There exists a place in Christ where there is no anxiety about the future. In this place, there is no fear of sudden calamity, of affliction, of unemployment. There's no fear of man, of falling, of losing one's soul. This place is one of total confidence in God's faithfulness. The writer of Hebrews calls it a place of perfect rest.
Such perfect rest was offered to Israel. But the people's doubt and unbelief kept them out of God's rest: "They to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief" (Hebrews 4:6). The Israelites lived in constant fear and dread, always waiting for the next crisis. As a result, they were desolated in their trials.
If Israel had entered into this rest, God's work in His people would have been complete. But because they didn't, the Lord continues to search in every generation for a people who will enter: "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God" (Hebrews 4:9).
God is telling us, "This offer of rest is for you—today. There still exists a place in Me where all doubt and fear no longer exist. It is a place where you will be prepared for whatever may come." Thus, His Word urges, "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it" (Hebrews 4:1).
Today, multitudes of God's people know nothing of this rest in Christ. As they read the awful reports in the daily news—reports of tragedies, calamities, deaths—they are filled with fear and dread. Their constant prayer is, "Oh, God, please don't take one of my loved ones. I could never handle the grief."
Yet, if you're at rest in the Lord, you won't succumb to such fear. You won't panic or fall apart when you're hit by some unexpected crisis. And you won't lose hope, accusing God of bringing on your troubles. Yes, you will endure the pain that is common to every human being but you will be at rest in your soul, because you will know that God is in control of everything concerning you.
The world longs to see a testimony of God's keeping power. And it will keep asking us until Jesus comes, "Oh, Christian, I see you serving God faithfully. You fast, pray and testify of His glory and power, yet now you're in the trial of your life. Tell me, has your God sustained you through this ordeal? What is your testimony now that you're in the lions' den?"
You can imagine Darius' joy when he heard Daniel's voice, crying, "O king, live forever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me" (Daniel 6:21-22). Daniel was alive and well. Yet, I don't believe this godly servant slept calmly through the night. He was no superhuman, any more than we are today. And our God doesn't expect us to act unnaturally when we face such crises. Our feelings of trepidation during such moments are normal.
In my opinion, Daniel watched and prayed all night. Every time a lion yawned and bared its teeth, Daniel must have silently cried out, "I'm still trusting, Lord. I believe you're going to shut that animal's mouth." He held fast to his faith and Scripture tells us, "No manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God" (Daniel 6:23).
One man trusted God before the eyes of men and an entire kingdom was impacted. The Bible states: "King Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth . . . I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and steadfast forever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions" (Daniel 6:25-27).
Do you see what Darius was saying here? He was extolling God, not just for His natural wonders, but because He had delivered Daniel from death. This pagan king had to see just one believer who truly believed what he preached and, in turn, he declared, "I saw a man who maintained a testimony of his God. He never doubted. And the Lord delivered him from the powers of hell."
What will it take to reach a lost and hurting world? A small army of soldiers that has been enrolled in the school of hardship and trials! God is seeking those who are willing to be tried by fire, whose faith He can refine and bring forth as pure gold.
Throughout my years in ministry, I have noticed a pattern in the lives of most Christians. Almost immediately after God saves us, He leads us into a wilderness of testing. Why? Because God is looking for a people who will trust Him in impossible situations before the whole world. This was true even in Jesus' life. As our Lord came up out of the baptismal waters, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where He was sorely tested (see Luke 4:1-2).
We see this kind of trust demonstrated by Daniel. Daniel's jealous co-governors devised a plot against him, convincing King Darius to ban prayer for thirty days. Just as his peers expected, Daniel disobeyed the ban and kept praying three times a day. Although King Darius respected Daniel, he was forced by his own decree to cast this devout man into the lions' den.
Daniel was fully aware that the penalty for disobeying the ban on prayer was death. Yet he never stopped praying, because he trusted God. He knew the Lord would see him through his trial.
Throughout this ordeal, King Darius observed Daniel anxiously. He had tried every means possible to save Daniel, but he simply couldn't. Finally, just before Daniel was cast to the lions, the king assured him, "Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee" (Daniel 6:16).
If you tell the world that Jesus is your lord, your savior and your healer, a God who can perform the impossible, they will watch to see how you react in impossible situations. Their eyes are glued to everyone who boasts of God's goodness, power and glory. And the devil looks on, too, hoping our faith will fail.
The Psalmist writes, "Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men" (Psalm 31:19). What is this "great goodness" that God lays up for those who trust in Him through trying times? It's an impenetrable, glorious testimony to the world that your faith can survive any situation.
How did God respond to Daniel's faith? He shut the mouths of those hungry lions (see Daniel 6:22).
Under pressure, most of us rehearse our need over and over: “If only I had this one thing. If I could just work on that one weakness.” But Jesus tells us not to fixate on our need but on our supplier. “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”(Matthew 6:25-27).
In the Old Testament when things looked impossible for King Asa, he fixated on his supplier, not his problem. When the kingdom was surrounded by a massive enemy with no hope in sight, Asa prayed, “Lord, I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are fixed on you” (see 2 Chronicles 14:9-12)
Jesus shows us we are to give thanks in the midst of our situation. Facing the starving masses with just a handful of fishes and bread loaves, Jesus gave thanks to God: “Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them” (John 6:11).
Jesus thanked the Father before the need was even filled—and a miracle followed: “When they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.’ So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’” (6:12-14).
Your situation doesn’t depend on your resources—it depends on God’s. “My God will meet all your needs according to his riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19, NIV).
You may have cried your heart out over your need. Now is no time to review your failures; instead, it’s time to remind yourself of God’s goodness. It’s time to stop fretting over your vast need and instead give Him thanks. It’s time to draw on the strength of your faith-family when you don’t have it for yourself. Rest assured, your God is about to show Himself great in your life. Believe it—and find rest in Him!
Let’s meet with Abraham again. He has a message for us. He is going to teach us about faith to rebuild and to take back. In answer to the call and promises of God, “Come out of your father’s house to a land of promise that I will show you; I will bless you and make you a blessing” (Genesis 12:1-2), Abraham does something particular and extremely significant—he builds an altar to the Lord (see Genesis 12 and 13).
The altar was a testimony, a public commitment, a vow. It was as if Abraham has said, “This is the expression of my faith. I want every person who sees this altar to know that I am not ashamed to proclaim that I belong to God. I believe in Him; my faith is in His promises.”
This concept of an “altar to the Lord” was extremely intense, serious and binding in the Abrahamic and Jewish culture of Abraham’s day. In fact, “building an altar” meant to be truthful, honest and serious with God; to be sincere and to make decisions with all one’s heart before God with truth and commitment.
I know full well that many reading this devotional walk with this kind of heart toward God. It’s not to boast or for show; you really want to please God, to obey Him and to be true to His will and His Word. You are genuine; your consecration is authentic.
You have built an altar of faith, prayer, worship, generosity, forgiveness and sanctification before your God. You are alive with the faith that “He that has begun a good work in you will have the power to complete it fully for the day we will appear before Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Beyond the accolades, career successes or promotions you may accomplish on this earth, you live each day to hear His voice welcoming you into the portals of the afterlife with these words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).
You have built an altar before God!
Claude Houde, lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada, is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.