Rest

As we’ve all been adapting and changing to this temporarily augmented way of life because of the Coronavirus pandemic, many people will have been working harder, longer, and in stranger ways than ever before.

We set off sprinting into this pandemic, but we seem to have accepted that it isn’t going away anytime soon so we’ve slowed to marathon pace. Along the way, it’s now important that we pause and rest appropriately if we want to keep going.

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.

Hebrews 4.9-10

Our enemy wants to keep us busy, distracted, stressed, and full of thoughts that are ultimately not about things that are good, noble, right, and pure (Philippians 4.8). He wants you bogged-down in the nitty-gritty of the here and now and everything that could go wrong, certainly not resting.

But, we really do need to rest! Lots of folks think about resting as going to the beach, doing nothing, firing up Netflix and kicking back on the couch to find out just how many tigers a man needs to keep. Maybe your idea of rest is different; maybe you rest by exercising, spending time with friends and family, sharing a meal, the list could go on and on…

We can have true rest from stress, anxiety, worries and weariness, and from our great accuser through one place and One person only: through Jesus

Hebrews 3 and 4 develops this idea that Jesus Himself is our rest, and the key to us understanding this is to understand what Jesus Himself said!

Jesus declared Himself as Lord of the sabbath in Matthew 12.8, and in Mark 2.27 said that the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. 

In Hebrews we read of how a relationship with Jesus frees us from the works-based righteousness that being under a law demands. Jesus has done all of the work needed to satisfy the righteous requirements of God (John 19.28-30), and because of this, we can rest easy. There is no longer an incessant need to work, to earn, to strive for righteousness, to bear your own burdens and work them away, to occupy our every waking moment with thoughts of being good enough or accepted.

We can rest, we can recharge, and we can regroup and not worry that we are not fulfilling laws and expectations by doing so.

Jesus serves as our Sabbath rest in the sense that He provides freedom from living under the works of the law. Instead, His sacrifice has paid the price for our salvation in full. We accept salvation as His free gift, entering into His rest both now as well as in eternity in His presence. 

No pandemic or earthly circumstances will every change this, so whilst it might be tempting to work a bit longer, a bit harder, or a bit more because your situation has changed, never forget that the rest you have in Jesus is real and ready. The stress, anxiety, and burnout that comes from overworking yourself to try and get on top of your earthly circumstances will only increase the harder you try. 

So today rest, recharge, refocus, and remember that this is all possible through Jesus.

Social Distancing, Physical Distancing, and the Church

As much of the world now goes into lockdown meaning that voluntary social distancing becomes social distancing through government order, I wanted us to pause our study through Job and consider the difference between social distancing and physical distancing.

Rather than term what we are all doing social distancing,

would it not be better to refer to this as physical distancing?

Social distancing means that we are isolated socially, not in touch with anybody, alone, feeling abandoned, and definitely not part of a loving and living body of people (1 Corinthians 12.12).

Physical distancing is simply just that; you don’t get too close to people.

Small difference in choice of words, HUGE difference in understanding, acceptance, and practice.

For the sake of others, let us practice willingly and obediently physical distancing. The church is still the church despite physical distance. Jesus said that on the bedrock truth that He is the Son of God, that He is Divine, that He is the Messiah, that He is Almighty God,

I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

Matthew 16.18b

During times of adversity and tribulation and trial, we will see if the church is really the church.

We will see if this body of people is self-supporting, self-sustaining, and self-supplicating (James 5.16).

We will see if this body of people is Kingdom focused, or kingdom focused (Matthew 6.24).

We will see if the church is filling its God-given mandate to make disciples (Matthew 28.19-20).

We will see if there is fruit and a root (James 2.14-26).

We will see if this called-out-of-the-world group of people really are fully regenerate born again believers part of the living body of Christ, or just a group of consumers who turn up to watch a religious TEDTalk once a week.

This is going sting for some, turn some away (John 6.60), but for those truly in the body this is going to be a defining period of time, a call to action, a call to take up arms, a call to show that yes, we are the church, we aren’t going anywhere, we are here for each other and for the world. 

Brother, sisters, let us practice physical distancing but not social distancing, and let us show the world that we are the church today, tomorrow, and every day.

Is God Any Different?

There are certain things that we all want. Love, respect, comfort, security, the pursuit of happiness, hope for the future, to know that there is something or someone greater, to belong to something bigger than ourselves, to know that God is different to us. 

Here, Job seems to be asking the same kind of question,

Have you eyes of flesh?
Do you see as man sees?

Job 10.4

When things are crumbling around him, Job is asking ‘God, are you any different? Is there any point in me trusting you? Are you just like everyone and everything else? Are you any different?

He answers his own question in vv.8-13 but things around him lead him to ask the question. It’s so easy, and very human, to ask these big questions of God when things are going wrong. Given the current state of the pandemic-ridden world, we would be forgiven for asking the same questions, ‘Really God, why is this happening? I thought you loved everyone? Are you any different?

Ask those questions. Ask and then turn to the Word to find the answers in places like this,

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55.6-9

Yes, our great God is different.

He is real, He is near, He delights in compassion, forgiveness, and grace. He knows what is truly best for His creation (Job 10.12-13in ways that we simply cannot understand. He is different. 

Whilst it looks like the world is falling apart, could it be that things are falling into place in the eyes of Him who sees the bigger picture? I would encourage you today to trust in His unfailing love, grace, wisdom, and His ability to ensure that His will is always done, on earth as it is in heaven.