This first weekend in February we took our youth group kids on our annual Winter Retreat. This year, we went to the beautiful Tuscarora Inn and Conference Center, where 80 youth and adult leaders were able to spend 48 hours away from everyday life, seeking God and focusing on Living Stronger. Taking a look into the book of Joshua, we explored his life, his calling, and his leadership over the Israelite army- and how, in God's strength, Joshua was able to accomplish GREAT things! But, in order for us to truly know God's strength, we have to know HIM.
Last week, I learned an extremely valuable lesson in this. I was sick as a dog and forced to have A LOT of down time. If you know me, you know that down time is not something I am comfortable with. Rest is not something I typically enjoy, and much of that is because I don't allow myself to think it is okay. One of my biggest struggles, if not my biggest, is in this area. I often equate doing the work of God with being WITH God, and last week, God convicted me on this- big time! Because I was so sick, I had no energy to do anything but rest. In my Bible reading, I stumbled across (I'm sure that it was totally accidental!) a verse that I have read before, but had never thought much about...
In Exodus 20-29, we read of Moses receiving words from God- beginning with the Ten Commandments and other laws, the instructions for the building of the tabernacle and its articles, consecration of priests,etc. At the end of the time with Moses on the mountain, God says something that hit me hard. His very last instruction to Moses was this, "Above all, you shall keep my Sabbaths...as a covenant forever... in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed."
In case you missed it, even with bold print, I will repeat this final command- "ABOVE ALL, you shall keep my Sabbaths."
I have never felt more convicted in this area than I did as I read those words last week. I realized how messed up my perspective has been. The only way that God can get me to truly rest and be refreshed is when I am too sick to do other things... something is very wrong here.
And then another reality hit me... Psalm 46:10 says "Be still and know that I am God..." A few years ago I heard this verse in the New American Standard version and it took on new meaning for me. The words in the NASB are "Cease striving and know that I am God." As I sat there, taking in God's command, above all other commands, to keep the Sabbath- I realized that I am not truly allowing myself to know God, because I am always striving and never still.
The devils greatest power over me is in this area. He has convinced me that if I'm not striving and working from sun up til sun down, I am not being effective. I was finally able to see it for what it truly is- SIN.
When I think back to our retreat weekend, to what we shared with our youth group kids about the importance of knowing God and knowing His strength, and then I hold that up in light of Psalm 46, this is what I get:
I can't truly know God if I am not being still.
If I don't cease striving and take the time for Sabbath rest and refreshing, I can never truly know God.
And if I don't know Him, then I cannot live fully in His strength.
I want to live in His strength every day. I am tired of relying on myself. At the end of the week, when I am spent from "doing" God's work, I NEED to remember that I will only be effective if I am drawing my strength and my being from Him and Him alone. And that comes from resting in His Presence and knowing Him through being still.
One of the hardest things for me as we fundraise and prepare to move our family to Haiti is to trust God with the details and to stop trying to handle everything. Some nights, I can't stop thinking about them- how will we raise the additional 20% we need? How can I get everything done that needs to be done? How will we learn the language? How will our kids transition? What will we face as we enter into a new culture?
The only thing that can get me through all of these doubts and fears and control issues is God and His strength... and the only way I can live in Him is to BE WITH HIM.
Will you pray for me? ... Pray that I can let go of the devil's lie that I have to always be striving?
Do you struggle in this area too? I want to pray for you as well.
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith- that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:14-21
2 Haiti 4 Him.