What does Resting In God mean?
Are we strong enough to resist the urge to work? To hustle?
What does Resting In God mean?
“I love you, baby. You’re out of this world, that’s why I named you Venus.” I could never forget those words just as I could never forget that day. Without a doubt, that was one of the worst days of my life — Screaming and crying, “Mom, come back! Don’t leave! Please! We need you!”. But she never did come back. I can’t even remember if she looked back as she walked out the door, and out of our lives. I was barely 11 years old when my mom decided to leave my sister and I with our next door neighbor, wielding a $650 cheque, so she could travel the world with her boyfriend number seven. What was supposed to be a 3-week babysitting stint eventually snowballed into 10 years! I never saw her again.
It’s been ten years since then, and three since I could finally afford to move my sister and I out of Mrs. Kesther’s basement, and into a small one bedroom apartment in a mining town about 30 miles from where we grew up. It was definitely not The Ritz, or even much better than the basement we had just left, but at least it was OURS, and no one could hurt us anymore.
Veronica, my little sister, is and has always been, my best friend. We’ve always looked out for each other because we’ve always only had each other. We’ve got each other’s backs, and we have an unspoken pact to do each other no harm. “The two musketeers”, Mr. Jiggles, the building’s superintendent always sneered. That’s not his real name, obviously, but that’s what all the tenants call him, owing to the huge bunch of keys perpetually tethered to his belt hole, which jiggle obnoxiously with every step he takes.
My life was simple — work, home, and church, punctuated by a boatload of praying. I clung desperately to God because He’d always been there for us: When I needed to finish high school, when I needed a job, when we got sick and we couldn’t afford a doctor... God always came through. I’ve been through so much in my short 21 years, but God has helped me through it, and has kept me from spiraling out of control. While I’m not the “prefect” Christian (not sure anyone is), I do love God, and my church! ——— On a windy autumn evening, the clouds heavy with rain, Mrs. Shirley, the store manager, asked me to close up for the night. Even though I had been on my feet for a full 10 hour shift, I begrudgingly scurried outside, and began to take down the many “70% off special” signs we had displayed on the front lawn. I must have been on sign number 4 when a rogue flyer aided by the wind, decided to make my face its home. Ugh! Upset, I yank it from my face, careful not to smudge my makeup, and right before throwing it out, I take a glance at its contents, and everything changes!
Suddenly, my fatigue fades away, and in its place, adrenaline. I finish up, clock out, and run home as fast as I can. I barge into our tiny apartment, yelling in my best opera voice, “You’re going to College!” I watch the confused look as it spreads across my sister’s face while I bust a couple dance moves. “No, I’m not. We can’t afford that.” “Oh ye of little faith!” was my response as I handed her the rogue flyer and continued my happy dance. She shrieked as she read it, and the look on her face made the whole day worth it — smudged makeup, sore feet, and all. You see, the local Arts College at a neighboring city was giving out merit-based scholarships to the brightest kids in the smaller towns. The financing covered full tuition, accommodation, and included a bursary for books, a decent computer, and art material.
“What? Is this even real?” A quick Google search confirmed that it was. “Praise God!!!” We hadn’t been this happy in what seemed like, eternity. This was an answer to an ongoing prayer of mine — I never wanted Vee to end up without a college degree, and limited career options. Unlike me, I wanted her to have access to a future devoid of store hours and crappy tips. We prayed, danced, screamed and laughed all night, then filled out her scholarship application early the next morning, sending it off that evening.
After twiddling thumbs and fighting nerves for two days, we got a call from the College informing Veronica that she had been selected for the interview stage! More dancing, thanksgiving, and a pizza splurge later, we went out to get Vee a formal outfit for the interview. She had barely a week to prepare, and before we knew it, the day arrived. I had requested a few days off work to take the trip with her, and be there for moral support. With all the hours I put in, I also desperately needed some me-time! Work’s exhausting. Bryer Cove was about 2 hours away by bus, so we’d have to catch the 5am departure in order to make it in time for the interview. We woke up at 3am that morning, super excited and ready to take the trip that would change Vee’s life forever. I washed, conditioned, and curled her hair the night before, so getting it to behave that morning was easy.
We got to the bus station right on time, and boarded the bus with the other passengers. After a short prayer for safe travels, we were soon on our way. The bus made weird sounds as the journey progressed, but we laughed it off as typical for our small town — it never did have anything fancy, and hardly anything worked as designed.
Looking back now, I wish I hadn’t thought about it that way. I wish I had walked up to the driver and asked what those weird sounds were… maybe it would have changed what happened.
About an hour into the commute, we were on the highway, and everything seemed to be going okay, despite the occasional creaking noise. The next thing we all heard was another noise — it sounded like an explosion happening at the back of the bus, where the engine was. It all happened so fast! In quick succession, the driver lost control, and the whole bus veered off the road, barreling into a cluster of trees, as everyone screams. I grab Veronica by the hand and clutch it as tight as I can, somehow hoping that my grip might save her. She turned to face me as if in slow motion, and the look on her face was a vivid mix of fear, confusion, and dread. I’m about to scream “Jesus!”, but before any sound leaves my mouth, the bus flips and starts to roll. I’m upside down, surrounded by greenery, buffeted by sounds of people screaming, glass breaking, and metal crushing… the last thing I remember was a single tear streaking across my sister’s right eye, as everything goes black.
