Where is your hope and trust?
As we arrive at the third and final week in this first teaching series of 2015, we confront a critical question — Where is your hope and trust? There are as many answers to that question as there are people to ask it of, and I’ll prove that in a second. So many would answer, “the economy.” “If I have a job and I’m getting paid, if gas is under $3.00 a gallon, if my 401K is at least stable or modestly growing, I’m good!” many would say. When things are at least stable, or when they are good financially, we are so much less stressed and able to breathe and enjoy life. And how about when the price of gas is what it is now — south of $2.00, down near $1.75 a gallon! How good is that, right?! How amazing is it to go to the pump and spend less than $50, less than $40, for some people, less than $30 to FILL UP our gas tank! We think things are good right now when we stop for gas. That is, until we turn on the stupid radio in the car and hear reports about potential layoffs for a company like Marathon that is headquartered right in our back yard. Wait, that might be my neighbor down the street that might be laid off or lose their job. Whoa, wait, that’s not so good. And then we hear about OPEC who’s been holding down prices to choke out a whole segment of the market that has taken hold here in the US (no political statement being made here) and that prices may go up again soon, and now all of sudden we start to feel anxious and unsettled again. We’ve put our hopes and trust in something we can see and now the circumstances have changed the view we have and our stress-o-meter is back on the fritz again.
It’s like that with any number of other of-this-world systems. When things are positive, we’re positive, but they never stay that way and neither do we if that’s where we’re placing our hope and trust. We do this in a more personal way as well. For so many, their hope and trust is placed in themselves. This is the real truth behind the suggestion above that there are as many answers to the question of where our hope and trust is as there are people to ask it of. How crazy is this?! We have great intentions, but how many times do we fall short? We are sinners; we are programmed by our sin nature to fail. As with every other earthly, and by definition, finite thing, we are destined to be disappointed and to ride the roller coaster of emotions if our hope and trust is placed in ourselves.
All during this series we’ve suggested an alternative, and we do again today. We believe that you can be free of fear and anxiety. We believe that you can be free from freakin’ out when even the worst possible scenario becomes the little “T” truth in your life. The answer to living completely free in this life is to put your complete faith and trust in God. When we genuinely do that, we reject the roller coaster of external and volatile circumstances and give the resulting worry and anxiety over to God.
Rest, and THAT MEANS REST!
The concept is as old as time … REALLY, it is. Do the words, “so on the seventh day he rested from all his work” sound familiar? Genesis 2:2 established the priority and prominence of this essential practice. God did it, and so should we. But here’s the thing … we’re not really all that good at listening and doing what is ultimately best for us. Let’s look for a minute at the precedent. The nation of Israel had just been delivered from 400 years of slavery at the hands of the Egyptians and they’re without a real home in the middle of the wilderness. They left Egypt in a rush and they’ve got little else other than the clothes on their back and some basic means of shelter when God comes along with a monumental miracle that provides for their most basic need … food. God causes manna to fall from the sky, and it falls in the absolute right portion for what they need each day.
Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses.
Whatever is left after each family gathers their portion burns away in the midday heat. With the singular exception, that is, of the sixth day. God provided double the amount on that day, and in resonance with His rest on the seventh day of creation, God gifts the practice of rest to His chosen people.
He said to them, “This is what the Lord commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’” So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today. Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.”
God provided a miracle in providing food in the right daily proportion and in keeping the seventh day’s portion free from spoilage at the end of the sixth day. Amazing stuff, right?! People were blown away at God’s power and exceedingly grateful for His provision and obeyed exactly as He commanded, right?!
Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none.
And there it is … there is the precedent for how we remain to this very day! “Oh, I’m sorry God. I wasn’t quite convinced after you held back that huge wall of water so our whole entire nation could get through before crashing it in on the Egyptian army that was chasing us, that there would absolutely be no food on the ground today. Wait. Oh, wait, you said the seventh day there wouldn’t be any. Ohhhhh, okay.” Sounds ridiculous, right? But what about God’s miraculous provisions in your own life, and your lack of trust or obedience in even the simplest of things? Their story is our story, my friend. There story is our story.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” So the people rested on the seventh day.
And the humorous, yet sad truth is that the people rested, but the practice of Sabbath rest didn’t last. Later in Israel’s history, God had to include it as one of the Ten Commandments and established a punishment of stoning in the attempt to give this gift of rest to His people. And still they ignored it!
What is so hard about taking a day off?!
It was a relevant question for the ancients, and is also for us today. Seems like an easy question — or maybe not. In their lives and in ours, the busyness of life, even the good work of our hands, is taken to an unhealthy extreme. So, is this just too hard? Is this something that isn’t feasible? The unequivocal and biblical answer to those questions is “No!” There is nothing in our lives that is so critical or important that we cannot make a practice of this gift that God offers. It will take complete trust in Him to be preeminent over the circumstances in our lives, but we can, and should, do it!
Okay, so how does one define a day off? Well, if you left it up to yourself or to me, even, to define that, you’re doomed. The things we’d shove into the category of “rest” don’t really belong there. So instead, let’s define rest as God does, and in a word He wants us to — cease. To truly experience God’s gift and design for rest, you have to STOP — just STOP. Get quiet and allow your physical body and spirit to return to their created-in-God’s-image natural state of rest. Just as water stirs when it is agitated, your body and spirit stir with the activity of life. Remove the agitation and water returns to its natural state of stillness. Your body and spirit are no different. Remove the agitation of daily activity and they will return to their natural state of stillness.
So, how do I do that?
We can try to define a list of do’s and don’ts for what rest looks like, but you know what, the ancients did that too and they ended up with 39 CATEGORIES of things that were defined as “work” and, as a result, were prohibited on the Sabbath. Don’t make that same mistake. Make a decision to practice Sabbath rest and begin talking to God about what that means for your life. Here’s a few practical ways to begin, but that conversation with God is so much more important.
- Choose the right day
Be honest and seek wisdom in deciding on a day. Sunday might seem like the obvious choice, but if you’re someone who is busy serving on Sunday, that isn’t the right day for you.
- Prepare for it
Commit to resting and prepare for the activities that might create work on that day. This also raises the issue of priorities and schedule. In order to clear space for genuine rest, you are going to have to make sacrifices. You may need to give up certain things, and if you have a family, they will too.
It might seem really simple, but it’s not. You must stop (and there are likely a hundred things that could follow that word).
If you commit to this, if you will do this, if you will practice Sabbath rest in your life, it will change everything — I promise you that. You will be less anxious, you will be less worried and you will have to trust God more.
I’ll leave you with two very small and simple verses that are great places to start. They are capital “T” Truth and they are a great place to start in your conversation with God about real and genuine Sabbath rest.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Be still, and know that I am God.