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Posts tagged ‘resting in the Lord’

What I Learned About God From My Children

SOURCE:  Judy Douglass/Family Life Ministries

God uses our children to help us learn to walk in the Spirit and build our character.

As parents we have the responsibility to love, nurture, provide and train our children to become responsible, moral, hardworking, contributing, authentic adults. Most of us try to do this, with varying degrees of competency and success.

But I’ve found that God also has an equally important role for our children in our lives: to help us learn to walk in the Spirit, build our character, and develop skills we need for life and ministry. Here are two truths I have learned from my girls.

DEBBIE: You are not in control

Before Debbie was born, I was editor of Worldwide Challenge magazine. I loved that we had a specific schedule for each month, week, day. The magazine was so compliant. Every month it came out on time, and it was beautiful.

I stepped away from that responsibility shortly before Debbie was born. I knew I would need to learn to be a little more flexible about my schedule, but I was sure I could get her on a good routine.

Surprise! Debbie had colic. Not the evening kind. The always kind. Her tummy hurt. She cried. And cried. She didn’t sleep except a few hours each night—maybe five to six hours. But that was it. No naps.

My day went like this: Up by 5 or 6 a.m. with a screaming baby. An hour of nursing (no crying then). A few minutes of peace: quickly put some clothes on. Then carry her, entertain her, sing to her, anything to get her not to cry until the two-hour mark when I could feed her again. Repeat. Until midnight. For four months.

I cried almost as much as Debbie. I was sure I would never be rested, dressed, and presentable again.  I would never be in control of my life again. “Lord,” I said desperately, “this is not working. I am not the right mother for this child.”

His reply was gentle: Oh Judy, you are exactly right for Debbie—the one I created to love and comfort her in her great discomfort. But she is also just right for you. I created her to help you learn some important lessons: You are not in control. Things will not happen according to your schedule. You need to learn to let go, to flex, to relax.

“But I don’t like not being in control.”

Exactly!

Then: Judy, I am in control. I know much better than you the what, when, and how for your life—and for Debbie’s. Rest in Me. You won’t be disappointed. My plan and schedule and timing are perfect.

MICHELLE: Enjoy the journey

From the day she was born, Michelle has not been in a hurry. She slept much of her first year. She cuddled, laughed, listened a lot, talked enough.

She played quietly, explored, created, painted, invented, rescued. But she never rushed.

I’m more of a destination person. She’s more of a journey person. I like to get there. She likes the getting there. So often she heard:

“Hurry up, we’re late.”

“We’ll be late to church, Michelle.”

“Carpool is waiting, Michelle.”

“Time for soccer practice, Michelle.”

Nothing hurried her. But I know I frustrated her, discouraged her, hurt her.

Over time, I began to hear the Lord whispering, What’s your hurry, Judy? He reminded me of those famous sisters, Mary and Martha. Martha was focused on getting dinner ready. She rushed around, fretting that Mary wasn’t helping her. And Mary? She was enjoying Jesus. Listening, learning, reflecting.

Slowly Michelle’s ability to live in the present, her not hurrying to the future, began to rub off on me. I still like to get things done, but I have learned to let things go, stop for people in my life, leave tasks for another day. I don’t get as much done. But I enjoy the journey so much more.

“I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly”

(Isaiah 60:22)

Waiting on God

SOURCE:  Andrew Murray/Discipleship Journal

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. . . . Those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the land.”  Psalm 37:7, 9

“In patience possess your souls.” “Ye have need of patience.” “Let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire.”

Such words of the Holy Spirit show us what an important element in the Christian life and character patience is. And nowhere is there a better place for cultivating or displaying it than in waiting on God. There we discover how impatient we are, and what our impatience means.

We confess at times that we are impatient with men and circumstances that hinder us, or with ourselves and our slow progress in the Christian life. If we truly set ourselves to wait upon God, we shall find that it is with Him we are impatient, because He does not at once, or as soon as we could wish, do our bidding. It is in waiting upon God that our eyes are opened to believe in His wise and sovereign will, and to see that the sooner and the more completely we yield absolutely to it, the more surely His blessing can come to us.

“It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.”

We have as little power to increase or strengthen our spiritual life, as we had to originate it. We “were born not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of the will of God.” Even so, our willing and running, our desire and effort, avail nought; all is “of God that showeth mercy.”

All the exercises of the spiritual life, our reading and prayer, our willing and doing, have their very great value. But they can go no farther than this, that they point the way and prepare us in humility to look to and depend upon God Himself, and in patience to wait His good time and mercy.

