I’m not sure if any of you enjoy camping? One year, when our children were quite young, we decided to go camping. Now if you know anything about my husband, you’ll know he lives by the slogan, “Go big, or go home!”. There is never any small measure in his scope for anything in life. I’ve come to realise over the years that one of the reasons God paired us together was to keep me right out of my comfort zone, and stretch me beyond my own limitations. And what an adventure it has proven to be!
Having said that, the camping trip we were about to embark on was no ordinary one. We were going to load up and go up Africa! Let me tell you the planning and plotting and preparation for this trip was extensive to say the least. Road maps, border crossing requirements, survival paraphernalia, medical supplies, malaria medication, shots against yellow fever and other strange diseases, the list of necessary preparation goes on...
We’ve been taking a close look at the advice James gives us concerning the correct preparation needed for facing any trial or difficulty we may face in life. Now just like preparing for our trip up Africa, there are always things we must be sure to do that will help us and prove invaluable during our spiritual journey in this life.
Things like spending time in the Word and continuously fellowshipping with the Lord. Things like learning how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit more clearly, so we can follow His lead, and walk in His ways. When we gear ourselves up in these foundational principles of faith, we really do become equipped to face every day life victoriously.
This way, when unforeseen circumstances and challenges come our way, we already have something solid and substantial at to draw from to receive the extra strength we need to overcome.
On our journey through some pretty remote places in Africa, we faced having to navigate through very difficult terrain. At times it was late at night and the road was almost non existent. Because we had good spotlights and the correct off-road tyres, we were able to move slowly but safely along dangerous rock faces, and giant, gaping holes where the road used to be.
And when we found there was no fuel available on route, we could draw from the reserves we had brought along with us, to keep us going to our destination. Fresh water was often scarce, but our spare containers of clean, drinking water kept us hydrated and healthy, until we could find a suitable source to replenish them.
In James 1:4 it says we are to, “...let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” In the previous letter we learnt that patience is one of the many qualities of the Holy Spirit that goes to work inside us, as we fill ourselves with the truth of God’s Word. When these qualities work in our lives they bring us to a place where we are spiritually strong, and our faith in God and His Word is unconquerable - so we are able to push forward into victory, no matter the circumstance.
Now, when we encountered those dangerous challenges up Africa, no matter how well we were prepared for each challenge, if we didn’t have the quiet confidence, knowing we would get through each ordeal if we trusted our equipment and acted wisely, and calmly, it would end up disastrously, in spite of our efforts to prepare.
Just the same, no matter how much Word you have stored up in your heart, or how much time you’ve spent praying, unless you know how to enter the place of quiet confidence, faith will not work.
You can learn how to calmly and peacefully trust the Lord and His Word in your heart, so that all your spiritual preparation will be effective and help you in the time of crisis.
That place of quiet confidence is called rest. And it’s here that patience and all the other powerful qualities of the Holy Spirit go to work for you, and carry you through whatever storm you are facing. But while your mind is overwhelmed with panic, or worry and fear, the Word, and these qualities are powerless to go to work for you.
So how do we enter this place of rest, where God’s Word and powerful qualities are able to actively go to work for us?
Look at what Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.]
Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.
For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.”
Jesus tells us the first requirement to enter into the place of rest, is to come to Him. In the book of Hebrews we are told to approach the throne room of God confidently, with boldness, knowing that we are welcome and cherished and will not be disappointed for doing so. (Hebrews 4:16).
That’s because this place of rest is where we make an exchange - we cast all our cares and concerns at His feet and receive Him! Jesus says that He will cause us to rest. The person of Jesus, through His Holy Spirit is the One Who becomes our rest. He eases, relieves, and refreshes our souls!
Now the definition for the word rest here, is to be fortified with peace, having soul harmony with God, being fully confident to trust Him and His love for you, knowing full well that He will do exactly what He has promised you.
