Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Meekness and Rest

I feel restless, frustrated and physically drained. Emotions of anger and aggravation overwhelm me when I sense that I have been rejected by people. I’m so caught up with how I appear to others. What is the cause of this selfishness? Through all this self-centredness I'm hurting the one person who means the most to me. I've been asking God for some answers.

This summer I have been preaching about the character of God and the ultimate pursuit of knowing Him. As I’ve studied in preparation for each Sunday, there is one book that has been a tremendous challenge to me. It was written by A. W. Tozer and is titled, The Pursuit of God. Today I read chapter 9: Meekness and Rest. God reminded me of the root issue and convicted me of the sin that consistently robs me of the peace of God in my life. Tozer says it better than I can:

[T]hese are the evils which make life the bitter struggle it is for all of us. All our heartaches and a great many of our physical ills spring directly out of our sins. Pride, arrogance, resentfulness, evil imaginings, malice, greed are the sources of more human pain than all the diseases that ever afflicted mortal flesh.

Into a world like this the sound of Jesus’ words comes wonderful and strange, a visitation from above. “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am meek and humble 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 we have two things standing in contrast to each other, a burden and a rest. . . . Rest is simply release from that burden. It is not something we do; it is what comes to us when we cease to do. His own meekness, that is rest.

Let us examine our burden. It is altogether an interior one. It attacks the heart and mind and reaches the body only from within. First, there is the burden of pride. The labour of self-love is a heavy one indeed. Think to yourself whether much of your sorrow has not arisen from someone speaking slightingly of you. As long as you set yourself up as a little god to which you must be loyal there will be those who will delight to offer affront to your idol. How then can you hope to have inward peace? The heart’s fierce effort to protect itself from every slight, to shield its touchy honour from the bad opinion of friend and enemy, will never let the mind have rest. Continue this fight through the years and the burden will become intolerable. Yet [people] cary this burden continually, challenging every word spoken against them, smarting under each fancied slight, tossing sleepless if another is preferred before them.

Such a burden as this is not necessary to bear. Jesus calls us to his rest, and meekness is his method. The meek man cares not at all who is greater than he, for he has decided that the esteem of the world is not worth the effort. . . . The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. . . . He has stopped being fooled by himself. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is, in the sight of God, more important than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto. He knows well that the world will never see him as God sees him and he has stopped caring. He rests perfectly content to allow God to place his own values. He will be patient to wait for the day when everything will get its own price tag and real worth will come into its own. In the meantime, he will have attained a place of soul rest. As he lives in meekness he will be happy to let God defend him. The old struggle to defend himself is over. He has found the peace that meekness brings.

Then also he will get deliverance from the burden of pretense. [T]his [is] not hypocrisy, but the common human desire to put the best foot forward and hide from the world our real inward poverty. For sin has played many evil tricks on us, and one has been the infusing into us of a false sense of shame. There is hardly a man or woman who dares to be what he or she is without doctoring up the impression. The fear of being found out gnaws like rodents within their hearts.

Let no one smile this off. These burdens are real, and little by little they kill the victims of this evil and unnatural way of life. To all the victims of the gnawing disease Jesus says, “You must become like little children.” For little children do not compare; they receive direct enjoyment from what they have without relating it to something else or someone else. Only as they get older and sin begins to stir within their hearts do jealousy and envy appear. Then they are unable to enjoy what they have if someone else has something larger or better.

Another source of burden is artificiality. I am sure that most people live in secret fear that some day they will be careless and by chance an enemy or friend will be allowed to peep into their poor, empty souls. So they are never relaxed. . . Artificiality is one curse that will drop away the moment we kneel at Jesus’ feet and surrender ourselves to his meekness. Then we will not care what people think of us so long as God is pleased. Then what we are will be everything; what we appear will take its place far down the scale of interest for us.

