I had a bit of a “rude awakening” today. Our mornings are usually busy getting kids ready for school. This morning, as I was making breakfast for my daughter, I knocked over a glass that shattered on the floor. As I jumped to get out of the way, my foot landed on one of the pieces of glass and cut deep into my bare foot. It was not a pretty sight…
After getting my daughter on the school bus, I went straight to the hospital to get it checked out (leaving my wife, Cindy, with the task of getting our other two kids ready). After waiting a short time, I went in to see the doctor. She takes a look and says, “Yes, you definitely need stitches.”
Now, this isn’t my first time in an emergency room, so I know what’s about to happen and I’m not too excited about it. I’m not nervous, I’m anxious. Because my least favourite part of the process is what happens first: cleaning the wound. They have to make sure no foreign objects are inside the cut, so what they do is dig further into the cut to clean it to make sure it’s all clear.
I literally hate that so much.
The wound is fresh, the pain is still there, but they’re going in and making it even more painful! ARGH! But, as much as I hate it, I know it’s necessary. To make sure the wound heals correctly, it must be cleaned.
In Psalm 38, we see David petitioning God for help. He is wounded both physically and spiritually. Go read the whole Psalm when you get a chance, but here’s one piece of it:
“My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning.” Psalm 38:4-6 NIV
He is in pain and he is calling out to God for help. He covers every aspect of his strain. What I find encouraging is that David is setting a great example by digging down deep into his problem and confessing his sin, pain, and sorrow to God. He pinpoints his problems. He is honestly assessing his deep “cuts” and pleading to God for His help.
He concludes the Psalm with:
“LORD, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God. Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Saviour.” Psalm 38:21-22 NIV
In the midst of his trial, he continues to trust in God and His strength.
We all have wounds. We all have pain. But a lot of the time, we don’t want to talk about our struggles. We bottle them up and keep moving forward. Putting on a brave face and a tough exterior. But that can be crippling. I encourage us all to assess our wounds and if we need to dig further—even if it’s more painful—dig further. This doesn’t have to be done alone. There’s community at our church and there’s help all around. Discover the root of the pain and let God begin the healing process.
*Note: Psalms were meant to be sung. This particular Psalm is a struggle with sin and pain, so it’s a bit hard to imagine as a song. However, I found this video created by a random internet person and I think it’s pretty powerful to hear these words put to music.
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:27
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
The start of the New Year, be it the Chinese (Lunar) or the Gregorian calendar, is a propitious time to set a sense of peace in our minds. These two well-known sets of verses, I think, set the right frame of reference: first, they remind us God is in control so there is no need for unproductive worry on our part. Second, if we become anxious or worried we can rest assured the Lord will provide a solution.
It’s important to note that the answer to worry is through our relationship with Him. Any prayers, petitions, or appeals should be offered after giving thanks for all that He has already given us. This kind of prayer is clearly not self-centred, but rather a God-centred exchange, which delivers peace that is refreshing to our body, mind, and soul.
My prayer for you for the coming year is that you will grow in your relationship with the Lord and this relationship will offer you His peace even when you become anxious.
Let us allow God’s shalom reign in the Year of the Rooster by:
I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. Ephesians 3:16–17a
Traditional Lunar New Year celebrations begin days before the first day of the Lunar calendar when families sweep their homes. This symbolises a renewal process where the old is swept away to welcome the new. We also bombard each other with blessings in hope that we will be blessed throughout the new year.
In similar fashion, Jesus our Saviour came 2,000 years ago to sweep away our sins and made it possible for us to have a new life with hope and prosperity in our souls.
The prosperity of our soul, thanks to the work of Jesus Christ, is unimaginably greater than anything we will ever receive. I pray we will seek out spiritual prosperity more than riches this year.
Instead of traditional Chinese New Year blessings, here are some spiritual ones to share:
“Have a meteoric rise”—May you have rising hunger for a deeper relationship with God and a thirst to seek Jesus first.
“Smiles always”—May you experience the kind of joy that is not based on circumstances but is rather a lasting joy no one can take away.
“Fortune come like blooming flowers”—May God’s words be rooted in our hearts to strengthen our faith in all circumstances, just like water nourishes trees, so they bear flowers and fruits every season.