I wake up disoriented, in an initial fog… then the memories start flooding in, and my emotional response is instant panic. “Where is my sister? Where am I? Is she okay? Somebody talk to me!” “Calm down. You were in an accident. You’ve been unconscious for two days,” was the doctor’s response as she hurried into the room, summoned by my screams. My mind is racing as she proceeds to check my heart rate and reflexes, then asks me to say my name, my date of birth, and what year it is. “Doctor, what happened to my sister? Can I see her? Is she here?” I tried so hard to stay calm as the doctor tells me that my sister went into a coma, and may not survive. “I’m afraid her chances are slim, Ms. Frasier, and if she does make it, she might be brain-dead”. I couldn’t stay calm, I became hysterical and very loudly demanded to be wheeled to her. I stayed by her bedside for what felt like an eternity, my only companions being the many memories we’d shared, and the tears that refused to stop pouring down my face. I prayed for her healing, for a miracle, for my life to be taken instead of hers. But it’s either God didn’t listen, or that He did, but blatantly denied my request. Veronica died in the middle of the night.
Anxiety, Panic, and Depression soon took her place and became my new best friends. Church members visited, prayed, and brought over meals that I never ate. In many ways, it felt like I died in that hospital with my sister. Survivor’s guilt engulfed me — I began to resent myself for being alive… how could she die, while I got away with only a few cracked ribs and a freaking concussion? For the first time in my life, I was completely and utterly alone.
About 8 months of barely existing went by. I finally started telling myself that I was okay. Who was I to question God? He had a reason for taking my sister, He had to. I moved out of our apartment, donated much of Veronica’s stuff to our church, and soon slipped back into my old routine — work, home, church, repeat. I never really opened up to anybody about the hurt I felt from the loss of my only friend. I was alone, and wanted to be alone.
One day after work, I bumped into Mike, the guitar player from church. He walked me home, and when he asked if he could come into my place, I said sure. It was the first time having someone over since Vee died. He told me he had been feeling God nudge him to talk to me. “About what?” I asked, feeling slightly annoyed and ambushed. “The accident”, he responded. “I know what happened with your sister was tough, but know that God loves you, and...”
I burst out in tears before he could finish the sentence. “Does He really love me? If He does, then why would He hurt me like this? Didn’t He love Veronica? Then why did He let her die? I’m a Christian! I know that means I always have to see God’s will in everything, even when it sucks… but losing Vee more than sucked, Mike. It broke me. Even in my pain, I tried to remain a “good Christian”. I even went to church and everything, but I was suffocating. I felt like I needed a break from God, from life, from Christianity. I needed to be mad, to hate.”
Mike just held me in silence for a few minutes. Eventually, he pulled away to look at me, and said “Oh Venus, your Heavenly Father does love you. And I know you can’t possibly fathom that there’s a reason for the pain you’ve endured, and I’m sure this sounds as silly and cliche as every other time you’ve heard it, but there truly is a plan and purpose for everything that God does. While I don’t claim to know it, or to have all the answers, all I can say is… don’t ever hide from your Father. As in every relationship, there are good days and crappy days with Him as well. There is the common assumption that as a Believer, you rise above every challenge with as much ease as Jesus walked on water, but the reality hardly lives up to this ideal. Yes, we’re Christians, but we’re human as well. We hurt and we get hurt. That, in and of itself, is no sin. The issue arises from hiding our pain from our God, or feeling like we’re alone in it. He gave us the Holy Spirit and called Him our Comforter for a reason, because He knew, even then, that talking out loud would sometimes be a challenge. So in times when you feel like you’re drowning, find your Internal Oxygen, who lives inside of you. He’s right there in you and with you as you go through every painful experience. He’s uniquely equipped to counsel and comfort… if you’d only let Him. As we learned from Jonah, Adam, and Eve, hiding never truly solves anything. So, feel free to wail! To feel! To scream! Take all of the pain and lay it at your Father’s feet.”
After praying with me, Mike thanked me for letting him in, and left. For the first time since the accident, I had an actual conversation with God — filled with tears, yes, but it was honest, pure and without compromise. With the Holy Spirit as my guide, I plunged deep and laid my pain bare, at His feet. I set my burden down at the Cross, and while I can’t say that I felt no hurt or pain afterwards, I can truly say that I felt… better. I could breathe again. My true spiritual and emotional healing started that night, and God truly did lift a bulk of the weight off my shoulders. Soon, the guilt disappeared, and the depression eventually lifted. I was once more able to find my smile, and I didn’t think that was possible anymore.
I don’t know who you are reading this. Maybe you’re going through something similar — Perhaps you didn’t lose a loved one, but are hurting and lost, overwhelmed, or broken in some way. Maybe you’ve had some unanswered prayers, your hopes have been dashed, or your faith has been bruised. Maybe you tried something with all your strength, and you failed. Maybe you just feel like you need a break from life, from constantly pep-talking yourself, from Church, from God… I’ve been there.
I don’t have any clever fix-all quotes, but what I can tell you is, don’t try to fake it with God. The burden you are hiding will get heavier with every step you take, until it becomes so heavy that it buries you under its weight. Don’t let that happen. The Holy Spirit is right there to bear this weight with you, for you, and God has never left your side, even when all evidence points to the contrary.
(Proverbs 12:25) “Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”
(1 Peter 5:7) “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
(Philippians 4:6-7) “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”
Several thousand years ago, God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians, after approximately 400 years (!!!) of slavery. Everyone heard about it for reasons different than what most expected. Slaves getting set free is old news, but these weren’t mere slaves, and there was nothing normal about their freedom! Inevitably, the news of all the amazing miracles God performed in order to secure the Israelites’ freedom — The 7 plagues, The snake-staff, parting the Red Sea, etc… as He delivered them out of bondage and subjection, spread far and wide. However, what’s astounding is that despite all this power, and tales of supernatural victory, the Israelites were still confronted by opposition on their road to the Promise Land — Kings, Chieftains, mighty Warriors and Leaders of the many lands they crossed on their way to Canaan, sought to fight them and destroy them.
