peace of God
One of the most frustrating things I can think of is being expected to do something without having the necessary skills, equipment, or opportunities to do the job. Nothing can create as much stress and tension in our lives than knowing that we are inadequate in some way for the task before us.
Anxiety and tension develop when we begin to assume responsibility for matters which were never intended to be left up to us. When Paul instructed the Philippians not to worry about anything, he knew their natural inclination was to become anxious in the face of difficulty. The Lord’s exhortation to them and to us today, is to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).
Nothing we can do will alleviate the inadequacies in our spiritual lives. Jesus Himself said that “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” The greatest mystery for most of us is why we have ever thought that we have sufficient resources to accomplish what is possible only through Christ.
Until we learn to wait on the Lord, we will forever be running ahead of Him and finding ourselves continually befuddled by the messes we make of the simplest tasks He give us. David wrote in Psalm 62 some words of great encouragement for those of us who seem to live in a constant state of turmoil: “My soul waits in silence for God only; from Him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken” (62:1·2).
The problem arises for me when I am challenged by some problem which is obviously beyond my ability. In my zeal to be available to the Lord, I jump right in and try to solve things myself without waiting to see what He needs to do in me to prepare me for the work to be done.
Then, when I fail I become discouraged and frustrated, convinced that I have blown the opportunity to honor Christ. To be honest, I am often more concerned about how I appear in the eyes of those who witnessed the failure than with my testimony for Christ. Such discouragement leads to anxiety the next time an opportunity to serve arises and I make myself a little less available than before fearing that I may fail again.
If this cycle is not broken, we can become paralyzed in our service to the Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. We have to learn to put each situation into the hands of the Lord as it comes to us–and to do that without bothering to figure out how to resolve it ourselves first.
In Psalm 62:8, David goes on to say, “Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.”
As we pour out our hearts to Him, we will leave nothing in them to produce the kind of frustration each of us has known in those “trying times” of our lives. Then we will find that He alone is perfectly sufficient for all things. Whatever He brings to us, we can address with confidence and great assurance knowing that He will be “my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken” (62:6).
Now that the holiday break is over, are you rested? The first day of the new year has come and we are expected to step up to embrace all that will come our way, and to make it our ambition to go hard after the things that matter most. But in the quiet voice of God, speaking softly to us in the stillness, we hear a call to come and rest. He invites us to contentment.
Something inside each of us longs to be fulfilled and find satisfaction in life. The way we go about those pursuits usually depends on what others think of us and how much they value our effort. To be accepted and appreciated by others often determines how we feel about ourselves. But is there not a way to be at peace without performance, without regard for what others think? Can we not rest content with who we are more than in what we do?
When our soul finds rest in Christ, what can undo the peace we enjoy? Followers of Christ are promised “peace which surpasses all comprehension.” Once a person is at peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ, God gives His perfect peace. The prophet Isaiah points out, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
Conversely, those who fail to trust God also fail to find God’s peace. The enemy of peace, then, is the absence of trust. It is to assume that we know better than God what is best for us. So we become unsettled, anxious, driven in the pursuit of something–anything–that will satisfy us and make us sense that we matter.
We have to learn that there is nothing that can be done to gain and keep our peace with God that has not already been accomplished perfectly through Christ. Yet even followers of Christ somehow sense that they should do more, achieve more, perform better…then, we assume, the Lord would be more pleased with us.
And so we struggle. We want to know peace and contentment in Christ. Yet our walk with Christ becomes a series of experiments to see what we can do to make our own place of rest, produce our own heart of contentment.
Contentment comes when we trust the Lord for all things and in all things. Dare we say that uncertain, fretful lives are distrustful, unbelieving lives? Yes, it is natural to the human condition to keep striving to push away the discontentment in our hearts. After all, it is normal to want more. But the Puritan, Thomas Watson puts it this way, “Discontent is to the soul as a disease is to the body…yet the disease is not to be excused because it is natural, but resisted because it is sinful.”
The challenge is to be content with what God wants for us and discontent with what He is still looking for in us. I want to spend next year learning more about He means by contentment. I want to figure out how to lay aside my own endeavors when they are mistakenly motivated by the idea that through them I could somehow earn His favor. I want to rest more in His presence and rely more on His promises. I want to come to Him and know what it is like to relax in Him while persisting in faithfulness to Him!
He wants me to pursue excellence in my walk with Him, but to do so without straining as if the results depend on me. No one can carry that kind of heavy expectation without being crushed. Jesus has called out to the burdened and weary to offer an alternative. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Here’s to your soul rest in 2013…to a life of contentment…to days in which your sole delight is in the pleasures and peace of loving and enjoying the Lord your God!