The heart of the world is breaking under this load of pride and pretense. There is no release from our burden apart from the meekness of Christ. Good, keen reasoning will help slightly, but so strong is this vice that if we push it down one place, it will come up somewhere else. To men and women everywhere Jesus says, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest.” The rest he offers is the rest of meekness, the blessed relief which comes when we accept ourselves for what we are and cease to pretend. God’s grace will come as we learn that we are sharing this new and easy yoke with the strong Son of God himself. He calls it “my yoke,” and he walks at one end, while we walk at the other.

Lord, make me childlike. Deliver me from the urge to compete with another for place or prestige or position. I want to be simple and artless as a little child. Deliver me from posing and pretending. Forgive me for thinking of myself. Help me to forget myself and find my true peace in beholding you. Lay upon my soul your easy yoke of self-forgetfulness that by it I may find rest. Amen.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lessons for Life's Journey

This past June I had the privilege of walking with my wife for 560 kilometers. She is currently making her way back to Melfort on foot from Burlington, Ontario. Here’s some life lessons I learned over the four weeks of pounding the pavement on the Trans-Canada Highway.

First, life is a journey that is intentionally marked out for us. It’s not a single event, but a series of opportunities to experience the guiding, caring hand of God. I was daily amazed by the divine appointments with people and events. Life is not a random series of chance circumstances. Rather, it is an intentional path that our faithful heavenly Father leads us along, ultimately to fulfill his purpose. It was this conviction that motivated David to affirm, “I trust in you, O LORD; . . . my times are in your hands.”
Second, a journey is completed one step at a time. Life is a series of experiences and decisions. When I focused on the whole journey ahead of me each day, I became overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. I learned that the only way I could face each day was to be concerned with one step at a time. I was able to find strength to complete one step, and the accumulation of each step was the sum of each day’s journey. God promised Israel that “your strength will equal your days.” With the challenges of each day comes the provision of God’s grace for that day; no more, no less.
Third, in order to complete the journey, you must endure the pain; not avoid it. At one point on the road, my wife had enough of my complaining and gently rebuked me: “You’ll never get anywhere with that attitude. You’ve got to push through the pain.” In the Scriptures we are encouraged to endure trials. Why? Because the painful experiences of life are not meant to be a hindrance but a means to maturing in character. James says it brings us to the place of “lacking nothing.” Don’t avoid difficult situations, through them God is making you into a better person.

Not another Hill?!
That brings me to the fourth lesson: don’t loose sight of the finish! The Simple Steps Walk developed from a vision to raise financial resources to expand the Village of Hope to the next level of education and care for over 300 impoverished children in Burkina Faso, West Africa. When my perspective was blurred by the harsh weather and road conditions or cluttered by the debris and garbage in the ditch, I very quickly became distracted from the final goal and discouraged. In the journey of faith we dare not loose sight of our ultimate hope: to know and enjoy God forever. The writer of the book of Hebrews puts it this way: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, . . . and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The only way you or I can finish the journey of life well and pass into the next in God’s presence is by trusting in Jesus Christ. Don’t loose sight of that!
Fifth, it’s necessary to keep an eye on the road map. At times on the walk it was necessary to make some course corrections due to breakdowns and obstacles along the way. Life’s journey is marked by sinful distractions and selfish deviations from God’s intended path. There is the real danger of getting lost or stalled in our spiritual progress. Paul warned that some have become “shipwrecked in their faith.” It is critical that we constantly consult God’s map (the Scriptures), keep in step with God’s Guide (the Holy Spirit), and respond to God’s compass (our conscience).
Sixth, when you walk that far with someone, you will inevitably step on their toes or trip over them. When that happens, you can’t walk away or avoid the offense. There’s no where to go on the Trans-Canada Highway in the middle of nowhereville, northern Ontario. You have to face the problem. The temptation is to become defensive or create a diversion. This is the futile result of seeing your companion as the problem. The solution is to humbly take each others’ hand and walk together towards the problem and tackle it together. This kind of humility brings about responses of repentance and forgiveness that result in restoration.