Isn’t that interesting?
One would think that news of the tremendous things God had done for the children of Israel, would deter any potential adversaries and render the Israelites untouchable. Kings and beggars alike would hear about these great deeds of immense power and immediately back off, or conversely, try to forge alliances with them. Right? Nope. On the contrary, it seemed like their testimony only emboldened their enemies to try even harder to destroy them. This sentiment holds true today, over 3,000 years later, for every Believer. The fact that we indeed have Power — that we have God working for and in us, only makes the Enemy come after us that much harder.
Let’s give this some Biblical context. The book of Deuteronomy 7:1 GNB states that
… As you advance, he will drive out seven nations larger and more powerful than you…
This is Moses telling the children of Israel God’s Plan (not the song, folks!) — He is relaying to them how God would help them overthrow mighty nations, and take possession of their land. However, it's interesting that God specifically told Moses that He would do these deeds “as you advance”. It is only when they advance that the miracle of defeat would happen. Advancement here for the Israelites was quite literal — only as they physically move towards the land, still occupied by the Amorites, Jebusites, and all the other “-ites”, would God clear the land for them. So, literally taking those steps was crucial to securing their victory.
Taking steps applies to us too! Most of the time, our miracle, breakthrough, and testimony, are all tied to Action. This is why when Jesus performed miracles, there were often actions involved — pick up your bed, go dip yourself 7 times in the river, wash the dirt off your eyes, etc. Faith, more than mere belief, is acting on the unseen. God loves faith, without which it is impossible to please Him, and our actions are the tangible representations of our Faith.
Verse 2 of this passage says
“...when the LORD your God places these people in your power and you defeat them ...”
God places any opposition you’re facing IN your power. This, first points out the fact that we DO have power, and are not helpless sheep, contrary to popular belief, but goes much farther than that. The phrase “in your power” deals with size, meaning that our power has to be BIGGER than our enemies if they’re to fit INSIDE it! A truck cannot fit into a purse — we have the power to subdue whatever challenges come our way, because God has said that He will never allow us to face challenges that we cannot overcome. We are all tested according to our level of faith.
Notice how God didn’t simply tell the Israelites that He will deliver their enemies in a state of surrender, which He easily could have done. Instead, He chose to allow the Israelites face their foes when they were still vicious. The important distinction here is that God did not allow the Israelites to face their enemies only to become intimidated by them, but to defeat them. In this encounter with their adversaries, the Israelites were able to find and exercise their strength. Sometimes, opposition serves to bring out the warrior in us. Without a trial, ther can be no win. Without adversity, no victory.
A similar story of defeat comes to mind — that of David and his storied victory over Goliath. We know that God handed Goliath to David. I mean, how else can you explain a little boy defeating a terrifying giant with a slingshot and some stones? God had already secured the victory for David, but for that victory to be made manifest, David had to recognize the power he had over Goliath despite his obvious size and ferocity, and make the choice to advance towards him, and only after that advancement was made, was he able to defeat him.
Take a second to consider how terrifying it must have been for a little boy to face a giant, or for the Israelites to traverse dangerous lands filled with dangerous people, all based on a promise that He will never leave them nor forsake them. It cannot have been easy, but it was indeed necessary. Without defeating Goliath, David would’ve remained just another son of Jesse. Without overcoming the adversity that arose before them, the Israelites would have perished in the wilderness, and never would have seen the Promise Land. Facing adversity is never easy, and advancing in the face of adversity is even harder. However, as the Scriptures readily prove, with God all things are possible!
These stories, along with countless others in the Bible depict a formula that God operates by — Faith + Action = Breakthrough. This is the template for miracles in the Bible, and it remains true today. Faith empowers our belief, and Action is Faith in motion. The product of these two combined, is our redemption. Faith mixed with Action, prompts God to intervene. Our boldness in faithful advancement regardless of situation, serves as the first step from our end -- God meets us halfway, and completes His glorious work.
This means that as Christians, even in this our Year of Fulfillment, opposition would still arise. The devil will always try to attack the promise and murder the vision… it’s simply his line of trade. Devouring is what he does. The Truth that we should always remember, is that God has given us the power to defeat whatever/whoever tries to deter us from His promise land. It is not enough to just pray without acting. We need to move! With spiritual conviction and Heavenly determination, we need to pick up our own slingshots, and face our own giants, whatever form they may take, becasue we are not alone in our battles. God has already gone before us and delivered the victory into our hands.
This year, let us move unwaveringly towards everything God has laid in our heart. We must always remember that God has given us the power to defeat whatever opposing forces come our way. It is all within our grasp.
All we have to do is… Advance!
You suck. You’re unworthy. Undeserving. Unqualified… At any point in each of our lives, we’ve heard these words, or some variation of them. We’ve heard them uttered from the lips of those whose opinions we hold dear. Worse, if honesty were to prevail, we may even finally admit that we’ve heard these words in our own minds.
Everyone has a purpose — this singular theorem has shaped several lives, particularly in the Church. Isn’t it always so great to see that pastor or doctor who so glaringly appears to have not just discovered said purpose, but is walking confidently in it? He/She seems to have it all figured out. If you never believed in “all things work together for good”, when you meet these people, your inner skeptic takes a hike, and suddenly, it all seems possible. Perhaps if this person was able to find their unique calling and so boldly answer the call, then it would be possible for me too.
