Here we are at the end of our resting challenge. Yes, it has lasted a little longer than we initially agreed upon, but a week of rest has been so sweet. Don’t get me wrong, it has been a busy week! Over the last seven days, we have gone back to our hometown, attended a wedding, gone back to Nashville, packed and prepared for a two week vacation, hit the road, and driven across half of the country (I’m not kidding. Ten hours per day in the car and I’ve now seen all of Texas).
Yet each day, there has been intentional time at the beginning and the end of the day with Jesus, basking in His Word and hearing His heart. I have learned about His character and been convicted for neglecting time with Him in days past.
Today is the last day we will discuss rest together–at least for a little while–but I hope it is not the last of our resting together. I hope that we continue to spend time before our God to discipline our desires, renew our thirst, prepare for war, and gain perspective.
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But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
(Ephesians 4:20-24 ESV)
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A few hundred years before Jesus stepped foot on our world, a king named Darius placed an outright law against spending time in rest with God. He was convinced by his advisors that no one should be praying to anyone or anything except him. This was particularly problematic because many Israelites were living under his reign–including the prophet Daniel.
Though there was a decree signed, sealed, and delivered commanding that if anyone should pray before another God, He would be thrown to the Lions, Daniel did not sway. He would not let a threat from this world keep him from spending intentional time with His God. He saw this as evidence of a broken world; there was no better time to pray then now.
So he did just that.
He went home, got onto his knees, and prayed. Not once, not twice, but three times each day.
He did it in the upper chambers, meaning everyone had the opportunity to see him. He didn’t hide it, he didn’t live in fear of man. And you probably know the rest of the story. The men caught him, he was thrown into the lion’s den and was protected by God’s own angels.
But that is not the part of the story that I want to focus on. I think we often think of Daniel as some kind of superhuman: faith so strong that nothing could scare him, hurt him, or break him.
He was a person. Just like you and me. He spoke regularly with God–something we have the ability to do since Jesus sacrificed Himself.
You see, He was probably terrified of the possibility of being ripped apart by Lions. Who wouldn’t be?
But this probably wasn’t his first time coming before the Lord in prayer. He has likely made a habit out of it–a discipline out of prayer. It was years of getting on His knees before God in the past that made Him comfortable and courageous enough to continue doing it in this situation.
Christian, please don’t wait until the lion’s den is being threatened to start your intentional time with God. It will be scarier. It will be easier to avoid Him.
When we spend a little time with God, it is like a snowball effect. We want to spend more time before Him, we love His way and His Word more and more, and we become more confident in His love. We recognize our utter and absolute need for Him alone. We become able to put these words from Ephesians into practice. Take a look with me.
We can put away our old selves.
This is the first and hardest thing to do. Yes, when Jesus enters our lives, He gives us every ability to put off our former manner of life, but it does take some serious effort. It takes time learning Him and His Word. It takes sitting in silence with Him, all distractions aside. It takes learning to stop listening to the council of the world. All this can only be attained through discipline. He gives us the will to practice discipline and we must carry it out ourselves. We must set aside the time. We must say no to the flesh and yes to the Spirit. Daniel had to turn down a lot of what the world was offering Him to continue following Yahweh. He had to say no to a decree that the world pronounced and yes to persecution in light of God’s kingdom.
We can be renewed in the spirit of our minds.
Once this discipline is established, however, we begin to see God for who He is. We not only see what He has done for us, but we see His Kingdom for what it is. We understand His will, and we get what the world will never understand. We understand this rejuvenated way of life, this Gospel-loving, Jesus-following, cross-carrying renewed mind.
We can demonstrate the righteousness and holiness of God.
And just like that, we can do what Daniel did. We can defy the odds of humanity and practice love for Him that this world would call crazy.
You see, the righteousness and holiness of God is that He would sacrifice Himself for the good of His children. With discipline, we can mirror his qualities by being willing to sacrifice everything for him.
Let that be our goal as we rest.
Let our prayer be that we might give up everything to follow His way.
I have this friend that use to go to school with me. About once a week, she would come to me and ask how to know things about God. She wondered things like, how do you know He is who He says He is and how do you really resist temptations?
I said to her all that I knew. The more time you spend with Him, the more you understand Him.
Now, I was thinking, get in your Bible each morning or something! She decided to travel across the country for the summer and do a worship internship. She wrote in her blog, “Often times, you can’t explain to your friends, family, or your intellect the crazy, out-of-the-norm thing God has told you to do. And God is hilarious because He knows what He is telling you is extremely bizarre and no one will understand it, but He does it so you can ONLY trust Him and in nothing else.”
So she began her very busy season of intentional time with God. She spent the summer in a place that she was uncomfortable going. She jumped out of her safety zone and trusted Jesus. She gave every bit of her life to Him, putting off her own desires and renewing her mind in the Spirit. Just like that, He brought her clarity. He gave her His desires. He brought her the discipline to not only head off for a summer, but move across the globe to study full-time ministry.
Friends, I wanted her to get in scripture every now and then. And while God did use that time in scripture and prayer, He called her to so much more through it.
Our rest is not the end goal. It is the beginning of the story!
He will give us clarity for the next step when we rest in Him. He will grow our own love for Him. He will discipline our desires and help us to put away our own flesh that we can grow in His own Spirit.
Rest, oh Christian. Then go.
Go do what He is calling you to. It might not make any sense, but it will be so, so beautiful. He wants you to harbor His desires so that glorifying Him is what we want. It is the only thing that satisfies our needs.
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Read more of Allison’s story on her blog, This Yellow Heart! It is so sweet and encouraging. I am obsessed.