Saved to be Strong in God

Isaiah 30:15 says – “In returning and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

We will try to understand the four words in this verse that describe our spiritual life.

This prophetic utterance of Isaiah describes the salvation experience with the usage of two words: 1. Returning and 2. Rest.

1. In Returning Back to God

To the place where we were made to be, to belong to God.

It talks of a restored relationship and also giving up on going independently of God. It talks of the journeying back through all the wrongs.

It encourages the addressing of issues face to face and does not prescribe a superficial treatment of sin problem. In this returning back to God the saviour – we are justified by God Himself. We neither need to wallow in guilt nor need to make any pitiful attempts of justifying ourselves.

So, let us return back to God.

2. In Rest which describes the kind of life the saved are called to possess.

In a very simple way of seeing history – “Humanity became restless after eating the forbidden fruit. But when we consume Jesus Christ, we are appropriated back to the state of rest.”

It promises harmony and a life without fear. It speaks of the sufficiency of trusting God and living freely under the shadow of His wings.

It encourages us to scoff at the suggestions of the evil one and deny the fleshly longings of the self, while learning to remain content in obedience to God.

So, let us find that rest in God.

The other part of the prophecy describes the strength of life in God, using two words: 1. Quietness, and 2. Trust.

3. In Quietness – which is the result of spiritual strength.

The more we find strength in God the more we find it easy to remain quiet. The more we fellowship quietly with God the more of His strength do we discover within us by His grace.

Of course shouting, proclaiming, celebrating, etc. have their vital roles in the expression of our faith. But we need to balance such expressions with quietness, solitude, contemplation, etc.

This should encourage us to fix times of intense, rich and meaningful fellowship with God – and quietness is the best way to do so.

So, let us be drawn close to God in quietness.

4. In Trust – we remain strong in God.

The more we realize that there is no vital strength without God, the more we are made to trust in Him and we become stronger in His strength.

Unlike the world where strength is charecterized by independence and self-sufficiency, spiritual strength in Christ Jesus is defined by increasing trust in God and in self-denial.

This should encourage us to discover more of our weaknesses and helplessness and the simultaneous joy in also discovering that the strength of God is richly provided for us in all those areas of our vulnerabilities.

So, let us find joy in realizing our weakness and the supply of God’s strength in our life.

For thus said Isaiah the blessed prophet: “In returning and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15, ESV) 

God Delights to Help You

God delights to show us the path of life:

God does not want us to lose our way. Human beings are notoriously prone to lose the way. It is far easier and more probable for us to lose the way than to make it right.

Going to God is the straight and hence the shortest path ever before us. But we mess it up most times and wander away from God rather than go to Him. Moreover, having lost the way – we find it most difficult to acknowledge that we are lost, let alone turn around and go back to God.

Nevertheless, for those who would go back to God, the good news is that – God delights to show us the path of life

God delights to give us His presence:

God does not want us to be alone. Human beings are created for company. Actually, we are specifically designed to be in the presence of God. However, we are so bent on trying out all other options other than God’s fellowship that we may wait for options that are not even there.

The more we try out other options – the lonelier we feel. We keep longing – but nothing ever satisfies. But for any who would seek to experience God’s presence – the good news is that – God is not far away. God delights to give us His presence.

God delights to give us victory:

God does not want us to fail. Human beings are most afraid of failure. We do not want to fail. While failure is a serious problem for most people, the tragedy is that most of the winning is happening in the wrong contests – in ‘events’ that actually do not count.

That is the reason for the empty feeling that sometimes accompanies the winning experience. As good as every victory can be to us – we need to ask ourselves – “Is this the purpose of our life? Do we need to do something more or something different?”

God has a plan for us. And not only the plan, His desire is that we should win. It is when we do it in His purpose and do it by His rules, that we truly feel victorious. And though the world may not have the slightest clue of what we are doing – our Lord God would surely stand and applaud.

For those who seek to win, even though such a person may be under the bitterest of defeats, the good news is that God wants us to be victorious in its true sense.

Let us join the Psalmist in telling God – “Thou wilt show me the path of life, and I shall be filled with the joy of thy countenance, with the pleasure of victory of thy right hand.” (Psalm 16:11, The Lamsa translation of the Peshitta (Aramaic Bible) which is the authorized Bible of the Church of the East.)

Making the Most of our Problems

Problems and problematic people continue to exist in our lives for certain seasons. And, though we may not feel like it, we need to remember the truth that God is in control.

  1. Problems and problematic people play a role in testing us – especially our faith. Do we keep on trusting God in all situations? Particularly so, when we get the much desired relief from God, do we see the need to trust God. When we are free from our problems we need to be very careful. For when we do let our guards down and stop feeling the need to trust God – pop – the problems come back.
  2. Problems and problematic people exist for the purpose of training us – especially our character. It would do good for us in great measure if we can begin to see our life more like a preparatory school and battleground experience combined – to make us what God wants us to be for eternity. Sadly, we prefer to see our life like a picnic or an extended vacation. So, whether we are presently having problems or we are going through a time of relief – having the mindset of a learner/disciple that recognizes the ongoing battle would greatly help our growth and fruitfulness.

