Key Illustration(watch first): http://www.digma.com/atheist-too/?video=play
Most of the people reading this would not likely label themselves an atheist. Everyone reading this just the same struggles with seeing God for who He really is. The amount of faith we have in God is directly proportional to the picture we have of Him. The difficulty lies in truly knowing how it is we actually view God. What we might write on an essay about God is likely only a reflection of what we know Christians are suppose to believe about Him. The best gauge of our internal concept of God is how we live our lives. If I am impatient, easily irritated, and hot tempered, what does that reveal about my concept of God? Joyful loving Christians are the only ones who have really discovered who God is and what He is like. If we find it difficult to surrender all to God then it is because we don’t really know Him. Many Christians are upon more dangerous ground than the average atheist. It stands more damaging to have a wrong picture of God then to not have one at all. The burden of this message is to rightly represent God’s love that we might be drawn to Him.
Our text this morning comes to us from Isaiah 26:3. Anyone who has ever struggled with anxiety or fear can find sweet rest in the power of today’s promise. From the NKJV our passage reads, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” What a promise! Could it be true that perfect peace is available to us in this dark world? Our purpose this morning is not to simply uncover this most precious of promises, but to unpack it and make it a living reality in our own experience.
To fully appreciate Isaiah 26:3 we must take a brief look at the immediate context of the surrounding verses as well as the overall context of the book of Isaiah. One of the dominant themes Isaiah presents to us is the faithfulness of God as a keeper of His promises. Isaiah paints a picture of God as the champion of the weak and downtrodden and repeatedly throughout the book He promises justice to the oppressed. This is the theme saturating the immediate context of our passage this morning. A few verses before in Isaiah 25:9 the following declaration is recorded, “Behold, this is our God, we have waited for Him and He will save us, let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” Verse four of the same chapter reveals God to be strength for the weak, poor, and needy. When we arrive at chapter 26 a song of praise has risen to the lips of God’s children and verse three is a impossible to silence expression in song of God’s rich provision for His own.
A closer look at Isaiah 26:3 sheds important light on our study this morning. What the NKJV translates as, “stayed on thee” comes from a word indicating resting upon another. One way to literally translate the text would be as follows, “You will keep him in perfect peace who is resting in You because he trusts in You.” This should be of special value to Seventh-day Adventists. What precious truth do we hold dear that might shed light upon the meaning of the rest that brings perfect peace? Isaiah 26:3 strikes at the very essence of the Sabbath truth we hold so dear. To enter into the rest God has prepared for His people, of which the Sabbath is both sign and proof, means to rest from impossible effort of earning God’s favor. The mind that is kept in perfect peace is the mind which rests upon the revelation of God’s heart toward us as seen through the cross. Here we discover our guilt cleansed and God’s favor realized. Further more, we discover a righteousness not our own that infuses pure desires and noble motives within us.
One challenge which the enemy presses upon us is the seeming impossibility of such a love. While it is easy enough to give intellectual ascent to the fact of calvary, it is against our nature to grasp the apparently too-good-to-be-true gift available to us.
The rest highlighted both in Isaiah 26:3 as well as in the Sabbath seeks to draw our minds to the very purpose of our creation. We were originally created to completely depend on and commune with an all-powerful all-loving God. In the Sabbath we have been gifted much more than a symbolic reminder of this. The sabbath stands as a window in time each week where communion with God is uniquely available. Desiring o impart to us a weekly taste of heaven, God calls us away from all earthly cares unto Himself. He calls us to draw together in pure Christian fellowship and love. In this way God designs each Sabbath of sweet fellowship with Him and one-another to satisfy our hearts and brace us to endure until He comes.
The verse clearly states what makes the experience of total dependence on God a possibility; trust and faith. It is impossible to fully rest in the care of someone we do not trust. So then, the question always comes back to, how do I have more faith in God, how can I trust Him more?
Lets quickly review what grows our faith. God’s word tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. In recent months we have established that faith is a choice, an action of the will. We have also discovered that willpower alone is incapable of growing our confidence in God. Only a glimpse into the heart of God can fuel our faith. This is why faith comes by hearing the word of God. Only God’s word gives us an undefiled picture of God’s heart of infinite love.