The waiting is to teach us our absolute dependence upon God’s mighty working, and to make us in perfect patience place ourselves at His disposal. They that wait on the Lord shall inherit the land; the promised land and its blessing. The heirs must wait; they can afford to wait.

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.”

The margin gives for “Rest in the Lord,” “Be silent to the Lord,” or “Be still before the Lord” (ASV ). It is resting in the Lord, in His will, His promise, His faithfulness, and His love, that makes patience easy. And the resting in Him is nothing but being silent unto Him, still before Him. Having our thoughts and wishes, our fears and hopes, hushed into calm and quiet in that great peace of God which passes all understanding. That peace keeps the heart and mind when we are anxious for anything, because we have made our request known to Him. The rest, the silence, the stillness, and the patient waiting, all find their strength and joy in God Himself.

The need for patience, and the reasonableness, and blessedness of patience will be opened up to the waiting soul. Our patience will be seen to be the counterpart of God’s patience. He longs far more to bless us fully than we can desire it. But as the husbandman has long patience till the fruit be ripe, so God bows Himself to our slowness and bears long with us. Let us remember this, and wait patiently.

Of each promise and every answer to prayer the Word is true: “I the Lord will hasten it in its time.”

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” Yes, for Him. Seek not only the help, the gift, seek Himself; wait for Him. Give God His glory by resting in Him, by trusting Him fully, by waiting patiently for Him.

This patience honors Him greatly; it leaves Him, as God on the throne, to do His work; it yields self wholly into His hands. It lets God be God. If your waiting be for some special request, wait patiently. If your waiting be more the exercise of the spiritual life seeking to know and have more of God, wait patiently. Whether it be in the shorter specific periods of waiting, or as the continuous habit of the soul, rest in the Lord, be still before the Lord, and wait patiently. “They that wait on the Lord shall inherit the land.”

My soul, wait thou only upon God.

Are my circumstances too much for God to handle?

One of God’s Great “Don’ts”

SOURCE:  Oswald Chambers

Do not fret— it only causes harm —Psalm 37:8

Fretting means getting ourselves “out of joint” mentally or spiritually.

It is one thing to say, “Do not fret,” but something very different to have such a nature that you find yourself unable to fret.  It’s easy to say, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7) until our own little world is turned upside down and we are forced to live in confusion and agony like so many other people.

Is it possible to “rest in the Lord” then? If this “Do not” doesn’t work there, then it will not work anywhere. This “Do not” must work during our days of difficulty and uncertainty, as well as our peaceful days, or it will never work. And if it will not work in your particular case, it will not work for anyone else.  Resting in the Lord is not dependent on your external circumstances at all, but on your relationship with God Himself.

Worrying always results in sin. We tend to think that a little anxiety and worry are simply an indication of how wise we really are, yet it is actually a much better indication of just how wicked we are.  Fretting rises from our determination to have our own way. Our Lord never worried and was never anxious, because His purpose was never to accomplish His own plans but to fulfill God’s plans. Fretting is wickedness for a child of God.

Have you been propping up that foolish soul of yours with the idea that your circumstances are too much for God to handle?

Set all your opinions and speculations aside and “abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

Deliberately tell God that you will not fret about whatever concerns you. All our fretting and worrying is caused by planning without God.

The Painful Discipline of Our Heavenly Father

SOURCE:   a sermon by John Piper

Hebrews 12:3-11

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. 4 You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; 5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; 6 FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.” 7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Resting and Wrestling

There is a restful side to the Christian life and a wrestling side to the Christian life. “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest,” Jesus said in Matthew 11:28. “Be anxious for nothing . . . let your requests be made known to God . . . and the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). There is rest and peace in the Christian soul.

But there is also wrestling and struggle. Jesus said in Luke 13:24, “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” And the word “strive” is agonizo – to wrestle and struggle. At the end of his life, Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” Keeping the faith is a fight to be fought and a race to be run.

These two sides are not related in such a way that you rest one day and wrestle the next. They are interwoven in two ways. 1) First, the main aim of our wrestling is to rest – in God and not in money or position or looks or achievement; the aim of our wrestling is to rest in the promises of God and not the promises of sin. 2) Second, all our wrestling and fighting and running are done with a deep restfulness of spirit that Christ himself has already won the decisive victory for us and is sovereignly working in us and will bring us to glory.

The Mystery of God’s Providence in the Pain of our Lives

The book of Hebrews is a very mature and sober book when it comes to the pain and stress of Christian living and the endurance that it takes to run the race and fight the fight and finish well. It’s not a book that people (especially teenagers and strong young adults) gravitate toward – unless they have suffered and struggle for some explanation of how that relates to God. In other words, the more easy and pain-free your life has been, the less you will cherish the kind of spirituality taught in this book. And the more you have suffered, the more you will cling to the precious teachings of this book – if you are willing to believe them.