Life offers immense opportunities for us to grow in faith and character. And it is possible for those who have received the grace of God to trust God for victory every time and all the times.

The early chapters of the book of Judges teach us that – God did not drive out the Canaanite people groups for some reasons. The primary reason being to test their faith in God and the secondary reason was to train them for war.

However, instead of understanding what God intended for them through these circumstances, we find the people defeated in faith, defeated in their character, and also defeated before their enemies. The people were leading confused lives.

Every act of deliverance from God and the years of rest that followed offered them valuable lessons to learn and also mend their ways, which they failed to do.

Do we who call ourselves God’s people live miserable lives under the heavy yoke of defeat and hopelessness or do we soar high in the strength of God as more than conquerors in Jesus Christ?

Faith has Great Backing!

We are called to walk by faith and not by sight.

The walk of faith seems like a journey into the unknown. Often, deep into the unknown.

And sometimes like a journey into the depths of the ocean.

The biggest challenge is in not having the desirable level of control that walking by sight seems to provide.

Abraham walked the walk of faith in his call to offer his son, his only son, Isaac.

What kept him going was nothing but faith in God whom he knew to be absolutely faithful.

As far as he looked ahead – there was nothing to be seen as providence from God whose character he deeply trusted.

But, then after God stopped him from harming his son – behind him was a ram that was offered up as a burnt offering instead of his son. (ESV)

So, there was nothing to be seen ahead of him – walk of faith.

But, behind him was a ram that was offered instead – providence of God.

In our own walk of faith – we may have nothing to look forward to in concrete terms – but we do have Jesus Christ our Lord walking just behind us, though we may not be aware.

Jesus Christ – the ultimate and perfect offering – is always behind us in our walk of faith.

No doubt when we are victorious we win by his backing and when we fall we only fall into his wounded hands.

May the God of Abraham give us victory in our walk of faith because He is always close behind us;  whether we realize it presently or if He chooses to surprise us later on. Amen.

Do We Choose Life or Do We Choose Death

One Sabbath day Jesus went to the synagogue.

There was a man there with a withered hand.

There were also people there waiting to find fault with Jesus.

Jesus upholds life and goodness.

The people bent on finding fault with Jesus are silent, and wickedly so.

Jesus is angry at them. Their silence actually revealing their hardened hearts that did not want to be helped by the teaching or reasoning of the Lord. Such silence is nothing but a deafening wail of the dying, of those who are very dead on the inside.

The man in need receives life and goodness as he is lovingly healed by Jesus Christ.

The people who wanted to find fault with Jesus are now convinced of their mission in life. they want to destroy Jesus.

They uphold death and evil!

 

The scene at that synagogue may be compared to the scene at the garden of Eden.

God is, on the one hand, upholding life and goodness. We do not read about any restriction from God for eating from the tree of life until they had sinned.

The ‘old serpent,’ on the other hand, was teaching them to find fault with God. Eve’s assertion about death by disobeying God  was easily brushed aside by the cunning serpent.

The sly and slithering serpent stuck to his argument – “What is life until you go out of the confines of God who is somewhere up there….”

They quickly earned their ‘freedom’ and also found themselves in league with the serpent subject together to the law of death.

 

Back to the scene in the synagogue –

The Creator God is there, offering life and goodness, to mend and make right what all is withered because of sin and death.

His motive is love. He cannot bear to see us withered. If not on the outside definitely we are all withered up on the inside, and also wasting away to death and the possible eternal damnation in hell.

There are many who would, like that man, draw near to Jesus Christ and be made whole.

There are also those who would rather buy into the lie of the serpent that God should be destroyed.

 

If only we can keep on depending on God and thus be made whole and also remain so. Thus, receive life and goodness from God.

Or do we go away, walking in arrogance, blinded by the thought that we do not need God.

 

God alone, help us still, and keep us forever. For ever we only depend on you Holy Father along with Your Holy Son and the blessed Holy Spirit, Amen.

Moving our Problems Towards Jesus!

Certain problems in our life can render us to an incapacitated state. We are hardly able to move. We come to a standstill.

However, a closer examination of our condition may show that we may actually be exaggerating our condition and much of what we feel may be the overarching influence of fear, distaste, prejudice, etc.

Probing deeper, we can relate our life situation to one of the three ways as give below:

  1. Life is not reduced to a paralyzed state but we are only thinking and lamenting in those lines.
  2. Life is sort of reduced to an incapacitated state but we can, with God’s grace, shrug it off and move on.
  3. Life is actually at a dead end. There is no way available and no movement is possible.

Though it may sound like over-simplifying – “movement helps.”

We need to move.

If only we can move our condition or problem and present it before the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ –

Rather than making passive reference about our problems in prayer – if we can, with determination, bring the issue, as it is, to Jesus Christ – then Jesus can bring great changes.

Some people brought a paralyzed man to Jesus Christ who was carried by four people. They were determined enough to ‘dig through’ the roof (NRSV) and present him before our Lord.

And then Jesus, forgiving his sins, heals him and makes him stand up, take up his mat and go home.

