Category Archives: Evening Thoughts

Evening Thoughts (Do Nothing?)

“Do Nothing?”

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.

In Hope,
Bro Philip

Evening Thoughts (What in the World Is All This?)

(Author’s Note: Since many of you have responded to my writings with questions about the hymnal we put together “Worship the King,” I am thankful to mention to you that the books are available and for sale. You can order them through our website at wtkhymnal.org)

What in the World Is All This?

Language is such a natural part of our lives that we many times don’t think about where things come from or how things are commonly used. For example, have you ever thought about sayings and clich├ęs like “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse” or “That’s too much sugar to make a dime.”? They are thrown about so commonly we don’t think about what they say in literal sense. Yet, when taken literally, many of these things could be considered absurd and ridiculous. And yet – funny enough – when we read the Scriptures, too many theological fancies have come about by not granting the same latitude when considering language. It has never ceased to amaze me that people will try to fable-ize Genesis 1 when the language is literal in scope (the evening and the morning were the 1st day, etc.) and then try to literal-ize the book of Revelation when the language is symbolic in scope (1,000 years, etc.).

When at least an equal sense of latitude is given to Scripture as we would our common expressions, I believe we will step into less theological black holes. For example, the word “world” is likely as misapplied as any word in Scripture due to the repetitious usage of the verse John 3:16. It is not only expressions that have multiple senses but singular words do as well. If I used the word “trunk” or “country,” you would need context to know if I was talking about a suitcase, elephant’s snout, base of a tree, or back of a car with the former and nationality, geographical area, or rural surroundings with the latter. Context matters, and language is a wonderful thing with flavors, nuances, and layers of usage.

So, now you ask me – kind reader – “What in the world is all this you are talking about?” How nice of you to inquire! And in pun as well! Consider the word “world” as we would consider the words “trunk” or “country.” At times the word might mean the globe on which we dwell. At others, it might refer to people in the earth, and yet at others, it might describe influences and manners that are observed and found. Scripture highlights these usages quite clearly with the proper context, and therefore, a verse like John 3:16 can be reasoned through with context, Scripture comparison, and a little common sense thrown in.

John 3:16 cannot use the word world to mean the globe itself based on the language of II Peter 3. Peter describes in some detail how the Lord will set fire to the globe itself and burn it up with the contents in it. This will happen in a moment, and all things still within this globe will dissolve forever. Does this sound like the action of a benevolent God toward that which He loves? Common sense answers that handily.

John 3:16 cannot refer to influences and manners due to the language of the verse itself. Too many verses in Scripture talk of Christ’s death fulfilling His Father’s will to be for people and not objects or intangible influences. Not only that, but John tells us in I John 2 that there are many influences in the world that are “not of the Father:” the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.

Therefore, we are left with the definition of world from this verse to mean people. So, the simple proposition becomes, what people? Is it some or all? Another simple Scripture comparison should answer this from later in the same book (John 17:9). Jesus says He prays for “them” and not the “‘world.” He then distinguishes who “them” are by describing them as those the Father gave Him. Therefore, the “world” from this verse could not possibly be the same people that God loved in John 3:16. What kind of sense would it make that Christ/God would love someone He wouldn’t pray for? Again, common sense answers that handily.

So, now I ask you – kind reader – what in the world is all this? What we have attempted to do above is hopefully logical, easy to follow, and above all sound. What makes it so difficult for so many to see? Is it simply a matter of revelation? (Matthew 11:25) Is it a failure to understand rules and usage of language? Is it a lack of common sense? I am no expert, but I suspect it is a combination of all, and with current cultural observation the latter 2 factors sadly become more common. As an engineer in my secular occupation, I am not expected to know a lot about language, and many of my peers seem amazed at my vocabulary and knowledge of language. I have tried to tell them numerous times that regular, devoted Bible reading can do more for that than other things I know. Sadly, I have observed trends where knowledge of language and understanding of its layers degrades as time marches on.

Now, what in the world do we do? I can think of no better method than to pray for those that God loved so much that His Son died for them if peradventure God may give them a little enlightening and refreshing down within their souls. Perhaps we may be the very tools He utilizes to assist them in coming to proper conclusions based on what the Scriptures teach. It has been and I hope will continue to be my fervent prayer that God would strengthen and add to Zion. Not for our glory, but for the edification of His dear people and the ultimate glory of His good name. While the world will one day be on fire and all the worldly influences gone forever, I’m supremely thankful to belong to a world of people “so loved” and adored by He who needs nothing that He gave everything for that world so that they would live forever at home with Him.

In Hope,
Bro Philip