That is a big if. I was talking with one of our members at the baptism service Wednesday evening, and he was telling me about recent conversations he had had with people who simply do not believe what this chapter teaches. It’s not a little feel-good chapter about how to make the best of your troubles – or even about how God makes the best of your troubles. It is a massive statement about the gracious sovereignty of God over the evil that befalls his people. And the big IF is: will you believe this? Will you accept the mystery of God’s providence in the pain of your life, and be trained by it (as verse 11 says) for the sake of good and peace and holiness and righteousness and life? Or will you kick against this chapter and demand in the season of suffering that God give a greater account of himself than he does in this chapter?

I think it will be helpful to approach verses 3-11 like this: first we will notice the pain and sorrow in this chapter? Second, we will ask what kind it is and where it comes from? Third, we will ask if it has a purpose or design and what is it?

First, then, let’s notice the thread of suffering that runs through this section. Keep in mind what we saw two weeks ago and last week. Two weeks ago in Hebrews 11:35b-38 we read about Old Testament believers who were tortured, mocked, whipped, imprisoned, sawn in two, destitute, homeless. Then last week in Hebrews 12:1 we heard the call for all of us to lay aside sins and weights and run the marathon of radical love and holiness, while these saints witness to us along the route that it really can be done “by faith.” And then in verse two the writer tells us to look to Jesus who, like these Old Testament saints, endured a horrible death and was shamed, but set his eyes on the joy set before him.

Glimpses of the Suffering of the Readers of Hebrews

And now he brings this legacy of suffering up to date and applies it to the believers of his day. In verse 3 he says, “Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.” The first glimpse of suffering we see in this church here is that something is threatening to make them “grow wearing and lose heart.” It is normal for Christians to have experiences of stress and suffering that threaten their faith and press too hard, or last too long and feel almost intolerable. Losing heart is a great spiritual danger. And these Christians were in that danger, as are many of you.

Another glimpse of their suffering is the reference to the hostility against Jesus (v. 3): “Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself.” Why consider this? Because the same kind of thing is happening to you and you need to get strength from Jesus.

Another glimpse is in verse 4: “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.” The point here is that things are bad, but not as bad as they could be. There is hostility and trouble and stress and suffering, but evidently no martyrs yet. We know from Hebrews 10:34 that some had been imprisoned and some had been plundered. But it is not yet martyrdom, though that could come. The stress level here is huge. How do you sleep at night when being a Christian may result in mob violence?

Another glimpse of their suffering is in verse 11: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful.” In other words, the present experience of these Christians was sorrowful. Joy had been covered with a dark cloud of pain. The word “seems” (discipline “seems” not to be joyful) hints that there is a kind of residual joy of hope that hangs on beneath the cloud, but the tears and the sighs and the groans are so many that it looks like sorrow has the upper hand – at least for a season. As it does when a child cries after a spanking.

So I think it is fair to say that the believers in this passage are under tremendous stress; they are enduring some form of hostility; they are wrestling with great sorrow and are in danger of growing weary of the battle and losing heart. This whole book is written to keep that from happening.

The Suffering Is Coming from the Hostility of Sinners

Now the second thing to ask is what kind of suffering this is and where did it come from. The first answer is that the suffering is coming from hostile adversaries. This was true in chapter 10:32-34; and it was true of the Old Testament saints in 11:35-38; and you can see that it is true here in the connection between verses 3 and 4. “Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.” The link with Jesus and the hostility shown against him shows that this is what the Christians are dealing with. He endured hostility from sinners . . . you too have resisted, but have not yet had to shed your blood. So the suffering in view is mainly persecution in various forms, short of martyrdom.

But where did it come from? Who is doing this? Who’s in charge of this? The first answer to that is seen in verse 3: “Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners.” This is what Jesus endured, and this is what you are enduring. The suffering comes from the hostility of sinners. The suffering is coming from the hostile will of sinful adversaries. That is the first answer.

It is not the main one, and it is not the decisive one. This whole passage is built on another answer to the question: Where does this suffering come from? And who’s doing this? And who’s in charge? The main answer of the passage is that God is in charge here, and that he is in ultimate control of these afflictions and that they are in fact the loving discipline of a perfect heavenly father. That’s the burden of this passage.

