A Devotion from Tim

Hello Church,

Over the last three weeks I’ve sent around a devotion of sorts, mostly to encourage us all to keep engaging directly with the Lord, which I think we especially need to prioritise given the difficult and emotionally exhausting days we are living through. I remember thinking at the beginning of the long lockdown last year, that all the extra time at home would be a wonderful season of rest and prayer. I wish I could say that’s the way it turned out!

Well, here we are again (again!) My question this time is how might I approach this latest lockdown in a healthier way? How might I manage my emotions and behaviour in a way that leads to joy and peace instead of frustration? If we believe that life and hope can spring up through Christ in the worst of places (and let’s be honest, things really could be a lot worse), then surely Christ can come in power in this situation?

In that regard, I firmly believe the best and safest place for us to work out our emotions, to process stress or fear or anxiety, is in the presence of our Father in heaven. I love the promise of Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” What help do you need? Because of Christ, we can approach God with confidence to ask!

I know that when I don’t do this regularly, over time I find I become emotionally and spiritually unhealthy – weighed down by many cares and stresses. Like an over-stuffed suitcase (surely I can get one more shirt in there!), eventually the fasteners snap under the strain and stuff starts falling out – my broken inner world manifests in ungodly behaviour. How can I change this?

1 Peter 5:6-8 says:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Cast ALL your anxiety upon Him. When I don’t do this consistently, I find I am much more susceptible to demonic deception and therefore, to temptation. Being alert and of sober mind is the work we do in prayer and meditation, in reading scripture, reminding ourselves of the gospel and resting in the presence of God. These are the tools God gives us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

The first task is to lay aside my pride, and acknowledge that I can’t actually fix myself, or heal myself, so I must humble myself under God’s mighty hand. When I do that, I open up the possibility of encountering God in a truly authentic and transformative way – he will lift me up.

As with the churning chaotic waters of creation, all it takes is for God to speak a word and order, blessing, life, and shalom will come. When the resurrected Jesus met with his disciples, he breathed on them, filled them with his Holy Spirit, and said: “my peace I give you.” Immediately the boiling waters of their grief and fear was transformed into joy. Take some time even right now to wait on God and receive the peace of Christ.

A book I’ve been reading lately has really helped me with this. It’s called “Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers”, by Dane C. Ortlund. He writes:

There is an entire psychological substructure that, due to the fall, is a near-constant manufacturing of relational leveraging, fear-stuffing, nervousness, score-keeping, neurotic controlling, anxiety-festering silliness that is not something we say or even think so much as something we exhale. You can smell it on people, though some of us are good at hiding it. And if you trace this fountain of scurrying haste, in all its various manifestations, down to the root, you don’t find childhood difficulties or a Myers-Briggs diagnosis or Freudian impulses. You find gospel deficit. You find a lack of felt awareness of Christ’s heart. All the worry and dysfunction and resentment are the natural fruit of living in a mental universe of law [pride, works, self-actualisation]. The felt love of Christ really is what brings rest, wholeness, flourishing, shalom – that existential calm that for brief, gospel-sane moments settles over you and lets you step in out of the storm of works-ness. You see for a moment that in Christ you truly are invincible. The verdict really is in; nothing can touch you. He has made you his own and will never cast you out.” (184-85)

Wow! I encourage you to take some time now, even for just a couple of minutes, and settle yourself into the presence and peace of Christ. Think about those words. You belong to Christ, nothing can touch you, and he will never cast you out. As you pray, don’t worry if you don’t feel any different at first. He honours even our weakest most feeble attempts with blessing. He will lift us up in due time. My prayer this season is simply: “Lord, let my body, my heart, and my mind, be a temple of your presence and love. Amen.”