Faith is Rest

I’ve been continuing to think about the things I explored in my previous post on fear and faith. [Read it here]

I was particularly struck by something my Mum said recently as I related a worry to her.  After a flood of anxious words from me about “trying to trust God in the situation”, she looked at me calmly and said “Naomi, faith is rest.”

This stopped me mid-rant, because Mum had pinpointed a key thing that I had failed to recognise! Although I was talking the talk, when it came to faith and trusting God my anxious striving demonstrated that I hadn’t fully grasped the concept. To trust God is to rest from anxious striving,  because we know that he is in control and that he is good and worthy of our complete confidence. We can rest, because he is at work.

What a simple powerful truth, yet how difficult it can be to put it into practice!

Unbelief Disguised As Efficiency

Fear and worry bring out the control freak in me. I like to tell myself that “I’m just being organised”, but if I look at my heart I know that often what lies behind is unbelief disguised as efficiency.

I  replace trusting God with tangible human action, as though I’m wiser or more capable than God himself! And while careful control of all the variables might get me through a situation, or allow me to feel ‘in control’, I know that I’ve traded list-making and relentless action for the peace and rest that come from faith.

Of course it’s not really either/or.  We can be both trusting and organised, resting in God and active!

 baby- psalm 130

A Child with its Mother

Faith is rest.

Yet this is not about inaction so much as right attitude. Psalm 131 provides a helpful model:

My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

We’ve all seen sleepy toddlers snuggled contentedly with their mothers. They have no troubles because she provides all that they need, making them feel safe and loved.  Any need will quickly and trustingly be communicated to she who is constantly engaged in loving, protecting, and guiding her child.

What an astounding truth that our powerful, eternal God is willing and able to give us that same security and provision, causing the psalm writer to say “I have calmed and quieted myself like a weaned child with its mother.”

We, like Israel, would do well to humbly put our hope in the Lord and rest in him instead of proudly trusting in our own abilities or worrying when we know they aren’t sufficient.

Join me in cultivating this attitude towards our faithful God in pursuit of his rest!

Cast your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken.
Psalm 55:22

 

Nim

The Story of the Potter and the Clay

This is a story about a potter and a sadly delusional piece of clay:

The potter is busy at work one day in his studio, forming a new pot with the easy skill of a master craftsman. As he turns the wheel the clay twitches suddenly under his hands and he hears a reedy and mutinous voice say “You did not make me!”

The potter is speechless, not primarily because his pot has begun to talk, but due to the blatantly ridiculous nature of the words it utters even as he continues to shape it.  Yet the small piece of clay continues, warming to his theme, “You did not make me. And furthermore, I don’t think you know what you’re doing! I could do a much better job.”

I’m not sure where the story would go from here, but I’m pretty certain that it wouldn’t end with the lump of clay usurping the role of master craftsman! The scenario is fun to imagine, but pretty absurd. Yet did you know that this is an illustration that God uses in the Bible of you and I, and our attitude to him?!

‘He Did Not Make Me’

Isaiah 29 is a prime example. The context is that God is speaking to the Israelites about the way that they treat him. Their foolish attitude towards their powerful God and creator has led to their punishment at the hands of other nations in war, and yet they still haven’t understood that their pride and rebellion is the cause.

This is God’s rebuke in v.16:clay potter

16 You turn things upside down!
Shall the potter be regarded as the clay,
that the thing made should say of its maker,
    “He did not make me”;
or the thing formed say of him who formed it,
    “He has no understanding”?

These words may have originally been directed at Israel, but they speak just as powerfully to us today.

We turn things upside down. We try to shrug off the authority that God has just by virtue of him being God. He made us – every atom, every cell. He sustains the existence of the universe that we inhabit, and yet like the pathetically delusional clay, against all signs to the contrary we defiantly announce “He did not make me”.

We think that if we ignore him, he’ll go away and there won’t be any consequences.

‘He Has No Understanding’

Or perhaps we’ve reconciled ourselves to God’s existence, we’ve given him our allegiance – even our love and worship, yet in certain matters we continue to withhold our trust. Do we honour his wisdom as superior to our own? Do we obey his commands and trust his purposes? Or like the clay do we mutter “He has no understanding”? We might never put this into words but it’s an unconscious attitude that can pervade our everyday behaviour. (Don’t forget that the accusations of Isaiah 29 were made to Israel –  who knew God and claimed to follow him!)