The Suffering Is God’s Discipline

Verse 5-7 says that one of the reasons you are growing weary and losing heart is that “you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, ‘MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.’ It is for discipline that you endure” (see Proverbs 3:11-12). In other words, what adversaries do to you out of sinful hostility, God is doing out of fatherly discipline.

This is extremely important for knowing your God and for living by faith through the suffering that is coming sooner or later into your life. Notice very carefully: this text does not say that God looks on while hostile sinners hurt his people, or while Satan ravages the elect, and only then steps in to turn all this evil for good. That is not what the text says. It has a totally different conception of what is happening to us.

It says that God is disciplining us; he is teaching us and correcting us and transforming us. In other words, God has a purpose and a design in what is happening to us. God is the ultimate doer here. Verse 6b goes so far as to say, “[God] scourges every son whom he receives.” Who is scourging? Who is whipping? (See 11:36). God is. God is not a passive observer in our lives while sinners and Satan beat us up. He rules over sinners and Satan, and they unwittingly, and with no less fault or guilt, fulfil his wise and loving purposes of discipline in our lives.

This is what I said earlier some Christians simply will not believe. They say that God is not in charge of the evil that happens to us. That he has given the world over to Satan and the free will of man. But it will not work in this passage. The hostility of sinners is real and it is wrong and responsible and guilty. But it is also – and this is a great hope for us – it is also the loving, painful discipline of our Father in heaven. God is not coming to his children late after the attack, and saying, “I can make this turn for good.” That is not discipline. That is repair. It’s the difference between the surgeon who plans the incision for our good, and the emergency room doctor who sews us up after a freak accident. This text says, God is the doctor planning our surgery, not the doctor repairing our lacerations.

Are Natural Calamities also God’s Discipline?

Someone might ask, does this principle of discipline apply to things like natural calamities and sicknesses that are not caused by the hostility of sinners? Should we see these things as part of God’s overarching discipline of his children for their good?

I would answer with a question: Which is harder to attribute to God’s design: the hostility of sinners against God’s people or the destruction of a hurricane? I believe the hostility of sinners is more difficult to attribute to God’s design. The reason is that in both cases – hostility and hurricanes – you have to deal with the pain caused by the event. But in the case of hostility you have the added difficulty that people’s wills are involved, whereas in the case of a hurricane you don’t have that difficulty. No human agent is causing the hurricane, but a human is willing the hostility. So if we say that God is governing the hostility of sinners against the saints, we imply that he governs not just natural effects but human wills, and what harm they bring to the saints.

And that is what this passage teaches. What hostile sinners mean for harm, God means for good. What they will as hurtful, God wills as helpful. What they plan as destruction, God plans as salvation. What they design as a deterrent to faith, God designs as discipline for faith.

The upshot then is this: if it is more difficult for God to govern the hostility of sinners against his people, and yet this passage teaches that he does just that, then why would we even think of denying the less difficult act of God’s rule over natural things like hurricanes and sickness? Especially when God himself says in Exodus 4:11 “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?”

So I see in this passage the precious teaching that God reigns over the hazards of our circumstances and over the health of our bodies and over the hostility of our adversaries and he designs all of life ultimately as a loving father’s discipline.

God’s Design is Love

Which leaves one last question: what is the design of God in this sovereign governing of our adversaries and circumstances? The text is wonderfully clear on this. Verse 6: “Those whom the Lord loves he disciplines.” The design of God is love. Our pain is not the effect of God’s hate, but of God’s love. Will you believe this? That is the question.

Or verse 7: “It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons.” In other words, in your pain, you are not being treated as a slave or as an enemy. You are being treated as a loved child of God. The issue is: will you believe this? Will you let the Word of God settle the issue for you, so that when the suffering comes, you don’t turn on God and put him in the dock and prosecute him with accusations? He probably will not tell you why it is your turn, or why it is happening now, or why there is this much pain, or why it lasts this long. But he has told you what you need to know: it is the love of an all-wise Father to a child. Will you trust him?

Our Good, Our Holiness, Our Peace, Our Righteousness

But he is even willing to tell us more. Verses 10b-11, “He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Four words: our good, our holiness, our peace, and our righteousness. This is the design of our loving Father that comes to us painfully and mysteriously through the hostility of sinful adversaries and the natural hazards of a fallen world.

Verse 9b poses our concluding question: Will we “be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?” Or will be rebel against the father of spirits, and die? Will we trust him? If we submit to this sovereign, loving, fatherly care, we will not “grow weary and lose heart,” but we will keep the faith, fight the good fight, and finish our course, and die well, and glorify our Father in heaven.

A few confirming texts:
Genesis 50:20
Amos 3:6
1 Peter 3:174:19
Acts 4:27-28

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