Resting and Trust

“So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God.” (Hebrews 4:9 NLT)

The context of the book of Hebrews has to do with convincing the unbelieving Jews of the superiority of Christ. Jesus is the fulfillment of all that they hold dear. Jesus is better than Angels, Moses, and the Law because He is the fulfillment of all of those things. So the writer of the book is admonishing them to not harden their heart in unbelief like their ancestors, but enter into the rest that salvation can give them.

This message of rest is also for us today. Because of the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross we can enter into a Spiritual rest for salvation.

This rest not only applies to salvation, but also to everyday life. Our salvation is so complete that it not only deals with our eternal destiny, but it can offer us rest in the midst of every problem. The same rest that is available for the salvation of our souls is also available for every challenge of life.

Learning how to rest is an important element of victorious living. Saying, “I’m resting” is not some spiritual incantation that enters us into the resting mode, but rather it’s a lifestyle based on absolute truth. As the invitation in Hebrews states, “therefore be diligent to enter into that rest” (V 11). Entering into God’s rest is an exercise of the will, trusting in the authority of His Word.

It’s a deliberate acknowledgment that God is fully aware of your situation and He understands the severity, the timing and the gravity of your problem. In other words, resting is agreeing to allow God to “fix it” in His way, on His terms, and in His timing. Its the act of “casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)

Bottom Line
When my daughter Leslie was a toddler she was a trusting soul. I would lift her up and put her on the kitchen counter. She would leap off the counter with enthusiasm into my arms. No matter how far I got from the counters edge she would leap with complete trust that I was going to catch her. After each jump she would say, “again,again”.

That’s how God wants us to experience Him. He wants us to take the leap of faith and learn to rest in Him, again and again. He will, without fail, catch us when we take the leap of faith and give all our anxiety to Him.

There is a song written in 1920 by a Englishman named Edward Henry Joy called “All our Anxiety”. I believe the song echoes the message of rest in Hebrews 4.

Is there a heart bound by sorrow?
Is there a life weighed down by care?
Come to the cross each burden bearing
All you anxiety leave it there

All our anxiety all our care
Bring to the mercy seat, leave it there.
Never a burden He cannot bear,
Never a friend like Jesus”.

Courage For the New Year

Throughout the Scripture Jesus continually reminds his disciples to be courageous in approaching whatever they may face in life. Was he attempting to pump up the troops to help them accomplish their goals in life or was there something deeper he was conveying?

I think there was a deeper, life changing truth he was trying to instill in his disciples. Jesus was teaching the simple truth of trust. He desires that all of his children would live in the light of absolute dependence upon Him. Trusting in His finished work of the cross for our salvation is just the beginning of our trust journey.

If I could use one word to describe a “super believer” it would be the word TRUST. The ultimate attribute and quality of a follower of Jesus is our ability to fully trust him with every event, situation and aspect of our life. The Scripture says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart (our mind, will and emotions) and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.“ (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Whatever comes our way we are to give it to the Lord and trust Him to work it all out for our good and His glory. When we stress out over a situation we are choosing to withhold our heart from Him. We are choosing to not trust Jesus and our Heavenly Father. How is it that in stressful situations we often forget that God is already fully aware of our situation, and knows the severity of our circumstance? God is never surprised at what happens to us, matter of fact, he knows in advance. That means that every situation is a test of our willingness and ability to fully trust in Him.

That reminds me of a phrase I heard an evangelist give over thirty years ago regarding how God is never surprised at what happens to us. He said, “Has it every occurred to you that nothing ever occurs to God?” It would be good for us to ponder that statement.

He wants our natural reflex to be that we immediately trust Him. We already have a head knowledge that God is bigger than any situation, but he wants us to move that trust from our head to our heart.

Bottom Line

My challenge to you for 2016 is to set a goal to ‘up your level of trust’ . When you get stressed -out about a situation, give it to God, and practice trusting Him to see you through. Then begin to see every trial as a divine test by the heavenly Father to ‘up your level of trust’.

