One of my favorite hymns, I Heard The Voice Of Jesus Say by Horatius Bonar, outlines beautifully the process of the Christian life in three stanzas.
The first stanza begins with my most pressing need: rest. I am “weary and worn and sad,” battered by the world, by work, by relationships, by senselessness and violence and misunderstanding. The struggle seems never ending.
I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto Me and rest; Lay down, thou weary one, lay down thy head upon My breast.” I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad; I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.
It’s telling that the rest offered is to lean on Jesus. In my case at least, the exhausting struggle that seems never ending is the struggle of my will against God’s will. I tell myself that my exhaustion comes from the exigencies of the outside world, and some of it does, certainly; but most of it is the result of my insistence on my own way and refusal to accept God’s peace when it is offered. What I need is death to myself. And death is the ultimate rest.
The hymn progresses from rest to revivification, from death to resurrection.
I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely give the living water; thirsty one, stoop down, and drink, and live.” I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life giving stream; My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him.
My goal is not just to rest, but to rest for a purpose: to be revived and to live in Jesus. What will I do with my new life, with the living water flowing through me and in me?
I heard the voice of Jesus say, “I am this dark world’s Light; Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise, and all thy day be bright.” I looked to Jesus, and I found in Him my Star, my Sun; And in that light of life I’ll walk, till traveling days are done.
I’ll travel, in the light and to the Light. If the rest mentioned in the first stanza was death, and the water in the second was resurrection, then the light of the third stanza is the Kingdom of Heaven. I still have traveling to do – I haven’t arrived – but I am walking in the light of life; I am part of the Kingdom.
This hymn, though, not only outlines the individual Christian’s experience of death, resurrection, and the life of faith. When we switch from first person singular to first person plural, from “I” to “we,” the hymn offers a picture of what the church should be. If the church is the Body of Christ, then “our” relationship with the church in some way ought to reflect “my” relationship with Jesus.
So we have to consider: Does the church call us to rest from the world’s sin and to die to our own sin, through penitence, by grace? Does it revive us by offering the water of life, through baptism, the word, and the sacraments? Does it set us on the road that we are to walk until traveling days are done?
If it does, then it is the Body of Christ. If it doesn’t, then at best it is Vanity Fair and at worst it is drudgery, poison, and darkness.
This is the life of faith. Come; rest, drink, and see. Go; go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
11 thoughts on “The Life Of Faith”
Yup, this always brings a tear to my eye. Don’t know why. It touches something very deep inside.
Such a beautiful post. It reminds me of church this morning. For the first time in my life, I am part of a fellowship where I leave Sundays feeling refreshed, not pressured and drained. This is after directing music for two services and a children’s sunday school program. I know its not the church’s job to produce “good feelings,” but there is a difference between the fuzzies and balm for your soul. Growing up in fundamentalism, I almost believed that the church existed to make it clear to us what we were supposed to do. I went for marching orders on Sunday, and to bring and offering of worship to please God. I came to give the work of my hands and receive directions. Going to church and singing/serving/giving/learning was simply the “right thing to do,” but never truly a joy. But through the paradigm shift I’ve undergone in converting to Lutheranism, now I go to lay down the burden of my sins and feast on God’s forgiveness. It is a one way transaction, and I am on the receiving end. God does not need anything from me, he simply gives of Himself. Jesus has been poured out for me, and I need the weekly celebration of that to realize the fulness of Him that has been given me. If the church is supposed to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry,” it doesn’t do this by giving them information alone. It gives them a person, a living Word.
You’re welcome, Adrienne, and bless you. Rest does seem hard to find.
Damaris ~ you have NO IDEA how timely your reflections on this hymn are for me. I almost went backwards to a “fundamental church” that has just started in my area. Only one month old and we are getting busy-busy-busy. Group after group after group of the same people scheduling meetings on the weekend and during the week. They don’t even have a building yet, meeting in a schoolroom. I have been changed by experiences of loss and tragedy and can’t go back to that. I literally damaged my health permanently by trying to maintain the American Evangelical Church Lifestyle of INSANITY. You know, “Jesus is coming, look busy.” Never again.
I need the rest and beauty I have found in a neighborhood liturgical church. Thank you for speaking to me today.
Just stopping to read those lines and meditating on what they mean to us can be a blessing.
You are fairer than the sons of men. Grace is poured upon your lips. You love righteousness… Therefore God your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your companions. These lines from Psalm 45 extol The extra..ordinary grace and benevolence of our KIng. He is a great God and highly to be praised.
“The lif of faith.”
Repentance and forgiveness.
Death and new life. A picture of baptism.
Over and over and over again.
Thanks, very much.
What it means for us to rest is something I’ve thought about often in the last few years. And just how difficult finding that rest can be. I don’t have time to say more, but thanks for your thoughts today Damaris.
I like Henri Nouwen. I’ll have to add that book to my reading list.
Damaris, I recently re-read Henri Nouwen’s “Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry” for the umpteenth time. I love how he frames the idea that solitude, silence, and prayer are the keys that prepare us to do ministry in the world. Your statement…”This is the life of faith. Come; rest, drink, and see. Go; go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.” ….reflects the same mindset.