An Invitation to Enter “His Rest”
We knew Joe and Linda from church. Young and in love and excited about their faith. They were newly married and were the leaders of our church youth group. But then Joe got a job teaching high school in a small town several hundred miles away. Our church threw them a going-away party and we helped them pack their car. Linda was excited about the move since she thought it would be nice to live in a small town where they would know everyone. She and Joe would be part of a loving community of kindly neighbors.
But then two years later Joe and Linda were back from their small town and people were shaking their heads. The first time I saw Joe I didn’t recognize him. Our church had hired him as a gardener and when I saw him gardening and walked over to greet him he hid behind a tree. There was fear all over his face. He was afraid of me – afraid of people. We were shocked at how much he had changed in those two years.
Linda told us that Joe had suffered a mental breakdown while they were living in this town. The pastor of a church in the town didn’t like them for some reason and told all of his church members that Linda and Joe were bad people. He preached against them from the pulpit and spread stories about them. Soon the whole town had heard the pastor’s rumors and Linda and Joe were shunned by everyone – isolated – and treated as if they didn’t exist. No one in this mean town would speak to Linda or Joe for the two years that they were there. Two long years of hate - a hate that nearly destroyed them - and worse yet a hate from so called fellow Christians!
During this dark time Linda had become ill and Joe had not been able to function. When Linda was too sick to care for their new baby, no one was there to help. Battered and broken in spirit this young couple came stumbling back home to live with their parents until they could get back on their feet. We church members tried to reach out to them and love them back into our church.
But it took time for Joe to come around – to feel comfortable again with other people, especially good Christian people. He needed lots of time to regain his bearings. He would have flash backs and panic when he was among friends. Become fearful that he might say the wrong thing. Worry that he would be attacked and rejected again. And Linda kept wondering what was wrong with her personality – why so many people had rejected her. Surely she must be a flawed person or a whole town wouldn’t have hated her so much. They must have had a good reason to not speak to her? She lost confidence in herself and was a shell of the friendly outgoing person she had once been.
I have never forgotten Joe and Linda. Never forgotten how a church of judgmental Christians could bully this young couple – tear them down to almost nothing in just two short years. Hate is an evil and powerful force! Especially in the hands of people who call themselves Christians with values? God commands His children to live lives of love and forgiveness. And Scripture says that Christians are to be known by their love. (John 13:35) I have to wonder about some Christians today who seem to be known by their never ending self righteous hate!
When a whole town treated Linda and Joe as if they were failures they also began to think of themselves as failures. Their self images were shattered and their very lives were almost destroyed .We will probably never face a whole town full of people who treat us badly, but all of us at some time in our lives will probably face rejection from a few people that we care about. And it will be emotionally painful.
When a friend doesn’t want to see us anymore we may be like Linda and wonder if there is something wrong with us. Sometimes our self image is built on what our friends think of us. Or if we lose a job or a position we may think of ourselves as a failure. We must not give in to our feelings because feelings are changeable and fickle. We need to give God our reputations and let Him be in charge of them and ask Him to deliver us from caring too much about what people think about us. Scripture says that Satan is the accuser of believers (Rev.12:10) and he wants us to have a negative attitude about ourselves and to feel hopeless.
But God has come to give us life and hope and a positive attitude. If we ever find ourselves depressed and wondering if we are a failure we need to change our negative self image by reading what the Bible has to say about ourselves. Yes, the Bible has a lot to say about us – about believers in Jesus – about followers of Christ. Let’s start viewing our self image as God views it. Let’s see what Scripture says about you and me, and who we really are!.
First of all the Bible says that God doesn’t see us as alone or all by ourselves but God sees us “in Christ”. Scripture says that we believers are acceptable in the Beloved (the Beloved is Jesus).(Ephesians 1:6) We are “in Christ” and we “can do all things through Christ” (Phil.4:13) We are the branches and He is the Vine. He chose us and we accepted Him. Scripture says that Jesus will present us blameless and faultless to God, if we place our trust in Him. (1 Cor. 1:7-8) Scripture says that we are “joint heirs” with Christ. We share His inheritance, His righteousness, (He gives us His own righteousness) and His holiness.(He gives us His holiness) -We will see the fullness of this in heaven! (Romans 8:17)
Because we believe in Christ we have His Spirit living in us and helping and guiding us. We are to “live by faith”. Have faith that Jesus’ Spirit is with us and give Him our lives – our problems – and ask for His guidance. He will give us His guidance and His grace and power and joy. Our self-image won’t be hung up so much on what other people think because Christ will give us freedom and boldness and confidence. Knowing our position in Christ will give us confidence.
When we are made right with God, we start to talk right and act right and think right. The Holy Spirit is working in us and we are growing in Christ. This is the “new and living way” mentioned in the Bible. (Heb.10:20) Scripture says that we are more than conquerors through Christ. (Romans 5:17) We need to change our poor self image and start seeing ourselves as more than conquerors “in Christ”. We need to learn to speak victoriously. Move into our new identity in Christ.
When we make mistakes let’s confess them to God and receive His forgiveness. Peter denied Christ three times and yet he pressed past that sin and God used him to bring many people into the kingdom. And Matthew was a hated tax collector and probably cheated people. But he turned from his sin and accepted God’s forgiveness and became one of the twelve disciples. (Mark 2:14) Let’s accept God’s forgiveness too and put our past in the past. Let’s not sit in judgment on ourselves for past sins after God has already forgiven us. .
All of the great men and women of God had weaknesses. But they accepted God’s forgiveness and God used them. Scripture says that “His (Jesus’) strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) He will help us in our weaknesses and cover them with His strength. Where we stop, He will begin. Let’s do our best but give ourselves permission not to be perfect.
The world tries to push us into its mold. And if we try to please everybody and struggle to live up to all that we are told that we should do and be we will end up exhausted and guilt ridden and depressed. But God calls us to a different way of living. He calls us to enjoy our lives and to “enter His rest”. (Heb.4:3) We can remember that our lives are hidden “in Christ”. Jesus speaks to us, His followers, and says: “Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me for I am meek and lowly of heart and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)
We can choose either way. We can try to run our own lives and run ourselves ragged making the right impressions and pleasing everybody and feeling guilty about what we didn’t get done. Or we can take Jesus’ yoke upon us and live our lives “in Him” and enter into His joy and “rest”. What will it be?
Some of these Scriptures and ideas were taken from Joyce Meyers’ book, “Approval Addiction, Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone”