“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”
“We should then enjoy a rest of soul to which many have long been strangers.” Steps to Christ, 86
This peaceful, trusting rest is a gradual experience, like much of the growth in the Christian life. While we may have certain times along the way when, with sudden moving of the Spirit of God, we seem to be borne upward all at once, as in an elevator, much of the Christian life is simply an experience of gradually climbing up. And oh, what a glorious vision as the spiritual elevation increases! I’m sure that many have experienced this. Yet, dear friends, I think there is a deeper experience in this matter of peace and rest and joy in the Lord than any of us have yet had.
We find this peace and rest in utter resignation to the will of God and a simple trust that God is getting His will done. In other words, it is accepting what God sends from hour to hour and from moment to moment, walking in the path of His providence. It is then that we can enjoy this rest for souls that we have not known before. As children of the King, it is our privilege to be supremely happy, for we have so much for which to be thankful.
Sadly, many, even in the Christian experience, go through weary years of struggle. It is necessary for us to struggle with sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil, but too many are struggling with God, a bit afraid of Him, anxious lest He should fail to remember something or perhaps afraid that He will do something. But the truth is, we can have full confidence in God, and as a consequence, all this struggling can cease.
“God cares for everything and sustains everything that He has created. He who upholds the unnumbered worlds throughout immensity, at the same time cares for the wants of the little brown sparrow that sings its humble song without fear.” Ibid. Just so, God cares for us. I heard a proverb once, “If the birds knew how poor they were, they wouldn’t sing.” But I would like to revise that: “If we knew how rich we are, we would sing like the birds.” God cares for them, and this is what they sing about. God cares for us, and we should sing in thanksgiving just as they do.
“When men go forth to their daily toil, as when they engage in prayer; when they lie down at night, and when they rise in the morning; when the rich man feasts in his palace, or when the poor man gathers his children about the scanty board, each is tenderly watched by the heavenly Father. No tears are shed that God does not notice. There is no smile that He does not mark.
“If we would but fully believe this, all undue anxieties would be dismissed. Our lives would not be so filled with disappointment as now; for everything, whether great or small, would be left in the hands of God, who is not perplexed by the multiplicity of cares, or overwhelmed by their weight. We should then enjoy a rest of soul to which many have long been strangers.” Ibid.
Jacob’s sons had come back from Egypt to tell their father that the lord of Pharaoh’s house had put Simeon in prison. The lord had said that unless they brought the younger man, Benjamin, back, they couldn’t have any more grain. Jacob said, “Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin. All these things are against me.” Genesis 42:36
Jacob was a great struggler. Even though years before he had fought with the Lord at the brook Jabbok and his name was changed to Israel, prince with God, he still had some things to learn. You may be able to look back and see where you have wrestled with God and secured the victory over sin, but still have things to learn. Jacob finally learned that all those things were not against him. He learned, as did Paul, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God.” Romans 8:28
God is caring for the birds and for the great worlds and stars, and He is working all things together for you. If we believe that He is watching and noticing and controlling everything, we will dismiss our anxieties and find rest in Him.
But we do not have to wait to have peace and rest. We do not have to wait on anybody or anything. Right now we can believe two things: that God is looking after us, and that He is able and willing to carry out His will.
If we are really selfish and not converted and yet pray, we are probably praying for selfish and even wicked things. Somewhere along the line, our selfishness gets to be more refined, more cultured, and a bit more religious. When we reach that point, then we pray about what we think God’s will is. We are not interested in asking God to show us His will, but are more interested in telling Him what we think His will should be, according to our way of thinking.
God wants us to commit to Him not only our sins, not only our selfish desire for our own way, but He wants us to commit to Him our desires, purposes, plans, and hopes about His work here on this earth. And then He wants us to believe that He will accomplish it.
Someone may say, “Well, what is the purpose of prayer then?” The purpose of prayer is to develop and strengthen the belief that God is looking after us and that He is able and willing to carry out His will. The very fact that so few arrive at it proves that there is plenty of need for more praying. The purpose of prayer is not to get God to do your way, to apprise Him of something He is ignorant of, or to remind Him of something He forgot. Prayer is not meant to make God more interested in us or His work or to make Him more enthusiastic about getting it done.
