I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing… By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples. As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love… These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
2016 is over. We all stand on the start line of a new year. Many of you are ready to charge into 2017 armed with a set of resolutions made with idealism and gusto.
Yet before you race off into the new year, I challenge you to rest. Begin your resolutions with a prayerful plea to surrender striving, slow down and bask in His great love for you. While rest in Him can't be measured like pounds on a scale or miles on the treadmill, it will have far greater impact on your spiritual health and well-being.
Rest is hard in a culture that consumes activity at an alarming rate, a habit that often spills over into our spiritual lives. Many of us have perfected the art of “doing”–even good Christian things–at the expense of “being.” Our souls are desperately weary, fatigued to the point of exhaustion, yet we’re unwilling to pause, be still and allow Jesus to sing His promises over us. Why is that? How do we change?
Change begins with prayer and is empowered by the Holy Spirit. Ask God to teach you new habits of silence and surrender: silence to listen to His voice instead of all the other competing noise; surrender to give Him your agenda, insecurities, and all that you desire to control. After all, He loves you and is the best caretaker of your life.
Trust in His personal love for you–this is unbelievably liberating–especially to those of us who are often ruled by performance, accomplishment, and a constant striving to “do more.” If you struggle to believe He loves you and likes you (and believing is different than knowing!), confess that to Him and ask Him help you in your unbelief.
In light of His delight in you, you are able to rest in Him, and as you abide, you are freed to reconsider your ambitions. Jesus’ concept of greatness is very different than ours. I often forget that. How much of the joy of His created order is missed when we race from task to place to ambition without seeing what He has sovereignly placed around us. Rest in Him provides a newfound opportunity to recover a delight in the ordinary, mundane aspects of life. Ask Him to show you His wonderful work; ask also to find great joy in it. Things such as the sound of a child sleeping, the rise of the morning sun, an afternoon walk, or the way the leaves fall from trees whose branches stretch upwards towards Him in season-less praise. Abiding in Him allows us to not only revel at the way He has designed the creaturely world in which we inhabit (and we are creatures!). Rest in Him also enables us to more warmly embrace the God-given limitations of our humanity. We don’t know it all. We have doubts and questions for which we don’t have answers. We can’t be everywhere we’d like to be. We can’t fix it all or hold the brokenness of our lives together independent of Him. Our capacity is limited. And this is how He made us–needy and dependent; created to draw upon the limitless capability of our Creator and to find a joy in Him that penetrates to the deepest of places within us.
I wonder how our lives would change if we asked God to reveal how we needy and dependent on Him we are—and then invested our energies not to pursue flawlessness but to meditate on the reality that we are forgiven and freed children of God. What if we prayed for His help to enable us to understand the glorious promise and security that comes with the knowledge that we “died and our life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3)? What if our imagination was employed not in vivifying our fears and anxieties, but in imagining His coming Kingdom and His presence with us as we journey the often bumpy soil of this earthly terrain on the road to redemption?
One of best things we can offer a hopeless and dying world is to be spiritually rested and abiding in Christ. There we will best reflect His character and the true rest and joy that is found exclusively in Him. As we abide in Him, He is glorified in us.
So as you stand at the start line of 2017, before you take a deep breath and sprint off, first let out a big exhale in the confidence that you are secure and safe in the strong grip of our Redeemer as you run this year.