The Next Level

In the movie Groundhog Day, the main character keeps reliving the same day over and over again. He tries everything to break the cycle, but until he learns what he was meant to learn he is stuck repeating the same things over and over again. While we may not actually repeat the same exact day again and again, I bet most of us could say we have felt stuck in some way and unable to get to the next level.

When I need a break from work, I play a computer game. I had been playing the same level for what seemed like forever when I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before: a tool. When I used that tool, I was able to complete the round and move on to the next challenge. The harder the level, the more rewards you collect. I find the same thing true in my spiritual walk. As I try to grow and mature, I find myself stuck only to find that the tools I needed were there all along.

This week I have been reading two devotional books, one for writers and one on giving your dreams to God. Thursday they both had the same general message from two different angles about committing your work to the Lord. Then I listened to a podcast that talked about working from a place of rest. When I hear the same ideas or verses of scripture coming from multiple places, I have learned to take note. Here’s what I learned:

First, if we want to move to the next level spiritually, we have to do the work, but not just any work.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

While works won’t save us, there is still work to be done. This verse points out that God already had a plan for our lives, a work we were designed to do. When we fall in line with God and pick up his yoke, we find a satisfaction and enjoyment that exceeds anything we dreamed of even when the going is difficult or the work seems mundane.

Once we find the work God has us to do, we have to commit it to God:

Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. Psalm 37:5

Psalms 37:5

Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel. We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the Lord fulfil all thy petitions.

Psalms 20:4-5

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.

Proverbs 16:3

When you dedicate your dreams to God, you have to trust Him and let go. It sounds simple and easy, but it’s not. We humans have a hard time trusting and letting go. He is a good Father who only wants the best for His children, so He is trustworthy. When we do let go, God always gives back more than we ever dreamed. Too often we try to hedge God in with our small ideas when He has much bigger things planned.

When we have committed it to God, then we can work from a place of rest.

For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.

Isaiah 30:15

When we let God set our boundaries, we can do the work that we were called to do but at a sustainable pace. Too often we allow the world to set the pace, one which is not healthy or meaningful. They call it a rat race for a reason. If we will let God show us which opportunities to take and which ones to let go, we can work from a place of rest knowing we are doing His will.

Then, we can look at each day as a chance to start fresh. Unlike the movie, we don’t have to repeat the same level. We can take the next step in our journey, the next level: we just need to remember:

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalms 118:24

So, let’s take each day one day at a time. If nothing else, the last year taught us that while it’s good to make plans, those plans can change. When we let God have the reins and lead the way, we know we will be going in the right direction and can just enjoy the ride. We can rejoice and be glad.

When you feel overwhelmed by your To-Do List, take a step back and lift it up to the Lord. Ask Him to show you what He wants you to do. You may find that some tasks need to come off of the list, or you may find that God makes a way for everything to get done. Either way, the road is a lot smoother when we take up His yoke instead of dragging everything by ourselves. He wants to give us the life of rest we truly long for if we will only let Him.

Is there something God wants to take off of your To-Do list?

Make it Happen

In his sonnet “When I Consider How my Light is Spent,” John Milton says, “…They also serve who only stand and wait.” It doesn’t mean that we should sit around all day every day, but there are times when we wait on God to do His part after we do our part. The boy who brought his lunch to hear Jesus preach on the mountain couldn’t feed the multitude without Jesus blessing it first, but he did have to pack his lunch. We do our part and let God bless it, and it will feed a multitude. Our lunch alone will feed us if we are lucky, but it probably won’t satisfy us. We need God’s touch…his blessing…or it is to no avail.

We live in a culture of “Make it happen.” We are supposed to get out there and hustle to make our dreams come true. It is especially true in a writing career. There are countless books on how to write a best-selling book, or how to market, or how to use social media. The truth is no one can really predict what books will go “viral.” The “success” of a book is really up to God. Our part is to write our book to the best of our ability, and to put in the work required, and then leave it in God’s hands.

The same is true of ministry. If God puts something on our heart to do, we should do it to the best of our ability, but God determines the success. He also determines the definition of success. His goal may have been a Vacation Bible School to reach one child for Christ, or to plant seeds alone. That is success even if we have no numbers to report to the congregation or association.

I think we need to redefine the word success so that we merely seek to fulfill God’s call and be obedient to His Word. After that, we have to leave it in His capable hands, knowing He will do what is best. It is not ours to “make it happen.” It is ours to be obedient. It is His to bless as He will.

 

Rest

In today’s society REST is a four-letter word. Everybody, and every body, needs it, but no one wants to admit they took it. People almost feel the need to apologize for taking time off. My students use a resource in class, an article titled “Toxic Work World” by Anne Marie Slaughter in The New York Times, which speaks to this issue. It talks about a work culture that requires more and more time at work even if it is not quality work in order to not only succeed, but sometimes to even keep your job. It is a culture that frowns on taking vacation days. If there is a family emergency, many people are afraid to take off time to take care of things in fear of losing their jobs. We have taken competition to an extreme level to the point stress and anxiety are at epidemic levels. What is to be done?

Isaiah 30:15 says, “For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; in returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.”

A writer pointed out that people have written sermons and devotionals by the thousands on the subject of returning or repentance, but very few talk about the second part: “In returning and rest shall ye be saved.”Even God took a day off. On the seventh day he rested. We even take the Sabbath as a day to be busy, running from one thing to another.

We need to take time to rest at the feet of Jesus, like Mary, and just soak up His presence. We need to draw from the power of the Holy Spirit. We need to reflect on Our Father’s blessings.

The Christian walk is a journey, not a competition. Everyone who completes the race is a winner, but, like any journey, we need to take breaks along the way to sleep, to eat, and to rest. Otherwise, we will run out of fuel and be forced to stand still. So, take time to rest…mentally, physically, and spiritually. Ask God and he will give you rest for your soul. Then, you will be prepared to be his example in a world of people who long for what He has to offer.