When something occurs that gets you stressed, worried, or out of control, remember this quote, “Don’t be guilty of mistaking the middle of the chapter for the end of your story.” (Jake Colsen)

Heaven

The older I get and the longer I walk with God, the more I long for Heaven. I am not anxious to leave on the next load, because I still have some living to do. But there is something about being a “pilgrim and stranger” to this world that causes me to sense a gravitational pull toward my real home, Heaven.

When you add the volatile world situation, the declining political climate or the possibility of being the one out of three who will get some form of cancer, it makes Heaven look pretty good. But there is a greater reason for that pull and longing toward Heaven.

For the committed follower of Jesus there is a growing confidence and inner assurance that God has prepared a place for us that is our real home (John 14:1-6). This is more than just a group affinity thing, it is a natural spiritual longing because of who we are in Christ. The Scripture even says that “we are seated in Heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). We are already there positionally so it’s natural that we would have this physical pull toward home.

I believe the Apostle Paul perfectly describes this bent toward heaven.

1For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. 4While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 5God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.
6So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. 7For we live by believing and not by seeing. 8Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 9So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. (2 Corinthians 4:1-9 )

Bottom Line

Hope is probably one of the greatest attributes that a person can possess. Hope gets us up in the morning. Hope helps us look forward to another day and gives us something to live for. However, there are many things in this life to destroy one’s hope. That’s because hope in this world is limited and temporary at best. But for a believer our hope is based on an absolute. It is based on the authority and power of a risen Christ and His promise of a new life. Our hope is vested in another world that is perfect and is way beyond our deepest dream. So look up fellow believer, and put your hope in your eternal birthright as a child of the living God, because Heaven is your home.

For God has prepared, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man all that God has prepared for those who love Him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)

When You Are Backed into a Corner

When my children were little I told them about a trap I built when I was a kid to catch rabbits. So to illustrate how it worked, I built a trap to show the kids how to catch a rabbit. First thing the next morning we checked the trap hoping to find a rabbit. But to our surprise, we didn’t snag a rabbit but a possum. The closer we got to the trap the more the cornered possum would hiss and show his sharp teeth. He was cornered and ready to attack.

How do your respond when you are backed into a corner?

I have often said, “When a person is backed into the corner they will either come out swinging or they will display the grace of God.” I think too often we display behavior and attitudes that are more like a carnal believer than like the Savior we follow. There is a thin line between properly defending yourself and displaying a quiet and calm spirit.

Speaking of responding with Grace, the late Roy Hession said it better than anyone I know. He said;
“Every person who crosses us, every person who discourages us, is God’s way of breaking us. It creates a deeper channel in us for the life of Christ. The only life that pleases God is His life, never our life. Our self-centered life is the exact opposite of His. We can never be filled with His life unless we are prepared for God to bring our life constantly to death.” (Calvary’s Road)

How we respond when pressed reveals our level of brokenness and maturity. All of us have occasional weak moments, but regularly challenging those who disrespect us is an indication that we may be walking in the flesh.

Living in a contemporary world that is constantly more hostile and intolerant of believers, our flesh is constantly challenged. The moment we say to the Lord, “I want to live for you, obey you and become all that you want me to be,” the Lord begins the work of breaking us. He allows circumstances to come our way that will reveal who and what we are trusting in, other than Him.

Peter is an example of the typical “on fire and committed’ believer. He very boldly declared that he was willing to go to the mat defending His Lord. But the Lord knew what was inside of him and knew that only failure and challenge would reveal Peter’s self-centeredness. He knew if Peter was going to be a successful apostle his dependence upon the flesh would have to be exposed.

The Death Process
It is called a death process. When Jesus declared that we must take up our cross and follow Him, He wasn’t speaking of us dying on the cross. He was referring to a spiritual death process that only the cross could produce. “For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus sake, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal body.” (2 Cor. 4:11)

It is only through various trials, failures, and sometimes suffering, that we experience the death process. These events and incidences are designed to show us our self-sufficiency and expose our hypocrisy. It’s a stripping from us all that we are holding onto for security and worth. Then we are given the privilege to surrender and abandon our own life and exchange it for Christ’s life and sufficiency.