Two is better than one.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Plague of Discontent

Although dead, he still speaks. Thomas Watson rebukes to my restless sinful nature that yearns for more of anything but God; discontent and questioning the wisdom of my heavenly Father's providential care.

Here is a just reproof to such as are discontented with their condition. This disease is almost epidemical. Some not content with the calling which God hath set them in, must be a step higher, from the plough to the throne; who like the spider in the Proverbs, will “take hold with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces.” Others from the shop to the pulpit; (Nu. 12. 2) they would be in the temple of honour, before they are in the temple of virtue; who step into Moses’ chair, without Aaron’s bells and pomegranates; like apes, which do most show their deformity when they are climbing. It is not enough that God hath bestowed gifts upon men, in private to edify; that he hath enriched them with many mercies? but, “seek ye the priesthood also?” (Nu. 16. 10) What is this but discontent arising from high flown pride? These do secretly tax the wisdom of God, that he hath not screwed them up in their condition a peg higher. Every man is complaining that his estate is no better, though he seldom complains that his heart is no better. One man commends this kind of life, another commends that; one man thinks a country-life best, another a city-life; the soldier thinks it best to be a merchant, and the merchant to be a soldier. Men can be content to be anything but what God would have them. How is it that no man is contented? Very few Christians have learned St Paul’s lesson: neither poor nor rich know how to be content, they can learn anything but this. [from A Puritan at Heart]

For more writings by Thomas Watson check out:
Christian Classics Ethereal Library
The Thomas Watson Reading Room
Forgetten Heros: Thomas Watson

Monday, July 23, 2007


"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength" Isaiah 30:15.

I am agitated these days. My soul is disturbed by the many crises that friends are facing. I long to be with my soul-mate. Feelings of apathy and exhaustion overwhelm me to the point of weeping. My emotions are fragile. Today, in a crisis moment, I behaved in a way that is uncharacteristic of a follower of Jesus. Things are not as I would like them to be. Last night I read my son-in-law's blog entry and was convicted by the thought that I am discontented. So, today I picked up a book that I had been reading earlier this year. The book was written by a puritan pastor, Jeremiah Burroughs. It is a short paper back, however it has been a rich source of instruction for me along the journey of faith. The title expresses the high view that the author places upon the virtue of contentment: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. I just picked up where the book mark was. The following is an excerpt that challenged me:

Those who are contented are ready to receive mercy from the Lord. If you want a container to take in any liquid, you must hold it still for if the cup stirs and shakes up and down, you cannot pour in anything, but you will say, "hold still," that you may pour it in and not lose any. So if we would be containers to receive God's mercy, and would have the Lord pour his mercy into us, we must have quiet, still hearts. We must not have hearts hurrying up and down in trouble, discontent and vexing, but still and quiet hearts, if we receive mercy from the Lord.

It seems that the more stressful life gets, the more anxious and busy I respond in emotion and behaviour. Why? I think I feel responsible to take control and deal with the problems. But then I feel incompetent, helpless and then worthless. And then the frustration and resentment comes into my heart. The more frustrated I get, the more restless I become. In this self-absorbed state, I am apt to respond in defensive and angry ways when I perceive more problems arising. What a muddled mess I've made simply because of a lack of contentment. I have lost sight of the Lord and his hand controlling every circumstance of my life. Better to stop in an attitude of humility and quietness and think, "Well, it is right that the Lord should do with his poor creatures what he will, I am under his control, and am resolved to do what I can to honour him, and whatever he does with me, I will seek him as long as I live, I will be content with what God gives, and whether he gives or not I will be content." Quietness is necessary for this kind of mindset to be nutrured in my life. I must make time to stop and intentionally set my mind on Christ. It struck me this morning in reading Romans 7 that the battle for godliness is determined in my mind: "in my mind I am a slave of God's law" (v.25). The questions that I must face every day are: Who do I belong to? Who will I give myself to? Stop grumbling for what I don't have and thank God for who he is and what he's doing in my life and others. That's contentment!