A friend of mine was telling me how her recent trials have been helping her to grow in an area she has struggled with in her life. When she told me that the Lord opened my eyes to the theme of my trials. My theme was different from hers, but God used her testimony to show me His work in my life. I love how He does that!
Since I was young, I have, by God’s grace, loved the Lord and loved His word. I have had high convictions and ideals, and I would definitely consider myself an idealist. This could be seen as a good thing, and I know the Lord has loved me all along, but the problem has come in that I have fretted and tried to make others and my circumstances meet these ideals and convictions. These convictions have ranged in topic from church matters to the health of my family and friends. I used to get very angry at Rob if he’d eat a cookie, for example, and I used to nag him about doing family worship. Several years ago the Lord showed me that I was making those things idols and that I needed to find my joy in Him and allow Him to do the work in others that He wanted to do. What a relief!
The Lord has used my celiac disease (when I didn’t know I had it and was so sick), my thyroid disease, the miscarriages, and the chemical sensitivities to reveal to me my complete weakness and inability to do anything apart from Him. Everything, even everyday tasks, has been impossible apart from Him giving me what I need to go on. I have seen Him do amazing things in my life and the life of my family because of this dependence. It has been forced upon me, but I am thankful for it. I would not have chosen it, but I am grateful.
Our Baker house project, which has lasted over three years and has involved much separation of our family, has also been a trial; ordained by God to work in both Rob and myself. For my part, He has been showing me more the depths of sin in my heart that would dominate if not for Christ. He has been weeding things out of my life and drawing me closer to Himself. And He has been showing me, through this and other circumstances, that He is not an idealist. That has been eye-opening! He does what is best, but it may not look best to those of us who are holding on to our perfect ideas. We want perfection now, not realizing that there are many things that go into perfection, including pain, trials, inconveniences, sacrifice. . .
Over the years my convictions have grown stronger but the Lord has brought me to and continues to bring me to a place of rest in Him. I no longer (usually) strive to make others believe certain things or to make my circumstances ideal. I have always had good intentions. I am so much like my Grandma–we want to fix everything and everyone and make the world a better place. 🙂 Only God can do that. He will use us, but only if we are resting in His hand–tools with no agenda of their own.
I thank the Lord for His rest, for His yoke that is easy and His burden that is light. His work was finished at the cross and He is seated (at rest) at the right hand of His Father and we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. We are seated. At rest. No more striving. Even work is restful. Being used as a tool is restful.
Jesus is interceding for us, praying continually. In Him we also are made priests to God, called to watch and pray. To wait. To be still and know that He is God. He has good works prepared for us but they must be His works and they must flow out of the place of prayer and dependence on Him.
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from His works as God did from His. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:6-13
The Israelites’ sin was unbelief. They did not believe or trust God, therefore they did not obey God. And there are so many today who have not entered into God’s rest (salvation) because they do not believe God. The message doesn’t make sense to them; it seems so foolish or impossible. And even we who have entered into His rest through the blood of Jesus, battle daily to continue in that rest. Not that we lose our salvation, but we worry and fret and strive and get stressed. These things demonstrate a lack of trust in God.
We are told in John 15 to abide in Christ–to live in Him and He in us. We are only branches. Branches cannot do anything of themselves. The only way to bear fruit is to be at rest in Christ. All our striving should be to this end: to believe God, to trust God, to wait on God, to be still and know that He is God.
All the fiery darts of the enemy, all our worries, and all our self-efforts come against our trust in God. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him” Hebrews 11:8. This belief cannot be a mere head nod, “Yes, God exists.” This God we serve and love is the ONE TRUE GOD, the CREATOR of the ends of the earth! He is able to accomplish all of His purposes in the world, the church, in our families and in ourselves–nothing will stop Him. Firmly believing this helps us to rest in the Lord when we are tempted to fix things, change things or make a wrong decision in difficult times and when tempted to do the work of God using our own very limited wisdom.
This belief turns into prayer. Abiding in Christ acquaints us with the heart of Christ. Because of the continual fellowship with God that we must have in order to abide and rest in Him we come to know Him and He shows us the things He is doing in the world and the smaller part of it that we know and the spiritual battle that is always going on. We come to see the immensity of God and the importance of the battle and we consequently come to feel our own smallness and inadequacy. This tends to move us to prayer. In the context of our abiding in Him, Jesus says, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you” John 15:16.
