Stop struggling! Rest in God.

We get so pressured in our preoccupation with managing of the details of our lives.  We are haunted by the illusion that we are in control of the outcomes.  This sense of responsibility drives us and keeps us on edge.  This takes away the joy of the journey and exhausts us.

Yet our loving Father invites us to rest in Him:

“In repentance and rest you will be saved,
In quietness and trust is your strength.”        Isaiah 30:15

child rests on motherO Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.”           Psalm 131

As much as we like to think that our own efforts are the key that turns the latch, it is God who accomplishes what He wishes through us.  If we rest in Him and allow Him to do His work in us and through us.  A struggling swimmer cannot easily be saved from drowning by his rescuer.  He must “cease striving” and relax limply in the lifeguard’s arms, trusting him to save him from danger.

He does not delight in the strength of the horse;
He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man.
The Lord favors those who fear Him,
Those who wait for His lovingkindness.”           Psalm 147:10-11

O Lord, forgive me for my arrogance, acting as though the outcome of my life depended on my efforts.  Help me to acknowledge my powerlessness, and to rest in Your wisdom and strength.  Let me cooperate actively, but dependently, with You, as you accomplish what You purpose for Your kingdom through my life.

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To be heard by God

As Solomon led the people of Israel to dedicate the new Temple for the worship of God, the Lord said to him in a night vision, “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place.”             2 Chronicles 7:14-15

praying handsIn this covenant, God teaches us valuable goals for our own prayers which we offer to the Him.  There are four attitudes or postures for which we can strive, which can make our prayers more likely to connect with God’s ears and heart.

 

Humble themselves:  A proper posture in which to approach God is “. . to humble himself. . . for bowing one’s head like a reed.”  (Isaiah 58:5)  We must distance ourselves from the attitude of William Earnest Henley in Invictus, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”  God tells us to whom He listens:  “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”  (Isaiah 66:2)  Jesus was our example in this:  “. . but not My will, but Thine be done.”

Pray:  In the act of praying to God, we are demonstrating acknowledgment of our dependence upon Him.  We confess that we are helpless without His intervention.  We  are small and weak;  He is wise and strong.  This attitude honors Him.


Seek My face:  
We most earnestly hunger to gaze eye-to-eye with our Creator.  We long to be acknowledged by Him and heard, for Him to know our hurts and our need.

To You I lift up my eyes,
O You who are enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the Lord our God,
Until He is gracious to us.”
                 Psalm 123:1-2

PrayingI wait for the Lord, my soul does wait,
And in His word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than the watchmen for the morning;
Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.
”             Psalm 130:5-6

Turn from their wicked ways:  Theses  attitudes and posture result in action and changed direction.

For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
”        Psalm 51:16-17

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.
”              Proverbs 28:13

The wonderful promise to those who approach God in this way is that He will forgive our clueless stumblings, hear our hearts, and respond to our expressed needs.

 

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Strength in weakness

One of the most common questions of mankind experiencing loss and grief is, “Why is this happening to me?  Why does God allow so much suffering in the world?  This is not the way I would do it, if I were God!”  Life is hard.  We think that suffering is more understandable as the result of human sin.  Jesus’ disciples observed a man born blind.  “And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind?’

Jesus answered, It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”                                     John 9:2-3

man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair

Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

When we are at the center of our universe, it is hard to believe there is anything more important than our comfort.  “It’s all about me,” we think, even if we are embarrassed to voice it.  But Jesus was teaching His disciples that something was more important than mere comfort and personal peace:  that we sufferers can be assigned the honor of playing the earthly role of drawing the attention of the world to the power of God.  Paul asked three times to be delivered by God from his chronic ailment, which God refused to do.

And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”                                                               2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.”                      2 Corinthians 4:7

As the frame of a painting draws attention to the skill of the artist, holding it for all to see, so our broken lives can draw the world’s attention to a great God, as they see our contentment in and dependence upon Him.

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Blessed conversations

activity adult barbecue bbq

The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples,
That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.                                     Isaiah 50:4

A disciple is a learner.  Lord, make me a student of the people with whom I come into contact today.  Let me be fully present in our conversations, attentive to their heart, not on what I should say next.  There are so many battle-weary companion pilgrims who share the road of life with me.  Let me be a rapt listener to their hearts.

Like apples of gold in settings of silver
Is a word spoken in right circumstances.
Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold
Is a wise reprover to a listening ear.                                               Proverbs 15:11-12

Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your mind to my knowledge;
For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
That they may be ready on your lips.                                         Proverbs 22:17-18

Help me, Lord, to have a word from You to give people, according to their need.  Let it be ready upon my lips.  Is this a good reason for me to memorize Your word?