Knowing your purpose and summoning the courage to take the terrifying leap that walking in it involves, are two completely different things. It’s so much easier to watch someone else do it and be “happy” for them, because when it comes to the business of fulfillment, we often externalize rather than internalize. We’re more comfortable in our comfort zones, no pun intended. We would rather adhere to a predictable and reliable structure than plunge into the scary and infinite uncertainty of the great unknown. Bills do have to be paid after all, right?
The question however, becomes, why? Are you content with an okay existence that pays the bills and keeps things easy and “stress-free”, instead of exploring the bold, vibrant life that comes with doing the one thing God literally made you to do? Would you rather survive on your own terms than take a literal leap of Faith? Honestly, the answer to these questions, depending on who you ask, will differ. Many jump right up and proclaim how eager they are to explore uncharted territory, conquer the world, live by faith, etc. Then why don’t they? Why don’t we all?
The truth is that purpose is terrifying. It can come with several discomforts, especially regarding validity. Why, of the several billion occupants of this beautiful planet we call home, would God choose me for this task? What does He see in me that I’m so fatally blind to? Why me? Am I good enough? Do I have what it takes? These thoughts propagate feelings of inadequacy that inevitably lead to further frustration and in many cases, depression and anxiety. We are, and will always be, our biggest and most prevalent hinderance to the life and purpose that God has ordained for us.
“Self” can be defined in a few ways… “One’s own desires or pleasure.” “By one’s own efforts.” “Of, or directed toward oneself.” All these definitions, regardless of their focus, have one thing in common — they each disregard others. If you look closely enough into the lives of all those paragons of purpose that summon emotions of inspiration and frustration in many of us, the one thing you will likely find, is people. That Pastor’s life and purpose, are incomplete without his congregation. That doctor? Take away all her patients, and she’s just a highly educated lab coat wearer. In each of these cases, it is the introduction of “others” that leads to total fulfillment, both professionally and purpose-wise.
Take away all those lives the pastor/doctor has touched, and they’re just people who struggle like each of us. They have problems of their own, like us. Bills to pay, like us. Family to support, or impress, or disappoint, also like us. Their insecurities don’t take on a different face than ours … they have simply stopped letting those insecurities get in the way of their purpose.
Let me call your attention to a scripture you’ve undoubtedly heard/read a few hundred times; “Before you were formed in your mother’s womb, I have known you and called you by name.” Jer. 1:5 This is God speaking here, folks! He, in His infinite wisdom, created us and molded every inch of us to His uncompromising standards, unique in every way. We each have a purpose, and you’re no exception!
“God does not choose the qualified, he qualifies the chosen.” Sure you’ve heard that one even more frequently than the above scripture. You must now be wondering, “If that’s the case, then why don’t I feel qualified? Nay, why do I feel colossally under-qualified for the responsibilities in my life and purpose? Why, despite my many efforts, does my own mind still taunt me with visions of inadequacy and impending failure?”
Perspective in its simplest form, means point of view, and your perspective goes a long way in not only shaping your attitude, but shaping your purpose. Perspective is the difference between crumbling under self doubt, and overcoming the limitations of your own self.
Jesus actually said it best in the Book of John;
“I am telling you the truth: a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die, then it produces many grains.” John 12:24 GNB
Put simply, we are tools in the Hands of our Father. A piece of charcoal, on its own, probably doesn’t think it can be a tool for beautiful art. On the contrary, charcoal is one of the least pleasant things to look at, but in the hands of an artist, this same little piece of charcoal can be used to create baffling works of art. Similarly, regardless of our own shortcomings, flaws, insecurities and failures, we too can be used as tools in His Hand.
How do you hear God speak?
As a new believer, I spent a lot of time contemplating this very question. I had finally found my way back into the Arms of my Father, and as any eager child, I was so excited to hear His voice! Unfortunately, the jaw-dropping, middle-of-the-street-stopping, completely undeniable Jesus encounter I dreamed about since receiving Christ, soon seemed outdated and unrealistic. Very quickly, I started to view the Bible through a lens of disconnection, separating my Biblical heroes and their unique in-your-face experiences with God, from my “real life” and what I considered “possible” in my 21st Century walk with Him. It started to feel like God just didn’t “speak” directly anymore…
So, for a while, I was content with feeling like God “spoke” to me in other ways — through some of the alternative means that are often highlighted in the many “How To Hear God” books and sermons that soon overtook my library — family, friends, strangers, pastors, the Bible, etc. However, even with all these quite suitable substitutes, I was still unsatisfied. I wanted the real thing, without any middlemen or conduits. Now, don’t get me wrong... these are all viable ways to hear from God, and many peoples’ life-changing encounters were rooted in these means. However, I was at a point in my journey where I craved something deeper. I wanted to literally hear His voice, for real. I wanted my very own Burning Bush experience, like the storied one that changed Moses’ life forever. I wanted to be able to say “God told me to do insert grand scheme for world-domination here …” or, “but God said to me that…”
I sometimes tried to hear Him by praying, and waiting for Him to talk back, just like I was taught in Sunday School. “It is a dialogue, not a monologue”, the teacher always said. “It’s a conversation! You can’t just say your piece and walk away… you’ve got to sit there and wait for God to talk back to you.” WOW! Unbelievable! This made SO much sense when I first heard it! I then resolved to sit and wait for God’s response after each prayer. However, though I’m not particularly proud of this, if I’m being completely honest, I just ended up falling asleep most of the time, or my thoughts would slowly begin to wander until I’d eventually give up.
