Tag Archive: rest


If the atheists are right, we aren’t really free; we are all just the effect of random causes we had no control over. There is no right and wrong, we are not accountable for our lives, and if life has dealt us a bad hand, we can just complain like the victims we are.

If we are free, we are also responsible for the choices we make. But we will live worried, guilt-ridden lives as we notice our own tendency to mess things up.

But if we combine this with an understanding of God’s grace and His sovereign power, then we can rest and really start to enjoy our lives.

God says we are free; our choices matter. He wants us to do our best, and uses the trials of life to change us. But because of Christ’s work, He also forgives us as soon as we are willing to trust that He has. And knowing His will ultimately prevails, we can put our worried hearts aside and live happy, fulfilled lives.

It’s like the old Keith Green song:
“Keep doing your best
And pray that it’s blessed
And He’ll take care of the rest”.

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Failure and Grace

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If Christ’s words command a radical trust, what shall we say when we find ourselves not trusting so radically, when we feel our own cold hearts, our sins or our fears?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit”. The sooner we realize we don’t have our act together, the sooner we make real progress. It’s the humble attitude that looks to Him for everything that’s getting somewhere. We’ll always feel inadequate, and in one sense that’s not a bad thing: not if it causes us to desperately seek His grace. We can actually rejoice in our weaknesses if it forces us to our knees.

Don’t let your own shortcomings preoccupy you – that’s just inverted pride. What’s more, we even need to repent of our good deeds if they are done to justify ourselves. Don’t set your heart on any sense of spiritual accomplishment. Instead, just look at Him; that’s where all your supply is anyways.

It’s such a relief to stop striving. When Jesus said his yoke was easy and His burden light, I think this is what He meant. As long as you are facing Him, He’ll do the rest.

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Life tests our trust in God. It’s one thing to agree with Christ’s teaching, but it’s entirely another to rest the weight of our lives on a real God who binds Himself with promises for our good. Christ’s words command a radical, personal trust. In fact, He implies that to not trust is to build our lives on shifting sand.

The work of the Christian is not primarily one of moral effort, but of trust. To rest in His promises, to enjoy life as those who have already been provided for. And it is work, because trusting like that doesn’t come naturally. We have to unlearn our suspicious, self-centred habits of the heart.

And if we so trust (and we are primarily trusting a Person, not a creed or doctrine) we will want to please Him: not to earn His approval but because we live in thankfulness and trust in what the Gospel tells us has already been done for us. We are getting to know Him, personally, intimately, and this is what changes us. It’s only out of a heart so remade that any good work or moral obedience can really come.

When Life Hurts

Jesus said to him, “if you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24)

When trouble hits the fan, I have two choices: submit to God’s hand in my life, or despair. 

The Bible says God afflicts us for our good.

In our trials we realize our own inabilities, our lack of faith, our fears. “I believe; help my unbelief”. Perhaps all our difficulties serve to bring us to that point, to make us realize that depending on our own effort (even when we may agree with and pay lip service to grace), we still come up short. It’s not until we really understand our own inability to even trust that we make any real progress. God’s grace dawns, on my heart at least, gradually. It is learned as He disciplines me, and I suspect there is no other way. The first step in trusting is to realize we can’t do it on our own.

But I think the discipline doesn’t so much harden me to the task – to make me more moral and determined to obey – as it teaches me to let go and let His Spirit do the thing. Weakness here equals strength. I have to learn to let go, not just in theory, but in practice, and then He can get to work.

Romans 8 now makes a little more sense: if we don’t have His Spirit in us, we are not His; we can’t be His. It’s not so much a rule as it is a structural necessity: if it’s His Spirit inside that draws me, helps me to pray aright, that loves through me as I learn to step aside and let Him work through me, then it just can’t happen unless actually He resides within. And we can’t receive except by trust, by faith. It’s a slippery concept, because it’s so easy to say we are trusting, and to think we are trusting when we really aren’t. And even when we start to get it, there’s a sort of natural gravity that draws us back into the shadows. We need reminders, and life’s troubles push us back into His arms again and again.

I am by nature religious and dutiful. But that’s no credit to me; perhaps even a hindrance. It’s easy to trust in my own moral performance. 

But trusting in what’s already done… That’s the gospel! And if it’s already done, then we can get excited, rest, and rejoice.

Is there a connection between the power and purity of the early Church and the degree of trial they endured? I don’t doubt it. These extreme trials would surely force them to not trust in themselves: but we live in an affluent, secure age; such radical trust runs against the grain of our time and culture. 

I understand a bit better, I think, those who talk about our utter depravity and how God must do it all. It’s not just that we are culpable; it’s that our nature renders us incapable of obedience – unless He does it in us. It’s ALL him; God is completely everything. He initiates and works through us for His glory and our good.

The upshot of it all is I take credit for nothing at all. It’s God who calls, saves, heals, and helps me to trust. Yet… my free will is somehow still part of the picture: I must yield, get out of the way, rest, trust, and submit to the death of my old nature.

And nothing He does is ultimately frustrated if He is truly sovereign. He uses everything for His glory, which is connected wonderfully to our good.

Religion and Grace

“Gospel” means good news. Before it’s anything else in our lives, it’s an announcement, a proclamation of a wonderful event that has taken place.

It changes forever our “search for God”. It’s no longer what we do for Him, but what He’s done for us.

We often forget that Jesus didn’t come just to teach; His primary purpose was to accomplish the mission of sin-bearing and redemption on our behalves.

Religion says “I obey and therefore I am accepted”.
The Gospel says, “I am accepted, and therefore I obey”. It’s still a path of moral effort, but the motivation is exactly opposite and comes from a place of rest. We work to please the One who has already saved us.

