“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
There’s nothing quite like the “unexpected” to bring one’s life to a screeching halt. Whether it’s a localized event or a worldwide pandemic like COVID-19, nothing is truer than the power of an invisible foe to bring us to our knees.
Disruption. Discontent. Despair.
All seem to be magnified in periods of forced stillness. Ugliness can rise up in us. Anxiety may overflow. Restlessness peaks. And as our minds and bodies try to succumb to the pace of a new rhythm, we ironically, and sometimes rather panickily, scramble to create our own pathways in the midst of non-movement. Let’s face it — we, humans, just can’t be still. We struggle to accept that sometimes we don’t always need to move; at least for these types of ordained moments when God is inviting us into something deeper, better, and more fulfilling than anything we could conjure up out of our own power and strength. Yes, it is in times like these that we find God patiently waiting for us to listen to Him and for us to choose rest – His provision – in the midst of remaining.
So, what really is it that feeds our desire to move? To do? To be so averse to rest? What is it within us that cries out in distress when we are confronted with a day lacking comfortable structure, routine, or a schedule that is filled? What is it that prevents mankind from kneeling at the altar – humbly, faithfully, persistently – with our hands wide open saying, “Lord, fill this day with the things you see fit. Give my day meaning. Let me not assign it my own.”? What is it that prevents us from enjoying a life of “less” instead of one privileging the tensions of wanting more?
P. R. I. D. E.
Pride. Our intense desire – whether conscious or subconscious – to be a god, no matter how “mini.” It’s that little, five-letter word that is so greatly insidious and ever so capable of leavening the dough of our self-concept; the image of ourselves. Indeed, it is pride that led to Satan’s fall and sin’s infection of the Garden (Isaiah 14:12-17; Genesis 2-3). It is pride that made Cain’s offering to God unacceptable and Judas’s betrayal of Jesus so tragic. (Genesis 4; Matthew 26:47-56; John 13). Pride cost David his son with Bathsheba and the death of her innocent husband, Uriah (2 Samuel 11-12). It was pride that destroyed Haman on the gallows, the enemy’s armies in battle, and Paul’s former self, “Saul” (Esther 7; Joshua 6-12; Acts 9). It is pride that keeps us believing that all things hinge on our work, our presence, and our effort. It is pride that perverts what our eyes see, what our hearts want, and what our minds understand (1 John 2:16).
Now while it is true that God did indeed make us to work and tend to the Garden as Adam and Eve once did, God also made us to worship Him; to bring glory to His name and to peacefully tend to all that was in the Garden (Genesis 1:26 – 2:25). God made us to enjoy life with Him in a way that doesn’t bring about chaos or stress, or the vaporish seeking and shallow fulfillments that idol worship and obligatory service always bring. As His children, we were made to be stewards, not owners of the things in this world. We were made to be “friends” to the King; recipients of His blessings. And one of His greatest blessings is rest – our ability to Sabbath (John 15:15).
Sabbath rest is a time of not only physical stillness, but intimate fellowship with Jesus. Sabbath is the fruit of His grace and mercy – His gift of relationship by remaining and staying tethered to the commands and heart of God. In Sabbath, we choose to seek the Lord by laying down all we are, all we think we know, and all we can do in effort to acknowledge that something far greater exists outside and inside of ourselves. Sabbath is the promise of the promise we have in Jesus; an opportunity to experience heaven on earth. Sabbath exercised is the procurement of the heart for remaining in Christ.
In John 15, the heart of Jesus’s work is ushered in. It is a place where His grace and love make our sin and the actions of the world so beautifully redemptive. It is here that Jesus teaches us about His love for us through His love for the Father, and the love we are to have for one another. It is here that we see Jesus giving us the opportunity to remain in the wholeness God’s love provides; a wholeness that will produce much fruit, prove that we are His disciples, and glorify God to the fullest (John 15:8). By Christ’s choice of us, we are given the opportunity to remain… to stay connected to Him – the vine – as His branches. Remaining allows us to faithfully respond to the tug of divinity within us. Resting allows us to become a little more like God; for even He rested from His own works at the beginning (Hebrews 4:9).
Ultimately, the decision to remain and rest in Jesus is a matter of the heart – a question of how badly we want to experience, see, and be used by Christ for His work in His Kingdom. Through Sabbath, we physically and spiritually demonstrate what we believe, what we profess, and how we respond to the Lord’s promises we hold so near to our hearts each day. Indeed, circumstances can make it difficult for us to remain throughout the burdens of a situation while our perspective on life can make it even harder to rest and allow God’s perfecting and releasing work to be done. However, it is in these moments that we can choose to express hope; to experience God’s grace. We can eagerly position our hearts to receive Him in such a way that we are empowered to remain, despite our weaknesses and shrinking bandwidths to withstand the pull of pride and other unholy things. We can still look to the “old rugged cross” and trust in the refreshing peace Sabbath brings; that place where Jesus meets us and pours out abundant grace and infinite love so we may continue to grow and throw off every sin that hinders us (Hebrews 12:1-3). Simply, our choice to remain is etched in how willing we are to die to ourselves – to sacrifice and surrender to God’s way of enduring His cross even when we feel like we have to toil alone.
Remaining and resting is not about the expression of our love, but of God’s.
He knows. He understands. He plans. He allows our free will to be exercised, as He’s covered us in our most perfectly short-sided failures.
There is beauty in His rest. There is beauty in His remaining.
And there is beauty in the fact that we get to choose Him, even though we have no right to choose because He chose us.
There is beauty resting in the truth that no matter what we choose, God’s love remains. It is an exercise in the love 1Corinthians 13:1-8 articulates so clearly. It is a love that demonstrates a bearing, belief, hope, and enduring of all things not for ourselves, but for Jesus. It is a love given in full response to His love that set the perfect standard for us. It is a love that never ends.
Let His love move you to rest and remain in Him today and every day. And may you feel the fullness of His presence in the invitations of stillness and in the shadows of the unexpected things God has given you.
Worship for Encouragement
“Let go of your heart. Let go of your head. And feel it now. I love. I love. I love, your presence.”