Needless to say, that didn’t work, and I was once again, dissatisfied. I tried a few more things that I found either via research, or by talking to my friends about the topic. Of the many recommendations I got, one of the more plausible was “God speaks in a still small voice that can only be heard when you’re still and in a quiet place”. Anecdotally, this also made enormous sense, and I tried it religiously, but to no avail, and there I was... still no Thunder, and no knee-buckling Spiritual intervention. Inevitably, my frustration grew.
So, the question remains, how does it really happen? How do we really hear from God? Do we just lock ourselves somewhere quiet and wait for tremors and earthquakes to reaffirm our faith and literally confirm the answers to our many prayers?
In the past, God appeared to people when He wanted to talk to them. You’d just be doing your thing, hanging out by the community watering well, you know, watering your cattle, and voila! Before you, stood an ethereal figure, clad in a type of white garment that literally glows, and you immediately fell on your face and worshipped. Other times, God would either send Angels, or He came down as Thunder, or Fire. Regardless of what shape or form His message took, the unifying factor is that God only spoke to certain people — priests, prophets, kings, etc.
Fast forward a few thousand years to us, today, and the situation is entirely different. Through the immense sacrifice of Jesus, we ALL have the ability to hear God. Through Jesus, our spirits have been awakened and reconnected to God, and all our spiritual senses, reactivated. When Jesus rose and ascended into Heaven, He didn’t leave us all alone. He sent a part of Himself to remain with us, to help us navigate life on a daily basis, to strengthen us, teach us, and fellowship with us... not in human form as with Jesus, but as a Spirit… as the Holy Spirit. This is why today, God doesn’t necessarily come down as a burning fire, or a cloud of thunder to announce His presence, because He doesn’t need to! He’s already here! This is the profound Truth that I just hadn't understood, and the source of my deepest frustrations. I was looking outwardly for signs, listening outwardly for sounds, and forgetting that the God I was trying to reach was within me this whole time, and all I had to do was Listen!
So, there you have it! Mystery demystified. There’s no “formula” required to hear Him… The reason I hadn’t been hearing God speak to me in the past, was because I just wasn’t spiritually equipped to Listen. I was relying on my effort, and listening with my mortal ears… but it simply doesn’t work that way, because God is Spirit and speaks to our spirit, not our earthly covering (Read: Body). It was when I received the Holy Spirit that I began to understand this.
Imagine God’s Voice being a Radio Station whose frequency can only be decoded by a particular piece of software. Without the software, it’s impossible to enjoy this Radio Station, therefore, if you don’t have that software installed, the Station could be playing the best tunes forever, but you’d never be able to hear it. In this scenario, the Holy Spirit is the software! Without Him taking residency in our hearts and spirits, hearing God would remain elusive.
Everyone knows the Story - God made man, and gave him everything... power, dominion, authority, etc. God and man were besties. They had direct contact and man had unlimited access to his Father. Then Man sinned, and that relationship was fractured.
Consequently, man lost his power, access to all his privileges, and his prized position at God’s side.
Sin soon grew beyond a one-time thing, and inevitably had man enslaved, so much so, that it seemed impossible to break free. For millennia, man strived to get right with God again, by trying desperately to adhere to “The Law”, and offering innumerable animal sacrifices, in hopes of forgiveness.
The Bible states that without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sin, and man did his best to comply with this directive. However, even in the midst of many burnt offerings, something still wasn’t right. Unsurprisingly, man soon got complacent — He sinned, offered sacrifice, then sinned again. It became routine. The blood of an animal doesn’t have the power to remedy the sin, but only to conceal it. Invariably, man was still a victim of Sin, consumed by guilt, and his relationship with God was still... broken.
God couldn’t take it anymore. He had watched the creation He loved struggle in a sin-inflicted bondage for so long, that He had to do something drastic to save him. Nothing of this world could settle such a debt… nothing on this earth could bring about a true and genuine Forgiveness, so God did the unfathomable — He gave a part of Himself for man’s Redemption, in order to repair their fractured relationship, and restore man to his original status of a god, giving him back authority and dominion over everything, including sin.
Jesus, the Ultimate Sacrifice, was born. He lived, was crucified, and on the third day, was resurrected. Through the profound suffering He bore, our Sin was, at long last, permanently washed away. The Blood of the Lamb paid the price on our behalf, and as He said on the Cross, it was indeed, finished. The toll was paid, and Grace was birthed.
Grace is more than just “unmerited favour”, as defined by most. Grace is Freedom. It is Power. It is unrestrained Restoration. Grace goes beyond accepting Jesus, it’s more about how you choose to navigate your life with Him. Grace is Divine exemption from the Law. It is a passport that identifies its holder as a Citizen of Heaven, entitled to every privilege and blessing, with absolutely no limits! Through Jesus, the Giver of Grace, we are no longer slaves to sin. Through Him, we are righteous, and only through Him are we once again, made perfect — not by our efforts (which are grossly inadequate), but as a consequence of His love, and the resultant Grace it bestows upon us.
Contrary to popular belief, Grace is not the by-product of a seemingly perfect follower. Grace is boundless and doesn’t come with a price tag. It is not influenced or multiplied by the long list of checkmarks that seem to define “Christianity” these days. Many believers operate in a transactional framework in which they believe that if they are good, or do something “for God” (go to Church, read their Bible one a day, pray at least twice, fast, etc.), then God is contractually obligated to reciprocate… As though Grace is some spiritual ATM that dispenses blessings based on how much “heavenly collateral” you’ve managed to amass by your efforts. But that’s entirely not the way this works. Grace can not be earned or purchased... it is a gift that is simply, Given.
|Grace vs. Law
Grace and The Law often function in opposition to each other. The Law imposes an intolerable amount of pressure to live perfectly, in order to be right with God, while Grace on the other hand, whispers gently, “Come as you are”. The Law is designed to judge and execute all who fall short, but Grace strengthens the weak and empowers all who would only but ask.