The only real optimists are those who can rest in this grace, because their hope is based on something eternal and outside of their own attempts to justify themselves. We’re certainly to do our best – but we now do it out of grateful obedience, rejoicing in what has already been done for us. We don’t need to prove ourselves anymore.

Don’t beat yourself up when you fail; in fact, to do so is an act of disobedience to the Spirit of Grace. Return to the place of rest, dust yourself off, and move forward.

Mid-Life Angst

Last night I went to bed because I was bored. Nothing appealed to me, and I just wanted to check out. I wasn’t even that sleepy.

Sometimes I feel there’s nothing left to dream about, nothing to look forward to. When our dreams are threatened or remain unfulfilled, we encounter a mood not uncommon to (especially) those entering mid-life.

This can uncover where our centre really lies. I’ll give an example.

Those who know me are aware that I love to fly, and I did learn do that. I’ve been crazy about airplanes since I was around 6 years old and (interestingly enough) this arose about the same time I first started thinking about God.

Those who know me better know that I’ve always wanted to build an airplane. I’ve doodled a million pictures of the Airplane I Was Going To Build When I Grow Up. But now, at 57, that dream is looking less achievable than ever, and this is taking some of the tang out of life.

Someday… but I’m running out of somedays. Even if I do get around to building it, give me 20 or 30 years and I’ll be too old to fly my creation anyways. I’ll have to let it, and everything go sooner or later.

No wonder they call it a Mid-Life Crisis. By the it rolls around, most of us have run out of the money and time to keep ourselves distracted with more noise, toys and activities. Finally the big questions elbow their way into our lives, and what we see scares us.

There’s a scripture that’s been on my mind a lot lately, and it’s found in 1 Corinthians 4:16: “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” We are aware of our mortality, but if we are Christians, we know there’s something more.

Well, my outward man is definitely perishing, in spite of my best efforts to the contrary. The fact is, I’m going to die some day, even if every moment until then is just filled with sunshine and happiness. Everything is running down.

But if Christianity is true, this life is in fact more of a preparation than anything else; it’s just the preface to the story of my real life. Some people would suggest that as a Christian, I’m just self-medicating with thoughts of eternal bliss, a sort of a “pie-in-the-sky” mentality. But as C.S. Lewis once said, there’s either pie in the sky or there is not; and there is plenty of evidence that there is far more to life than the 70 odd years that we experience down here. Lewis goes on to suggest that we have longings because they are meant to be fulfilled; that a desire indicates the existence of that which can meet the need. If I’m hungry, there is food. I want to fly: there are airplanes and the intelligence to build and fly. We long for justice: there is moral truth. I long for ultimate fulfillment, for meaning and eternal life: there is God, and the prospect of eternity with Him. This is where we are to invest our hearts, where we are to lay up treasure.

I want to pour my life into the pursuit of God, to know Him and to be known by Him. Part of me has always known this is so, but as I get older, the choice is plainer. He satisfies, calms, and reassures; and even when my feelings rebel, I can choose to just rest in Him.

 

Hope and Despair

“Behold, the eye of The Lord is on them who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for The Lord…” (Ps. 33:19-20)

Hope doesn’t mean you’re not in pain. It means you trust that God will bring you out the other side. The deadly thing, the state of heart we must avoid at all costs, is to yield to despair.
You don’t have to know it all to have hope. But you do need to decide to trust God’s management of your life; and that in the places where you don’t understand, you trust God is still working.
There’s a Lordship issue here: we keep wanting to take back some little corner of our lives to worry and fret over, some part that we are afraid to just give to Him.
But waiting on God doesn’t mean inaction; it simply means we will do our best, and then just rest and trust that God’s got it under control.
This is a discipline of the heart that we must develop; it runs against our natural tendencies. Like all good habits, we have to cultivate it, to preach to our own hearts. Good habits are strengthened by repetition.

Faith and Weakness

Have you ever felt, “if only I could believe better, if only I had more faith”?

It’s like saying wishing you wish you trusted the seatbelts in your car better. But you’re going to go for a drive anyways.

Faith is not concerned with your ability to do anything at all, but in the integrity of what you trust. Whether I think so or not, my seatbelts are strong, and I go driving as if they were. Same with God: I rest not in my ability to believe, but in the Person I’m trusting.

There is rest and a tremendous sense of relief in this. Even when I blow it, even when a thousand voices in my head shout that I’m a failure, I can rest. He (not I) is God; I’m not saved, nor do I serve out of my own ability, but on His. In myself, I feel desperately inadequate. With Him, anything’s possible.

And so I lean on Him. I know what a waffling, diffident windbag I can be: but He gives more grace. I worry less what others think of me; I don’t even have to worry about what I think about me. But this self knowledge doesn’t lead to a pathological self-loathing; rather it forces me to consider and claim His work in my life. It’s not about effort or how skillfully I handle my path – it’s all about HIM. And I am secure, valued, and loved.

My weaknesses make me return to Him for this grace and rest. The trick is knowing to go to Him for relief.

It follows then that I need to do what I can to know Him better. Meditate on His word; spend time in prayer. Make a calculated decision to learn all you can; it’s very down to earth. And whatever you do, don’t give yourself religious brownie points for doing so; this is as sensible as eating your vegetables. The rules of relationship apply just as much to God as they do to anyone else: you have to spend time together if you want to get to know a person. You need to live life together.

… is one of waiting on God. You don’t ever “arrive” or get really godly – you just realize more and more how much you need Him.

Sometimes to not know what to do next is a good thing. That’s the place where we cry out to Him. Conscious dependence on God from day to day is, I think, the place where God wants us; the place where He can bless, and the place where we really get to know Him.

The place where God isn’t some abstract concept in our minds, but a real God, a living God whom we can cast our hopes on every day.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need”. (Hebrews 4:16)