We become actively involved with Him in the things He is doing because we take time to listen to what He wants to say to us. He speaks to us through His word and also directly to our hearts. What He speaks to our hearts always goes together with His written word–He simply applies it to our present circumstances or shows us how to pray for a situation, etc. As we wait on Him and ask Him to work according to the desires of His heart, He bears fruit in us that lasts. This is amazing to me! Our work is to abide in Him. He takes care of the growth and the fruit.
Resting in Christ does not make us passive. It is the people who KNOW their God who will be strong and do great exploits, and lead many to righteousness. Knowing God makes us passionate about God and the things of God. He moves us to love what He loves and hate what He hates. Knowing God reveals the puniness of our efforts for God. All our good ideas are well-intentioned but they fall far short of accomplishing what God is really wanting to do in the world, the church and in our lives.
Our work must be to KNOW Jesus, to abide in Him, to rest, to trust, to wait on Him in prayer and watch what He does in answer and even how He uses us in the answer. He will fill us up with Himself and bear fruit in us that lasts. We will know that it is not us doing anything, but He in us.
We do not want to be among the very large number of people who will stand before God on judgment day and say, “But Lord, we did this great thing and that great thing for You.” To them the Lord will reply, “Depart from me, I never KNEW you.” Jesus’ use of the word knew is very important. One of Satan’s greatest strategies against us is to keep us so busy doing things for God that we have no time to know God. And if that isn’t enough, when we have some down time he keeps us distracted from the Lord.
We must fight our natural inclination to be busy and to fill our lives so full with a combination of good and worthless activities that we have no time to know God or people on a deep level.
If we make time for the Lord, and then for the people He puts in our lives, we will be full of fruit. To some we will appear to be lazy. We will be hounded by guilty feelings of “am I doing enough?” Our works will flow out of our relationship with the Lord and most of them will not carry an official title or be noticed by others. We will most likely feel that we are doing nothing of any great importance. But the fruit will be of the Lord and will last, and He will openly reward those who are not concerned with being recognized by others.
As we walk with the Lord and recognize His voice in our hearts we will simply pray when He leads us to pray, serve when He shows us how to serve, speak when He opens our mouths, and do what He says to do; and all the time we will feel weak and inadequate. We are nothing; He is everything. We are only jars of clay; He is the treasure inside.1 Corinthians is full of this message:
Paul said, But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
This is why telling God all about the things we’ve done for Him will be the wrong thing to say to Him on judgment day!
He is the source of your life in Jesus Christ, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’
Notice that Paul’s focus is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
And I , when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Paul’s use of the word know is just as intentional as Jesus’ use of knew. He could have said that he determined to talk about nothing other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified. But he really knew Jesus deeply and so Jesus is what came out in everything he did and said. He couldn’t help it. He determined to know Jesus–that was His work. The result was fruit in his life and in the Corinthian church.
And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:23-2:5
The only way to have the demonstration of the Spirit and of power in ministry is to know the Lord through prayer, fellowship, and two-way communication with Him.
Paul also said to the Corinthians, “I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve (the bride of the first Adam) by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” 1 Corinthians 11:2-3. We are the bride of Christ, the second Adam. Satan tempted Eve to a lack of trust in God. He tempts us, the bride of Christ, to the same. We have been deceived by the wisdom of men and of our flesh that we must do at the expense of knowing. We often really believe that it is the clever things we do that will draw people to Jesus. They won’t. It can be helpful to examine some of our church practices and ask whether we see any real fruit from them or not, especially in regards to our outreach methods. We must each do this for ourselves. It would not be helpful for me to list off my opinions here or describe what I think of as worthless things when it comes to our time. The Lord will reveal these things to each of us individually, and to local churches, if we ask Him to.
Knowing and loving Jesus is our supreme work. We are His bride. As Christ is lifted up in our hearts while we wait for Him and make ourselves ready in love, holiness and expectation, He will draw people to Himself. Our love will be contagious. They will ask us about the hope we have and the answer will spill out of us. Jesus will be glorified and people will be saved. Our lives will change. Brothers and sisters in Christ who are struggling to grow in their relationship with the Lord will be spurred on to love and good works. We will bear fruit that lasts.
Father, I pray that you will give to us a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ and that You will cause us to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. May Your love and the fellowship of Your Spirit be with us continually. Cause us to know what is the height, the depth, the width and the length of the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge. Open the eyes of our hearts. We need You. We love You. We are nothing and You are everything. Increase in us and make us to decrease, so that the fullness of Christ will fill us, Your body, with all Your fullness. Be the true head of Your people. Be lifted up, Jesus, and draw all men to Yourself.