Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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23 Renewing Rest – Part 1

Isaiah‬ ‭40‬:‭27-31‬ – Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

There are those tough times in life, when our situation seems to get the best of us, and its hard to follow our Father in faith. When everything goes against us, when we are in the middle of one of the greatest battles of our life, its hard to trust in God. Yet it is in these times that we need the Lord more than ever. You see it is in those times that our faith and trust in God is really put to the test. We need to learn to embrace these moments, for that is what they are mere moments, drops of difficulty in the scope of eternity. Yes embrace them because they reveal and refine our hearts. Showing us where and what we really are, like those tests we took in school, they give us a standard by which to gauge our progress. These are the moments of real contact in our lives, where the rubber meets the road, in our journey with Jesus. If we chose to flee and bail on our beliefs the moment it gets rough we will never realize the rest that we can have in the eye of the storm. If your life is in the middle of turmoil and the waves of temptation are about to swamp you, stop struggling, look to the Savior and surrender to His rest. These are the moments when trust is built, and our relationship with God shows its true depth. God never promised that it would be easy, that we wouldn’t have hard times. What He did promise is that He will never leave us nor forsake us, Hebrews 13:5. In Isaiah 40 we find that Israel had become so discouraged that God had to remind them of Who He is. When we are in the clutches of despair we need reminded, that life is not dictated by our circumstances but Christ, that God is in control, and even in the chaos we can experience His renewing rest. We have all fallen victim to prides vicious lie that we are more than we really are, causing us to trust in our own strength and security. Yet no matter what we think our reserves of strength may be, they are both feeble and finite. We pride ourselves in our ability to take care of ourselves, to conquer our own circumstances. To be the sole champion of all challenge, especially in America, where if we are not careful, pride in our freedom and independence can cause us to go it alone. We hate having to admit that we need help from anyone, including God. But this scriptures reminds us that no matter how strong or independent we think we are, we cannot do it alone. You see at some point our pride will be reduced in the rock crusher of reality, or shattered on the anvil of an Almighty God. Yet what sweet release to have our arrogance smashed against His anvil, where it can be annihilated, and our self absorbed confidence crushed to dust. Where we can live in the reality of truth instead of the fictional fantasy of self strength. To get through this life we all need strength, but unlike the anemic, deficient limits of self strength, God offers us His sustaining strength. In Isaiah we see that God has laid down the pattern for pursuing His sustaining strength. The first thing we need to realize is who God is, and that despite how we may feel, He is still at work in our lives. So often when we get trapped in the turbulent water of our trials we forget not only God’s power,but also His presence. Something that has always amazed me is how as Christians, myself included, we can read a passage of scripture, that is both challenging and convicting and yet say in response: “Yes, I agree in principle to what this verse or command says but my situation is different. We cry “But you just don’t comprehend my particular, even unique situation, because My situation is different.” This is nothing short of circumstantial conviction, and isn’t it amazing how we will make rules for others and exceptions for ourselves! We make exceptions for ourselves because in our mind our situation is unique, so it can’t apply to us. You see we love to quote the end of Isaiah 40 “They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” but we seem to forget that it was the disbelief and despondency of God’s people that prompted this passage. In verse 27 we see that God’s people were wavering, questioning God’s care and compassion. What Jacob and Israel were basically saying is, “Lord, you don’t understand our situation.” Sound familiar? They put it this way “Our way is hidden from the Lord, our situation escapes His notice.” I love Isaiah’s response, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? His understanding, including His understanding of your situation, is inscrutable. God is not like a judge or jury who are without all the facts, or who have the facts so twisted that they misrepresent them. No, His understanding of your situation, including every detail is inscrutable. God fully comprehends your situation, but often we waste our time whining about His lack of understanding when it is really us who are clueless. To you, the trial you are facing is very personal, it seems that no one else can relate or understand. But your circumstances are no surprise to God, your troubles don’t stress Him out. He knew what was coming and He already has the answer. There is no limit to His ability to meet your need, because He never grows tired or weary. Yet often God has to bring us to the place where we are forced to stop trying, so we can turn to Him and start trusting. We need these times in our lives where we have to say, “God, I can’t but you can” But for many we do this reluctantly even begrudgingly. Where the common Christian comment becomes “well I guess all we can do now is pray” God is waiting for us to trust, yet we keep trying, pushing on in our own self effort. Why do we wait until we have exhausted all of our own ideas with no results? So the question remains when you feel alone, trapped by your trials, are you going to respond to your feelings or rest in the facts? What will you do with the trials that you face, wether currently or in the future? Will you turn to your own devices, making decisions that will cause you to run and rebel. Leaving you to become so wrapped up in the business of providing your own solutions that you don’t have time for God, His church, and even your family? Will we forget the Word of God and become depressed, abandoning His promises, and forgetting our commitments to Christ. Will we throw aside the proof of His past provision, forgetting His faithfulness? What will we do when the perfect is replaced by pain? Will we respond with hopeless like Israel? Who chose a pity party over a prayer. It is time for us to stop our pity party, quit acting like it is the end of the world, and lift up our eyes to see the glory of God. To set our sights on the One who is surrounded by strength, seated far above our sad situation. Isaiah’s call is to put our hope in God not happiness. What is your hope in? Who are you resting in? I for one need the reminder that I will never truly rest until I learn to rely on my Redeemer. Sometimes we get discouraged by our situation and someone looking in on us might think we have been abandoned by the Almighty. Yet our hope is not based on our current circumstance but only Christ. Your painful situation is never a good gauge of His goodness and grace. It is these trials of pain that provide a platform for the defining moments of our lives. Will we trust in the trial or turn away? Will our faith and trust grow stronger, or will we abandon the ways of righteousness, turn our back on God, putting everything in your life in jeopardy. We can’t control our circumstances but we can control our choices. As Christians we will either learn to trust and place our hope in Christ or go through the continuous cycle of doubt, depression and despondency. Isaiah says that “his understanding no one can fathom, He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” I wish I could say that I understand why God allows certain things to happen, but I can’t. His ways are far above mine and all I can do is put my trust in Him. Only God can give you the power to overcome. Only He can take your weaknesses, your failures, your doubts and fears, and turn them into a message of mercy. God is the only sustaining source of strength, we can’t do it on our own, even youths will grow tired and weary. I think the longer you live, the more you realize that everything is in God’s hands. Its easy to worry and work, to try and solve all of life’s problems ourselves. But faith trusts the Father, believing that everything will work out even when it seems that everything is not. Its easy to believe when we see it coming together but what about when its crumbling. In the seemingly crushing defeat will we still cling to faith? Faith says that I know, that I know, that somehow, God will work it all out. Here in Isaiah we have the reminder that God will renew those who wait. But waiting on God requires an audacious faith, one that believes in the impossible, looks for the unseen answers, hope in the times of hopelessness, and knows, without knowing why or how, that God will provide. Isaiah paints a majestic picture of an eagle effortlessly soaring in the sky. Yet it was not always that way for the eagle, as a baby in the nest he could do nothing but wait until the parent returned to bring what was needed to grow and mature him. I think today we want to walk without waiting, we want to fly without faith. Just like the chick, we need time in God’s nest and just like the baby eagle we will probably cry, scream, flap around and make a scene. Yet God will provide and if we wait on the Savior we will soar. When it comes to Isaiah 40, we quote it, we read it, we even preach it, but do we really believe it? If you are facing trials and tests then lift up your head, look to The Lord, because your answer is already on the way. Don’t listen to the lie of Satan, don’t allow him to convince you that all is lost. Instead wait upon the Lord, placing your whole heart into His hands. Rest in Him and He will renew your strength