Ten men stand covered with festering boils oozing yellowed pus. Stained bandages wrap and bind peeling skin. Chunks missing from ears and noses because, well, those chunks fell off. Ten men suffering from incurable leprosy. Ten men too contagious to live in a large community. Ten men completely cut off from hope.
No wonder they cry out: ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ (Luke 17:13). No doubt they heard of this great Healer ministering throughout Galilee. Since they could not travel, hearts must have burned and yearned just for this man to come near. And when he did, how those hearts must have leapt at his healing instructions: ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ Only the priests can declare the leprous: Cleansed! Ten men heard exactly that. ‘Clean!’ Just like that death slinked back into the shadows. Skin mended and healed. Freedom restored to touch friends and hug family. Ten men received so much from God. Yet, only one returns. Where did the others go?
Smoke drifts from the smoldering rubble. Underneath the tons of concrete and twisted metal lies crushed ambulances, fire trucks, police cars— and 3,000 bodies. The metallic skeleton of a burned out Boeing 767 jet-engine lies in a desolate city street. Rescuers scramble towards the scene; a nation stands still, mouths gaping, minds slowly grasping this disaster. Nineteen men brought the most powerful nation in the world to its knees. Everyday havens transformed into potential threats. Many saw unsuspecting people as suspects of terror. September 11th preached how little control man holds.
No wonder church attendance spiked! People turn for comfort in the Almighty God who holds supreme control. Hearts pour out, pleading for protection, strength, and security. All received such comfort. Yet, in the following weeks church attendance shriveled up. Where did all those people go?
I mean, is that all God is? A safe harbor when life spins wildly out of your control, but Someone unneeded when all appears manageable? God does not hold office hours as some grief counselor. He does not exist only for the next crisis. Whether storms rage or peace reigns, Find Rest in God Alone. Every achievement fades away, but Only God delivers rock-solid security.
That is really what those lepers and Americans craved, right? Security. The absence of fear and anxiety. The sense of control over life-matters. You watch ten men who have no way of improving health. So, to whom do they turn? To the great Physician! You watch Americans tremble because they cannot guarantee personal safety. So, where do they turn? To the Almighty! The heart craves security because security brings a sense of ease and stability.
Security will help fuel your thanks tomorrow. You will look at the things in your house and consider how those objects affect you. A house gives shelter and holds heat. Steady income fills physical needs. A savings account prepares for the unexpected. Good health feels good, strength allows you to get up and move. You may even gather with friends and family. And that allows an opportunity to consider how they impact your life. A grandchild gives you the chance to pass down knowledge, to influence behavior, to shape personalities. That grandchild could even be a source of pride. You may cherish a friend because of her advice or because of his support. A brother who respects you makes you feel wanted, a sister who asks for guidance benefits from your help. Yes, you will think about all the objects, all the people that hold some value in life. You will consider the joys you receive from them. You will think about the protection they offer you. You will be thankful for the fears they take away.
As you reflect on these many, many blessings, God adds a word of caution: Yes, the sons of Adam are only a breath. The sons of man are a delusion. On a scale they weigh nothing. They are nothing but air. Do not trust in extortion. Do not put empty confidence in stolen goods. If your wealth grows, do not set your heart on it.
Did you catch the name God sticks to all these worldly items? Breath! The air pushed out of your lungs. How long does that breath stay inside you? How long does it last outside of you? How many breaths do you take? Do you even remember that you breathe? The air we breathe lasts only seconds inside us, and out of the thousands of breaths you take each day, you probably only remember the ones taken right now (because I’m discussing it). God points at wealth and at people and says: ‘A breath has more value!’ Breath has more value than money because money (and the things you can buy with it) can vanish in an instant. The economy’s heartless hand can wipe out your savings in minutes. Bills can devour your wealth. Thieves can hack accounts and steal your earnings. Breath has more value than people because people can (and will) fail you! A friend might attack your reputation and that friendship is over. A child can disappoint you, robbing you of any parenting pride. You may think you receive special privileges because of who you know, but time passes and people forget who you are. Even the best of friends cannot even stop your death. You could be best friends with mega-billionaires Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett, but they will still die and so will you (and I). Your heirs will handle your finances and divvy up the possessions you worked so hard to accumulate. [Maybe worse?] Your name will fade away with time. You realize Every achievement fades away.
Since worldly objects fade away, any security they offer will fade away too. Put another way, wealth and people only offer false security. They promise to make life happier, but cannot guarantee it. If you (and I) find comfort in the prestige of our possessions and reputation, then we will be forever disappointed. Every achievement fades away and cannot bring you eternal rest.