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.                                                                                                Ephesians 4:29

A very wise checklist:  1) nothing unwholesome, 2) speak what makes the other person better, 3) just right for the occasion, and 4) full of grace, kindness, and reminders of forgiveness.  Lord, I cannot think that fast — to monitor my speech as it is flowing.  Please help me to meditate on these attributes of helpful conversation, so that I will be more likely to produce good lip-fruit when You present the opportunity.

 

 

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Take possession!

Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you.”                                  Deuteronomy 4:1

moses, promised land

The promised land was an undeserved gift to God’s people, the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.  It was to be a gift to them, but they needed to take risks and fight bravely to receive it.

This is analogous to God’s gift to us of a fruitful, abundant life and experiential righteousness:  things we cannot achieve on our own, without God’s help. He longs for us to take them from Him.  Although the gift of eternal pardon and status as loved, adopted sons is settled in heaven forever, purchased by Christ’s payment on our behalf, becoming in practice fully what He designed us to be is a joint project with which we are invited to earnestly cooperate.

But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance andgentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”                                                                              1 Timothy 6:11-12

Part of the full, abundant life God has planned for us includes good works that He Himself has prepared.  “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”                  Ephesians 2:10   They are ours for the taking.

Paul pleads with us to pursue and seize this fruitful life that God has waiting for us, which He is eager to have us take.  It is His purpose for creating us.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”                                  Philippians 3:12-14

We pursue and seize and possess what Christ died that we might have.

 

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Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called

There is a kind of eternal life that will determine where we live eternally; there is another kind of eternal life that will determine how we experience it, both then and now.

According to Jesus and John, there is only one factor that determines our forgiveness and eternal relationship with the Father:

“. . . so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”                John 3:15-16

And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”                                      1 John 5:11-13

But Jesus also said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  (John 10:10)  This quality of life seems to be the issue that Paul is urging Timothy to seize with all his energy:

graspBut flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance andgentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”                                                                1 Timothy 6:11-12

Timothy already had believed and was a growing, fruitful Christian leader, his character and leadership skills worthy of Paul’s entrusting to him responsibility for the church in Ephesus.  Although he should have confidence in his everlasting forgiveness and future life with God forever in heaven, Paul was urging him to zealously take hold of something more —  a meaningful, fulfilled life of service in this world that would result in heavenly reward.  This is a goal Paul himself also strived to keep before him at all times.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”                                      Philippians 3:12-14

Lord, thank You for paying the penalty for my sin, a price I could not pay, to assure me forgiveness and eternal life with You.  Now, motivated by gratitude for Your grace, help me to live every moment of my life energized passionately to “walk in a manner worthily of the calling with which I have been called” (Ephesians 4:1), a life that reflects Your eternal values. 

       

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Live for what lasts

Nearly every day I pray God would give me recognition of my own sin, that I might confess it to Him, turn from that destructive way, and find His healthy course for my life.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.”                           Psalm 139:23-24

nature red forest leaves

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

What is the everlasting way?  David’s prayer is the prayer of a child of God who has a most intimate relationship with Him, one thoroughly convinced that he lives continually in the loving presence of His Creator.  He does not seem to doubt the security of his solid relationship with his Maker, but wishes to honor Him in his living.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”                 John 3:16

John’s eternal life is not dependent on our behavior, but on our understanding and trust in  the necessity of Jesus’ payment of our sin-penalty in our place (the substitutionary atonement).  Paul stresses this three times in one verse:  “. . . a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Christ Jesus . . .”  (Galatians 2:16)!  It seems, however, that there is another category of eternal life referenced in Psalm 139 that is based on our following God’s leading, His enabling, and empowering.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”             Galatians 6:7-9

This eternal life seems to be the fruit of a life lived in dependence upon the empowerment of God’s Spirit to do through us what we cannot do in our own strength.  It is therefore a life of obedience, motivated by our reverent awe and gratitude to our Maker.   This results in meaningfulness of life that extends in impact beyond our physical death.  It is the fruit of our living choices that remains evident in the world we leave and in people’s lives we’ve influenced.  This results in heavenly reward.  Thoughtless, selfish living results not in loss of our eternal relationship with our Creator, but in loss of intended rewards that might have been ours had we lived dependently and obediently.

Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”                 1 Corinthians 3:12-15

This is similar to Psalm 1:4-5 “The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away.  Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment. . .”      Psalm 1:4-5a

O Lord, let me be about Your kingdom purposes today.  Lead me in Your everlasting way.  Let my life have lasting impact according to Your heavenly economy.

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