If you remember nothing more, leave with this truth — when you have Jesus, by default, you’re privy to His unrestrained dispensation of Love, and if you revel in this Love, then you automatically stand with Grace. So, stand tall! Live free! Jesus already paid the price, so you and I don’t have to. All that’s left to do, is to let go and receive what He has already done for us.
After all, only by His Grace are we truly, free.
There is a somewhat famous psychology experiment in which people are told to concentrate on a group of people on a stage performing a certain activity, like playing basketball, and suddenly, a man dressed in a gorilla suit walks across the stage. You’d think that this unorthodox phenomenon would derail the entire experiment and draw everyone’s attention away from the basketball game, but surprisingly, most people don’t even “see” this gorilla-man, and have no recollection of any such thing happening.
I know this sounds highly unlikely and incredulous, but according to Science, there’s an explanation. The subjects of the experiment didn’t notice the gorilla dude, because the human visual system is primarily task-focused — though our eyes “see” a wide gamut of things, our brains are designed to selectively filter out copious amounts of these data, and focus on a particular thing at any given time… in this case, the basketball game. Summarily, these people didn’t have any visual defects, they were just so engrossed in the basketball game, that they didn’t realize when a man in a gorilla suit walked right in front of them.
Similarly, an extensive piece of research literature by Dr. Jon Lieff, M.D., reveals that ‘Expectation is often the reason for Selective Attention, and Perception. Therefore, in the brain, the unexpected is often, suppressed.’
And isn’t this just the story of our lives as believers? A lot of the time, we perceive our prayers as unanswered because God didn’t move in accordance with our many expectations. The phrase “God works in mysterious ways” has been beaten to a pulp, but it is also completely true. Basically, if we fix our attention solely on how we “expect” things to happen, we just might miss the real-life testimony going on in the background.
Take the Jews, for example. Can you imagine undergoing undue amounts of pressure and persecution while praying for generations to be rescued by the Messiah? By default, your expectations would gravitate towards a strong and mighty leader, clad in bulletproof armour, Angels at His side, riding His noble steed to slay all your enemies in glorious combat. Or, a savvy and noble politician who wittingly outsmarts all the evil folk, and against all odds, gains the seat of power and vanquishes all opposition, forcing them into a lifetime of servitude for their crimes. But oh, how wrong these expectations turned out to be, as God, in His infinite Wisdom, decided to send a manger-born carpenter’s son, who, instead of gaining a glorious victory in combat, was destined to be persecuted and eventually, nailed to a cross for heresy. What a twist, right?
Most of the Jews missed their Salvation as a result of their lofty expectations, but can we even blame them? They had spent so much time imagining the Messiah, that when He stood before them, they couldn’t comprehend the drastic irregularities between their expectations and the physical reality of their long-awaited miracle.
There’s surely a lesson in this story. A lot of the time, we expect things to happen in a certain way. We hope and pray for them to happen in an exact shape and manner, in accordance with our expectations, but most of the time, they don’t happen in our way or on our terms, and we are left feeling discouraged. We prescribe a recipe for how and when God should work in our lives, and when He doesn’t follow our orders disguised as prayers, our Faith inevitably takes a hit.
We pray for a door and get a window. For wine, but get water. For steak, and get bread… But are any of these less than miracles simply because they don’t adhere to the strict guidelines we’ve placed on our prayers? Are they any less miraculous because they defy our expectations? I should think not!
Open your eyes. God is moving in your life every day. Can you see it? He is talking, but are you even listening, or are you so preoccupied with your expectations that you begin to ignore the many real-life miracles that surround you? God cannot be placed in a box. Though He is always working in our lives, He does so on His terms, based on His Will, not ours, and definitely not based on the trivialities of our expectations. Even Jesus, when praying in Gethsemane ended His plea with the elegant “Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours.”
This is a hard truth — not every prayer gets answered on our terms, or within our timeline, or at our behest, but though the path may not be to our specifications, His way is the Right Way.
Open your heart. Open your mind. Open your spirit.
"But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God."
Every Christian is, by default, a Child of God. Imagine having an all-access pass to a Spiritual Disneyland, owned by your Father. You can go whenever you like, enjoy as many turns on any ride you want, and do all sorts or exciting things. Sounds great. However, there’s a more exciting level, a higher level- one in which instead of an all-access pass, you’re bestowed with Managerial Authority. You no longer just have the right to go into Disneyland whenever you please, but you can order ALL the employees at Disneyland to do your bidding, and they have no option but to obey your every command; to grab you coffee, clean your room, fetch your lunch, etc. This Managerial Authority, is more akin to a Son of God than a Child. These two positions are equally loved by the Father, however, a Son is bestowed with Spiritual Authority, and a Child merely has access to the Kingdom.
The dictionary definition of Authority is;
1 [mass noun] the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience: For example, “He had absolute authority over his subordinates.”
