Another Step Toward Perfect Rest
Last week if you were with me I stated that I was determined to discover a more complete understanding of Sabbath rest by conducting an on-going holy experiment on my Sabbath days. Well, here I am in week two of my experiment and I have some more wisdom that God has shared with me to add to the wisdom He shared with me last week. By the way, if you want to see what I wrote last week, you can go to my blog posted on June 17th labeled Sabbath Made for Man.
As I said, this is week two of my experiment and after my dedicated morning of worship and fellowship and of course my afternoon nap, the Lord led me to the following scripture verses during my study time with Him – the story of Paul and his God appointed meeting with Lydia. Here is the story with a few highlights marked, which I will talk about after you read the text:
“And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them... And we were staying in that city for some days. And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.” Acts 16:6-15
I just love the obedience of Paul to simply pick up all his things after receiving a vision from God and go where God told him to go. He is a man whose spontaneous ways before the Lord are very similar to my own ways. As I read through these verses though and came upon the line “And we we staying in that city for some days.” I was left to ponder to myself, “How many days did Paul and Timothy (earlier in Acts 16 it explains that Timothy was traveling with Paul at this time) go about this city wandering, just looking for where God was a work and calling them to work along side Him? Did they wander so many days that they were to the point of frustration? Did Paul maybe think that this trip was a pointless pursuit and that his vision from weeks, or maybe even months, ago was a just figments of his imagination?”
As I pondered these things and then read the next line about how they went on the Sabbath to a prayer place by the river, I also wondered if this was their last ditch effort to come to God in prayer and maybe seek what they were missing and why they had yet to realize the reason they were in Macedonia. But, in their Sabbath rest, the one that brought them to a place where they could worship and seek the Lord of heaven and earth, they found themselves in the exact spot God was calling them. A place where they were able to see where God was at work and why He had called them – it was because of this woman Lydia and her family who God had prepared and who had hearts ready to receive the message of Jesus Christ - eventually even back the church which was to be established in that area.
In the days leading up to their encounter with Lydia, Paul and Timothy I am sure had to deal with rejection from people regarding the gospel they preached. It is only human nature, and Paul and Timothy were human enough to experience the effects of rejection just like the rest of us, that each rejection came with a disheartening blow and a greater amount of questioning of themselves, their purpose, and their presumed calling. Over his years of ministry, Paul had to deal with much rejection to the words of truth he preached and I am sure the teaching he gave in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 was a conviction he came to after seeing many reject the message of Jesus and in a mix only a mere few who were ready and receptive to hear the words of truth he spoke. Hear what Paul has to say in that passage:
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.' Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
The Sabbath sometimes comes at the point in the week when our efforts from the previous days have seemed fruitless and have only piled up for us heaping mounds of disappointment. But often times, those are the conditions which lead us to the most unlikely places and where God is ready and waiting to then show us how the things we might have rejected in the past, like a wealthy woman who just happened to be praying my the river and was ready to hear what Paul had to say, are the things on our path which are ordained for His purposes.
If Paul would not have stopped to observe a Sabbath rest, he would have missed God's plan to expand the church in Macedonia through Lydia. Have you ever thought about what you could we miss if you failed to take our Sabbath rest? Often times we think that taking time to rest will only lead us away from our purposes, but then God's ways are foolishness to man and it would be best to recheck our thinking when it takes this deceptive rabbit trail. Instead, we should think twice before we forgo a time of rest just so we can get more things checked done in conjunction with the purposes God has set before us. It may be in our rest that God has orchestrated a short-cut to those purposes He has set before us or that our busy running around has kept us from seeing the real path we are being called to take.