The Power that comes from resting in the Lord
In Genesis we read of God creating a world and then resting on the seventh day and in the mindset and language of the Ancient Near East this ‘resting’ speaks of entering into the home and engaging in the normal activities that have been established. We have been created and placed in this world in order to know and experience God’s love.
God is the life-breather, the ressurector who seeks me out in order to rest me in all that He has done as a loving father – seen so clearly in the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. Through God’s incredible love, grace, mercy and compassion there is, for me, a recovering of my breath, a restoring of my blurred vision and an uplifting of my bent-over frame. He is the ‘take my yoke upon you’ One of Matthew 11:29-30 with the ‘yoke’ being the right frame, the true blueprint of life made to fit my now battered life within heart and mind as I find healing for my soul and strengthening of my spirit in and under the unction and power of the Holy Spirit. To an agricultural community God is likened to, but much stronger than, the strong Ox, the one who leads the weaker ox - and I am that’ weaker one’. I am that weaker one yet am now endowed with light and life and all the promises which are “yes” in Christ Jesus. And so I am called - I am called to rest, to reorientate my mind, to refocus my attention and to receive that which is by grace alone and grow.
“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall not be shaken.”
David, the writer of Psalm 62, under the instruction of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim 3:16) faced many challenges, difficulties and threats to his life from surrounding nations as well as his own family. Yet when David failed it was because of his own wrong-thinking or actions and not because of the power of others. In later years, as David looked back over his life I am sure he would have agreed with Isaiah who, many centuries later, said…
“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” Isaiah 30:15
The truth is that on all occasions, it is not the things around our lives that prevent us going on with God, as Paul points out, but the things within our lives.
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Whether we like it or not it is what goes on in our life that affects our relationship with God more than anything else.
We are members of the Kingdom of God, a kingdom which transcends time, interacts with time and of which we are part of by virtue of Christ’s saving work. Through His actions, grace, love and mercy we are part of God’s family and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus speaks of as the Comforter (John 14). Because we belong to another kingdom we need to constantly slow down and seek His leading, rather than being caught up in the hustle and bustle of life around us.
In a recent news article in The Times newspaper, Sir Richard Branson said he was removing limits on the amount of holiday Virgin employees could take each year in the hope it would boost morale, creativity and productivity. He believed that removing the company’s holiday policy and allowing staff to take breaks when and as often as they wished, would have long term benefits for the business. Sir Richard said he was inspired to do this after reading about a similar strategy introduced by the video streaming giant, Netflix, who had seen increased productivity market success and morale amongst employees when the rules concerning holidays were relaxed.
In scripture resting speaks of a cessation of one’s own activity in order to feed on and grow in the work of another. In the kingdom this sort of rest - spending open, honest time with our Father -results in a deeper and more powerful relationship with Him, evidenced in Christlikeness of character and an awareness of God. Rest is about deliberately making time for God: It is a re-orientating of the mind to focus on and feed on all that God has provided as our Father, redeemer and empowerer. In this world a person’s strength and power is often measured in their material wealth and position. In the Kingdom of God the strength of character and power in the Spirit is indicative of a person’s willingness to rest in the Lord and seek the leading of the Spirit.
“…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”
Jesus did not come to fix us.
Jesus did not come to fix us, nor did He come to patch us up and send us off along the road again, as if He were some sort of self-help guru or cosmic life-coach. Instead Jesus came to redeem us and restore us: to restore us to fellowship with God because we were sinners under condemnation and separated from God, yet never made to live alone.
If you want a quick fix then you can go to a doctor or a life-coach, or even a dietician. But if you want life then you can only find it in Jesus. In the world we have many good things and many great things, yet, in the light of God’s word, we would define these things as not much more than existing: walking through this world, growing, succeeding, getting older, getting weaker and then disappearing like the mist off the river. But if we really want life then we need to wholeheartedly turn our lives over to Jesus day by day.
“Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.”
Life with God.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn (the famous writer) was imprisoned in the Russian Gulag for many years and it was during this hard and difficult time that he became a Christian. Solzhenitsyn said that after becoming a Christian he learnt to spend time with God every day and found the strength and ability to persevere despite great difficulty. The prison was still the same and the people around him were still the same, yet the One now with him made all the difference.
I am a great believer in reading books about what God has done in the lives of others because it both encourages me and keeps me humble! A short while ago I purchased a copy of Darlene Roses’ book “Evidence not Seen.” It is the true story of her time as a prisoner in a Japanese prisoner of war camp and again speaks of someone who rested in the presence of the Lord in the face of great opposition.