The determinant factor of Sonship in the Kingdom, is Authority. So, yes… Every Child of God is, by default, a member of God’s Kingdom, but this is the basic membership. This is the Spotify equivalent of a Free Trial. There is a Premium Membership that is available, if one so desires, and this Membership comes with certain perks and membership benefits; The right to order Angels, bind principalities, and alter spiritual situations. This Premium Membership is called Sonship, and the cost of purchase is total and utter surrender to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. In order to attain Spiritual authority, we must first be led by the Spirit, and through His leadership and authority, we become an extension of our Father. So, in order to gain authority, we must first surrender.
In the absence of Authority, we operate in the base levels of the Kingdom. We’re still able to assert authority in the Kingdom, but only by using the authoritative Name of Jesus. Now, there’s a clear difference between an Ambassador and a Messenger… a messenger has no imbued power on their own, and is therefore only able to command respect and reverence solely based on who he/she represents. An Ambassador, on the other hand, is an embodiment of power. He/she does not require any external validation of his authority, because his power is recognized, and his leadership, unquestionable.
Jesus, was sent to ensure that we are elevated to Ambassador level. His life on Earth, in Human form, flesh and blood, was a preview of the possibilities that await us. The dominion He displayed over the wind, water, principalities and powers, was a window into what a Premium Membership looks like. His selfless sacrifice makes us one with Him, and allows us access to the Holy Spirit, who in turn, instils us with the Authority to take our rightful place in the Kingdom. We go from mere Child to full-fledged Son, with the full understanding of who we are in Christ. The Holy Spirit reminds us of our initial identity of God’s original plan when He made us in His image and instructed us to Subdue and Rule the Earth. Through Him, we are restored to the Glory that was ours before the Fall in Genesis 3. Though Him, we are once again, made perfect.
Maggie Eriksson did a great job of putting all this into perspective;
We are all God’s children, immature, without legal status, and without recognition as “adults”. We are moral beings with the potential of making the choice to become Sons of God. Therefore, as Children of God, we can obtain recognition with legal spiritual status as heirs— sons… only though Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit.
So, where do you stand? On what level are you operating? Are you content with a Free Trial, or do you long for the legitimacy that comes with a Premium Membership? Are you satisfied with occasional breakthroughs as a Messenger, or are you ready for the Ambassadorial responsibilities that come with real, unbridled Authority? With all the groundwork already done for us by Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit made available to us, all that is left is for us to reach out and seize the Authority that is already before us. We must only choose to become Sons, to gain our rightful place in our Father’s Kingdom, to establish our position as joint heirs with Christ.
The choice is yours.
Everyone is special… or so we’re told.
From infancy, coddled and adored by our parents and families, incessantly told how exceptional we all are. But what then happens when we go out into the big bad world and encounter the vast jungle of humanity’s stern gaze? How do we cope in a world filled with people that are far more exceptional, or at least appear so on the surface? What do we do when our “specialness” is outranked and outmatched by others who excel beyond us in skill and/or ability? As people, the gut reaction is often this little thing called Envy.
Envy — a deep-rooted feeling of unrest borne from our desire to have something possessed by someone else.
Envy is such an integral part of humanity’s imperfection, that it manifests itself in infancy, even before we’re able to form language. Some would go as far as to argue that Envy was the First Sin, because Eve ate the proverbial Forbidden Fruit to be like God — to see the world as God sees it, to possess God-like knowledge… to be, more.
As Christians, we too are not impervious to the sickness that is envy. As a matter of fact, if anything, we’re more susceptible to it. Doesn’t it just feel like everyone in “the world” seems to have it much better than those who follow Christ? Easier? When we spend our lives following God’s commands and His Word, shouldn’t we inherit the earth as promised? If we’re to be completely honest, every Believer has, at some point, fallen victim to envy.
Have you ever caught yourself staring at someone’s social media for inordinate amounts of time and craving their life? Have you envied someone’s accomplishments so much that you stopped being proud of yours? The reality of humanity is that we’re so quick to notice the things we don’t have, or don’t realize that we do. Kids often display this behaviour with little or no inhibition — “I want HER dress!” “I want HIS toy!”… As adults, we’ve developed some very effective ways to conceal these feelings, but that doesn’t make them any less prominent. If you’ve ever felt like your life was not commensurate with all the dreams and amazing ideas you have in your mind, then you know exactly what I mean. The million-dollar question then becomes… “How do we navigate the intricacies of a volatile existence marred by the constantly-emphasized achievements of others, in lieu of our own?”
Timeline - a graphical representation of a period of time, on which important events are marked.
In life, we all have our timeline, and because everyone’s timeline is unique, some people have timelines that appear to be more eventful and run more smoothly/effortlessly… especially in comparison to the otherwise modest lives that the vast majority of us seem to lead — lives awash with trials and turmoil. Instead of obsessing over everything going “great” in other peoples’ lives, we should focus on our own lives, respecting our own timelines, and embracing ourselves and the (sometimes tumultuous) journey that God has designed for us.
Social Media has made it so easy to feel like less. Everyone seems to have the perfect life when viewed through a 4.7 inch screen and myriad Insta-filters. The locations are ultra-exotic. The food appears so tasty. The outfits, supremely elegant… all wrapped in a beautifully deceptive ribbon, and served up at the forefront of our cyber lives with the ever-present “#Blessed”. And when we unconsciously compare our lives with the ones we see on those little screens in our pockets/purses, or to the lives of people around us, we inevitably fall short, and it hurts. This hurt then gives way to unbridled Envy, which slowly propagates jealousy, depression, low self esteem, discontentment, or even hate.
