Frantic. Overwhelmed. Suffering from any number of stress-related ailments, we rush through our days. Then Sunday comes, and we stop for fifty minutes to sit on a hard pew and hear that Jesus offers hope, encouragement, and joy to every believer. But so often the words bounce off the tension in our souls, and we leave still longing for abundant life.
Yet, the promise of abundant life is not empty.
The words of the hymn “Jesus, I am Resting” resonate with a God-given tranquility. “I am resting in the joy of what though art; / I am finding out the greatness of they loving heart. / Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee, and They beauty fills my soul.” What allowed Jean Sophia Pigott to write these words? How do we live our lives rooted in the joy of Christ’s existence? How do we gaze on His beauty? How do we wait patiently for the transformation in our lives that results?
Begin by looking for Christ in every day.
Stop and watch a rain storm the next time it rolls through. If the earth is already moist, the raindrops find their way quickly into the welcoming soil. In a drought, however, they will bounce off, even though the ground is cracking with its thirst. Our souls are like the soil. If we hurtle through the week without thought of God, and then enter church on Sunday expecting to get a full-week’s measure of God’s goodness and grace, our hearts will be too hard to hear. Resting in Jesus and gazing on His beauty is a way we must live every day of our lives.
But how do we live that way?
Look for Him in His word. From beginning to end, the Bible is a revelation of Christ (John 5:39, Luke 24:27, 32). He is present in our day-to-day lives as well, for he promised, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). Pause in the midst of your hectic schedule to acknowledge those moments when you see Him at work. And rest in knowing that the Holy Spirit is with us, revealing Christ to us. (John 15:26, 16:14, Acts 7:55, Eph 1:16-18). Through His help in reading the Bible and living our lives we are able to feast our eyes on Jesus.
Looking to Jesus results in joy.
The joy of the Lord is a strong and vibrant force (Nehemiah 8:10) that not only fills Heaven with rejoicing (Revelation 5:13) but fills our hearts with radiant hope when we look to Him (Psalm 34:5, 8). Peter encourages us that, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:7-8).
Until Jesus returns, we cannot see Him as Peter saw Him. But we can direct the focus of our hearts to behold Him by faith. He is real. He is present. When our hearts are centered on those truths a deep, abiding joy results that looks forward to the day when we do see Him face to face. As David expressed in Psalm 16,
I have set the Lord always before me;
because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices . . . .
You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (verses 8, 9, 11)
It transforms us.
We tend to reflect what we focus on. In 2 Corinthians 3:18 we see that the more we look to Jesus, the more we become like Him: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
The Book of Acts gives an account of this transformation in the first disciples. After Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was given, John and Peter spoke eloquently and without fear. When the “rulers and elders and scribes . . . saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4: 5, 13). The characteristics of Jesus are seen in those who are His true followers. “Beloved, we are God’s children now,” John writes. As children of God, we should resemble Him, and this resemblance should increase as we grow in grace and truth. John goes on to write that the final transformation will take place when we see Jesus face to face, for, “we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).
It gives ability and endurance.
It is easy for us to look at difficult circumstances around us and become troubled, but when we fix our attention on Jesus, we find ability and endurance that come from beyond ourselves.
In the account of Peter walking on water, Peter at first kept his focus on Jesus and was able to do what no man could naturally do. After leaping out of the boat he “walked on the water and came to Jesus.” But when he doubted, dwelling on the power of the waves more than the power of the Son of God, he lost that ability: “he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matt 14:29-32).
Looking to Jesus also gives us courage to keep going when it doesn’t seem humanly possible. The author of Hebrews encourages us, “[S]ince we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Where do we find the strength and inspiration for this dogged pursuit? From “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
It gives God a chance to work for us.
In the Chronicles of the kings of Judah there is record of an incident when Jerusalem lay under siege. King Jehoshaphat, faced by a terrible threat, humbled himself before God, and prayed, “we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” Then “the Spirit of the Lord came .upon Jahaziel . . . and he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s”’ (2 Chron 20:12-15). Jahaziel, the name of the man God spoke through, means God sees.
When we look to God for help in our lives we discover that He is always watching over us, ready to deliver (Matt 10:29-31). He is a God who is at hand (Jeremiah 23:23), and who knows our need.
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. – Psalm 103:13-14
Recognizing our identity as His children allows us to rest. We are feeble. He is mighty. It is in His strength that we run this race. So look to Him and “press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth” (Hosea 6:3).
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