Saturday, March 1, 2014

Cease and Know

Earlier this week, I was so burdened by several things. I was miserable under that burden, yet I felt unable to let several concerns go. The Lord so graciously walked me through applying Scripture:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

"Pray without ceasing."

"Bring your cares to me, because I care about you."

"Cease striving and know that I am God."

I prayed those things to Him, yet I didn't immediately feel the burden lift. Then He reminded me of another evidence of grace in my life: praying friends and a praying husband. I cried out to others, and they cried out for me. Then, slowly, as the day unfolded, so did grace. 

The Lord showed me that much of the burden I was carrying is the burden He carries. He was answering my prayers to have His heart and to see people as He sees them.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing."

Then He began to lift certain burdens in very specific and unexpected ways. Oh, how He exceeded anything I could ask or imagine. He has affirmed relationships that I was worried over. He has confirmed His placement of us in ministry. He has surprised me with His answers, showing me that the truth of reality was not brokenness with others but greater fellowship. He has reminded me of the depth and blessing of certain relationships in my life. 

Why should I be surprised? This is how the Lord works. He doesn't magically make our lives easier. He doesn't fix all of the problems, in the world or in the Church. He doesn't make things as we'd like them to be. He graciously shows us that what He is doing is more wonderful that we could have even imagined. He gives us glimpses into how He is working...even how He is working in and through us. He reminds us of His sovereignty, which is always coupled with His mercy.

Yesterday, I was listening to some teaching about the Sabbath and what it should look like in the life of a Christian. Often, when we think of the Sabbath, we think of an antiquated Old Testament concept and law from which we are released. We do not think it is something that we can apply very well to our American lives, and when we do try to apply it, it is often in a legalistic or shallow way. Yet we are ignoring a concept that is in the Ten Commandments. If it made the Top Ten, maybe we should give it some thought. 

The purpose behind this command to observe the Sabbath, meaning to cease, is to stop our daily striving and working and running, in order to consider the Lord...to remember Him, His power, His provision, His purposes in the midst of our tiny, frantic efforts to feed our flesh and to make our lives count for something. It is a call to rest in Him and His merciful sovereignty. To give honor to Him and to consider His purposes for this world and for our lives. To be refreshed in the midst of an often stressful and difficult life. 

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 46:10. It is on my wall over my bed, a place where I should find rest, but where often my mind wanders and rambles the most. 

"Be still, and know that I am God!"

Today I did something crazy. I took the time to read it in context. Imagine that. How often we minimize God's Word by taking it from its cozy spot in the middle of other truths that make that one truth shine all the more. Psalm 46 begins like this:

God is our refuge and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
    and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
    Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! 

It is almost a taunting of troubled times. It's almost as if the Psalmist is saying, "Bring on the earthquakes. We can take it. Because we know the One who holds the mountains in the palm of His hands." The psalm ends with this:

"I will be honored by every nation.
    I will be honored throughout the world."
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
    the God of Israel is our fortress."

It is a word picture of God's ultimate and final exaltation. He will ultimately make everything right. Every trouble with vanish. Every sin will be wiped away. Every war ended. Under God's control and power, there will be peace. There will be rest. Striving will cease.

So, since we know that one day our striving will cease, we can make that a reality now. When we are on the side of such a good and sovereign God, there is no need for worrying. The Sabbath rest, the stillness of knowing God is in control, is at our fingertips everyday. When our souls rests in Him now, in faith though times are tumultuous, we declare our certainty and hope that one day, He will make all things right. 

The Sabbath rest, the ceasing of our work, should be a theme that is interwoven in our daily lives. It should be the undercurrent of peace in our lives as the circumstances without or within swirl and rage. Our spirits should cease their striving in the knowledge that God is in control. When our souls are at rest, our God is glorified and we get to experience the joy and peace of His sufficiency.

Be still and know that He is God.

God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. For only we who believe can enter his rest. Hebrews 4:1-3a