Looking our best

Boots would advise us to change one thing at a time. I can see where they are coming from. As we know all too well – time and energy is limited.

Although I do need to remember that God does give us the time and resources we need to do his will – we can tend to act as though God accidentally lost a day of the week!

There’s just only so much we can watch carefully and place close attention to.

If I’m watching my weight it will require more than my default behaviour. I am going to need to pay careful attention to what I eat. Or maybe I’m trying to watch what I say more carefully, or watching out for the moments, the tastes, the feelings of a breeze.

Watching takes investment, planning, training, habit making. Which means that we can’t watch everything, that the things we choose to watch will cause the neglect of other things. So what does the bible would urge me to watch?

If we searched the bible for the following words/phrases: be careful, pay close attention to, watch out, be alert, make every effort to, fix your eyes on… how would our fixations be challenged?

There are lots of ‘be carefuls’ in Exodus-Deuteronomy (in fact throughout the whole of Israel’s history!) along the lines of be careful to obey, to listen to and do what I say, to steer clear of idols, and to remember..
For example:
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
Deuteronomy 4:9

In the New Testament that carefulness becomes focussed on the person and words of the Lord Jesus, listening to his words and remaining in him.

This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
Titus 3:8

[ A Sabbath-Rest for the People of God ] Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.
Hebrews 4:1

We are commanded to be alert and to pray – in light of the spiritual battle we are in and in light of the Lord’s return.

And what should we fixate on?

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
Deuteronomy 11:18

So what should we be full of in rest and feverish activity? As our mind wanders or as it struggles with a particular? The Lord Jesus and the spiritual blessings we have in him (Eph 1!); the life he calls us to, obedience to his word, the enemy we face and the future that awaits us.

The problem is that I find myself once again seeing this kind of fixating and careful watching as a struggle and an effort that separates it from my times of space and locking myself away. I want being mindful of the Lord and just wallowing in him to be my safest, most off-duty place – but the challenges above are all rather doing things. The danger is that we work at fixating on godliness and the Lord’s will, and the urgency of our mission without finding our rest and delight in him (because we go somewhere ‘easier’ to rest). We stop running to him for refuge – because it feels like a 10K run – and end up struggling in our own strength and not letting the grace of the gospel be our gentle trainer:

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. Titus 2:11-14

Time and time again my life reveals my lack of appropriation of God’s grace to us in Jesus. A practical unbelief in his goodness and perfect sovereignty. I struggle on in my own strength to please the Lord, aware that so much is so wrong, and so I crash. But I don’t crash with the Lord because the Lord in my mind is connected with things which are not going well, things which are not in my control, things that are beyond me and yet involve me and interact with me. As a consequence my resourcing and losing myself fixations get invested elsewhere and I starve myself of the most precious relationship and the best truths ever. And then I struggle on….

So how do we keep the two together? Can we live as both hardworking, obsessive athletes (1 Timothy 1) AND people on the best holiday ever?

Dear Father God,
You are good! In the gospel we are yoked with you – you bear the weight of our sin, you lead us by your Spirit into godliness and you cover us in grace. Please may I both work restfully and rest carefully and do both in constant communication and partnership with you, delighting in your presence with me.  In Jesus’, the rest giver’s precious name, Amen.

 

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