Darlene had originally gone to New Guinea with her husband to share the gospel. The Japanese had invaded the East Indies and both she and her husband were put in separate prisoner-of-war camps and it was not long before her husband died. During the next few years she underwent forced labour, starvation, beriberi, dysentery and intestinal worms and on one occasion she was locked in a cell with the words, “This person must die” written over the cell door. Yet Darlene still writes about how she felt strong arms around her – the presence of the Holy Spirit- during this time and goes on to say that although her captors could lock her in, they could not lock the risen Lord Jesus Christ out. She was with the God of the impossible and knew His sustaining presence amidst the atrocities and trauma of a prisoner of war camp. In reading about her life I am sure she would have echoed the words written by Tim Jones in his book, ‘Praying like the Jew Jesus’ (page 20). Tim wrote…
“I refuse to allow the opinions of others to erode my job because my Father has given himself to me and he is the source of my delight. I refuse to seek revenge, because my Father has given himself to me and he is the judge of the universe. I refuse to keep track of other’s faults, because my Father has refused to keep track of mine. If I become this sort of person, the bad news is that I can end up hurt. The good news is that I no longer care where I end up, because I have found my joy and value not in myself or in my circumstances but in God. It isn’t easy to live a life of blessedness. Frankly, becoming the blessing of God can cause pain …deep pain. For, when I become God’s blessing I am forced to recognise the full breath of my own selfishness.”
Underlying our need to rest and receive from God: The Sabbath.
In Genesis we read of God resting on the seventh day, yet this does not mean that God was inactive. In six days the world was created for man and on the seventh God gave His attention to being with Man. God blessed the day and made it holy (Gen 2:3). However the seventh day is not spoken of as the Sabbath until the time of Israel’s desert wanderings. Whilst in the desert (known as the place of hearing) and after their deliverance from Egypt, God taught His people to trust in Him alone. It was during these wanderings that God said to His people…
"This is what the Lord commanded: 'Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.'"
In Israel’s desert wanderings God provided food each day except the seventh day. On the sixth day God provided a double portion of food so that they could rest on what then became known as the Sabbath. As already mentioned, this resting was not a cessation of activity; it was about giving time to, and engaging with God. In light of this we see that it was during the desert wanderings that Israel was reminded yet again that man does not live by bread alone but every word that comes from God and as scripture states…
“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
To humble self speaks of breaking down the walls that we have built around our lives to protect ourselves. The walls that we build around our lives then become the home that we live in, yet should be viewed more as a prison than a home. It is our walls – our wrong-thinking and go-in-our-own-strength attitude that prevents us from receiving help from God. In humility and repentance we leave the prison we have built and are brought back to our right mindset and position in Him. In turning to God we find our true rest. God is our provider and ultimately this provision is seen in Jesus in whom we are called to rest.
“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
Remembering that we belong to somebody.
All life belongs to God and that includes yours and mine and because of this we need to remember that we are stewards of our lives rather than the owners. In recognising this we need to seek the leading of the Holy Spirit, in order to understand what God would have us do with our lives – which involves slowing down and spending quality time with our Father through prayer and the written word. He has saved us in order to be with us and to help us grow to maturity, no matter what life throws our way. What we need to be doing is to make sure we put God first in our lives and then move forward in the power of the Holy Spirit. This putting God first is what Dr Yang learnt to do as a physician. He writes…
“As a physician, I face the challenge of combining sound medical practice with ministering the supernatural healing that I believe is available in Christ Jesus. At times it seems easier to ask God to heal the sick using only my medical knowledge. To be honest, it would spare me from having to depend so much on him. While I thank God for the gift of medical science, I know its limitations…I want to see God’s kingdom come, not in words only but in demonstration of the Sprit and of power” (1 Cor 2:4)."
M. Yang in, ‘Finding God at Harvard, pages 122-123.’
We have been adopted into His family.
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, "Abba, Father."
Being adopted by a family in the ancient world meant that you were now regarded as a totally new person (1 Cor 5:17). Your new life and standing meant that all debts from the past were wiped out and no-one could come along and say, “you owe me all this” if you had been adopted into another family. The debt no longer existed in the eyes of the law and in all intent and purpose you were a new person (Rom 8:1; 2 Cor 5:17).
Interestingly enough the first place we find adoption being mentioned of in the Bible speaks of Moses’ adoption into a pagan family of a man who sought to dominate the Israelites (Pharaoh). Yet in the events that surrounded this adoption we see God’s utter supremacy over all things, which gives us great hope (Psalm 62:5-6 Rom 5:5). Think about it! On one side there was this powerful King and political ruler who exercised his power over life and death in much the same way as Kim Jong Um in North Korea, or Islamic State today. This king was in charge of a society where there was no such thing as human rights and he had recently decreed that all Hebrew baby boys be put to death – and then Moses was born.