We are to be settled, in our inmost hearts, on two things: that all we want is God’s will, and we are sure He is going to get it done. We tell Him so, and it makes us happy, and it makes Him happy. Then prayer has accomplished its purpose.
“Human nature is ever struggling for expression, ready for contest.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 15. We can express that trait of character just as much in arguing about the mark of the beast as we can about politics. We can express it in arguing about health or dress reform just as easily as we can other issues.
Peter was a fighter, but he wanted to fight for Jesus. He had a sword, and he used it. Did it make Peter happy? No. It made him very unhappy and frustrated and disappointed because Jesus didn’t seem to appreciate it. In fact, Jesus told him to put his sword away. For three and a half years, Jesus had been trying to tell Peter and the other disciples His purpose in coming to this world, but Peter didn’t understand. So Jesus said, “Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” Matthew 26:53, 54
The Father had given Jesus a cup to drink from, one that included a mob and Jesus’ being arrested. The people didn’t have to do these things, but it had all been arranged and allowed by the Father. Peter didn’t understand that. He thought he had to stop all that by fighting, and when Jesus reproved him, he didn’t know what to do. He was miserable. Before long, he was cursing and swearing and denying that he knew the Lord. And the truth is, Peter didn’t know Jesus; not in the way he needed to. But we can be thankful that it wasn’t long before he realized who Jesus was and what He had done for all of mankind.
Peter never used a sword again. He never even raised his hand to strike anybody. He learned this lesson: “Human nature is ever struggling … ready for contest; but he who learns of Christ is emptied of self, of pride, of love of supremacy, and there is silence in the soul. Self is yielded to the disposal of the Holy Spirit. Then we are not anxious to have the highest place. We have no ambition to crowd and elbow ourselves into notice; but we feel that our highest place is at the feet of our Saviour.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 15. The highest place is at the feet of Jesus, and we look to Him, for a hand to lead, a voice to guide.
Jesus stood meek and calm as he was bound by the mob. This action was not inspired by God, but it was part of God’s plan for Jesus. And that is why Jesus told Peter, “The cup which My Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?”
The mob was cruel and that was only the beginning. Jesus went through trial after trial, test after test. “The Lord God has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to hear as the learned. The Lord God has opened My ear; and I was not rebellious, nor did I turn away. I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.” Isaiah 50:4–6
Inspired by the devil, they whipped Jesus’ back twice with a scourge made of leather with metal braided into the strips. With every stroke, the blood ran down His back. They pulled out the hair of His beard, they cursed at Him and spat in His face. They forced a crown of thorns upon His brow and then they killed Him. What was His attitude? Submission. He did not fight back, nor run away. He did not say, “I do not have to do this. I will return to My Father.”
No, Jesus was working out God’s plan according to His schedule. Like Isaac at Mount Moriah, Jesus placed Himself, according to God’s schedule, upon the altar of God’s plan. And that is what God wants us to do every day, every hour. Jesus and Isaac were able to submit without reservation to God’s plan because they had learned in the school of little things, which then prepared them to submit to the weightier things.
We often imagine, as did Peter, that when we are brought before the courts or meet the howling mobs, we will be strong enough to stand firm. But instead, we might find that we are not ready to meet the mob at all, and surely not ready to lay it all on the altar of God’s plan.
God, in His mercy lets us face daily tests, petty annoyances, and disappointments so that we can learn to relate ourselves to those things as He does, not by being frustrated or irritated or restless, but by looking up to God and saying, “Dear Lord, I know that through it all and in it all, You are working out Your will. Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth as it is in heaven.”
“If we lack faith where we are when difficulties present themselves, we would lack faith in any place.
“Our greatest need is faith in God. When we look on the dark side, we lose our hold on the Lord God of Israel. As the heart is opened to fears and conjectures, the path of progress is hedged up by unbelief. Let us never feel that God has forsaken His work.