“I have also learnt why people work so hard to succeed: it is because they envy their neighbours. But it is useless. It is like chasing the wind.” — Ecclesiastes 4:4 (GNB)
When we measure ourselves using others as a yardstick and fall short, the natural next step in the envy flow chart is Competition. We all want to be the best, or at least be on the same level as whoever holds that title in our minds, so we subconsciously begin to evaluate our lives by their standards. We begin to do everything necessary to match up with, or be better than them. We get distracted, stop focusing on our own journeys, and expend valuable time and effort competing with someone else, instead of growing at God’s desired pace for our lives. We begin to pray for, and chase after, things that are not meant for us, which as Solomon rightly stated, is useless.
“Envy of another man’s calling can work havoc in our own” - Anonymous.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with ambition. What we should all ask ourselves however, is Why? Why do we want what we want? What’s the true source of these desires? Are our motives God-centric, or just to make others feel like we’re “better”? Are we trying to fulfil our purpose, or simply trying to measure up? Answering these questions can help us realize when we’re straying off our path, and help us realign ourselves to God’s plan for our lives.
However, regardless of how vigilant we are or how hard we try, we’re all still human, and the truth is that we will all experience envy again at some point in our lives. So, when next you’re feeling inadequate in comparison to someone else, simply remember that you are… enough. Take comfort in the knowledge that you indeed ARE special, that you were molded limb from limb by a Father whose love for you will confound even your wildest imagination. Understand that you’re only human, and give yourself some much-needed Grace. Count your blessings and take stock of all the amazing gifts and qualities that you possess. You are a child of God, a position for which there is no rivalry. Renew your mind with your Father’s Word, and His promises regarding you — not all that seems “good” is God. Not all that seems good is good for YOU.
So, wake up, pray, grind and slay.
You may not be perfect, but by His Grace, you are Enough.
Have you ever felt fear?
That cold, chilling, paralyzing sensation that creeps up your spine and overtakes your mind? Have you ever sat alone in the dark, wondering if tomorrow will come, or better yet, if you’d even see it? Have you ever found yourself quivering in the face of a challenge? If so, you and Jesus have a lot in common! Imagine Christ, the Son of God(!), thrust into uncertainty, with friends and foes coming together to betray and imprison Him, and eventually, take away His very life. Can you imagine what that must have felt like? If you’ve ever faced a challenge, regardless of what form it took, then you must know what it feels like to be too afraid to carry on. The question, however, then becomes, when the tide of fear rises, what can we really do?
Drawing from a popular Biblical example, let’s look back at Peter — the bold, the unflinching, walking on water in response to a call by his Saviour. When a lot of people reference this story, the main focus is usually Jesus walking on water, but that’s really nothing surprising. That’s not remarkable, because He was Jesus! The Son of God! He worked miracles and raised the dead in His spare time, of course He can walk on water. Peter on the flip side however, is a different story entirely. Peter walking on water was, IS, nothing short of borderline insanity, and that’s the miracle of it! But Peter, being a man, started to notice the insanity — the madness of planting his feet upon Dark Waters. The waves caught his attention. The wind swayed his balance. The thunder awoke his fear, and the tide inevitably, toppled him.
At the centre of every miracle is a little madness, and at the centre of every challenge, is an opportunity to choose that madness, or to cower in fear of the unknown. For every step that Peter took on the water, he was choosing the madness. He was making a conscious decision to trust God, or in this case, Jesus. Peter’s radical exercise in faith, even in the face of the impossible, is a lesson to us all. A lesson that as a Christian, challenges will arise, but they don’t signal the end. On the contrary, they're an opportunity to grow, and a lesson in the exercise of faith. They can shape us as people, make us more mature Christians, nudge us back onto God’s plan, and leave us permanently changed for the rest of our lives.
This piece of Scripture pretty much sums it up;
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
James 1:2-4 MSG
Let’s get back to Jesus for a second. We see in Matt 26:39-44 that while Jesus was contemplating His crucifixion, He asks God to take the Cross away. Isn’t that interesting? Even with the knowledge that He will rise again in 3 days, the fear of the Cross still prompted the Son of God to ask His Father not once, not twice, but thrice to take the looming challenge away. However, the fact that Jesus felt fear is not the most important thing… He was a Man, after all, and therefore, flesh and blood. What’s more remarkable is the fact that He still submitted to God’s Will in the face of that fear, because He understood that God’s Will is perfect. Jesus trusted God so much that He was willing to let Himself die, in the confidence, that God will not abandon Him.
With that in mind, what are you going through? This Easter, I need you to remember that worrying and focusing on the “problem”, whatever it may be, is not the answer - all that'd cause is sadness, stress, anxiety, and more fear! Similarly, seeking human help is also not the answer. Trying to do it on your own? Nope. The answer is Jesus. Focus on Him - rest in the finished work He’s done for you. He went through all the pain and hurt for me and you, so we don’t have to go through any of it again.
So receive His peace, and let go of your fear. Trust God enough to know that He will not let the challenge overcome you. Trust that He will never abandon you in Hell — whatever that may represent in your life. Trust His timing. Jesus didn’t die and resurrect on the same day… He spent 3 days in Hell, because that’s how long He needed to be there in order to secure His eternal place on God’s right hand, and by extension, our Salvation. Jesus didn’t appear to Peter and immediately quiet the storm, rather, He first told him to walk on it. God may not always work things out the way we want, or on our schedule, but He will work them out for our good, and at His time, which FYI, is the Perfect Time!
Remember this. God knows the end from the beginning. He says, “Fear not” 365 times in the Bible — one for every day of the year. So, the storms and dark waters may come and try to unravel you, but don’t be afraid because you know that God has gone before you, is working for you… and that all things work together for YOUR good, even on Dark Waters.