In the Old Testament, we learn about the Israelites in Egyptian captivity. Their people had been enslaved for many generations. They were used to doing hard labor, constant work on behalf of others, and getting around to their own tasks whenever there was extra time. They worked day after day after day after day. When God delivered them from enslavement, he established some new guidelines. One of these was a day of rest. One day a week, every single week, they were to rest and not work. Can you imagine the struggle it was to rest? Here they were trying to build a new community in the middle of nowhere, and now God was asking them to take regular breaks. Who has time to rest?! But when God delivered them, he had to teach them how to rest.
It’s safe to assume this verse is part of the story of the Last Supper, right? Things are not as they appear, however! While the circumstances are very similar, the timing is very different. This moment happened after Jesus was resurrected. The day after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to many of his disciples, but they did not recognize him. It took this moment back around the table, breaking bread together, before they suddenly realized who was in the room.
Have you ever felt like giving up? Many of us have felt this from time to time. Feeling abandoned or like there’s no end in sight can cultivate a spirit of fear and loneliness or bitterness if we are not careful. Even Jesus dealt with feelings of abandonment when he was on the cross.
Have you experienced suffering? On the night before he died, Jesus prayed for his disciples and those who would come to believe in him as a result of their message. He knew that he was facing intense suffering, and that his followers would also suffer.
Have you ever thought that your greatest weakness could be your greatest strength? This is what Jesus demonstrated for us. Through his moment of ultimate weakness—His embarrassing death, He brings about His greatest victory-His resurrection and the salvation of all mankind. His scars became a sign of power, and He freely allows His disciples to investigate his nail-scarred hands. The same hands that endured the cross are the very ones that he uses to bring blessing to his disciples and to proclaim victory over death as God carries him up to heaven.
Surrender, this process of constantly choosing to die to ourselves, is not easy. Paul wrote this passage to the Corinthian church, declaring that we choose this path because of what we gain in it. Surrendering our lives so that Jesus may live in and through us. This is a firm truth. One that we see layered in scripture. Our inability - His ability. Our decrease - His increase. Our sin - His perfection. Our shame - His Redemption.
One of the most challenging aspects of receiving blessings from God is to remember that the blessing is not really ours. Imagine a child receiving a gift from his parents, and then, when asked to share it with his sister, he protests, “No, mine!” On the other hand, when we, as children of God, recognize that the gifts he gives us are intended to bless others, then we can live freely in the abundant life that God has for us.
It’s hard to imagine that if something were lodged in your leg, that you wouldn’t immediately remove what’s wounding you. What if instead of removing the object, you were to accept it and grow accustomed to walking with your wound? What if you were to just adjust your walk to accommodate your wound? Not only would the wound become infected, but you may even lose your leg. What started as a limp slowly but surely leads to the loss of the leg!
The practice of surrender is one of the most difficult for the believer. It challenges our desire for comfort and it challenges our faith, among other things.
Though this proverb is one of Christianity’s most popular verses, it definitely isn’t the easiest to live out. Trusting God in everything does not come easily. We’ve all experienced disappointments with others and perhaps we’ve even been disappointed with God. Trusting God may not come naturally, and hesitations may arise, but ultimately trust is a choice we need to make, and a journey that God will take you on as you walk with him. Nothing and no one can match the trustworthiness of our Heavenly Father.
When was the last time that someone gave you a gift? We all give and receive them frequently; we all know how to give and receive. The last time someone gave you a gift, did you have to pay them in order to receive it? When you last gave a gift, did you want them to pay for it before they could open it up? Of course not! When someone gives you a gift for your birthday, we know that we don’t need to pay for it. It has already been paid for! The gift wasn’t free, but it was free for us.
Do you ever wonder if God gets tired of forgiving us? Most of us have probably committed the same sin more than once, asked for forgiveness and moved on with life. But what about those things that trip us up over and over (and over) again? How do you feel about asking God for forgiveness over and over for the same thing?
Have you ever wondered if God could forgive the worst things you have done? God’s love for us is unconditional and His forgiveness is complete.
As human beings, we are prone to keep a record of grievances. Many people struggle to forgive easily. Have you ever had someone remind you of something you did that hurt their feelings, only it was over three years ago?
Have you ever needed to recover from an illness or injury? Recovery from a serious injury, for example, is often a long, painful process. Often the greater or more serious the injury, the longer and more painful the recovery. This is often true when we find ourselves injured by hurt and offenses. The greater the injury, the longer and more painful the recovery process.
We are free FROM sin, but we are not free OF sin. This is a tension we walk in as believers. As Jesus does his perfecting work in us, we can miss the mark along the way. If we deny our sin, we are denying the truth and the sacrifice Jesus made by dying on the cross for us (see Isaiah 53:5). Hiding our sin does nothing for us, but confession helps move us forward. “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion” (Proverbs 28:13).
What kind of prayers excite God? Luke told us a story about a Roman centurion, a non-Jew, whose servant was sick and close to death (Luke 7:1-10). Jesus’ ministry had been to Jewish people. This Roman sent people to ask Jesus to heal his friend and highly valued aid. He sent word to Jesus that a visit was not necessary. He believed if Jesus would only speak a word, his servant would be healed.
Have you ever had to tackle a daunting task? Imagine having to take on huge project with the highest stakes imaginable. Imagine that the fate of the world is in play. It’s on you now. Everything in existence is riding on your decision. Can you feel the heat? Can you grasp the pressure of the moment?
When we experience temptation, Jesus not only prays and intercedes for us; he also knows what it feels like to be tempted. He empathizes with us, and he even demonstrated during his time on earth what it looks like to walk through temptation without falling subject to sin and the enemy.
Have you ever needed an Advocate, someone who speaks on your behalf for your benefit? Maybe a friend, family member, or coworker has spoken for you in your defense. Maybe someone opened a door of opportunity for you by speaking up for you? Or maybe you have felt helpless, discredited, or alone, wishing someone would speak for you and plead your case. As Jesus prayed in John 17, he assumed his rightful role as our Advocate. He is in your corner!