This is why Satan has worked so hard to draw men away from studying the word. Our world is full of false pictures of God’s character. Truth be told our own minds daily wrestle with false conceptions of our heavenly father. Subjects of a fallen world and born with fallen natures we are naturally inclined to wrong ideas of God. Aiding our natural inclinations the enemy inundates us with twisted world views which paint God as harsh, irrelevant, or simply non-existent.
Regardless of what messages the enemy spins they all boil down to a few common characteristics. They all lead us to rely on man made systems for hope and deliverance. Every man made religion from Islam to atheism relies on the works of men. Satan’s great lie that God was selfish and could not be trusted took root in the hearts of men and angels. Instead of resting in God’s care, all were encouraged to trust in their own greatness.
Appealing to our pride the enemy seeks to exhilarate us with our potential apart from God. He inflates us with our accomplishments, or crushes us with our failures, either way our eyes remain fixed on self where there is no hope. Isaiah instead reveals that help comes to the weak, poor, and needy. Those who are content to wait upon the Lord and who rejoice in His coming reject satan’s lies and have come to terms with their own frailty. Only as we allow God to reveal to us how inadequate and helpless we are will we begin to reach out in faith toward Him. The very difficulties which sometimes cause us to fume against our maker are the same areas where salvation stands nearest to deliver. God can only save the lost and hurting. If temporary pain might work an eternal weight of glory, God’s love compels Him to allow life’s storms to break upon us.
While there are no conditions to God’s love, love itself necessitates conditions to realizing its benefit. Unlike satan, God is in no way coercive. He never employs force to accomplish compliance. He ever stands at the door of the heart knocking, but will never force open the door. God does not compel us with anything but love. He appeals to us to taste and see that he is good, but He never forces such a revelation upon anyone.
Experiencing the power of God in our lives requires one thing and one thing only, faith. When we exercise faith we give our almighty all-loving savior permission to provide above and beyond what we could possible ask or imagine.
Faith must be understood as it is, confidence in God’s heart. We may express confidence in God’s ability but if we are not also willing to trust His love we are not exercising saving faith. Many people approach God as a divine santa rather than a loving father and fail to realize their requests. It is natural for us to point out our worthy “sacrifices” or good behavior as reasons for God to work on our behalf. What we must remember is that the sacrificial system never earned favor with God but instead revealed the unmerited favor constantly available through Christ’s merits on our behalf.
At the core of every healthy Christian experience is a focus upon our promise keeping God rather than our own shortcomings. The struggle of many sincere believers is their misguided focus. When we keep our faults ever before us we are guaranteed to continue in the same track. Only in turning our gaze upon the righteousness of our redeemer do we begin to discover new impulses to obedience from the indwelling spirit of God.
Learning to rest in Him and lean on his mighty arm makes our Christian experience come to life. We discover power to resist temptation born of gratitude. We discover joy even in the midst of difficulty and peace in the midst of pain. Jesus becomes our theme and song and we simply cannot keep silent about our new found friendship with a tender loving Savior.
I am convinced more and more each day that we are living in a precious period of time. I personally am discovering more and more just how faithful and wonderful God truly is. I am discovering God to be everything I wished him to be and more. I can tell you with confidence this morning that he is worthy of your trust. He is a promise keeper and he desires to win your heart over with abundant evidence of his care.
God knows how twisted a picture the enemy has painted of Him. He understands our pain and fearfulness of placing our hearts in his hands. He feels our disappointments and comprehends our crushed hopes. That is why He came, that is why He died. He knows He will never let you down and that is why He can boldly ask for your heart. Will you take a step of faith this moment and place your hand in his. Will you let him be everything to you? Nothing is sweeter than resting in the only arms big enough to hold you and never let you go.
Today, enter into that rest He so willingly offers. Freely confess the doubts you’ve struggled with and ask Him to fill you with courage to trust Him, then do it! Verbally declare the truth about God right now. Commit yourself to searching out His heart and understanding the love He has for you. Persevere through discouragement,doubts about His love, and temptations to despair until you are resting in the perfect peace He promises. This is our privilege each day. God desires you to live life full of that peace born from the knowledge of His love. Wrap the trembling fingers of your faith around this today, and tomorrow, and the next. This alone will save your soul and fill your cup in this life to overflowing.