If we can dig through all the things that keep us away from Jesus, and if we put our problems before Him – then Jesus will do for us what He did for the paralyzed man!

Ordinary to Extra-ordinary

Jesus was by the sea. To minister to the people He got into a boat and moved into the waters. He sat on the boat and addressed the people who stood on the beach.

With a little effort Jesus could convert the ordinary setting of the sea side into a grand theater for His ministry.

We live in a time when it has become the norm to have so many complex, pre-conditions, pre-requisites, and preparations fulfilled before doing the ministry. Often the ministry part is ‘in waiting’ before the conditions are met. And then there is the investment needed both in terms of labor and money to meet all the criteria.

This is not to say that organized events do not have a place in God’s work. They are needed and we need to strive for excellence. At the same time, ministry need not wait for any other factor. In the same spirit of excellence, with the help of God’s wisdom and a slight rearrangement or positioning of oneself a great event can be held. Whether one person is blessed or too many, when we create a moment for God to move, it is a blessed privilege indeed.

And there is no doubt, for every step of faith from us, God will move and the people will be blessed.

Understanding Life – Old and New

“In days to come, Jacob shall take root,

Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots

And fill the whole earth with fruit.” – Isaiah 27:6

 

The life of Jacob the patriarch may be taken as a type for understanding the purpose of God for the people of Israel as a nation. Furthermore, it may also be understood as a shadow of Christian life.

The ‘Old Man’ typified by the name Jacob – it says – ‘shall take root.’ It speaks of the necessity of dying. So also the ‘Old Man’ or the ‘Old Nature’ in each of us needs to die and be buried.

In this world we see that human nature tries to preserve itself. We are fine with trying to modify, rectify, or improve the ‘Old Man.’ We simply do not want to let it go. But life in Christ Jesus calls for letting the ‘Old Man’ die in Jesus Christ and be buried in Jesus Christ – as an experience of faith.

In God’s way of doing things, when the old person dies, we are not destroyed but we are made alive in newness of life. So, it is said – Israel, the new man, ‘shall blossom and put forth shoots.’ We are made ‘New Creation,’ in Christ Jesus.

In the incident at Jabbok, Jacob wrestled with God who had manifested Himself. He came out limping, a loser in terms of physical prowess. He became restricted in his physical capacities. But then he also came out a winner in the spirit. He came out with a new name, as a new person, Israel.

And then the purpose of this process is nothing else, but to bear fruit. It is written – ‘and fill the whole world with fruit.’ So also, Christian life is all about becoming a New Creation and bearing fruits for the glory of God.

Passionate Faith

Abiding faithfully in Jesus Christ is a call for being proactive. The challenge to be faithful is seen mostly in relation to the one true God, and walking in His ways. It seems, there is some factor or law in us that tends to remove us from faithful fellowship with God. Putting it in simple terms – going bad and staying bad is relatively easy; and, consistency is hardly an issue. On the other hand, staying true to the one true God can never be taken for granted by us human beings.

If we don’t do anything to nurture our faith that which remains in us is in serious danger of being lost.

Joshua, as a leader with vast experience, knew it very well that the basic drive at work in all human beings, even the people of faith, was to turn them away from God. He understood that in this logic is not at work. That the people may actually end up doing illogical, stupid things.

It is with this very passionate burden that he says to the people of faith – “choose whom you will serve, as for me and my household we will serve Yahweh God.”

If we are not eager, conscious, and proactive in matters of our faith then there is a great possibility that we may end up wrong.

When We React Wrong

Usually we are very careful with our behavior. We do our best to be good and nice. But then, there are those awkward moments when the worst from within us, no longer hidden and contained inside, just comes out. Most of the time it happens in relation to those who are most close and dear to us – those who actually matter the most to us.

Firstly, it is the result of being caught off-guard. When our programmed behavior is surprised by some action and so we react wrongly. And mostly, it is the response from the base (animal)-instinct. It is the realm of fear, insecurity, inner-wounds, etc.

Secondly, it can also be the reaction to things that we do not like. It is like a personal code that we try to live by in order to cope and survive in this world. That when something that we do not like happens to us, we make sure that everyone around knows our dislike and the resulting frustration.

In the first reason that we saw, since it is based on our being caught off-guard we may have it in us to apologize. The second reason, on the other hand, being a law that we have formed for ourselves to live by,  we may end up justifying ourselves even for all the wrong reactions from our part.

The error in all this is more in our attempting to blame the external factors for the way we behaved. Rather, we should be able to acknowledge that what came out did come out from within us. The problem is inside us!

However, the good news is that – God sees all that and yet He loves us so much. Jesus Christ accepts us as we are and He transforms us by His love.

The much needed transformation may or may not be quickly received. Nevertheless, when we become the vessels that contain the love of God, our life will become a different story altogether. So let us take time every now and then to receive the love of God within us. Let us allow God to love us – that we should take time to cherish God’s love for us and then we are also nourished and cured by His eternal love.

May God continue to work in us, transforming us by His unconditional love, and conforming us into His own likeness and image.