Bottom Line
During every test and trial responding with Grace is our goal. When we respond with Grace we are acknowledging whatever is going on, it’s OK. God in control, and we choose with an act of our will to trust Him. But when we acknowledge that “every person who crosses us, every person who discourages us, is God’s way of breaking us”, then we will realize that God is at work in our life to “create a deeper channel in us for the life of Christ.”

Reflecting God’s Glory

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18).

We are a mirror-like reflection of God’s glory. He chooses to use us to reflect His glory and character. What is God like? Look at a committed follower of Jesus and you will get a glimpse of the nature of God.

Of course, none of us are sinless, but God’s intention is for us to be salt and light to the world by reflecting His divine nature. When we choose to forgive those who do us wrong, we reflect the glory of God. When we give of our resources to helping those in need, and help the orphans and feed the hungry, we reflect the nature of God. When we display humility and we are willing to hang out with those who have very little status, just because we want to be their friend, we display the character of God.

This type of behavior is not “normal”, but it sets us apart from the world. Our motivation stems from our new nature, not from the culture. This reflection of God’s glory is not derived from our personality type, but rather from the outflow of His imputed righteousness.

This is all part of God’s plan. That’s the reason God placed us “in Christ” when we became a believer. Matter of fact, the transaction was so complete that the scripture tells us that we are placed into Christ and “Christ is placed into us” (John 17:22-23). That means wherever we go God is there, because He is in us. And where He is, we are also. That’s the reason Paul could say “…we are seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). So you can see that God has equipped us to be a reflection of His glory.

How can we be sure that we are a continual reflection of His glory? We learn by abiding in Christ. (John 14 & 15). Abiding in Christ includes an acknowledgement of your absolute dependence and trust in God. It’s resting and trusting in the sufficiency of Christ. He is not only our Savior, but He is also the source of our identity. Our ability to show genuine love comes from Him.

Christ becomes our source of everything. We are no longer defined by our secular job, economic status, or our natural talent; but these things become an outlet to reflect the glory of God. It’s no longer what I do, but who I am in what I do, that reflects the glory of God. Therefore I can say, “whatever my hand finds doing, I will glorify God”.

Bottom Line
God created us to be a reflection of His glory. As the scripture denotes, God could have the rocks cry out, but He chooses to use His children to manifest His glory. The world is looking for a demonstration of God’s existence and power. As we fix our gaze on Christ, we can be transformed and then we become a key player in revealing Jesus to our world. Consider this prayer by Oswald Chambers.

“Oh Lord, I look to you so utterly that I am more than useless without you. Be made wisdom and discernment and understanding unto me today.” (My Utmost for His Highest)

Give Thanks for Every Circumstance

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:17)

The above scripture is one of those passages that we learn early on in our Christian life. Most of us apply the “thankful thing” when we get a little disappointed when our vacation doesn’t work out. We say something like, “well God knows best and all things work together”. I must admit, that’s not a bad thing.

But what about those times when our life falls apart? It might be that we lose our job, or experience a debilitating illness, or even worse, what if we lose a loved one in death? Do we really have a thankful heart in those situations?

This scripture is not suggesting that we jump up and down with thanks because we have a life-changing loss, but the passage is teaching us to apply the supernatural element of giving thanks to our loss. God wants us to see Him in the midst of our circumstances.

There are least four reasons we should give thanks in all our situations.

Giving thanks in all situations is what we do as committed followers of Jesus.
Part of our spiritual DNA is to trust God in all things. Even when we can’t understand or comprehend why this is happening to us, our duty is to give thanks to God because He can see the big picture. Our God is sovereign and in control, and He is up to something when things happen to us that we cannot control. Note the following verse:

“For our light affliction and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen (our current situation), but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Giving thanks in all situations is an act of faith.
Our faith is measured by our level of trust. It is trust that enacts the supernatural element of God’s grace. He wants us to be so dependent upon Him that whatever happens we immediately run to Him and draw on His grace to help us through the crisis. Jesus wants to be our rest, our peace, and our “present help in the time of trouble”.