Let us share these Chinese New Year blessings by:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Since we know there are no coincidences with God, we should not be surprised that the Global Outreach ‘GO’ Conference came right before Chinese New Year, with all its busy coming and going. On the contrary, as we prepare to dive into what is—for many of us—the year’s most intense programme of social activity and travel, it is thought-provoking to consider how God might want us to ‘GO’ about it.
As we were all reminded at the Conference and Sunday’s services, we all have a call in our lives to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’—and our particular role in this may be at home, nearby, or far overseas. In Hong Kong we don’t even have to travel to reach the nations because they come to us. The only real question for each of us is what this call from Jesus looks like specifically in our individual case: how am I called to live out that principle in tangible action?
Yet we are experts at avoiding this issue by coming up with other questions or excuses. Just as Pastor Brett pointed out in a recent sermon that the widely adopted phrase ‘work/life balance’ draws a false distinction (since they are integrated and should be treated accordingly), so there is another similar false distinction we often seem to live by implicitly: this one is a ‘faith/life’ balance, where our faith is housed in sealed compartments insulated from contact with the rest of our lives, or at least large chunks of our lives where we are still grimly holding on to control.
If anything, the ‘faith/life’ trap is sadder than the work/life one: a ‘life’ lived in isolation from our faith is surely even more distorted than one that excludes our work. So as our God of second chances presents us with a second fresh start to the year, let us invite Him into the reserved areas of our lives, and ask how and where (not whether or when) He wants us to engage in the Great Commission, to participate in the abundant life He offers us.
And in particular, as we GO (which includes staying!) to spend time with non-Christian family and/or friends this Chinese New Year, let us ‘UNCLIP’ and share with them the reason for our faith, by being:
Urgent: bring a sense of urgency, as each opportunity may be the last
Natural: be yourself (the best version)
Creative: think of creative ways to bring Jesus into the conversation
Loving: the truth needs to be delivered with love
Intentional: have a plan. Don’t leave the topic to come up by itself
Prayerful: this is step 1—let’s get started now!
In this season of new beginnings and spending time with loved ones, let us:
I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem;
they will never be silent day or night.
You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest,
and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem
and makes her the praise of the earth. — Isaiah 62.6-7
Rest is an unusual thing. It’s really rare that we find ourselves in a balanced, restful rhythm. We’re either exhausted, stressed, and over-stimulated, or sluggish, lazy, and disengaged completely. (That latter one is usually while on vacation, I think).
And certainly the bible has lots to say about rest. It’s in the ten commandments, of course. (“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” is #4, curiously above murder (#6) and theft (#8))
The author of Hebrews speaks of rest in a broader, metaphorical way, a promise of security found in the presence of God: “Now we who have believed enter that rest…” Hebrews 4.5
In almost all instances, rest is viewed as a good thing: a necessary thing—a commanded thing. The assumption is that we are prone to be busy and need to discipline ourselves to withdraw from our frantic activity, so that we can reflect on our faith and God.
But I came across an odd verse this week that has been bugging me in a good way. Tucked away in Isaiah 62, we read about rest used in a negative way. We are told to not rest.
“You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest…” Isaiah 62.6
Here is a plea for diligence, persistence, and commitment. And the context is prayer. If there is an area where we are too complacent and too readily give ourselves “rest,” it’s likely in the area of prayer. And so, as insightful as scripture is to our base desires to do the opposite of what we should, we are told to not rest in our prayer life.
But then the real kicker comes. Isaiah continues:
“…and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem.” Isaiah 62.7
Give him no rest? That’s right. Give God no rest. Bug him, nag him. Plead, beg, and cry out. Persist in prayer and bang on the door of heaven with earnestness and determination.
Of course God is never annoyed at our prayers or bugged with our persistence. He is the God who never sleeps or slumbers (Psalm 121.4), so you don’t have to worry about “waking” him. He is sovereign and omniscient, so you don’t have to worry about interrupting Him. He can multitask like no other.
He is always ready, always willing, and always delighted to hear our prayers.
And so we are told to persist. To pray again. To “remind” God.
And the irony?
When we persist in prayer, and "give him no rest", He actually gives us the rest we need.
The best sleep comes to those who pray.
Physical rest is given to those who refuse to rest spiritually.
So pray a little more today. Repeat prayers you’ve grown weary of stating. Re-energise your prayer life, and “give him no rest”.