jesus says,
“These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me teaching as doctrines the commandments of men,’” (Matthew 15:8,9)

From these verses we can see there was an outward profession of loving or trusting God, an honoring with the words spoken, but the heart did not match. The result is vain worship and false teaching. On the contrary, when the heart belief and the mouth confession are in sync Romans 10:9,10 tells us the result is saving faith.

Romans 10:9 that is you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

There are some who practice superficial faith by doing things in pretense for the outside world to see while the life lived at home is not aligned. Jesus gave commands to forsake such practices when He taught the following:

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8. “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
The difference between superficial faith and genuine faith is revealed in times of testing. Superficial faith proves to lack authenticity, whereas genuine faith can be tested as gold in fire and result in a purified form.

In the book of John Chapter six there is a crowd following Jesus. Jesus performs the miracle of feeding five thousand with five loaves and two fish. Not long after this event the same crowd sought after and found Jesus. Jesus quickly addressed the superficial nature of their pursuit of Him.

“Jesus answered, “I assure you: you are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. 27. Don’t work for food that perishes but for food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him.”

At first glance it may appear that the rebuke deals with food, but as we continue in this chapter we find that the same group really lacked faith. The severity of their superficial faith was so great that they said to Jesus:

“What sign then are You going to do so we may see and believe You?” they asked. “What are You going to perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” (John 6:30, 31)
Did you catch that?

Notice the quote of Scripture, which indicates their profession of faith. However also notice, they are asking Jesus to perform a sign to prove who He is. Worse they ask Him to perform a sign similar to the sign of bread from heaven to eat that Moses performed.

Problem: This group was apart of the SAME crowd Jesus fed with bread from heaven as a sign the day before. Hence superficial faith will be exposed because there is no substance and it does not stem from the heart. God cannot be mocked; the proof is in the fruit of our actions even when the blindness is so thick that we do not see it (Galatians 6:7).

The deepest form of superficial faith is connected to our greatest need to trust God. There are multiple levels for us to trust God on. We are called to trust Him as provider for our daily needs or as protector from harm and danger. On the greatest level we are called to trust God for salvation through faith in the sacrifice of His Son for our sins. A superficial profession of faith in the area of salvation is rooted in life on earth and lacks the Heavenly pursuit of resurrection to dwell eternally with God. It is similar to desiring God to be a supplier of all the things we want out of life and consider to be our needs. In this case the message of Scripture that says we will suffer in this life but our trials are meant to strengthen our faith (2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Peter 6:7; James 1:2, 3), is not desirable. Instead the professor of faith speaks favorably of God when things go well, but testing of this kind of faith leads to doubt, despair, and even forsaking God altogether (Matthew 13:20-22). This final reason of forsaking God is the reason the Word of God makes the distinction between superficial and genuine faith. A journey of faith with God is comparable to a race and we must endure to the end to inherit the prize. Superficial faith will not get us there.

In the grand scheme of things, it was a lack of trust that led to the fall of mankind. God gave command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A lack of trust led to disobeying Him. A major issue with this is, God is good and out of love He commands His children to obey His instructions for our own good and protection. The essence of our relationship with Him is built on trust. A lack of trust led to damnation. The exercise of trust/faith leads to salvation.

As noted earlier the trust issue of superficial faith compared to genuine faith lies in the heart. Let’s discuss heart tendencies when it comes to trusting God and then dig into overcoming superficial faith.

Romans chapter one verses eighteen through thirty-one reveals one of the heart tendencies of mankind is to love sin so much that we deny God’s existence. The love for things God hates leads to an exchange of the glory of the living God for a self-made idol. In other words the human heart can be so opposed to God’s way that instead of rejecting Him, people change the essence of His nature to suit their pleasures so they do ungodly things while professing to love a holy God.

Secondly, there is the heart tendency to hold on to a trust in money rather than a true trust in God. This creates a superficial reliance on God as long as money is available. When funds or materials deplete the disingenuousness of faith is revealed. A contrast is when an abundance of money leads to only trusting God as long as one can keep their possessions, as was the case with the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-24).

The last heart tendency that produces superficial faith is “people pleasing”. The desire to please man instead of God is addressed several times throughout Scripture. For example Jesus asked:

“How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?”(John 5:44)

This heart tendency is the cause of pretense and hypocrisy, appearing to be faith-filled for men for the sake of acceptance or impression.

The Good News
Is there any hope for a person with superficial faith? Yes. There are practical steps that can be taken to overcome superficial faith. To begin, note, a relationship with God is personal. As with any relationship it is about relating to another. In relating to our all-seeing, all-knowing God, there is no room for pretense. Therefore the first and foremost step in overcoming superficial faith is self-examination.

“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves….” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

One applicable means of self-examination is using Scripture as a mirror to see what is really in the heart and mind.

Hebrews 12:4 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13. And there is no creature hidden from the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.

Developing a daily reading plan and setting aside quiet time to study the Word of God will expose the heart and mind to commands of faith and examples of faith-filled living. Hebrews Chapter eleven gives several examples of people who lived by faith. A humble, honest assessment of our lives in comparison to these examples is a good starting place for pinpointing superficial faith.

Perhaps when we look at verse four of this chapter and note Abel’s faith compared to Cain’s we can gain a sense of awareness that we are professing to give God our best sacrifice, but the fact that it’s really less than our best shows we don’t love God as much as we say we do.

On the other hand maybe there are commands to have faith that we completely ignore or just disobey like:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5,6)

In both cases prayer is critical. Faith is something that pleases God. Without faith it is impossible to please Him. When we pray to ask for things that are in God’s will we can have confidence that we will receive them (1 John 5:14). So we can ask for what we feel we lack.

Some important questions to ask are: Am I willing to be vulnerable enough to admit the true condition of my faith? Where does superficial faith end and true faith begin for me? Could it be a matter of crying, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

The LORD does not require faith to be a great amount, but He does require it to be genuine.

“And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 6. So the Lord said, “If you have as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:5,6)

Lastly we can overcome superficial faith by heeding Scripture that teaches us how to go beyond the surface such as:

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2. Therefore when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4. That your charitable deed may be seen in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. (Matthew 6:1-4)