That’s why God says what he does. In fact, God writes his warning down so that we can read it, so that it can sink in. God even guides our trust by (1) giving a warning and (2) presenting a reliable security. (1) If your wealth grows, do not set your heart on it. Instead, (2) rest quietly in God alone, for my hope comes from him.
That might sound strange. God offers you hope? Like ‘something not certain,’ ‘something that might not be there’? No. The Bible uses ‘hope’ to describe ‘a reality waiting in the future.’ Keep focused on God, find hope. Not just any ‘hope,’ but the capital-‘H’ Hope. Inside of Jesus shimmers this priceless life. A life that does not chase after crowns and thrones. A life that does not rob the temple treasury or ask his disciples for big purchases. Rather, a life content in living on the daily bread his Father provides and with the simple clothing on his body. Although the Son of God, Jesus does not seek worldly status and praise from the nation. He does not come for fame. He comes to give you rest.
He puts the heart at rest by suffering real death. Death—the end of life and separation from God. How worldly wealth could not spare him that! How friends deserted him, leaving him alone! Trust in worldly comforts earn this: life cut off from God— and Jesus absorbs it all.
Jesus rises in order to bring your heart (and mine) real security. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress. I will not be disturbed. Picture that. A thick, rocky mountain with a little cave carved out. God sets you in that thick mountainous fortress. What can penetrate those walls and harm you? Be sure, the devil will fire flaming darts meant to hurt. Yet, no matter what accusations he shoots, they all bounce off! Your reliance in wealth? Well, Jesus took the dart. Your proud regrets? They ricochet. Your shame for falling into false security again? God forgives. He keeps you covered in Jesus’ life. Accusation after accusation bounces off that rocky wall. You Find Rest from guilt in God Alone.
You will encounter troubles in this world (read John 16:33); that’s no secret. Trade wars make for an uncertain future. A weakened economy stirs up retirement fears. Government may make you unsure of the future. One phone-call can change life. These troubles can take things away from you. You may lose freedom. You may lose your car, house, and retirement. You may lose loved ones. You may lose life. Still, you Find Rest in God Alone. God strengthens you to stand strong in these troubles. He has always seen fit to provide you with house and home. He has always seen fit to give you both food and savings. He has always led through even the most difficult of situations. Unlike money and people, God can actually keep his guarantee that all works for your good (Romans 8:28).
Then, you experience times of peace. Maybe this was a year of plenty for you— a good year, a year when you had no financial need, you took vacations, and bought new cars, more property, or you just stashed more away in your savings. If so, then good. That is what a stronghold does; it keeps you safe. Do you see? The reason you have security is because God gives you security. My salvation and my honor depend on God, my strong rock. My refuge is in God. The Giver puts your heart at rest. He keeps trouble for overwhelming you.
So, trust in him at all times, you people. Pour out your hearts before him. God is a refuge for us. As someone who lives in this stronghold, live like someone who lives in a stronghold. Live fearless. Live without anxiety because your heart relies on God’s providing. Live certain of control in life. You may not have power over all the things that enter, but the Almighty God does—and who better to control life? Even when scared, rely on God in time of need. Plead in times of distress. Turn your mind to him in every situation in life. Run to him first, well before you ever think about what you can do to deliver yourself. As you Find Rest in God Alone, your thanksgiving is enriched. You gain the benefits of less anxiety, less need of control (which you really do not have), and greater peace because you live as children under a parent’s loving care. As attentions focus on this truth, you will always have rest be it in good or bad. Find Rest in God Alone because Only God delivers rock-solid security.
One leper grasped that truth. His incurable disease prevented him from living with his family. Unless something changed, he had no hope.
So, no wonder he cries: ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ (Luke 17:13). He heard of this great Healer ministering throughout Galilee. His heart leapt at the healing instructions: ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ Only the priests can declare the leprous: Cleansed! He heard exactly that. ‘Clean!’ Just like that death slinked back into the shadows. Skin mended and healed. Freedom restored to touch friends and hug family. As fantastic as these blessings are, he found rest in the One who cured his life forever.
A safe harbor when life spins wildly out of your control, but Someone unneeded when all appears manageable? No. God does not hold office hours as some grief counselor. He does not exist only for the next crisis. Whether storms rage or peace reigns, Find Rest in God Alone. Every achievement fades away, but Only God delivers rock-solid security.