All my life, I have been blessed to live in the church: being brought as a babe, a member for 30 years, and a minister for the last 15. There likely has never been a greater charge leveled at the Lord’s bride in my lifetime – or perhaps ever – than, “If I believed what you believed, I wouldn’t do anything” or “I’d just live any old way that I wanted to.” Paul dealt with a similar mentality. (Romans 3:1-8) When someone is faithful in their belief to the doctrines of grace, the sovereignty of God, and the utter inability of man by nature to please God, this seems to be the natural and common reaction from people in general. In years past when I was younger and hotter-headed, I would try to draw and quarter my opponent with verbal arguments. As I got older and wiser, I tried to hone and shape my points and illustrations that made easy to follow corollaries. As I have gotten even older – perhaps wiser but certainly more tired – I have generally smiled and said something to the effect, “I am living like I want to.” I do wish I had the silver bullet that would answer this charge and cure this thinking.
Scripture reveals several points that we might think of as doing nothing. Sometimes it talks of rest, other times of being still, and yet others at waiting. In nature, stillness might indicate nothing’s happening. In life, rest and waiting could yield periods of zero activity. However, looking at the rich foundation that we have through His amazing grace, each of these seemingly do nothing “actions” actually tends to great and directed behavior.
Rest in Scripture bespeaks less of sleep but rather in stopping an activity because of its completion or fulfillment. God rested the 7th day from His labours not because He needed sleep or was weary but because the work of creation was complete. We are told that He will rest in His love. (Zephaniah 3:17) As a Being who rests Himself, He also affords us opportunities to rest as well. Questions. When God rested from creation, did He do nothing? When He rests in His love, does He do nothing? The creation remains because He still upholds it by the word of His power. With His love abiding, He rests in the perfection of it that is still ongoing. Simply put, God’s rest is not a license of no activity but a rich example of how rest is put in proper practice.
You and I need rest in ways that do not affect the Almighty. The rest we can take helps clear the mind, uplift the soul, and revive the spirit. When Satan and the world unceasingly assault our minds and hearts, we need to rest in the same things that God has and does. Does God love us? Will He always love us? Yes and yes. (Jeremiah 31:3) When all around goes off kilter, the anchoring point centers around an unchanging attribute of God that abides continually. As the poet said, “When change and decay in all around I see, O Thou who changest not, abide with me.” We can rest like this when we stand as we should and walk as we should. (Jeremiah 6:16) This rest is found rather than just given, and we have been afforded multitudes of opportunity to rest in God’s abiding steadfastness to us that we can actually find more and more.
Living in this hurry-scurry world, waiting is something that none of us enjoy doing. We hate long lines, and evidences of patience in this world seem to wan in so many ways. Through the years, I get tickled when I watch my children look out the windows waiting for company when they are expected. It reminds me of us as children. After what seems like forever for them, they plead, “When will they be here? It’s taking forever!” Silly me used to encourage them to read a book or something to take their mind off it! Distractions abounded, and it backfired on me. So, I tried a different tact. I started asking them questions about what they thought we would do when the company arrived. With eyes that lit and words that soared, they described in detail what they hoped to do with company. In this way, their wait was filled with thoughts of coming happiness and “speeding” it along till it happened.
Scripture encourages us to wait on the Lord amongst other things. (Isaiah 40:31) This waiting time is not a “thumb twiddling” session as many think when picturing waiting – such as the doctor’s office. It is also not a free opportunity to indulge in the distractions of the world. Rather patient waiting is an act of faith that what God has promised, He is able also to perform. Rather than tap our foot mumbling, “Where in the world is He?”, we simply put our minds and hearts into the gear of what we expect to do when with Him. If we are looking to meet Him in His courts of worship, what kind of time will we have? If we are seeing our own mortality and nearing our end, what kind of time will we have in His home? If we are about to face some serious difficulties, temptations, and strife, what kind of battle will we fight side-by-side? Waiting upon Him is not waiting “for” Him. Some have the idea that waiting upon the Lord is like waiting for someone to get back from town. We are with Him, in Him, and on Him right now. We move because He moves, and we stop because He stops. That is truly waiting “upon” Him.
Stillness is perhaps the hardest of these three areas since even people “doing nothing” are rarely doing nothing. Minds can race, hearts can melt, and bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. My ears still hurt today when I think about thumpings they took for not being still in church. The Psalmist told us to “be still” and Moses told the congregation to “stand still.” (Psalm 46:10, Exodus 14:13) In both cases, the stillness was not for no purpose. It was to derive benefit from something that could not be attained otherwise. Had the children of Israel tried to flee from the banks of the Red Sea – even though there was nowhere to go – beholding the great sight would have been out of view. The command to stand still was for the benefit to see this great sight. When we aren’t still in our spirits, we can forget that He is God like we will when we are still. Stillness in this case instructs us to remember how great and mighty He truly is. No matter the mountain in front of you, He’s higher. No matter the demon battling you, He is stronger. And no matter the unfaithfulness of our own core, He is faithful in all things to the end.
In rest, waiting, and stillness, we are not invited nor encouraged to do nothing. Rather, we are “taking a pause” from the rat race of life in all her courses to engage in something fruitful and profitable. Rest for our souls is found in standing in the ways to see and asking for the old paths. Waiting upon the Lord tends to renewed strength to continue on in this slalom. Being still, helps remind us of what is important and where our benefits truly come from. Take a pause friends. Contemplate on His goodness and recall to mind His salvation. Breathe slowly and listen to the beats of your own heart and reflect that our times are in His hand. In Him we live, move, and have our being. When dark clouds come and temptations arise, center the mind on things of light, and the darkness will flee from it.
Friends, we have the best thing in the world to rest in. We have the greatest strength to wait upon, and we have the highest thoughts to contemplate during stillness. I sometimes wonder how I would do if I had means. It’s something I don’t ponder often or for too long as I don’t expect to ever live it. However, what would someone call you if you had means, money, and opportunity and yet lived like a pauper? Would they call you a miser? Scrooge? Covetous? We may not have silver and gold beloved, but what we have is the greatest treasure this side of heaven. We have the knowledge of eternal life, how we got it, and place to fervently worship Him because of it. When I put on the beggar’s clothes of this world, I really am doing nothing: nothing of real value and consequence. When I feel sorry for myself or incessantly accuse myself, I am doing nothing that amounts to a whole lot in the end. However, when my rest, waiting, and stillness centers on His unshakeable character, His boundless love, and His steadfast promises, I feel like a rich babe making a withdrawal from an ocean of funds. As another poet said about our reaction to the glorious work He performed for us and to us, “Then give all the glory to His holy name, to Him all the glory belongs. Be yours the high joy to sound forth His great fame, and crown Him in each of your songs.”