I stumbled across this passage whilst searching for another, but it hit me powerfully because so often this is me –  struggling in vain against the reality of who God is and who I am, and whether I really trust him – deludedly trying to announce my independence and greater wisdom, even as the potter continues his work.

Hope for Rebels

Fortunately there is hope for rebellious pots like me! Against all expectations, the potter is infinitely gracious and forgiving, he keeps on moulding and shaping us. This is a rebuke that calls us to return. Just one chapter on in Isaiah 30:15 and 18, we read this invitation:

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…

the Lord longs to be gracious to you;therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.

So let’s humbly heed the warning and take God up on his invitation, acknowledging and trusting our maker and accepting his grace whilst it is offered to us.

Nim

What do Christians mean by “Faith”?

This week I’ve been trying to get to grips with what the Bible means when it talks about faith. I’ve noticed that we use the word as a bit of a catch-all term, “just have faith” “I admire your faith” “what faith are you?” Somewhere along the line I start to get confused about what we mean by it, and I realise that I’ve become far too comfortable with a word that is meant to shake us from our complacency and lead us to live radically.

As I’ve thought about faith this week, I’ve been encouraged, but also hugely challenged. God has reminded me that faith begins and ends with, through, and in HIM!STEPPING-OUT-IN-FAITH by V Herschberger

Not a Lecture

This blog post isn’t a theological lecture on faith, and it’s certainly not exhaustive! I just want to share some of the rediscoveries I’ve made, in the hope that they will sink more deeply into my heart, and perhaps warm yours too.

I began by looking at how the Bible defines and uses the word ‘faith’. Some of the most common meanings were:
Firm Persuasion, Belief, Trust, and Steadfastness.

In the Old Testament, God himself is the prime example of faithfulness. Israel is commanded to have faith because of his faithfulness. They are to trust him, based on his perfect character and all that he has already done for them.

6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulnessExodus 34:6

Often the Israelites are rebuked for their lack of faithfulness, because they are not steadfast in their faith:

Psalm 78:8…they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Examples of Faith

In the New Testament, Hebrews has a whole chapter that reads like a hall of fame for the faithful – except that when you look closely, many of those mentioned are flawed people who made big mistakes. So why are they commended?

Chapter 11 starts with its own definition of faith: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” And the author goes on to give a plethora of examples:

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family,

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she
considered him faithful who had made the promise,

It is God’s faithful, promise-keeping character that enables his people to act on their trust in him! Faith enables them to wait, be holy, act boldly, be obedient, keep trusting in impossible circumstances, defer their happiness, and wait for the arrival of the promised rescuer, Jesus Christ.

Another thing that struck me as I read this passage, is that God expects his people to trust him, when they don’t know how he will deliver them, or why he has given them certain instructions, or how his promises can possibly come about! They often have little information about the situation at hand, and yet their faith is not foolish or a blind leap in the dark. It rests in the solid, certain, steadfastly faithful character of God.

A Waiting Game

I was also reminded that faith often requires periods of struggle or waiting. Charles Stanley said: “Our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on the object we’re waiting for.” And we see this in Hebrews 11:

v.9b-10 [Abraham] lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

v.16 Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

v.26 [Moses] regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

Genuine faith results in action and change

I want to avoid a super-long blog post, but let me give a brief mention to the book of James, which so clearly shows us that real faith will be evidenced by what we do – just like our Hebrews 11 heroes.

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. James 2:26

Hope for the Little-Faiths

Everything I’ve read about faith shows me how faithless I am most of the time! (Every sin has unbelief at its core because we disobey God when we disbelieve the goodness or wisdom of his commands and promises.)
So I was heartened to also read passages that remind me that just as faith is rooted in a faithful God, it also begins and ends with Jesus Christ:

…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Heb 12:1-2

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:4, 6

Jesus never sinned because his faith in his Father never faltered, and he lives to intercede for us today. He is the founder and perfecter of our faith; and he continues his work in us to strengthen our faith by his Holy Spirit. In our fight for faith and faithfulness we are not alone!

Faith in God enables us to wait, be holy, act boldly, be obedient, keep trusting in impossible circumstances, defer happiness, and look forward eagerly to Christ’s glorious return.

Praise God for his faithfulness to an unfaithful people!

Nim