We are always amazed when we hear the statistics about the growth in human knowledge, or the pace of change in technology. World events move rapidly, and we have no control over any of it. Our own days are full of many activities, and at times it can feel like a Merry-go-Round running at triple speed. So, where is our rest? Where is the solid ground on which we can stand? Even thousands of years ago, the Psalmist seemed to have the same problem. He gave the answer, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”(62:1-2) This really is our only solid answer. We can take days off, and vacations, but we come back to the same world, the same pace. In the midst of all that is around us, and all that we have to do, God is there. He is unchanging, solid, caring, our source of hope, and peace. “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. “(vs.5)
A reporter in one of the countries that had experienced a 7.2 magnitude earthquake was interviewing people a year or so after the event asking what lasting effects the quake had on them. Beside all their work in rebuilding, he found that many were asking serious questions, particularly about their future. Questions like “What do I really want out of the time I have here?” I think ultimately all people are looking for peace, stability, and a sense that their lives have meaning. They want to know that life is not just striving after a series of things that give no real purpose. What Solomon would call striving after the wind. Jesus saw the people of His day as a flock of sheep wandering aimlessly like sheep without a shepherd. He gave them the invitation, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”(Matthew 11:28) He said that in Him we would find “rest for our souls”. Regardless of whatever else we are working on, or desiring to accomplish in life, our meaning, our purpose, the true rest for our souls is found in our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is always amazing to hear the statistics about the growth in human knowledge, or the pace of change in technology. World events move rapidly, and we have no control over any of it. Our own days are full of many activities, and at times it can feel like a Merry-go-Round running at triple speed. So, where is our rest? Where is the solid ground on which we can stand? Even thousands of years ago, the Psalmist seemed to have the same problem. He gave the answer, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”(62:1-2) This really is our only solid answer. We can take days off, and vacations, but we come back to the same world, the same pace. In the midst of all that is around us, and all that we have to do, God is there. He is unchanging, solid, caring, our source of hope, and peace. “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. “(vs.5)
One of those humorous little bits of truth says that “progress is man’s attempt to complicate simplicity.” Our lives do become complicated, and with the complications worries mount. “What about this? What if that happens? Will I get this done on time?” There is no easy answer to our complications, but our Lord does want to help us ease our burdens. Is. 30:15 says, “in quietness and trust is your strength.” Unfortunately, to the people to whom Isaiah wrote, he immediately followed this by saying, “but you would have none of it.” Let that not be our response. Our Lord continually invites us to quiet our soul by trusting completely in Him. Let’s not borrow trouble ahead, or add more complications to life. Do what is needed for today, and leave the rest in the Lord’s hands.
Anticipation, looking forward… this is a part of who we are, and I would also say a quality that God has instilled in us. We start a project, we look forward to its successful completion. We have an illness, we look forward to its cure. We plan a vacation, we look forward to its fun. Anticipation keep us moving forward in life. It is when we feel there is nothing worthwhile ahead that we become depressed and hopeless. Ever since we were forced to leave the Garden there has been the desire, the longing, the anticipation of one day returning to that beauty and perfection. Throughout life we make all kinds of substitutes for ourselves, even drugs and alcohol, but we cannot escape that central desire to return to the peace that only God can give. Our task completions, and cures, and vacations are nice. We all need them, but they are all temporary, and in anticipation of the perfect completion that can only come in our Lord.
In the morning we are sometimes asked, “did you have a good night? Did you rest well?” A good night’s sleep is important. We need our rest in order to have the energy for the day’s activities. The Bible talks a lot about rest, but not the rest of sleep. The Lord knows we need that, but His rest is something far deeper. “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Jesus said. (Matthew 11:28) True rest is a complete trust in the One who has given His life for us. Paul had learned this through many hardships. He wrote to the Philippians, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”(4:12-13) This is certainly not easy, but when our eyes are focused on Jesus, we realize that there is a truth far greater and stronger than what we presently face, whether it is good or bad. We can learn to rest in Jesus. We enjoy our sleep because we put aside all of our cares, and abandon ourselves to our beds. We rest in Jesus when we lay our care upon Him, and trust in His strength. That is a far better rest.
We are on vacation. It’s a time for a change of pace from the normal routine, to see some different areas, and to rest. We call it being refreshed. The idea is having a new start with fresh energy. This is good and we all need such time, but it doesn’t always mean having to get away for a vacation to some distant place. Paul wrote a personal letter to Philemon, a man he had met in his missionary travels. In it he asked for a favor, and used the phrase “refresh my heart in Christ.”(vs.20) Jesus is the true source of refreshment regardless of what outward activity is taking place. It is interesting to read accounts of active Christian men and women of a century or so ago. They would often speak of “going aside for a season of prayer.” That is the true refreshment of the heart. Vacation and changes in pace are needed, but it is those brief times of quiet, alone with the Lord, that give us the real strength and direction for life.
I visited one of our member a week or so ago. This woman lives on top of a hill in a forested area. Her home has large windows on two sides of the living room. Sitting there, one looks out on a completely peaceful scene. She has a TV but no computer or other electronic gadgetry. She was remarking how she enjoys the tranquility, which has a way of filling one’s whole being. I look out on my own back yard, a lawn surrounded by trees, some just beginning to turn fall colors. I thought, how different this is from much of the silicon world we’ve created. Computers, the internet, and the variety of other electronics dominate our lives. They certainly can have their useful functions, but they cannot give peace. Often producing quite the opposite. We are to have a quietness in our spirit, a quietness that only comes from becoming quiet in the Lord. Meditating on all the beauty He has created is certainly helpful. Above all He calls us to trust Him for all of our times and needs of life. The Prophet Isaiah wrote, ” You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. “(26:3)
I hope you rested well last night. A good night’s sleep is important for the energy of the day. There is a more important rest, however, necessary for all of us. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”(Matthew 11:28) We are weary and burdened people. As a pastor I know many of the personal burdens my people carry, and I know the ones I carry. Life is not easy. There are few things exactly the way we would like them to be, and most we can’t change. But there is a rest we can have in our trust of the Lord. Jesus’ invitation continues, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”(vs.29) A yoke joins two work animals together. In this case, when we are yoked to Jesus, He takes the major share of the burden. He will never leave or forsake us. We can put our trust in Him. We don’t know the outcome for any of our burdens, but He loves the ones for whom we care even more than we do. He hears our prayers, and can be trusted with all of our needs. We find our rest in Him.
When there is a problem we want a solution. We want to bring in the biggest guns possible to deal with whatever is needed. But this doesn’t always happen. Sometime, maybe more often than not, problems seem to go on and on. This was the case for St. Paul when the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”(II Corinthians 12:9) When we have the big guns, we really don’t need the Lord. It is when we know we are weak, when problems are too big for us, that the Lord’s grace is manifest. All Scripture teaches us to trust in God, to become quiet in heart and rest in Him, and not to be anxious. No, this is not easy when we are faced with difficult situations, but the Lord has promised never to leave us, and He has not failed us. Problems aren’t always solved the way we want, but His grace is always sufficient for our needs.