If you remember, we’ve already learnt that our soul is the area of the mind. It’s our intellect, the place we reason from. It’s also our emotions and our free will. When our souls - our thoughts, emotions and will, are in harmony with God’s thoughts, emotions, and will - peace reigns, and the result will always be life! (Romans 8:6).
Another way to understand rest is to understand what it’s not. Any anxious, fearful, or dread filled thoughts are the exact opposite of rest. As a born-again child of God, these kind of thoughts are to have no place in our minds, because they will always produce death.
So how do we enter this place of rest?
Well, in Matthew 11:29 Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls….”
In Rick Renner’s study on this particular scripture, we find the word yoke describes the wooden yoke that joined two animals together so they could combine their strength to pull a load that generally would have been too difficult for one animal to pull by itself. This yoke made the team inseparable. As a result, they were stronger, and their combined strength made their task easier.
When Jesus says we must take His yoke upon us, He is telling us that to enter this place of rest, is something we do deliberately. We choose to enter into a living partnership with Him, where we choose to keep our thoughts, and perspectives in sink with His. We refuse to be swayed and distracted by worry or fear, or unbelief, by keeping Him and His thoughts in the forefront of our souls - continuously.
Hebrews 4:11 says, “Let us therefore be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently to enter that rest [of God, to know and experience it for ourselves],...”
Labouring to enter our rest doesn’t involve our struggling to earn our way into it through our own human efforts. Jesus has already earned you the right by the finished work of the cross. Our part is easy, it involves us putting effort into our relationship with God, and keeping our thoughts in line with His Own.
When Jesus says “Take my yoke upon you...”, He is implying that we must deliberately step into the harness with Him, so He can help us pull the plow.
Becoming “yoked” to Jesus is a determined choice to know Him more and include Him in every area of our lives, it’s not something that occurs accidentally.
Which brings us back to our chief portion of scripture for our series on Overcome, in the book of James.
The moment you find yourself in a tight spot, where you know the only way to overcome is through Devine intervention, it’s time to make a conscious decision to get right along side the Lord and draw from Him. James 1:5 says, “If any of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask of the giving God [Who gives] to everyone liberally and ungrudgingly, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given him.”
The key word in this scripture is ask. In the original Greek translation, this word means to come close and alongside someone, expecting to receive. More than anything, we serve a God Who earnestly desires to be the One we choose to come close to, and draw alongside, to receive His wisdom, protection, comfort and help. He doesn’t want a mechanical relationship where we just learn to recite a bunch of scriptures and throw them around.
He wants us to find our trust and peace in drawing close to Him first, and then the investment we made by meditating on His Word becomes active and powerful. That’s because as we draw near to Him, His Holy Spirit reminds us of the exact scripture we need for our comfort and peace. He also reminds us of the scriptures we can use as a weapon against the devil and his attempt to hurt us. And all of this is done in the safety of us being in the shadow of His wings.
James says when we approach God like this, we will find He is openhanded - giving His wisdom liberally, without finding reproach. That’s what it is to be in this place of rest!
But if we don’t first enter in, our minds will be distracted and become double-minded. Struggling between trust and fear. James warns us that this kind of mindset will never do us any good.
Look at what he says in James 1:6-8, “Only it must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting). For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind.
For truly, let not such a person imagine that he will receive anything [he asks for] from the Lord,
[For being as he is] a man of two minds (hesitating, dubious, irresolute), [he is] unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything [he thinks, feels, decides].”
So, to summarise this powerful series on how to overcome, we must understand that our inner strength, peace, and victory comes from our decision to deliberately enter our place of rest. This is where we surrender all our concerns to the Lord and confidently draw from His wisdom and power through drawing close and remaining vitally connected to Him. This is where our thoughts come into harmony with His, and instead of our emotions being influenced by worry, fear and dread - they are filled with an undeniable peace and unsinkable joy!
I want to end this series with a promise from Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace and remain at rest.” This is how we overcome!
All my love,