After Moses was born his mother hid him for a while and then floated him down the Nile in a waterproofed basket. His sister kept an eye on what was going on, and Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses. Pharaoh’s daughter then brings up Moses as her own in the very household that had decreed his death, and even pays his biological mother to nurse him (Exodus 2). In light of this, who do we think is really in charge?
We have been brought into God’s family and the fullness of our adoption (redemption of our bodes Rom 8:23) is a certainty because it is based on the work of Christ and all that God has done, is doing and will do. We are not our own, we belong to someone and we are called to spend time with Him and live our lives according to His will and blessing.
God: the One who offers forgiveness and restoration.
In a copy of the New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs produced for the Police there is the testimony of Mark, a serving Police Officer who worked as a response officer before joining a Neighbourhood Policing Team. He used to class himself as an atheist but would go to church with his wife (to keep her quiet). However deep down he realised something was missing.
One day Marks Sergeant came into the office and told everyone that he had, on New Year’s Eve, asked Jesus to save him. Mark says that his response to his Sergeant was, “There’s another good man down,” yet was pleased that his Sergeant seemed to have found the peace he was looking for. Sometime after this Mark’s Sergeant told him he was immigrating to Australia and gave him a book as a leaving present. It was the Message (Bible) and he had written on the inside cover, “Stop searching; all the answers are here.”
In sharing his testimony Mark writes, “I took the book home and flicked it open randomly and it landed at Job Chapter 35 which stated that we are only good in the eyes of our families and friends and that we are never good enough. I nearly fell off the chair. I knew that this was the Lord speaking directly at me and my eventual response was to give my life to the Lord, ask him to save me and be born again. Since then my whole life has changed. Before joining the Police I would have classed myself as a caring, patient and understanding sort of person. But as time goes on you see some terrible things and in a way you become hardened to it and nearly find the things that ordinary people find horrific, acceptable. The Lord has taken all this away and has replaced it with a burning desire to help the vulnerable who so often get left behind.”
Remember that it was God who first approached Adam and Eve in the Garden and clothed them, and it was God who was still willing to reason with Cain when Cain approached God his own way.
Remember that it was God who met with the abused single mother and slave, Hagar, in the desert, comforted her and told her to name her son, “Ishmael – God hears.”
Remember that it was God who was with Joseph whilst his brothers sought to kill him and then sold him into slavery. It was God who kept Joseph sane through the ordeal of slavery, false accusation and imprisonment, and it was God that enabled him to take one of the top positions in the government of the most powerful nation of his day: Egypt.
Remember that it was God who reached out to Moses, a failed hero, through a burning bush and worked with and through him to bring His people out of Egypt.
Remember that it was God who walked with the shepherd boy David and was with him when he was being pursued by Saul’s army. The real trouble for David only came about when David decided to cut corners and do things his own way.
Remember that it was Jesus who reasoned with His disciples and continuously encouraged them to seek out the goodness of God with the words such as, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"(Luke 11:13).
Remember that it was through resting with His Father in prayer that Jesus was able to live in the power of the Holy Spirit and remember that we are called to do likewise: to rest in all that God has done and move forward in His power.
Remember that Jesus said that He would never leave us or forsake us (Matthew 28:20) and that we are those He dwells with by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16).
“…When Jesus returned from his prayer, his rich solitude, it was not to be some aloof guru, approachable only by the few. He travelled the length and breadth of Galilee and Judea, preaching to people one by one, or by thousands and thousands. He came preaching in parables, imaginative stories crafted to reveal to man both where his heart really lay, and where it should lie instead. He preached, and the noise was stilled and people began to hear, just a little, and to know the love to which he came to give witness. “Know,” he says in his farewell to his disciples, “I AM with you to the end of time.”
Anthony Esolen in, ‘Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of your child’ page 216.
In concluding let us make a conscious effort to rest more fully in God’s finished work through Jesus Christ. Let us ask God to help us reorientate our heart and mind so that we focus on all that is good, right and true. It is God’s desire that we come to know Him and He is the One who forgives us and heals our distorted view of God, self and life in general. He is the One who teaches, encourages, challenges and uplifts us. God is also the One who applies the right pressure, so to speak, at the right time and in the right way as He helps us remove the pain and the rubbish that often holds us back. Perhaps, instead of struggling so hard to get out of difficulty when it comes along, we should be asking Him to help us rest more fully in Him and in doing so know the power and presence of the One who gives victory even in the most impossible of situations.
Written and produced by Pastor Jem Trehern 2017. Be blessed.