Giving thanks in all things causes us to focus on our blessings rather than our loss.
I think one of the reasons we take loss so hard is that we are so centered on what has been taken away from us, that we miss the joy of our present blessings. Each of us has been blessed in immeasurable ways. By reflecting on God’s goodness we are able to see clearly that we are a recipient of God grace, mercy and blessing. We then move from a sense of loss to a sense of God’s overwhelming love. It’s then that we can cast our burden on Him.

Giving thanks in all things causes us to live with Heaven in mind.
When it comes down to it, this life is preparation for eternity. As a committed follower of Jesus, we are not of this world. Matter of fact, the scripture teaches us that we are strangers and pilgrims in this world. A stranger is not familiar with the territory; he has no desire to get attached to this world. A pilgrim is one who is just passing through to another destination.

I have often heard the phrase, “He is so heavenly minded he is no earthly good”. This is usually a reference to someone who is serious about his walk with God, most of the time it’s not a compliment. I think the opposite is true; when “you are so earthly minded you are no heavenly good”. The more we learn to trust God in all things, the greater the upward pull toward heaven.

Bottom Line
When things are falling apart it is difficult to stay focused and calm. The pain is real, and sometimes the suffering seems unfair. But as committed followers of Christ our response in every situation is to “give thanks in all things”. It’s what we do because we trust God not only for our salvation but we also trust Him for every situation that life throws at us. Rest assured that our trials and disappointments is our cue to give thanks in all things.

“Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace that passes all comprehension shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Adversity

Have you ever heard the saying, “Adversity makes you stronger?” We would all agree that the statement on some level has validity. However, our real-life experience teaches us that adversity often leaves us confused, angry, hurt or depressed. Depending on the level and intensity, adversity often puts us in a weakened and vulnerable position. We are weakened because we don’t know what to do next and vulnerable because we often have a sense of desperation.

I believe the Lord has a purpose for us experiencing adversity. Here are three things to consider.

It’s about perspective
Adversity in and of itself has no value. The value to us lies in our perspective. We basically have two choices when adversity comes. One is a perspective of doom that keeps us in a confused, angry, hurt and depressed stage, or a perspective of hope that will allow the Lord to teach us a life lesson that will indelibly mark our life to the good.

The first step to getting out the “adversity funk” is to decide to change your perspective. Instead of living in an overwhelmed mode, decide to get up, dust yourself off and be intentional about discovering a good side to the situation.

It’s About Being Positive
Immerse yourself in positivity. I don’t mean the touchy-feely kind of emotion. But I am referring to the faith kind of positivity. You can be genuinely positive because you have the promises of God’s word to give you hope. Whatever situation you are facing God promises that He is “able to do exceeding, abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:29) In other words, there is no situation too hard for God.

It’s Time to stop talking and start listening
I had a good friend who had a bad habit of finishing my sentences. When I would engage in a conversation with him he would inevitably finish my sentences for me. He thought he knew where I was going in the conversation, so he would attempt to complete my thoughts. But most of the time he was wrong. He had terrible listening skills. I would often think, if he would just be quiet and listen we could make a decision.

Sometimes we are just like that with God. Because we so strongly believe in consistent prayer, we sometimes don’t take time to be quiet and develop spiritual listen skills. Once we bring our case to God, we are to leave it there, then rest and listen.

Bottom Line
God wants us is to fully trust Him through our adversity. When we worry, that’s a sign of a lack of trust. Taking things into our own hands is an indication that we know better than God.

When we face adversity, our perspective should be to look for God in the midst. He is there, but we must look for Him. Then we are to display a positive attitude based on the promises of God. The promises are for us, and they are based on absolute truth. Then we are to be intentional about listening for His voice. He promises us, “call upon on me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you know not. “

The proper response to adversity is God’s way of deepening our fellowship, teaching us valuable lessons and building our character.