“There must be less talking unbelief, less imagining that this one and that one is hedging up the way. Go forward in faith; trust the Lord to prepare the way for His work. Then you will find rest in Christ.” Testimonies, Vol. 7, 211, 212
It is possible to hedge up the way, as we work in God’s service, by dwelling on the dark, doleful, and discouraging things in the world, and I know there are times when things must be dealt with, but Mrs. White is saying that we should not dwell on unbelief.
I will never forget when a dear friend and I spent the night in prayer over something we were deeply burdened about in the work of God. We felt that someone was hedging up God’s work and we prayed that God would either change this person’s heart or remove him. That night we prayed long enough to discover that a change was needed, but instead it needed to be made in my heart and my friend’s heart.
Friends, there is nothing more sorrowful to see than hearts perplexed and burdened under their own criticisms and faultfindings. They are suspicious of this one or that one. “More love is needed, more frankness, less suspicion, less evil thinking. We need to be less ready to blame and accuse. It is this that is so offensive to God. The heart needs to be softened and subdued by love.” Ibid., 212
“The many problems that are now mysterious you may solve for yourselves by continued trust in God.” Ibid.
Problems can be solved, if we will but commit them to God. However, when you do that, do not be surprised if God lets something happen that is not what you would choose. It may be that you will rise from an earnest season of prayer and tell God that you are willing to bear anything, but then someone spits in your face. Would you think God heard your prayer? Perhaps this was part of the test and trial that God has designed to build and solidify your character.
Remember Sister White’s dream where she and her husband were walking to a place, both weak and worn, depressed and distressed, sick and worn out. They came to a stream, and Elder White plunged into the stream. There was a spring down in there. He came up with a glass filled with that water. He plunged down again and came up drinking it. Sister White said he looked radiant and buoyant and full of health and vitality, but she wondered why he gave none to her. He told her, “All who drink this must plunge for themselves.” It might seem like a good idea for someone else to pour heavenly peace into your soul, but there are two things you must settle for yourself, in your own heart: God loves you enough to take care of you, and it suits you to have Him do it.
That includes God allowing bad things, hard things, cruel things, disappointing things to happen to you. It’s all part of God’s plan for you, and while you won’t like those hard or bad things, you will like for God to bring these trials to you because you know He loves you better than you love yourself, and you know that He does not allow one bit of it unless it is for your good. God is looking for those today who will reveal that settled peace, that sweet love.
Dear ones, you can never have this sweet peace if you hold back from fully surrendering all to God. When you settle in your heart to be willing to be anything or nothing, when you settle in your heart that God shall have His way in your life, then the sweet peace of Christ will take your heart. And even your prayers can breathe peace.
In the lions’ den, Daniel did the sleeping. In the palace, Darius did the worrying. Daniel didn’t ask God to keep Him out of the lions’ den. He submitted himself to God’s will. He slept because he was perfectly willing to be eaten by the lions if it was God’s will and time for him to be eaten.
The three worthies were able to stand on the Plain of Dura, not asking that God would keep them out of the furnace, but rather to give them the strength to be burned alive if that was His will for their lives. They stood firm and were thrown into the fire, but they were not burned; not even the smell of smoke was on their clothing. But more importantly, God gave them a clear sign that it was not His plan for them to die there that day. He walked with them in the fire and preserved their lives, a living witness to all present and on into the future.
Oh friends, I want to learn the lessons of peace and trust in adversity. It is a sweet school. I don’t want my way, not even in God’s work. I want God to work out His way in my life and service to Him.
“My stubborn will at last is yielded;
I would be Thine, and Thine alone;
And this the prayer my lips are bringing,
‘Lord, let in me Thy will be done.’
“Thy precious will, O conqu’ring Saviour,
Doth now embrace and compass me;
All discords hushed, my peace a river,
My soul, a prisoned bird set free.
“Shut in with Thee, Oh Lord, forever,
My wayward feet no more to roam;
What pow’r from Thee my soul can sever?
The center of God’s will, my home.
“Sweet will of God, still fold me closer,
Till I am wholly lost in Thee.”
Mrs. C. H. (Lelia) Morris, 1900